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Here are Twins' extreme pitches from 2020

@dohyoungpark
November 19, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- As they search for every competitive advantage on their staff behind the watchful eye of pitching coach Wes Johnson, the Twins have assembled a wide array of looks and pitches despite a relative lack of the flamethrowers who are becoming more and more ubiquitous in Major League bullpens.

MINNEAPOLIS -- As they search for every competitive advantage on their staff behind the watchful eye of pitching coach Wes Johnson, the Twins have assembled a wide array of looks and pitches despite a relative lack of the flamethrowers who are becoming more and more ubiquitous in Major League bullpens.

Their ace, Kenta Maeda, barely touches the mid-90s with his fastball and instead relies on a crafty combination of sliders and split changeups. One of the Twins’ most pleasant bullpen surprises, Matt Wisler, bucked conventional wisdom by all but ignoring his fastball and instead throwing his slider 81.3% of the time. Rich Hill continued to work through lineups with only a fastball and curveball.

All that’s to say: This is a fascinating staff, one certainly worth a deeper review via Statcast. Last week, we brought you the season’s hitting highlights. This week, let’s go through the pitchers.

Fastest pitch: Jorge Alcala
100.7 mph (four-seam fastball)
Sept. 2 vs. CWS

Remember when the Twins traded away top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol last offseason? That obviously played out for the best by bringing Maeda to the Twin Cities, but it was still tough for the traditionally velocity-starved Twins to watch the hard-throwing prospect leave. No matter: Alcala started to make up for that in a breakout 2020. He had a little extra that day against the White Sox and snapped off Minnesota’s only triple-digit pitch of the season, becoming the third Twins pitcher to throw 100 mph in the pitch-tracking era.

Slowest pitch: Ehire Adrianza
57.8 mph (????)
Aug. 19 vs. MIL

This could only belong to the Twins’ utility infielder/manager/position player pitcher extraordinaire, who allowed a solo homer in his only mound appearance of 2020 that day against the Brewers. Statcast classified it as a curveball, but it was probably just … slow.

Slowest pitch (actual pitcher division): Caleb Thielbar
64.6 mph (curveball)
Sept. 13 vs. CLE

This one’s an actual curveball. Thielbar was another pleasant surprise in 2020, working his way up from a Minor League invitation to Spring Training to a bullpen fixture by the end of the season on the strength of a 2.25 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 20 innings. Thielbar was excited about his newfound velocity and the work he’d done on his curveball and slider -- and that showed. Fun fact: Thielbar didn’t allow a hit on his curveball all season.

Highest spin rate pitch: Alcala
3,590 rpm (slider)
Aug. 5 at PIT

The fact that Alcala has both the fastest pitch and the highest-spin pitch of 2020 for the Twins (not on the same offering) should tell you plenty about why everyone from Wes Johnson to Rocco Baldelli to LaTroy Hawkins has been so excited about the 25-year-old’s progress this season. The raw stuff is clearly there, and the seasoning and big league experience also followed this season as the Twins eased him into tougher situations. He’ll likely be relied upon much more in ‘21.

Fastest strikeout pitch: Trevor May
98.7 mph (four-seam fastball)
Sept. 16 at CWS

May will forever insist that he hit the “TV hunge” (throwing 100 mph per FOX Sports North’s radar gun) in 2019, but in reality, he did fall barely short of that. Still, he got this velocity record in his walk year with the Twins at the tail end of his continued progress with his entire arsenal, as a result of which his whiff rate on the four-seamer skyrocketed to a career-high 46.9%.

Highest whiff rate on a pitch: Sean Poppen’s slider
48.1% (min. 15 swings)

A Poppen sighting! The 26-year-old has moved on to Pittsburgh after he couldn’t quite figure things out with the Twins, but this could be an indication that the raw stuff has been within his grasp and he can be a factor in the big leagues if he reins in his wildness.

Lowest hard-hit rate on a pitch: Maeda’s four-seam fastball
10.5% (min. 15 balls in play)

All three of Maeda’s primary pitches -- the fastball, slider and changeup -- are among the top 10 individual pitches in lowest hard-hit rate on the Twins’ staff. His command and mixing of all three pitches were excellent throughout the season in keeping hitters off-balance and off base, as evidenced by the 0.75 WHIP that ranked second-lowest among ERA qualifiers in the Modern Era. Fastballs that average 91.6 mph should get hit much harder -- but in Maeda’s case, they don’t.

And just for fun …

Highest pitch: May
+6.62 feet of elevation
Sept. 13 vs. CLE

Almost hit the Billy Heywood cutout.

Lowest pitch: Thielbar
-2.09 feet of elevation
Aug. 21 at KC

Most outside pitch (1B side): Tyler Duffey
3.01 feet off center of plate
Aug. 17 vs. KC

Most outside pitch (3B side): Sergio Romo
4.70 feet off center of plate
Aug. 26 at CLE

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.