The American League East has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, which also means it features some of the most jaw-dropping pitches in the sport.
That's bad news for hitters, who regularly have to battle for knocks while hoping for mistakes, but it creates great theater for those of us who are content to watch from the sidelines and marvel at the spin and break that these hurlers are able to generate.
This week, we are taking a tour around the AL East and examining the filthiest offerings that the five respective staffs have to offer.
The pitch:Aaron Sanchez's changeup
How he throws it: Sanchez is known for his overpowering sinker, but his new changeup has proven to be a difference maker so far this season. He spoke at length with fellow starter Marco Estrada and pitching coach Pete Walker this spring and eventually started using a modified version of a circle changeup grip.
How he uses it: Sanchez has been using the changeup in any count. After throwing it 6.1 percent of the time last year, he has increased that usage to 33.2 percent in 2018. Sanchez has been using it an equal amount to both lefties and righties, with hitters batting just .176. The changeup looks -- and acts -- like a sinker with late downward action, but with slower velocity and an average of 88.5 mph.
What they say about it: "That's just a big equalizer. It can be a strikeout pitch. Get them out front, roll over for some ground balls -- along with his two-seamers. It's fun to watch. He missed all of last year, so it really cut down on his progression, where he was at in his career, but he's starting off the right way." -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons
Statcast™ fact: Sanchez is getting swings and misses on 30.6 percent of his changeups this season. Opponents have an average exit velocity of just 86.9 mph and they have yet to hit a home run on the pitch.
The pitch:Zach Britton's sinker
How he throws it: Britton's trademark pitch was something he picked up in 2007 with Class A Aberdeen while trying to learn a cutter, discovering that he had natural sink on it. He'd occasionally use it early in his big league career, then focused on commanding it while altering the pressure of his grip. Britton said that he used to grip the ball tight like a changeup, then found that his velocity jumped after he started holding it "nice and easy" like a four-seam fastball.
How he uses it: Constantly. Britton has thrown one non-sinker since 2014, a high four-seam fastball to Michael Trout. The sinker use stemmed from a preseason chat with former pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti in 2014, who suggested that Britton could excel as a one-pitch pitcher. There has been no reason to mess with success; from Sept. 20, 2015 to Aug. 23, 2017, Britton converted an AL record 60 straight saves.
Statcast™ fact: Opponents slugged just .269 against Britton's sinker from 2015-17, the lowest mark allowed by any pitcher who ended at least 250 at-bats with a sinker during that span. Opponents have managed just five homers in 553 at-bats against his sinker since the start of 2015.
The pitch:Chris Archer's slider
How he throws it: In Archer's mind, he says that he thinks about a curveball and pulls on it as hard as he can. That generates more tilt, revolutions and downward action than your standard 12-to-6 curveball. It's a key piece of Archer's arsenal; opponents hit just .217 against it in 2017.
What they say about it: "It's grip and rip. I'm not trying to have a traditional sweepy slider, I'm trying to get more depth." -- Archer
Statcast™ fact: Archer has gone with his slider on 44.6 percent of his pitches since the start of 2017, by far the highest usage rate of any starter who's thrown at least 2,500 pitches in that span. D-backs lefty Patrick Corbin ranks second at 37.2 percent.
The pitch:Chris Sale's slider
How he throws it: Sale has two different grips. He'll place his left index and middle fingers on the horseshoe of the stitching, then vary the placement of his thumb to produce a different result. The putaway slider usually clocks 80-82 mph. If you see one that has a little more bend, Sale generally has moved his thumb up the stitching. He likes to throw that early in the count to show batters something a little bit bigger.
How he uses it: Sale has enough confidence in his wicked slider to throw it in any count or any situation. It is often his put-away pitch with two strikes. For whatever reason, Sale's slider hasn't been in top form yet this season, which is why his strikeout total is well behind last year's pace. But he will likely rediscover his feel for the pitch soon. When Sale is at his best, the pitch tumbles into the dirt.
Statcast™ fact: Sale recorded 134 of his 308 strikeouts on sliders in 2017, the second-most strikeouts of any pitcher on sliders last season behind Archer.
The pitch:Albertin Chapman's fastball
How he uses it: The hardest thrower in the game has evolved, incorporating a slider that garners some attention in its own right. With that additional weapon keeping hitters honest, Chapman frequently attacks batters with the fastball, knowing that opponents can't just sit on it. Catcher Austin Romine said that the visual of the slider generates takes and makes the fastball velocity play up, at which point the batter is usually thinking too much to make contact.
What they say about it: "He's by far the most difficult I've ever had to catch. It's getting easier because I've had him for two years, but you get 101 mph cutting, it can go straight. You've got to be on your toes. I will absolutely tell people that I was able to catch the only human being in history to throw a ball like that. That's a pretty cool story to be able to tell. The hardest thrower in the history of the world. He's a competitor, so it's really fun to catch him, especially in a game." -- Romine
Statcast™ fact: Since the start of 2015, Chapman's 1,404 pitches of 100+ mph are 1,062 more than the next-closest pitcher (Mauricio Cabrera) and represents 34 percent of the MLB total during that time.