MLB Power Rankings: The 10 Best Sliders in the Game Today
This is the most interesting article I have written to date. I've been asked to write about one of the most arm demanding pitches there is in baseball, and that is the slider. The slider is a pitch that is a double edge sword. On one hand, the best pitchers in baseball, both starters and relievers, utilize this pitch and to some degree, dictates their fame and fortune. It is one of the four pitches that usually dictates a players ability to play at a higher level.
On the other hand, it usually isn't taught to most kids unless they are physically ready to perfect the pitch. This pitch has caused more elbow injuries than all the other pitches combined.
With all of this being said, when thrown correctly, is one of the most devastating pitches out there. Hopefully we can appreciate this pitch and the pitchers who throw it.
Brad Lidge: Philadelphia Phillies
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Lidge's bread and butter is the slider. There are times when he is closing out games, he'll throw three-to-five consecutive sliders to a batter without thinking twice. When he's healthy, his slider is as dominant as they come and he saves a lot of games.
Unfortunately he hasn't been healthy much lately and the Phillies have had a revolving door at closer because of it.
Francisco Liriano: Minnesota Twins
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In 2006, Liriano was unhittable. He had the fastball, change-up and, yes, the slider. Liriano relied to much on his slider and with his violent motion, led to Tommy John surgery the next year.
Since then, pitching coach Rick Anderson has tried to get Liriano to use his fastball and change-up, but Liriano has gone back to the devastating slider as his out pitch. When its on, its impossible to hit.
Zack Greinke: Milwaukee Brewers
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Greinke hasn't pitched yet this year, but his slider is still talked about in the AL Central. In Greinke's Cy Young award winning year (2009), he utilized his slider in striking out 242 batters that year.
He is able to balance his terrific slider with an above average fastball. Milwaukee fans are still waiting to see Greinke on the mound this year as he is still on the DL with a rib injury.
Johan Santana: New York Mets
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As a Twins fan, I wonder not so much the change of teams as maybe the change of philosophy has taken its toll on Santana. While in Minnesota, he had the best change up in the game, to go along with the best slider, to go along with an above average fastball.
The past two seasons, his numbers have decreased while his injuries have increased. One can't help but wonder if he's relying more on his nasty slider than in years past. Regardless, when healthy, Santana has a top five slider.
Carlos Marmol: Chicago Cubs
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Marmol throws 90+ mph heat to go along with a diving slider. In 2010, Marmol had 138 strikeouts in 77.67 innings pitched, ranking him number one in strikeout ratio at 16 strikeouts per nine innings.
He is becoming an elite reliever and his slider is making his climb that much quicker.
Ryan Dempster: Chicago Cubs
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Dempster has established himself as the number one pitcher on an average Cubs staff. However, in an article written by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, he argues that Dempster has the best statistical slider in baseball.
He has been pitching since 1998 and has learned to pitch with age. He may not blow people away with his fastball, but he is definitely getting people out with his slider.
Joba Chamberlain: New York Yankees
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I really struggled putting Chamberlain on this list, because frankly I'm not sure how good of pitcher he really is. He has shown flashes of a very good major league pitcher and he's shown signs of an average major league pitcher.
The one constant though is his ability to throw his slider in tough counts. He has the hard fastball craved by relievers and the tough slider makes him that much tougher. The problem is he still has an identity issue because the Yankees still don't know if he's a closer in the making, or a starter...again.
Max Scherzer: Detroit Tigers
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Scherzer is quickly becoming a go to guy on the Tigers staff. Behind Verlander in the rotation, Scherzer is 4-0 on this young season and he's averaging a little under six punch outs a game.
Like Chamberlain, he has a good fastball, but his out pitch is his slider. He will be a force in the Tigers rotation for a long time to come.
Francisco Rodriguez: New York Mets
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K-Rod has had a rough go of it in the Big Apple to say the least, but the one constant has been his slider. He's dropped from 62 to 35 to 25 saves the past three seasons, however after last year's blow up, he's seem to have righted the ship and is having a nice start to the season.
K-Rod has a plus fastball, but his slider is his out pitch. It ranks up there with Brad Lidge amongst the game's top sliders among closers.
Chad Billingsley: Los Angeles Dodgers
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Sometimes lost behind Clayton Kershaw is the Dodgers number two man, Chad Billingsley. Billingsley has quietly established himself as a solid number two in the National League. He's not quite Cliff Lee or Matt Cain but he does have a slider that is better than both of the mentioned number twos.
In 2008, he struck out 201 batters, but since then his innings pitched have declined. As long as he can keep utilizing his slider, he'll continue to rack up the strikeouts.