SAN DIEGO -- By definition, both Dinelson Lamet and Brad Hand throw a slider. The similarities between the two pitches end there.
Lamet's is high-octane, averaging 86 mph, but its drop is straight and less pronounced than Hand's -- which comes out averaging 82 mph and hooks from left to right.
Lamet, a right-hander, comes over the top to throw his slider. He grips the pitch with his index finger bent and his fingertip digging into the baseball. Hand, a lefty, uses a lower arm angle, and he holds the baseball like a typical two-seam fastball.
Lamet learned his slider as a teenager in the Dominican Republic, where a youth coach duct-taped two baseballs together and told Lamet to watch the rotation to better gauge the break on the pitch. Hand developed his with Miami in his third big league season, and he did so while tinkering during his throwing sessions.
Here's Lamet's slider:
Gif: See Gif
Gif: See Gif
They're hardly the same pitch. But there's a common thread between the two: They're filthy.
"It makes my life easy," said Padres catcher Austin Hedges. "I can put a '3' down any time I want, and I can't go wrong with either of those guys."
The numbers back the notion that two of baseball's best sliders reside in San Diego's clubhouse.
Seventy-two pitchers have recorded at least 100 results with their slider this season. Here's where the Padres duo ranks:
Batting average against: .113 (second)
Expected batting average: .103 (first)
Slugging percentage against: .202 (sixth)
Batting average against: .136 (sixth)
Expected batting average: .127 (sixth)
Slugging percentage against: .227 (eighth)
"Lamet's is more of a power slider-- a little less break, a little less extension," said Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley. "Brad's slider is closer to a hybrid between a curveball and a slider. But what they both do well is that they grip it and rip it. They both have tremendous hand speed so that it appears like it's a fastball every time. ... They both sell it."
Balsley pointed out that both pitchers can miss their spots with the pitch and still be effective. When a slider is left up in the zone, Hand and Lamet get plenty of swings and misses. Hand's strikeout of Robinson Cano in the All-Star Game is case in point.
Hand was making a return to Miami, where he began his career. He developed his slider there in the summer of 2015. He threw it first as an opponent at Petco Park and promptly struck out Alexi Amarista. But Hand was cut by the Marlins the following spring and was claimed by San Diego, where he's flourished.
"More than anything, it became an easier pitch for me to throw for a strike whenever I wanted," Hand said.
That's a common theme.
"I have a lot of confidence in that pitch in any count," Lamet said.
Added Balsley: "That's the beauty of it. They can use it whenever they want to. They can use it in the dirt as a wipeout pitch. They can use it first pitch for strike one. They can double it up or throw three in a row."
Take Lamet's brilliant 10-K outing against the Dodgers on Sept. 1. He struck out the side in consecutive innings -- the first five with sliders.
Lamet got Cody Bellinger flailing at a slider that nearly hit his foot. He got Yasmani Grandal swinging over one in the dirt. Lamet got Yasiel Puig looking at one on the corner. He got Chase Utley to swing through that same pitch. Then Lamet got Justin Turner to swing late at a front-door slider, up-and-in.
Lamet made five very good hitters look very bad with his slider. So guess what pitch Curtis Granderson was looking for? Lamet countered with a fastball on the outer half of the plate, and Granderson could only watch.
"Obviously the opposition knows they both have good sliders," said Balsley. "When it's in the back of your head that these guys can throw that slider at any time, it makes their fastballs that much better."
There are subtle differences about when both pitchers use their sliders. Lamet, for instance, is more inclined to use his when he's even or behind in the count. Hand's command is a bit more pinpoint, while Lamet "really just has to throw it," said Hedges.
"They don't go about using it the same way," said Padres manager Andy Green. "They're very different pitches. But they're equally effective."