Pitching Ninja’s filthiest pitches: Framber Valdez’s curveball dazzles during LCS

By Rob Friedman, aka “The Pitching Ninja”
FOX Sports MLB Analyst

We’re entering the final stretch of the 2022 MLB campaign – the World Series begins Friday on FOX! As the Padres-Phillies and Yankees-Stars battled, we were treated to an excellent display of dominant pitching in both the ALCS and NLCS.

Here are the dirtiest words of the League Series:

The hammer craftsman

Framber Valdez had an outstanding season, setting a major league single-season record with 25 consecutive quality starts. Valdez continued to set records in the league, breaking the MLB record for most hitters in a game with 16. in Game 2 of the ALCS. During the regular season, Valdez had the fourth best curveball in baseball in terms of run value and had a 45.5% whiff rate on that pitch. So it is not at all surprising that he was able to dominate in his own curve.

Here are all those curveballs from Game 2 against the Yankees. Some of the pillows are worth it!

Wheeler’s dirty curveball to Soto

Zack Wheeler had a great season so far with a 1.78 ERA while striking out 25 in four outings. The spin ball gets a lot of attention, rightfully so, because of his bat speed (regularly in the upper 90s, even reaching 100 mph), but the curveball is also flawed this season. This Wheeler ball that got the sword from Juan Soto is a tough feat since Soto has one of the best eyes in baseball.

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This breakdown illustrates why Soto took such a bad swing on this pitch. The curveball was almost completely drowned out when Wheeler’s 97 mph fastball was called a strikeout. As a hitter, the curveball looks like that fastball until it hits the dirt at the last second, thus turning into a curveball that almost hits you in the foot.

Wheeler also struck out Soto earlier in the series, allowing him to take an early three-run “walk” to first base, striking out Soto after falling behind 3-0 in the count.

Wheeler’s dominant stuff helped carry the Phillies to their first World Series appearance since 2009.

Loáísiga’s mind boggling 100 mph sinker.

Jonathan Loásiga’s 100 mph sinker ran an incredible 21 inches and 20 inches. Like an impossible pitch to hit and one of the key reasons Loáísiga gets such weak contact on his sinker.

Johnny Lasagna always serves flaming cheese.

Darvish’s slow curveball

Yu Darvish holds the mad scientist pitch. He has 12 pitches or so to throw regularly, while he seems to find pitches on the fly. I’m a sucker for gorgeous slugging curves, and Yu threw out this beautiful 67 mph curveball to hit Bryce Harper.

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Here’s Darvish describing to me how he throws a slow curve.

Darvish also had this dirty slide that broke 16 inches. This home plate view really shows how tough hitters have it!

Verlander’s wicked Fastball and Slider will be golden

I like the word cover because I think it helps the fans understand how difficult the shot is. Instead of crying out “why did you make it?” When a hitter is chased out of the pitch zone, coverage can help explain what the hitter was seeing.

This outfit of Justin Verlander’s high pitched and dirty slider shows why the hitter threw himself out of the zone to slide out of the zone. You see how well Verlander tunnels with his 96-foot fastball, making those pitches almost unbreakable to a hitter. You start out swinging at what you thought was a fastball, but when it slipped, it ended up swinging into the air…whiiiffff.

Honorable mentions

A few years ago, José Alvarado nicknamed “El Diablo“Because his voice was seen as black magic. When he improved his voice control, El Diablo took his game up a notch.”

Alvarado’s 94 mph swing is pure magic. During the regular season, Alvarado had a 55.7% strikeout rate, which is the highest in the majors. It’s a completely unfair pitch, as you can see here.

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This cover helps illustrate how impossible it is to hit Alvarado. Here’s his 101 mph fastball covered with a 93 mph curveball. Because of the extreme speed, you have a fraction of a second to make the difference between these words and start your swings. It is a result of the timing of a faithful strikeout.

Bryan Abreu absolutely destroyed Josh Donaldson in this soaring 99 mph peak, getting the sword when Donaldson even bends his knee in front of his size.

Ryne Stanek hit the side with dominant stuff, while also stepping up to K’s celebrations. I love it when pitchers pitch with passion!

Finally, Josh Hader set a new record with eight consecutive strikeouts. Here, Hader shuts down the side against the Phillies. Simple overpowering stuff, topping it off with an absurd 93 mph changeup!

good

Giancarlo Stanton famously broke the Astros scoreboard after running the ball into the outfield and driving against it. I decided to have some fun with taking that story and putting Stanton in a different situation: the change from game-saving to Earth-saving interstellar forces.

Steal Friedman is an MLB analyst for FOX Sports whose work has been broadcast on several Major League Baseball broadcasts. Follow him on Twitter @PitchingNinja.


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