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Is Mike Fiers' Curveball the Best Pitch in the Milwaukee Brewers Rotation?

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Is Mike Fiers' Curveball the Best Pitch in the Milwaukee Brewers Rotation?
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

This article isn't going to be long, and it isn't going to be too in depth. I've written about Mike Fiers a couple of times over the past couple of weeks, and to sum up the way I feel about him: the bee's knees.

He's the definition of an underdog, someone that few people thought would ever make it to the majors, much less make substantial contributions in a starting rotation. 

Yet here we are...with the Brewers starting rotation essentially devastated by injuries and now the trade of Zack Greinke, the stalwart has emerged, and his name is Mike Fiers.

And his curveball is a thing of beauty.

Quickly, here are Fiers' stats on the season: 6-4, 1.80 ERA, 80 IP, 80 K, 1.01 WHIP.

Fiers was a call-up earlier in the season when the rotation and the bullpen really started taking hits, and when Marco Estrada went down with an injury, Fiers was called up to replace him for that night in the rotation.

The rest is history.

Why am I dedicating an entire article to his curveball? Because that's the reason he's succeeded so far. His curveball is absolutely ridiculous and has as much of a break as any curveball I've ever seen thrown.

He doesn't throw heat. His fastball usually sits around 88-89 MPH, occasionally touching 90 MPH. He also has a cutter in the mid-80s and a change-up in the upper-70s to low-80s. He commands them all with ease, and they all induce swings and misses.

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
Fiers has a peculiar over-the-top delivery that fools hitters, much like Tim Lincecum.

But his curveball is his bread and butter, the real star of the show.

It's a slow spinner in the low-70s, but he controls it so effectively, and it has such a ridiculous break, that it almost always leaves hitters baffled.

Take a look at this video, courtesy of MLB.com. Fiers racked up nine strikeouts in only 6.1 innings, something peculiar for a guy who doesn't throw his fastball in at least the low-90s.

But you'll see four times how unfair his curveball is as a strikeout pitch.

When he throws it in the zone, it looks as though it's going to be way too high and up out of the zone until the very last second, when it dips straight into an unmoving glove, right down the middle.

He gets swings and misses on it when it looks as though it's coming into the zone and then drops into the dirt, making hitters look silly swinging at what looks more like a cricket bowl.

What that video doesn't show you, unfortunately, is that it also sets up his fastball quite well. When you're being forced to sit on his curveball, especially after you've seen it earlier in the count, that fastball comes in looking much faster than it actually is. And again, he controls both pitches so effectively that players must be ready to hit anything and regularly swing out of the zone.

In his most recent start, on August 7th, Fiers went eight innings, and he took a perfect game all the way into the seventh inning, when he finally surrendered a double. He ended up going eight innings (a career high) while striking out seven and walking none.

The reason for this dominant start? Incredible control and a curveball that no one could hit.

If you check out his Fangraphs page and look through his Pitch F/X, you'll see the numbers behind his curveball. It accounts for nearly half of his strikeouts (43.6 percent) and players are hitting a miserable .118 against it, along with posting only a .164 on-base percentage and slugging at a rate of only .196.

Completely, totally ridiculous.

The entire point of this article: Mike Fiers is the man.

I think his curveball is very likely the best pitch in the Brewers starting rotation, one of the best curveballs in the majors right now and a big reason for his dominance this year. 

He's been the best pitcher in the Brewers rotation for several weeks now, and if he keeps his curveball moving like that, he has a chance to maintain that distinction and to get some NL Rookie of the Year votes in the process.

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