Ohtani added a new awesome pitch, because of course he did

September 3rd, 2022

was already 10-7 with a 2.68 ERA and 157 strikeouts -- and that's just what his pitcher half was doing -- when he added a brand-new weapon to his arsenal.

In the middle of an MVP race, Ohtani started throwing a new pitch. It's a sinker, and it's a good one.

Ohtani had thrown only four-seamers since he joined the Majors; now he throws 100 mph and has two different fastballs.

Ohtani started mixing the sinker into his repertoire in his Aug. 15 start against the Mariners, then he threw a bunch more in his last outing against the Blue Jays (and in those two games, he allowed only two runs in 13 innings with 17 strikeouts). That also shows Ohtani's not afraid to use his new pitch against the contenders of the American League -- so even though he's thrown only a handful of sinkers so far, be on the lookout for it when he starts against the Astros on Saturday at Angel Stadium.

This development should actually sound familiar … because Ohtani also added a new pitch last season on his way to the AL MVP Award. In 2021, it was the cutter he introduced in April and started throwing regularly in mid-May. That cutter gave him five different nasty pitches, adding to his four-seamer, splitter, slider and curve. The sinker gives him six.

Let's take a look at the Ohtani sinker.

First, here's how Ohtani's sinker compares to his normal four-seamer.

4-seamer: 97.2 mph / 2,220 rpm / 14.6" of drop / 3.3" of break 
Sinker: 97.6 mph / 1,994 rpm / 21.6" of drop / 16.0" of break

It's the difference you'd hope for. Ohtani's sinker has the same upper-90s velocity as his four-seamer, but with a very different movement profile. His four-seamer is a true four-seamer -- it comes straight at the hitter, with very little horizontal movement. His sinker fades down and to the arm side, breaking over a foot more than his four-seam fastball while dropping seven additional inches.

That sinker movement is above average in both directions. Ohtani's new sinker is dropping 3.5 inches more than comparable Major League sinkers (sinkers thrown at a similar velocity and release point), and it's breaking 1.3 inches more than comparable sinkers.

Within the small sample that he's thrown (only 13 total), Ohtani has used his sinker to get swings-and-misses from Ty France and Bo Bichette and a first-pitch strike on Alejandro Kirk, and the only contact against it has been a slow chopper foul by Bichette and a groundout to third by France. The early results should certainly encourage Ohtani to keep throwing sinkers down the stretch.

And a sinker makes a lot of sense for Ohtani based on the pitch arsenal he already had.

First, Ohtani throws a low-spin fastball, and pitches with low spin rates tend to complement sinkers, because they result in more ground balls. Ohtani's sinker spin rate of 1,994 rpm is about 150 rpm lower than the league-average sinker spin rate this season, 2,140 rpm.

Second, consider Ohtani's two wipeout out pitches: his splitter and his slider. Now that Ohtani is throwing both a four-seamer and a sinker, he can take advantage of two key pitch combos: four-seam/splitter and sinker/slider.

Ohtani's four-seamer works especially well with his splitter because they both come straight at the hitter -- but the four-seamer will carry through the zone, and the splitter will drop out. Ohtani's four-seamer has only 3.3 inches of horizontal movement, and his splitter has only 5.4 inches of horizontal movement. But where his four-seamer drops 14.6 inches, his splitter drops 31.7 inches.

Ohtani's new sinker should work just as well with the sweeping style of slider he throws. The type of sinker/slider combo he can throw -- covering the strike zone horizontally, with the sinker and slider both getting big horizontal break, but in opposite directions -- has started to pop up in a number of top pitchers' repertoires.

Ohtani's slider has always gotten top-tier horizontal movement. This season, it's averaging 14.1 inches of sweep from right to left, which is 7.9 inches above average -- fifth best among all sliders. With his sinker averaging 16 inches of run from left to right, those two pitches can diverge by 30 inches if he starts them out in the same spot.

Ohtani already had at least one standout metric on all five of his pitches -- his four-seamer's velo, his splitter's drop, his slider's sweep, his cutter's cut and his curveball's two-direction movement. Now he's adding a sinker that also looks like it showcases standout stuff, and it should harmonize with the pitch mix he already had.

The reigning MVP getting even better just in time to make a push for back-to-back trophies? Sure, why not?