These 15 pitches are filthy and leave batters befuddled

February 8th, 2024

You already know which nasty pitches you're going to get plenty of in 2024 -- the Gerrit Cole fastballs, the Blake Snell curveballs, the Spencer Strider sliders, the Kodai Senga ghost forks and so on.

But there are a lot of nasty pitches we didn't get enough of last season, whether it was a new pitch that a veteran added to his bag of tricks, an underutilized weapon that a star pitcher kept stashed in his arsenal or a tantalizing pitch thrown by a rookie who only gave us a small taste of his electric stuff.

Here are 15 pitches we want to see more of in 2024. We're just going to go in order of pitch type here -- first fastballs, then breaking balls and offspeed.

1) Abner Uribe's 4-seamer

The Brewers rookie reliever rode a wipeout sinker/slider combo to a 1.76 ERA and 11.4 K/9 last season. The sinker, which he threw 61% of the time, averaged 99.4 mph with 14 inches of run. Nasty. But Uribe also has a four-seam fastball that can be even more overpowering: His four-seamer averaged 100.7 mph -- the fourth-fastest fastball in the Majors -- and topped out at 103.3 mph, a top-five max velo for any pitcher. Yet he only threw it 7% of the time. Let it eat even more in 2024, Abner.

2) Ben Joyce's 4-seamer

Speaking of overpowering fastballs -- Joyce went viral before he ever got to the Majors thanks to throwing 105 mph in college. Well, now he's in the big leagues, and bringing triple-digit heat. The 23-year-old "only" reached 103.2 mph in his debut stint with the Angels in 2023 … But then again, he also only made 12 appearances. Joyce still averaged 100.9 mph on his four-seamer in those outings, and maybe he has those few extra ticks in him in 2024.

3) James Paxton's sinker

Sinkers are going to be a pitch type to watch in 2024, and Paxton is one of the veteran pitchers who's already tinkering with one. The left-hander started mixing a few sinkers into his repertoire in 2023, and those sinkers looked good, averaging about 95 mph with 16 inches of run. A pitch that Paxton used to strike out Freddie Freeman has the potential to become one of the keys to the Dodgers unlocking the best version of Paxton in 2024.

4) Chris Sale's sinker

Sale brought back his sinker in 2023, and it has exceptional movement, generating four inches more drop than an average sinker and four inches more run than an average sinker. In fact, Sale's sinker got the most horizontal break of any MLB sinker, averaging nearly 20 inches of movement. He only threw it 6% of the time in 2023, but he has a lot of room to pair it with his sweeping lefty slider with the Braves in 2024.

5 and 6) Matt Brash's sinker … and cutter

Brash has video game stuff. Every pitch he throws moves like crazy. He can't throw all of them all the time, but still. When your sinker moves like this …

And your cutter moves like this …

You just want to see them more than once every 20 pitches.

7) Aaron Bummer's cutter

Sale's sidearming lefty counterpart in the Atlanta bullpen already has a great sinker/sweeper combo, but Bummer's third pitch, his cutter, generated ridiculous swing-and-miss numbers last season. Hitters whiffed on 52% of their swings against Bummer's upper-80s cutter, but he barely threw it 10% of the time. It could be an even bigger weapon for him, especially against right-handed hitters.

8) Mason Miller's cutter

The A's rookie showcased big-time stuff in 2023. It could play up even more if he moves to the bullpen full-time in 2024. Miller's cutter averaged over 94 mph -- good enough to be plenty of MLB pitchers' No. 1 fastball -- but for him, it's a change of pace off his four-seamer, which sits at over 98 mph and frequently reaches triple digits. Look for Miller's cutter to be his primary secondary pitch to get left-handed hitters out in 2024.

9) Ryan Pepiot's slider

If Pepiot is going to replace Tyler Glasnow in the Rays' rotation, his slider is going to have to be a big pitch for him. Right now it's his third pitch behind his fastball and changeup, but it has all the makings of the type of power slider many of today's top aces throw. Pepiot's slider averages 89 mph with sharp movement for that velocity -- it gets over two inches more break than comparable sliders. It's a good breaking pitch, and it's his only breaking pitch, and we want to see it become a bigger part of his arsenal.

10) Orion Kerkering's sweeper

When Kerkering is on the mound, you're going to see his sweeper. A lot. The Phillies rookie threw it almost three quarters of the time last year between the regular season and playoffs. Kerkering's sweeper is so nasty that he can do that -- it breaks more than nearly any other sweeper, and the sweeper is so named because of how much it breaks from side to side. But really, we barely got a taste of Kerkering's sweeper in 2023, because the 22-year-old wasn't called up until the end of September. We want more.

11) Nick Pivetta's sweeper

Pivetta jumped on the sweeper trend last season, and the new offering turned out to be his best swing-and-miss pitch against right-handed hitters, even though he only threw it 5% of the time. The Red Sox veteran generated a 44% whiff rate and 57% strikeout rate on his sweeper, holding hitters to a .114 batting average against it with 26 K's in 46 plate appearances.

12) Zach Eflin's sweeper

Here's another veteran starter adding a sweeper with excellent results. After joining the Rays in 2023, Eflin started throwing sweepers in June and steadily worked more and more into his repertoire as the season went on. Still, Eflin's sweeper usage was 9% at its highest in September, and a pitch that averaged 17 inches of horizontal break and generated a 40% and 46% strikeout rate could merit throwing even more going into 2024.

13) Grayson Rodriguez's curveball

Really, we just want to see more Grayson Rodriguez all around after the rookie emerged as the Orioles' ace on their run to the AL East title. But if there's one pitch he could take better advantage of in 2024, it's his curveball -- if he can harness his command of it. Rodriguez left a few too many curves in the heart of the plate last season, but just from a stuff perspective, that curveball should be a nasty hammer, as it gets about four extra inches of drop compared to an average curve.

14) George Kirby's splitter

Kirby broke into the Cy Young conversation in 2023 as a fearless pitcher who comes right after everybody and refuses to issue free passes. But he also has the stuff to put hitters away late in an at-bat, and his splitter is one of his best putaway pitches, even though he uses it sparingly. Kirby's splitter sits in the mid-80s with great tumbling action thanks to its low 799 rpm spin rate -- it drops about four inches more than a typical splitter. That's how he got 20 K's with it, more than any of his other secondary pitches, despite throwing it much less than his slider and curve.

15) Matt Waldron's knuckleball

Let's end with the most fun pitch of them all -- the only knuckleball in Major League Baseball today.

Waldron reached the big leagues for the first time as a 26-year-old last season thanks to the knuckleball he learned in the Padres' Minor League system, and it's a beautiful pitch. Knuckleballs always are. MLB is better with a knuckleballer in it, so the more we can see of Waldron, the better.