These are the NL West's best pitches
For the better part of the past decade, the National League West has been home to a host of baseball's elite arms.
Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner have spent plenty of time at the pinnacle of the sport. Robbie Ray, Jon Gray and Joey Lucchesi are among league's the best youngsters.
The pitchers in the NL West are great. And, naturally, so are the pitches they throw. With that in mind, MLB.com took an in-depth look at the signature pitch for each team in the division.
Some were obvious. Some were surprising. All were filthy.
The pitch: Zack Godley's curveball
How he uses it: A lot. In fact, no pitcher in baseball has thrown a curveball more frequently than the 198 times Godley has used his this season. That increase in usage has effectively turned him from a No. 5 starter to a front-of-the-rotation type arm.
What it does: Baseball features plenty of curveball specialists with big, looping breaking pitches that are deceptive because they change the pace. Not Godley. His curve gets on hitters quick. So much movement at such high velocity is precisely what makes Godley's curve extraordinarily difficult for hitters to pick up.
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What they say: "It's one of the best curves I've ever seen. It looks like a cutter, then all of a sudden, it disappears." -- Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco
Statcast™ fact: Godley's curveball has averaged 81.7 mph this season. Among NL pitchers to throw at least 100 curves this season, only Stephen Strasburg has a higher average velocity.
The pitch: Kenley Jansen's cutter
How he uses it: For the most part, Jansen only uses it. His cutter has drawn comparisons to that of Mariano Rivera -- both because of the frequency with which the two right-handers throw the pitch and the way hitters react. Of course, that comp is unfair for any reliever, and Jansen has struggled during the season's first month. But he's shown some signs of turning things around lately, and it's largely due to increased velo and movement on the cutter.
What it does: It cuts. A lot. When it's on, Jansen's cutter can get up to 10 inches of vertical movement. Add velocity, spin rate and extension into that mix, and there's a reason it's been one of the most unhittable pitches in the sport for the past half-dozen years.
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What they say: "They're the same. When I say 'the same,' that's as big a compliment as you can get." -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts last season, comparing the cutters of Jansen and Rivera
Statcast™ fact: In each of Jansen's past five outings, his cutter has averaged over 92 mph. That wasn't the case in any of his first seven appearances this season.
The pitch: Chris Stratton's curveball
How he uses it: Stratton likes to show the pitch early in counts, particularly against opposing power hitters. Because he can throw it for a strike at will, it's his way of setting the tone for an at-bat and keeping a hitter off balance from the start. When Stratton needs it to finish an at-bat, it entices hitters before darting out of the zone -- and often way out of the zone.
What it does: For three quarters of its trajectory, Stratton's curveball does nothing but float. Then the bottom falls out. There isn't much horizontal movement in the pitch. But its 12-to-6 action can give him up to a foot of vertical drop when it's working.
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What they say: "The reason that some of these pitches you're going over are great for certain guys is because it looks similar to another pitch they throw. My curveball looks like my four-seam fastball. It has that deception behind it, that it looks the same out of the hand to the hitter, and then I do something different at the last second. They have to adjust to that." -- Stratton
Statcast™ fact: Last season, Stratton's 3,105 rpm spin rate was the highest among pitchers to throw at least 50 curveballs. This year, it's at 3,115 -- third in the Majors behind only Garrett Richards and Thomas Pressly.
The pitch: Brad Hand's slider
How he uses it: Hand pairs his slider perfectly with a high-spin fastball, using one pitch to disguise the other. Since mid-2016, he has been able to locate the slider with pinpoint precision, and he throws it to all four quadrants of the strike zone. Its late break generally keeps hitters thinking fastball until the last possible moment.
What it does: Hand didn't begin developing his slider until late 2015 before he arrived in San Diego the following spring. It was essentially a pared-down version of his looping curveball -- one that he could better control and broke later and more sharply. The pitch averages 82 mph and bites hard in on righties and away from lefties.
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What they say: "It seems like it breaks twice. It breaks down, and then it breaks, from my angle catching, left. It starts to break down, and then out of nowhere, it breaks again. I know that doesn't seem possible. But that's what it looks like from behind the plate." -- Padres catcher Austin Hedges
Statcast™ fact: Since the start of 2017, Hand's high-spin slider (2,622 rpm) has induced 126 swings and misses -- more than any other offspeed pitch for a reliever in the NL.
The pitch: Adam Ottavino's slider
How he uses it: Ottavino doesn't use his slider the way most pitchers use their breaking balls. He tends to pitch backward, starting counts with sliders and throwing them frequently when he's behind. Ottavino also has tinkered with arm angle and velocity on his slider, and his ad-libbing is partially why the pitch has been so successful.
What it does: Sure, Ottavino throws a "slider." But using one name to define every slider he's thrown doesn't do justice to the overall variance. The version of Ottavino's slider that sparks GIFs of hitters buckling at the freakish movement -- that's more like a curve from a lower arm angle. It can float in between 76 and the low 80s in mph. His hard slider is 86-87 mph. "It's only one pitch," Ottavino says, "but it's got a lot of different ways I can throw it."
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What they say: "It's been my most successful pitch in terms of hits, hard hits, everything. I'm just trying to use it as much, because without it, I'd probably be pretty bad." -- Ottavino
Statcast™ fact: Ottavino used his slider 52.4 percent of the time -- the fifth-highest rate in MLB among the 308 pitchers who have thrown at least 100 pitches entering play Tuesday. It has been devastating as a first pitch. He used it 66.1 percent of the time -- highest among pitchers who faced at least 50 batters this season. Those first-pitch sliders have been strikes 65 percent of the time.