The Nastiest Pitch of the Twins' 2020 Season
Image courtesy of © Peter Aiken | 2020 Aug 23Sometimes the batter ends up corkscrewing themself into the ground after sitting fastball only to see a changeup come out of the pitcher’s hand; other times it’s a slider that ultimately leaves them staring off into space as the bat swords off their shoulder.
The Minnesota Twins’ pitching staff frequently left hitters questioning why they took up the game of baseball in 2020 as they logged 535 strikeouts - fifth most in the American League - and posted the seventh-best whiff percentage (28.1%) in all of MLB, according to Baseball Savant. For the first time since the days of Johan Santana the Twins’ bread and butter was their pitching staff.
So that begs the question: What was the nastiest pitch thrown by a Minnesota Twin during the shortened 2020 season?
There is no way to answer this question in a completely objective manner, but it’s a question that needs an answer, regardless. Plus, I figured it would be really fun to watch video upon video of opposing batters looking silly at the hands of the Twins.
The process was straightforward. I narrowed down the Twins’ pitch staff to their best performers based on the available pitching stats provided by Baseball Savant. I then determined which pitch type was each pitcher’s strongest and watched each occurrence in which said pitch resulted in a whiff. It’s common scientific knowledge that those pitches provide the best optics, after all.
My very scientific research resulted in concluding that the following four pitchers and their respective pitches were the Twins’ nastiest this past season:
Top Pitchers and their Best Pitch Type (in no particular order)
- Kenta Maeda, changeup
- Matt Wisler, slider
- Tyler Duffey, curve
- Caleb Theilbar, curve
Scouring the video catalogs of each pitcher revealed numerous potential individual candidates, but in the end I decided to select one example to represent each pitcher. Without further ado, here are the four nastiest pitches thrown by the Twins’ best pitchers that resulted in a swing and miss in 2020.
Number 4: Hooked on a Thielbar
Chicago White Sox infielder Yolmer Sanchez never stood a chance. Thielbar’s curveball started at the belt and ended by the foot by the time it meandered to the plate at a cool 69 mph. Sanchez must have been sitting fastball as his lead foot landed early and his weight shifted forward.
Thielbar’s curveball - which averaged a glacial 68.7 mph - struck out seven batters this past season and yielded a Whiff % of 38.7%; he did not allow a single hit off his curveball in 94 pitch attempts.
Number 3: Wisler While You Work
Wisler was arguably the biggest breakout on the Twins in 2020 due to the newfound reliance on his slider. As the video clip above shows, that was a good call. Wisler makes MVP candidate Jose Abreu look like an amateur with his filthiest slider of the season.
Wisler’s slider accounted for a whopping 83% of all his pitches thrown, but that didn’t matter because opponents simply could not touch it; it produced a Whiff % of 37.9% and opponents hit .143 against it.
Number 2: When the Going Get Duffey, The Duffey Gets Going
Pour one out for Oscar Mercado.
Duffey’s curveball starts middle-middle leading Mercado to think that he is going to get Cleveland right back in this thing...but then the bottom drops out and he misses the ball by a good foot.
Duffey essentially threw a 50/50 fastball-curve pitch mix this past season and his release point for each pitch was virtually the same. As a result, his curve produced a Whiff % of 40.2% and an opponent batting average of .158. However, it could be argued that Duffey’s best pitch is actually his fastball, because the stats are virtually identical to that of his curve.
Number 1: You Kenta-lways Get What You Want
What an absurd changeup. An opponent BA of .122; 38 strike outs; -5 degree average launch angle; 45.6% Whiff %. Maeda’s changeup was the best pitch for the Twins’ best pitcher and it didn’t take Franmil Reyes long to figure that out.
What is a batter supposed to do with a changeup that looks like a fastball and drops like a curveball? Nothing. The answer is nothing.
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