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

By Rob Friedman, known as the “Pitching Ninja”
FOX Sports MLB Analyst

We’re entering the final stretch of the 2022 MLB campaign – the World Series starts Friday on FOX! As the Padres-Phillies and Yankees-Astros battled it out, we were treated to an outstanding showing of the top tier in the ALCS and NLCS.

Here are my dirtiest games of the League Championship Series:

Framber Hammers

Framber Valdez had an outstanding regular season, setting a major league single-season record of 25 consecutive hits. Valdez continued to set records during the postseason, breaking the MLB record for most curveballs 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 rate and had a 45.5% strikeout rate. So, it’s no surprise that he was able to dominate during his time in the postseason.

Here are all the curveball whiffs from Game 2 against the Yankees. A curveball de force tour!

Wheeler’s dirty curveball to Soto

Zack Wheeler has had a great postseason so far with a 1.78 ERA while striking out 25 times in his four outings. Wheeler’s fastball draws a lot of attention, rightfully so, because of its pitch velocity (often in the high 90s, even touching 100 mph), but his curveball has also been bad this season. . Here’s a Wheeler curveball that took the sword from Juan Soto, a difficult task as Soto has one of the best eyes in baseball.

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This cover shows why Soto made such a bad turn in this area. The curveball is almost as good as Wheeler’s 97 mph fastball which was called a strike. To a hitter, the curveball looks like a fastball, until the last second it dives into the dirt, so you end up swinging at a ball that nearly hits you on the leg.

Wheeler also retired Soto earlier in the series, allowing him to record three early walks, striking out Soto after falling behind in a 3-0 count.

Wheeler’s highlights helped lead the Phillies to their first World Series appearance since 2009.

Loáisiga’s amazing mind at 100 mph

Jonathan Loáisiga’s 100 mph sinker ran an incredible 21 inches and landed 20 inches. It’s an impossible place to hit and one of the main reasons why Loáisiga has so little contact with his ceiling.

Johnny Lasagna always serves grilled cheese.

Darvish’s slow curveball

Yu Darvish is the mad scientist of pitching. He has 12 or more pitches that he keeps throwing, while he seems to make up pitches on the fly. I’m a fan of good slow curveballs, and Yu threw this nice 67 mph curveball to get a strikeout from Bryce Harper.

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Here’s Darvish explaining to me how he throws his fastball.

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

Verlander’s unfair fastball and slider cover

I like to do covered pitches because I think it helps the fans understand how hard hitting is. Instead of yelling “why did he screw that up?” when a hitter chases a pitch out of the zone, the cover can help define exactly what the hitter was seeing.

This cover of Justin Verlander’s fastball and bad slider shows why a hitter can slide out of the zone. You can see how well Verlander tunnels with his 96 mph fastball, making those pitches almost indistinguishable to the hitter. You start swinging at what you thought was a fastball, but since it’s slippery, you end up swinging in the air…whiiiffff.

Honorable Mentions

A few years ago, I named José Alvarado “YesDiablo“Because his games looked like magic. Now that he has improved his command of his games, El Diablo has taken his game to the next level.

Alvarado’s 94 mph cutter is pure magic. During the regular season, Alvarado had a 55.7% field goal percentage, which was the highest rate of any fielder in the majors. It’s a completely biased sound, as you can see here:

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This cover helps show how impossible it is to beat Alvarado. Here is his 101 mph fastball overlaid with his 93 mph slider. Because of the extreme speed, you have a fraction of a second to identify these pitches and start your movement. It’s a recipe for a real hit.

Bryan Abreu absolutely destroyed Josh Donaldson in this 99 mph fastball, getting the sword as he brought Donaldson to his knee before the big one.

Ryne Stanek paced the side with the majors, as he continued to add to his K’s. I love when pitchers get emotional!

Finally, Josh Hader set a new postseason record with eight consecutive shutouts. Here Hader destroyed the side against the Philistines. Very powerful stuff, topping it off with an incredible 93 mph changeup!

Bonus

Giancarlo Stanton managed to break the Astros scoreboard after taking the ball down the field and pushing against it. I decided to have some fun with it by taking the game and putting Stanton in a different position: the transition from game-saving fish to world-saving force.

Rob Friedman is an MLB analyst for FOX Sports whose work has been featured in numerous Major League Baseball broadcasts. Follow him on Twitter @PitchingNinja.


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