Ranking Baseball's Most Unhittable Pitches

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2013

Ranking Baseball's Most Unhittable Pitches

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    Every single pitcher has what they consider a specialty pitch—that one pitch in their repertoire that sets it apart from any other pitcher's arsenal.

    Some of those pitches are just downright unhittable.

    By its very definition, an unhittable pitch is one that continually confounds hitters—even when they know it's coming.

    That ability to make a hitter constantly swing and miss and shake their heads as they walk back to the dugout is what helps to set that pitcher apart.

    Here are the 10 nastiest and most unhittable pitches in Major League Baseball today.

    Note: All pitch statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com and Baseball Prospectus

10. David Price Cutter

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    Before the 2012 season, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price relied on a stellar slider as an out pitch he could constantly rely on.

    Now, however, it's the cutter that's deadly.

    In 2012, Price essentially abandoned the slider, using his cutter with amazing results. Prior to last year, Price had never effectively used the cutter in many game situations. While using the cutter to complement his speed arsenal, Price walked away with the American League Cy Young Award.

    It's safe to say Price will continue using that pitch in game situations.

9. Zack Greinke Slider

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    New Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke will be paid $147 million for the next six seasons. The Dodgers are hoping that he can continue to confound hitters with his nasty slider.

    In 2012, Greinke continued throwing his signature slider with astounding success. Batters whiffed at a rate of 50.79 percent of sliders they swung at last season.

    Batters typically offer at close to half of the sliders thrown by Greinke, and they continue to miss in alarming fashion.

8. R.A. Dickey Knuckleball

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    No pitch is always unhittable. But in 2012, R.A. Dickey's knuckleball was unhittable enough to earn him a Cy Young Award.

    Dickey used his signature knuckler 85.4 percent of the time in 2012, the second-highest amount in his career. With that pitch, Dickey induced a whiff/swing rate of 27.78 percent. Of the knuckleballs put in play by hitters, an astounding 46 percent of them were ground balls.

7. Cole Hamels Changeup

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    Left-handed pitcher Cole Hamels got paid in a major way this past summer by the Philadelphia Phillies. In return, the Phillies want Hamels to keep befuddling hitters with his nearly unhittable changeup.

    Last year, Hamels threw his changeup 26.3 percent of the time. Hitters whiffed on 50.47 percent of the ones they swung at.

    It's hard to find anyone who had a more impressive whiff rate for any pitch.

6. Aroldis Chapman Fastball

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    Considering the numbers put up by Aroldis Chapman in just 71.2 innings last year, it's no wonder the Cincinnati Reds are transitioning him to the starting rotation.

    Chapman threw his signature fastball 87.9 percent of the time last season. It simply didn't matter that hitters knew what was coming at them the vast majority of the time.

    Chapman induced a 37.57 percent whiff rate on that fastball with opposing hitters offering at it almost half the time (47.9 percent).

5. Justin Verlander Fastball

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    Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander has certainly earned his stripes as one of the premier hurlers in the game. The ability to pitch deep into games has been Verlander's strength throughout his career.

    But it's the ability to work deep into games with increased velocity that can make his fastball almost unhittable in later innings.

    Verlander will typically start throwing the fastball at about 94-95 MPH early on. However, by the seventh and eighth innings, Verlander is unleashing at nearly 99-100 MPH.

    If one doesn't think that a few miles per hour doesn't make a big difference, take a look at facing Aroldis Chapman late in games after facing Homer Bailey.

    Verlander does that all on his own.

4. Clayton Kershaw Curveball

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    In 2012, Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw only threw his curveball 11.3 percent of the time.

    Opposing hitters were very grateful it wasn't a higher percentage.

    Kershaw's curve has become legendary indeed. Last year, hitters registered a 40.56 percent whiff rate on Kershaw's hook.

    For those who saw Sandy Koufax pitch, they can certainly understand the comparison.

3. Stephen Strasburg Changeup

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    It's understandable that everyone raves about Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg and his fastball. He threw it an average speed of 96.53 MPH last year, the highest among all MLB starters.

    However, it's Strasburg's changeup that can be a game-changer.

    Strasburg's off-speed pitch is thrown at close to 90 MPH. Many major league pitchers would kill to have a fastball they can throw at that speed.

    Hitters offered at 52.52 percent of changeups thrown by Strasburg last year. Of those, they whiffed an astounding 54.34 percent of the time.

2. Craig Kimbrel Fastball

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    Last year, Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel set an all-time record by striking out 116 of the 231 batters he faced.

    He became the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out over half the batters he faced.

    Kimbrel's fastball was the main reason for this. He induced a 38.79 whiff rate on his signature pitch, the highest in the majors. His 16.7 K/9 rate was also a record.

    And he's only 24 years of age.

1. Mariano Rivera Cutter

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    Even when everyone on the planet knows it's coming, it's still unhittable.

    Mariano Rivera has survived through 18 MLB seasons relying on just one pitch. And he'll retire as one of the most dominant pitchers in history.

    Rivera's signature cutter has confounded hitters not only early in his career, but well past the age of 40 as well. The velocity may have dipped one or two miles per hour, but the pitch is nonetheless still deadly.

    In 2010 and 2011, Rivera threw his cutter over 84 percent of the time. He still managed to post sub-par 2.00 ERAs each season.

    It doesn't matter that everyone in the world knows what Rivera is going to throw—no one has dominated one single pitch more than Rivera in MLB history.

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.