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Nick Fanti: Life in the minors

'I knew he was special'

Chapter 1

'I knew he was special'

When Nick Fanti began playing baseball as a child, he didn't want to go anyway near the pitcher's mound. By his senior year at Hauppauge High School, the lefthander was attracting scouts for his pitching ability. Now he'll try to use that to get to the majors.

Lakewood BlueClaws/Mike Dill

The Fanti famiglia

Chapter 2

The Fanti famiglia

As the youngest of five and the only boy in the Fanti family, Nick Fanti said it was like he had five moms growing up. The tight-knit group made an effort to travel the 120 miles from Hauppauge to Lakewood, New Jersey, to see Fanti pitch as often as possible. Fanti also had support from his host family, the Hoffmans, who are BlueClaws season-ticket holders.

Lakewood BlueClaws/Mike Dill

'Can you do it in three months?'

Chapter 3

'Can you do it in three months?'

Lakewood pitching coach Brian Sweeney, who's also the coach for Team Italy, asked Nick Fanti, 20, if he would be able to pitch in the World Baseball Classic in three or four years. Then in December 2016, Sweeney asked Fanti if he could pitch in the 2017 WBC in March. Fanti threw a scoreless inning and struck out Mets utility man T.J. Rivera in his lone relief appearance against Puerto Rico.

WBC Inc.

The no-hitter

Chapter 4

The no-hitter

Fanti made a name for himself on Long Island when he threw back-to-back no-hitters in high school. On May 6, he added his first professional combined no-hitter when he went 8 2/3 innings without giving up a hit against the Columbia Fireflies. His roommate, Trevor Bettencourt, closed out the game with a strikeout to preserve the no-no. Two months later, Fanti tossed a no-hitter of his own against the Charleston RiverDogs.

Lakewood BlueClaws/Mike Dill

The last game

Chapter 5

The last game

After the BlueClaws beat the Kannapolis Intimidators in the final game of the season, Fanti said goodbye to his teammates, fans and host family and headed back to Long Island for the offseason -- one step closer toward achieving his dream.

Lakewood BlueClaws / Mike Dill

Tale of the tape: Aaron Judge vs. Jose Altuve

Yankees rightfielder Aaron Judge and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve are two of the leading candidates to win the American League MVP award, announced after the World Series.

But for the next week or so, they will be opponents in the ALCS. Here is the long and short of it when comparing Judge and Altuve.

Height

Jose Altuve is 5-foot-6

Aaron Judge is 6-foot-7


Jose Altuve stats

  • Regular season
  • .346 average
  • 24 home runs
  • 81 RBI
  • 112 runs
  • 204 hits
  • 32 steals
  • .410 OBP
  • .547 slugging

  • Postseason (through ALDS)
  • .533, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 5 walks

Longest home run:

435 feet

May 15 at Marlins Park off Miami’s Dustin McGowan.

Average distance of home runs:

378.29 feet

Aaron Judge stats

  • Regular season
  • .284 average
  • 52 home runs
  • 114 RBI
  • 128 runs
  • 157 hits
  • 9 steals
  • .422 OBP
  • .627 slugging

  • Postseason (through ALDS)
  • .125, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 5 walks, 16 strikeouts

Longest home run:

496 feet

June 11 at Yankee Stadium off Baltimore’s Logan Verrett.

Average distance of home runs:

415.48 feet

How the Yankees, the World Series and the presidency are connected

The Yankees are the most storied franchise in sports, having won 27 World Series. The next winningest team in baseball is the St. Louis Cardinals with 11 titles.

Despite having won a title an average of every four years during their history, a strange trend has emerged in the last 59 years. Since 1958, the Yankees have not won a World Series with a Republican president in the White House.

During that stretch, they have won at least one championship almost every time a Democrat was president (the lone exception being Lyndon Johnson).

Here’s a look at the strangely coincidental run the Yankees and the White House have had over the past six decades:


Republican Donald Trump (2017-present)

This is the first MLB postseason with Trump in office and the Yankees trail the Indians in the ALDS, 2-1.


Democrat Barack Obama (2009-2017)

1 championship.

The Yankees won the World Series in 2009. It was the only World Series the Yankees played in during Obama’s presidency.


Republican George W. Bush (2001-09)

0 championships.

The Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series and to the Florida Marlins in 2003.


Democrat Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

4 championships.

The Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 World Series, then the San Diego Padres in 1998, the Braves again in 1999 and the Mets in 2000.


Republican George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)

0 championships.

The Yankees did not reach the playoffs in any of these seasons.


Republican Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

0 championships.

The Yankees lost the 1981 World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Democrat Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

2 championships.

The Yankees won back-to-back World Series, beating the Dodgers in both 1977 and 1978.


Republican Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

0 championships.

The Yankees lost the 1976 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.


Republican Richard Nixon (1969-1974)

0 championships.

The Yankees did not reach the World Series in any of these seasons.


Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

0 championships.

The Yankees lost the World Series in 1963 to the Dodgers and in 1964 to the Cardinals.


Democrat John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

2 championships.

The Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds in the 1961 World Series and the San Francisco Giants in the 1962 World Series.


Republican Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961)

3 championships.

The Yanks won the World Series in 1953 to cap off a run of five straight titles. They won again in 1956 and 1958. The Yankees also lost three World Series in this span, 1955, 1957 and 1960.

The Yankees, the Mets and 3 MLB games in NYC today

The Yankees host the Royals at Yankee Stadium at 1:05 p.m., followed by the Mets with a doubleheader against the Braves at Citi Field starting at 4:10 p.m.

Game 1: Yankees vs. Royals — Game story | Boxscore

Game 2: Braves at Mets, Game 1, 4:10 p.m. | Boxscore

Tonight: Braves (Fried) at Mets (Lugo), Game 2, Shortly after Game 1 ends

Derek Jeter: The Captain’s most memorable moments for the Yankees

The defining moments of Derek Jeter

Yankees to retire Jeter’s No. 2 jersey in Monument Park on May 14.

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Al Bello

The First Hit

May 30, 1995

With shortstop Tony Fernandez injured, the Yankees called up highly touted prospect Derek Jeter for a cup of coffee.

The 20-year-old went hitless in five at-bats in his major league debut. In his second career game on May 30, Jeter earned his first major league hit, a single through the left side of the infield off Mariners pitcher Tim Belcher. After 13 games in “The Show,” Jeter was sent back down to Triple-A when Fernandez returned.

Photo Credit: AP / Gary Stewart Read more

Opening Strong

April 2, 1996

Jeter was slated to begin the 1996 season as the Yankees’ starting shortstop by new manager Joe Torre despite initial hesitation from owner George Steinbrenner.

Batting ninth on Opening Day, Jeter smacked his first career home run off Cleveland’s Dennis Martinez in the fifth inning of a 7-1 Yankees victory. The dinger ended any doubt that Jeter was ready, setting the tone for his 1996 Rookie of the Year campaign.

Photo Credit: AP / Tony Dejak Read more

The Maier Catch

Oct. 9, 1996

In Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees trailed by one run in the bottom of the eighth with Jeter at the plate.

The shortstop swung at the first pitch from Armando Benitez, sending rightfielder Tony Tarasco back to the wall. As Tarasco reached up, soon-to-be folk hero Jeffrey Maier reached out, pulling the ball out of play and into the stands. Tarasco contested that 12-year-old Maier interfered, but rightfield umpire Richie Garcia ruled it a home run for Jeter. The Yankees won the game, the series, their first AL pennant since 1981 and the World Series, kickstarting a dynasty that produced four titles in five seasons.

Photo Credit: AP / Ron Frehm Read more

All-Star MVP

July 11, 2000

Jeter lost in fan voting to Alex Rodriguez for AL starting shortstop ahead of the 2000 All-Star Game, but with Rodriguez unable to play Jeter took full advantage.

In the 71st midsummer classic, Jeter became the first Yankee to win the game’s MVP award after going 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. He picked up hits off Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Al Leiter, including a two-run single off Leiter in the fourth inning to give the AL the lead.

Photo Credit: AP / Ed Reinke Read more

Subway Series

October 2000

In his fourth World Series, Jeter had his most outstanding performance.

The Yankees shortstop was key to the Pinstripes’ Subway Series victory over the Mets in 2000, especially with his performance in Game 4. Jeter went deep on the first pitch of the game off Mets starter Bobby Jones, later adding a triple. In the series-clinching Game 5 win, Jeter smacked another home run to even the score in the sixth inning. He was named series MVP, becoming the first player to win both All-Star and World Series MVPs in the same season.

Photo Credit: AP / Amy Sancetta Read more

The flip

Oct. 13, 2001

The Yankees were down 2-0 in the 2001 ALDS, but held to a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning.

With Jeremy Giambi on first, Terrance Long hit a Mike Mussina pitch to rightfield for a double. As Shane Spencer played the ball in right, Giambi rounded third. Spencer’s throw missed the cutoff man along the first-base line, but along came Jeter — from shortstop! — to save the day, gathering the ball and making a backhand flip to catcher Jorge Posada, who swiped Giambi for the final out of the inning. The Yankees won the series in five games.

Photo Credit: AP / Eric Risberg Read more

Mr. November

Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2001

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced the entire baseball calendar to be pushed back in 2001, Jeter and the Yankees were only up to Game 4 of the World Series against the Diamondbacks when the final day of October came around.

The game reached extra innings, and as Jeter stood at the plate, the clock struck midnight, marking the first World Series moment ever in the month of November. Moments later, Jeter smashed a fly ball to rightfield for a game-winning homer, tying the series at 2-2. Arizona won the series in seven games, but Jeter picked up a new moniker.

Photo Credit: AP / Bill Kostroun Read more

The Dive

July 1, 2004

As the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry reached its peak in 2004, the clubs battled into extra innings on July 1 at Yankee Stadium.

In the top of 12th with two outs and runners on second and third, Boston’s Trot Nixon hit a popup along the third base line. Jeter gave chase and made the catch along the line at full speed. Unable to stop, Jeter dove over the wall, tumbling over the photographers’ well and into the first row of seats. Jeter arose from the crowd with some marks and bruises to show for it and left the game the next inning, but his teammates picked him up, winning the game in the 13th inning.

Photo Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II Read more

Hit No. 2,722

Sept. 11, 2009

The Yankees’ all-time hit list is littered with legendary names – DiMaggio, Mantle, Ruth. For 72 years, Lou Gehrig sat atop the list with no one coming within sniffing distance of his 2,721-hit mark.

But in 2009, it became inevitable that Jeter would make the record his own. On Sept. 11, Jeter stepped to the plate in the third inning, smacking a ball down the line past a diving first baseman for career hit No. 2,722.

Photo Credit: AP / Bill Kostroun Read more

Hit No. 3,000

July 9, 2011

The Captain singled in his first at bat of the day, earning hit No. 2,999.

In his next at-bat, Jeter crushed a ball almost halfway up the Yankee Stadium bleachers in leftfield off Tampa Bay’s David Price, becoming just the second player ever to hit No. 3,000 with a home run after Wade Boggs. Jeter wasn’t done. He went 5-for-5 that day with two RBIs and a stolen base.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac Read more

Walking off

Sept. 25, 2014

Derek Jeter reached on an error in the top of the seventh inning in his final game in the Bronx. That would have been his final at bat at the Stadium, but a ninth-inning Orioles rally tied the game and forced the Yankees to the plate once more with Jeter due up third.

Jose Pirela led off with a single and Antoan Richardson came in to pinch run. After Brett Gardner bunted Richardson over to second, Jeter came to the plate for his final at-bat in the Bronx. The Captain went with the first pitch he saw, driving a single to rightfield, scoring Richardson from second base and sending Yankee Stadium into a frenzy one last time with the walk-off win.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac Read more

By: Ryan Gerbosi Design & Development: Matthew Cassella, Anthony Carrozzo, James Stewart

Lennon: Jeter won’t have trouble changing loyalties

How Jeter will handle his possible new role as owner of the Miami Marlins.

Derek Jeter career hits database

Take a closer look at each of Derek Jeter’s 3,465 career hits.

Numbers retired in Monument Park

Derek Jeter joins these Yankees to have their number retired by the club.

Derek Jeter: Salute to the Captain

Newsday’s 2014 documentary tells the story of what Jeter meant to Major League Baseball, its players and fans during his 20 seasons.

360 View: Mets Opening Day at Citi Field

Mets

360 View: Mets Opening Day at Citi Field

The scene at Citi Field before the Mets opened the 2017 season vs. Braves

Alt Video TextPlay 360° Video

Experience the Mets 2017 Opening Day with a 360-degree video of the sights and sounds inside and out of Citi Field. (Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger, Robert Cassidy)

Note: On mobile devices, the 360-degree video experience can be viewed only in the YouTube app.

The Evolution of the Pitch

The Evolution of the Pitch

Pitching has changed from the days of being forced to throw underhand into something far more complex and intricate. Here’s a history lesson on how several pitches evolved through time. Similarly, movement of a pitched baseball can be altered based on a pitcher’s grip and arm motion. Through the use of special video cameras, watch Long Island Ducks pitchers demonstrate movement as Stony Brook physics professor Dr. Chang Kee Jung explains the science behind why a pitched baseball moves the way it does.

By Cody Derespina, Chris Ware, Chuck Fadely, Jeffrey Basinger, Matthew Golub, Anthony Carrozzo, Mark La Monica, Robert Cassidy & Ryan McDonald

The Fastball

a.k.a. heat, cheese, gas, No. 1, smoke

The first fastball thrown on a baseball diamond would have looked more like something you would see during a softball game. The original rules of the game, generally referred to as “the Knickerbocker Rules” for the club that adopted them in 1845, stated that the ball must be “pitched, not thrown, for the bat” – aka, with a stiff wrist, underhand. It was not until 1884 that limitations on a pitcher’s delivery were removed, permitting the overhand motion and leading to a truly fast ball. This rule change begot another rule change, as the new delivery method led to increased pitch speeds, which in turn led to the pitching distance increasing from 50 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches, where it currently stands.

As for movement, changing a fastball grip can cause the pitch to either move on a downward plane, as a sinker or two-seamer would, or appear to “rise”, as a four-seamer does. A pitch actually cannot rise; it stays on a straight plane. But the lack of sink as it speeds in from the mound makes the ball appear to rise to the batter. Backspin pulls the ball up while gravity drags it down, resulting in a straight path to the plate. Bill James writes in the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers that “there is little evidence, before 1950” that pitchers understood they could throw both two- and four-seamers simply by changing their grip. Before this realization, most pitchers, James writes, believed the movement on the ball was a natural talent.

Because of the height at which they arrive at the plate and the action on the pitch, four-seamers that are put in play traditionally lead to fly balls and two-seamers to ground balls.

The fastest pitch ever recorded was a 105.1 mph four-seam fastball thrown by Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman on Sept. 24, 2010 at PETCO Park.

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Percentages of all pitches thrown 57.8 57.6 57.8 58.7 59.7
Average Velocity 91.7 mph 91.6 mph 91.5 mph 91.2 mph 91.2 mph
Fastest Average Velocity 99.3 mph (Bruce Rondon, Tigers) 98.5 mph (Kelvin Herrera, Royals) 98.4 mph (Maikel Cleto, Cardinals) 99.6 mph (Aroldis Chapman, Reds) 99.3 mph (Joel Zumaya, Tigers)
Slowest Average Velocity 81.9 mph (R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays) 78.6 mph (Jamie Moyer, Rockies) 72.9 mph (Tim Wakefield, Red Sox) 72.9 mph (Tim Wakefield, Red Sox) 72.4 mph (Tim Wakefield, Red Sox)
Pitchers to throw it 678 662 662 634 664
Highest Percentage Used* 94.1 (Kenley Jansen, Dodgers) 94.5 (Kenley Jansen, Dodgers) 86.8 (Kenley Jansen, Dodgers) 90.4 (Ronald Belisario, Dodgers) 90.0 (Bartolo Colon, White Sox)
*minimum 30 innings Source: Fangraphs

The Changeup

a.k.a. change of pace, slow ball, change, Bugs Bunny changeup

Similar to the story of the fastball, the first changeup was accomplished when some unknown pitcher threw a fastball a little bit slower in order to upset the batter’s timing. Given this definition, it’s no wonder the changeup was largely referred to as the “slow ball” during its genesis and for the first several decades of its existence.

But the changeup story, well, changed when pitchers also sought movement to fool hitters. Changeups resting in the palm of the pitcher’s hand with the thumb and pinkie applying pressure resulted in a wobbling, knuckleball-like motion and were referred to as a “palm ball.” The most popular type of changeup thrown in contemporary baseball is the “circle change,” named for the grip that features the pitcher’s thumb and index finger coming together in a circle shape. An effective circle change will break both downward and horizontally.

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Percentages of all pitches thrown 10.2 9.8 10.4 10.7 10
Average Velocity 82.9 mph 82.8 mph 82.5 mph 82.2 mph 82.2 mph
Fastest Average Velocity 90.8 mph (Tanner Scheppers, Rangers) 92.0 mph (Maikel Cleto, Cardinals) 91.6 mph (Maikel Cleto, Cardinals) 90.4 mph (Daniel Bard, Red Sox) 90.4 mph (Kyle Farnsworth, Royals)
Slowest Average Velocity 70.4 mph (Pat Neshek, Athletics) 72.1 mph (Jamie Moyer, Rockies) 66.5 mph (Daniel Herrera, Brewers/Mets) 66.3 mph (Daniel Herrera, Reds) 68.5 mph (Daniel Herrera, Reds)
Pitchers to throw it 557 528 528 510 587
Highest Percentage Used* 35.8 (Fernando Rodney, Rays) 39.0 (Jairo Asencio, Indians/Cubs) 36.5 (Rich Harden, Athletics) 46.0 (Juan Oviedo, Marlins) 39.2 (Rich Harden, Cubs)
*minimum 30 innings Source: Fangraphs

The Curveball

a.k.a. deuce, hook, Uncle Charlie, curve, yakker, hammer

Candy Cummings’ tale of inventing the curveball is one of the few firsthand accounts of how a particular pitch was invented — whether it’s as apocryphal as Abner Doubleday’s story of “inventing” the game of baseball is another matter.

Cummings’ “eureka” moment occurred one day in 1863 when he and other boys were throwing clam shells and studying the path of their flights. As the shells curved in the air, Cummings wondered if he could make a baseball do the same thing. For four years he experimented with his positioning while throwing, the location of the ball in his hand and anything else he could think to alter. Finally, during a semi-pro game against a club from Harvard in 1867, Cummings says he succeeded.

“The batters were missing a lot of balls; I began to watch the flight of the ball through the air, and I distinctly saw it curve,” Cummings wrote in September 1908.

Of course, Cummings faced the same restriction the early practitioners of the fastball did: throwing underhand. It wasn’t until 17 years after the curveball took its first flight that some pitcher finally unleashed it in the overhand or three-quarters fashion observers are accustomed to seeing today.

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Percentages of all pitches thrown 9.7 10.4 9.4 9.0 9.1
Average Velocity 77.3 mph 77.0 mph 76.7 mph 76.3 mph 76.4 mph
Fastest Average Velocity 85.8 mph (Craig Kimbrel, Braves) 85.8 mph (Craig Kimbrel, Braves) 84.0 mph (Jason Motte, Cardinals) 85.2 mph (Brian Stokes, Angels) 84.0 mph (Carlos Marmol, Cubs)
Slowest Average Velocity 66.2 mph (Eric Stults, Padres) 58.9 mph (Vicente Padilla, Red Sox) 59.5 mph (Tim Wakefield, Red Sox) 60.2 mph (Tim Wakefield, Red Sox) 54.0 mph (R.J. Swindle, Brewers)
Pitchers to throw it 415 409 411 378 430
Highest Percentage Used* 39.7 (Manny Parra, Reds) 43.0 (Xavier Cedeno, Astros) 46.9 (Daniel Schlereth, Tigers) 41.4 (Sean Marshall, Cubs) 39.6 (Jason Bulger, Angels)
*minimum 30 innings Source: Fangraphs

The Knuckleball

a.k.a. floater, flutterball, knuckler

The knuckleball was first thrown in the early part of the 20th century by either Nap Rucker, Lew Moren, Eddie Cicotte or Ed Summers. It’s likely some combination of the group, actually. Cicotte, who later gained infamy as a member of the White Sox that helped fix the 1919 World Series, said in 1952 that he and Summers worked on the pitch together. James and Rob Neyer’s book notes that Cicotte also pitched with Rucker in 1905.

Then there’s this wrinkle: Toad Ramsey, who pitched from 1865-90, may have been the actual originator, though his discovery would have been more about necessity than innovation. Dave Clark writes in “The Knucklebook” that Ramsey severed a tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand when he was young. He ended up having to pitch “by resting that finger on the ball and gripping it with the inside of his index and ring fingers.” Such a grip can produce a pitch with no spin.

And that’s the point of a knuckleball: little or no spin. The idea is that the lack of spin causes a buildup in air pressure, making the ball seem to “dance” unpredictably and often dart downward near the plate.

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Percentages of all pitches thrown 0.5 0.4 0.6 0.7 0.4
Average Velocity 75.7 mph 77.1 mph 71.2 mph 71.8 mph 68.5 mph
Fastest Average Velocity 81.6 mph (Cory Burns, Rangers) 77.1 mph (R.A. Dickey, Mets) 76.6 mph (Ryan Franklin, Cardinals) 80.8 mph (Eddie Bonine, Tigers) 81.6 mph (Eddie Bonine, Tigers)
Slowest Average Velocity 75.6 mph (R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays) 77.1 mph (R.A. Dickey, Mets) 65.8 mph (Tim Wakefield, Red Sox) 65.9 mph (Tim Wakefield, Red Sox) 65.2 mph (Tim Wakefield, Red Sox)
Pitchers to throw it 4 1 3 6 5
Highest Percentage Used* 87.0 (R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays) 85.4 (R.A. Dickey, Mets) 89.0 (Tim Wakefield, Red Sox) 83.8 (R.A. Dickey, Mets) 84.9 (Tim Wakefield, Red Sox)
*minimum 30 innings Source: Fangraphs

The Slider

a.k.a. slide ball, slide piece

The short story is that no one knows how the slider was invented. George Blaeholder, who pitched from 1925-1936, is sometimes given credit. But the pitch Blaeholder threw was more likely a cutter.

Then there’s the mystery of the pitch thrown by Charles Albert “Chief” Bender. Bender pitched from 1903-17 (and made one appearance in 1925), winning 212 games and posting a 2.46 ERA. He described his repertoire like this to Baseball Magazine in 1911: “I use fast curves, pitched overhand and sidearm, fastballs, high and inside, and an underhand fadeaway pitch with the hand almost down to the level of the knees.” Was one of those fast curves actually a slider? Some evidence supports this. For one, the slider was sometimes referred to as a “nickel curve” during its early days. Also, pitcher Bucky Walters told The Sporting News in 1955 that Bender taught him how to throw a slider in 1935.

Why such confusion? Because one man’s slider could be another’s cutter or curveball. The slider is gripped similarly to the cutter, but more of the ball’s surface is in contact with the middle finger, causing a larger down and sideways break on the resulting pitch. The extreme break and downward motion can cause inconsistency in identifying the pitch.

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Percentages of all pitches thrown 14.5 14.4 14.6 14.8 14.9
Average Velocity 83.3 mph 83.1 mph 83.4 mph 83.3 mph 83.0 mph
Fastest Average Velocity 89.9 mph (Matt Harvey, Mets) 91.0 mph (Jeremy Jeffress, Royals) 89.4 mph (Alfredo Simon, Orioles) 90.5 mph (Fernando Rodney, Angels) 92.0 mph (Kyle Davies, Royals)
Slowest Average Velocity 71.5 mph (Joe Paterson, Diamondbacks) 70.9 mph (Yoshinori Tateyama, Rangers) 70.7 mph (Yoshinori Tateyama, Rangers) 72.5 mph (James Houser, Marlins) 66.2 mph (Chad Bradford, Rays)
Pitchers to throw it 491 485 499 504 554
Highest Percentage Used* 72.9 (Pat Neshek, Athletics) 68.6 (Luke Gregerson, Padres) 64.0 (Carlos Marmol, Cubs) 65.0 (Michael Wuertz, Athletics) 65.4 (Michael Wuertz, Athletics)
*minimum 30 innings Source: Fangraphs

The Cutter

a.k.a. cut fastball, sailer

A cutter is technically just another variation of a fastball. Or a slider. Kind of. A cutter generally reaches speeds a few miles per hour shy of a pitcher’s four-seam fastball and breaks a few inches horizontally, like a slider, but not downward, unlike a slider. The horizontal movement is due to the pitcher releasing the ball slightly off center. When thrown by a righthander, a cutter breaks away from a righthanded batter and in to a lefthanded hitter. The inward break to lefthanded batters is sometimes referred to as having a buzzsaw-type effect because of its tendency to cause broken bats.

While the pitch has been around since at least the 1950s, and probably long before that, just without proper identification, it began to reach prominence in the baseball lexicon in the 1980s and achieved staying power in the 1990s, particularly because of its use by Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Percentages of all pitches thrown 5.7 5.8 5.7 4.7 4.6
Average Velocity 87.5 mph 87.5 mph 87.5 mph 87.5 mph 87.1 mph
Fastest Average Velocity 94.8 mph (Yordano Ventura, Royals) 92.6 mph (Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks) 93.1 mph (Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks) 92.7 mph (Evan Meet, Pirates) 92.1 mph (Brian Wolfe, Blue Jays)
Slowest Average Velocity 79.7 mph (Javier Lopez, Giants) 76.5 mph (Jamie Moyer, Rockies) 80.8 mph (Daniel Herrera, Brewers/Mets) 78.3 mph (Jamie Moyer, Phillies) 78.4 mph (Jamie Moyer, Phillies)
Pitchers to throw it 176 178 159 123 143
Highest Percentage Used* 89.2 (Mariano Rivera, Yankees) 81.1 (Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks) 87.3 (Mariano Rivera, Yankees) 85.0 (Mariano Rivera, Yankees) 92.0 (Mariano Rivera, Yankees)
*minimum 30 innings Source: Fangraphs

The Splitter

a.k.a. forkball

Thanks to excellent research by Bill James and Rob Neyer, we have a fairly complete picture of how the forkball/splitter came about. Outfielder Mike Lynch developed it in 1905, but he couldn’t control it and, in 1908, Lynch taught his creation to minor league pitcher Bert Hall. Hall unveiled the pitch in game action on Sept. 18, 1908. Its effect was immediate with an article in the Seattle Times declaring “Hall’s assortment yesterday beats all the spit-ball and knuckle ball combinations to death, for he used it overhand, side arm and any old way and kept the ball breaking over the plate.” The Tacoma Daily Tribune referenced Hall’s “fork ball” for the remainder of that season. On the other coast in October 1908, New York State League pitcher James Swift had what he told The Sporting News was a “dobre ball”. What makes this case interesting is that the grip Swift describes sounds an awful lot like a forkball grip.

Joe Bush also developed a forkball in the early 1920s and, unlike Hall, threw it in the major leagues. His use popularized the pitch and he’s been recognized as its inventor for many years.

The splitter is somewhat of a “refinement” of the forkball and came about in the early 1970s. Despite its relatively contemporary origins, its story remains murky. Pitcher Roger Craig is popularly acknowledged as the inventor of the splitter, and he no doubt helped make its use widespread as pitching coach for the Tigers in the 1980s and manager of the Giants from 1985-1992. Reliever Bruce Sutter, however, who was the primary reason the splitter’s popularity grew, contends that he learned it from one of his pitching coaches and taught the pitch to Craig.

The forkball/splitter grips are similar. Both feature the index and middle fingers spread wide over the ball’s seams. A forkball, however, is wedged deeper between the fingers, while a splitter is lodged further into the pitcher’s palm.

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Percentages of all pitches thrown 1.7 1.7 1.5 1.4 1.3
Average Velocity 83.7 mph 84.4 mph 84.3 mph 84.5 mph 83.7 mph
Fastest Average Velocity 89.7 mph (Yu Darvish, Rangers) 89.2 mph (Pedro Strop, Orioles) 89.8 mph (Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox) 90.4 mph (Danys Baez, Phillies) 89.8 mph (Danys Baez, Orioles)
Slowest Average Velocity 75.7 mph (Hector Santiago, White Sox) 74.6 mph (Hector Santiago, White Sox) 76.1 mph (Hector Santiago, White Sox) 74.7 mph (Robert Coello, Red Sox) 76.5 mph (David Riske, Brewers)
Pitchers to throw it 80 78 78 68 81
Highest Percentage Used* 56.0 (Edward Mujica, Cardinals) 55.0 (Jose Arredondo, Reds) 51.9 (Jose Arredondo, Reds) 52.5 (Jose Valverde, Tigers) 34.1 (Braden Looper, Brewers)
*minimum 30 innings Source: Fangraphs

Other

Eephus (blooper, floater), scuff ball (emery ball), spitball (spitter), screwball (fadeaway)

Though most aren’t categorized by any modern pitch tracking system, there are still plenty of trick pitches thrown throughout contemporary major-league baseball. The eephus is one of the more interesting and rare of the trick pitches. When thrown it comes in at speeds around 50 mph, by far the slowest pitch thrown in baseball, and makes a big, looping movement. It’s equal parts danger and hilarity. An unsuspecting batter can be helpless standing in against one as he either freezes in place or swings wildly through it. But for a hitter with great bat speed or an inkling that it’s coming, it’s an easier home run than a batting practice fastball. Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez was a recent practitioner of the pitch.

The spitball has been outlawed since 1920 (although pitchers who already threw it as a major part of their arsenal were allowed to keep using it) when baseball banned applying any foreign substance to the ball.

But don’t be fooled by the name “spitball”. Pitchers would generally apply anything they could to the ball in order to get it to oscillate in all kinds of wild fashions.

Despite its abolition nearly a century ago, many pitchers have been accused of doctoring the ball since, and it’s likely that not a season goes by without someone throwing a ball embellished with some substance.

Neyer and James credit Bobby Matthews with the invention of the spitball, and his use of it apparently was documented as early as 1868, when pitchers threw underhand.

A scuffed ball, either cut with an emery board, catcher’s shin guard or some other kind of abrasive tool, is used to achieve the same result of unnatural break when delivered. It’s also probably just as rampant (if not moreso) in contemporary baseball as are variations on the spitball.

Baseball Reference gives credit for the discovery to Russell Ford in 1907, though others have contended that this brand of baseball doctoring had been around for a while before that.

A screwball, or fadeaway, is essentially a “reverse curve,” breaking in the opposite direction of a pitcher’s curve or slider. It has been used since the 1800s and was popularized by Christy Mathewson. Other than that, its origins are murky.