Pitching Ninja’s filthiest pitches: Framber Valdez’s curveball dazzles during LCS

by Rob Friedman, aka “Pitching Ninja”
FOX Sports MLB Analyst

We’re entering the final phase of the MLB 2022 campaign – the World Championships begins Friday on FOX! As the Padres-Phillies and Yankees-Astros wrestled, we received a great showing of dominant shooting in both the ALCS and NLCS.

Here are my dirtiest pitches in the league:

Framberg hammers

Framber Valdez had a fantastic regular season, setting a league record for one season with 25 consecutive quality starts. Valdez went on to set records in the post-season, breaking the MLB record for most curve strokes in a game with 16. In Game 2 of ALCS. During the regular season, Valdez had the fourth-best curveball in baseball by run value and had a 45.5% whiff rate on that field. So, it comes as no surprise that he was able to dominate with the post-season curve.

Here are all those refreshing touches from Game 2 against the Yankees. Round the curve ball hard!

Wheeler’s Dirty Ball to Soto

Zack Wheeler has had an impressive post-season performance so far with 1.78 ERAs while hitting 25 hits in his four games. Wheeler’s fastball attracts a lot of attention, and rightly so, given how fast the bats sing (regularly in the upper ’90s, even touching 100mph), but the curve ball has also been fierce this season. Here’s a Wheeler ball that got a sword from Juan Soto, which is a tough feat because Soto has one of the best eyes in baseball.

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This overlay explains why Soto’s sway is so bad on this field. The curve ball tunnel was drilled almost perfectly with Wheeler’s 97 mph fast ball which was called a blow. As a hitter, the curve ball looks just like that speedball, until you sink into the dirt at the last second, so you end up swinging a ball that almost hits you in the foot.

Wheeler also broke Soto earlier in the series, taking a record three premature “walk” props to first base, hitting Soto after falling behind 3-0 in the count.

Dominant things helped Wheeler carry the Phillies to their first World Championship appearance since 2009.

The amazing 100mph Loáisiga diver

Jonathan Loáisiga’s 100-mph diver ran an incredible 21 inches and fell 20 inches. Just an impossible throw to hit and one of the main reasons Loáisiga has so poor contact on his heavy.

Johnny’s regularly serves blazing cheese lasagna.

Darwish’s slow curve

Yo Darvish is the mad scientist in control of the playing field. He has 12 or so throws he throws regularly, while seemingly inventing pitches quickly. I’m a sucker for cool slow curveballs, and Yu threw that nice 67mph curve to get a Bryce Harbor hit.

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Here’s Darwish describing to me how he throws a slow curve ball.

Darvish also had this sloppy slider that broke 16 inches. This home board view really shows how hard hitters can be!

Verlander’s Unfair Speedball Overlay and Sliding Overlay

I love doing pitch overlays because I think it helps fans understand how hard hitting really is. Instead of shouting “Why did you swing at that?” When the hitter is chasing the court out of the area, the overlay can help explain exactly what the hitter was seeing.

This overlay of the high-speed ball and poor slip of Justin Verlander explains why the hitter swung a slithering way out of the area. You can see how well Verlander tunnels gliding with the 96-mph fastball, making these pitches almost indistinguishable from a hitter. You start swinging on what you thought was a fast ball, but since it’s a slider, you end up swinging in the air…

Honorable Mention

A few years ago, I called José Alvarado “Efor DiabloBecause his pitches looked like black magic. Now that he’s improved his pitch driving, El Diablo has taken his game to the next level.

Alvarado’s 94 mph cut is pure juggling. During the regular season, Alvarado had a 55.7% whiff rate on his cutter, the highest whiff rate of any cutter in the majors. It’s a totally unfair offer, as you can see here:

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This overlay helps explain how impossible it is to hit Alvarado. Here’s the 101mph fastball covered in 93mph. Because of the extreme velocity, you have a split second to discern these tones and start swinging. It’s a recipe for a sure strike.

Brian Abreu totally destroyed Josh Donaldson on this 99-mph high speed ball and got a sword while Donaldson also flexed the knee before his bone.

Ryne Stanek hit the side with dominant things, while also gradually increasing his celebrations of the K. I love when bowlers play with passion!

finallyAnd the Josh Hader set a new post-season record with eight straight hits. Here is Hader annihilating the side against Velez. Simply beat things up, and top it off with an incredible 93 MPH change!

bonus

Giancarlo Stanton is famous for breaking the Astros scoreboard after running a ball into the court and pushing it against it. I decided to have fun with it by doing this play and putting Stanton in a different situation: a change from game-saving catches to earth-saving interstellar power.

Rob Friedman is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and his work has appeared on several Major League Baseball programs. Follow him on Twitter @ninja.


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