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Is Ricky Romero's Changeup the Best Swing-and-Miss Pitch in the AL East?

Jason DunbarContributor IIIApril 11, 2012

Is Ricky Romero's Changeup the Best Swing-and-Miss Pitch in the AL East?

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    The swing-and-miss pitch. Next to the home run, it's one of the most exciting and spectacularly violent moments in baseball. A whirlwind of anticipation and—for one side at least—disappointment, combined into one split second.

    The strikeout itself is a thrilling feat, and a hurler's go-to pitch can flash-freeze itself into one's memory when it's going right.

    Kenny Powers of Eastbound and Down fame once advised his late catcher and friend Shane, "Your ghost can take my fastballs and make ’em do loop-de-loops like Angels In the Outfield." 

    Well, these five pitchers don't exactly have spectral batterymates in their dugouts, making their breaking balls do loop-de-loops, but at times, their stuff seems like the next best thing. 

    So, who are the biggest inducers of the swing-and-miss among current starting pitchers in the American League East? Read on to find out. You may be surprised by the results.

    (Note: All statistics culled from brooksbaseball.net's whiff/swing data from 2011.)

5. CC Sabathia's Slider

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    CC Sabathia was worth every cent of the $24.3 million the New York Yankees paid him in 2011, and that was in no small way thanks to his slider.

    The Yankee ace was able to get a 40.85 percent swing-and-miss rate on the breaking ball. That is, every time a batter swung at the pitch, he whiffed nearly 41 percent of the time. 

    To be fair, the only reason that he is down at No. 5 is the fact that he threw so many of them—1,025 to be exact. 

    To put that in perspective, the minimum cutoff used for number of times thrown was 200 (otherwise, the sample size would be too small, and Toronto's Kyle Drabek would occupy three of the top five spots.) 

    Look for more of Sabathia's nastiness at an AL ballpark near you.

4. Clay Buchholz's Changeup

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    Despite a stress fracture in his lower back, which limited him to just 82.2 innings in 2011, the man who once threw the 17th no-hitter in the history of the Boston Red Sox managed to throw the pitch that garnered the fourth-best whiff rate in the division last year.

    An impressive 42.6 percent of Clay Buchholz's 235 changeups found their way around opposing hitters' bats, a number which could thrust him into the top echelon of AL starters should he manage to remain in the rotation the entire year, a feat he has pulled off just once in his career thus far.

3. Ivan Nova's Slider

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    Ivan Nova dropped a 16-4 record in 2011, with a 3.70 ERA over 165.1 innings as a 24-year-old, during his first full season as a starter in New York.

    Not a big strikeout pitcher (98 Ks over that stretch), Nova turned to the slider when he needed to keep the ball out of play, inducing a swing-and-miss 43.1 percent of the 340 times he threw it. 

2. Ricky Romero's Changeup

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    Ricky Romero topped 200 innings for the second straight year in 2011 and is one of the best young arms in the division, if not all of baseball.

    RR Cool J's changeup froze hitters to the tune of a 44.88 percent swing-and-miss rate out of the 629 times he tossed it out there.

    Though he had somewhat of a rough start on Opening Day in Cleveland, with the Blue Jays poised to make a promising run at the second Wild Card this season, look for more of the same flash from Romero that he displayed over the past two years.

1. Daniel Bard's Slider

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    Daniel Bard has been an ace setup man for most of his three-year career with the Boston Red Sox, but he was converted to starter this spring—something you may have heard about.

    During those three years, he's been primarily a two-pitch hurler (four-seam fastball and his bread-and-butter slider). 

    Last season, opposing hitters hacked at—and missed—that Frisbee-like breaking ball at a whopping 50.48 percent whiff rate (272 times thrown.)

    The 26-year-old suffered from a bit of bad luck in his debut on Tuesday against the Blue Jays, seeing an inordinate number of ground balls squeak through for hits as the Red Sox lost, 7-3. 

    This year, he has doubled down on the slider, keeping the nasty, hard slider he's featured throughout his career, while unveiling a softer, more curve-like slider to keep hitters off balance in lieu of any real changeup.

     

    Check in each day this week for a look at the rest of the best swing-and-miss pitches around MLB

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