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  • csh19792001
    replied
    The slider: A concise history
    Neyer

    By Rob Neyer
    ESPN.com

    Updated: April 20, 2004

    Perhaps the newest of the breaking pitches is one called the slider, which almost every pitcher uses these days.

    The late George Blaeholder is generally credited with the development of the pitch in the early thirties, but I cannot testify to the truth of this.


    -- Bob Feller in "Pitching to Win" (1948)

    I cannot testify to that, either.

    There is no Eureka! moment for the slider, in large part because nobody really knows when, or even approximately when, the first slider was thrown. In the literature, the slider is generally attributed to one of two Georges (if not both): the aforementioned Blaeholder, and Uhle.

    In 1936, John J. Ward wrote a Baseball Magazine article about Blaeholder titled, "He Hurls the 'Slide Ball.' Reading the article, we realize there's something of a problem with thinking about Blaeholder's pet pitch as a "modern" slider. The problem? Ward calls it a fastball ...
    Randy Johnson desperately wants to pitch for a contending team.

    There was something about his loose jointed delivery and his sideways, sloping fast ball that Yankees sluggers didn't like.

    Blaeholder's strong point is his fast ball. He generally throws this with a side-arm motion which gives the ball a curious sweep to one side as it crosses the plate. Disconcerted batters have christened it the "slide ball." Evidently this deceptive sweep is due to some peculiarity in holding and throwing the ball. But Blaeholder takes no special credit.

    "It's just my natural style," he says ...

    This sounds like the pitch that today we would call a cut fastball, and what players in Blaeholder's time often called a "sailor" (though maybe they had a good reason for not calling Blaeholder's pitch a sailor).

    Speaking of the sailor, here's what George Uhle, a contemporary of Blaeholder's, said about his slider:

    "It just came to me all of a sudden, letting the ball go along my index finger and using my ring finger and pinky to give it just a little bit of a twist. It was a sailing fastball, and that's how come I named it the slider. The real slider is a sailing fastball. Now they call everything a slider, including a nickel curve."

    Now, contrast the descriptions of Blaeholder's and Uhle's slider with that of Bob Feller's:

    The delivery is almost identical with that of a fast ball until the point of release. I think the release can be best described by comparing it with the passing of a football. The index finger controls the release, even as it does a football, and the hand is about in the same position.

    Unlike the curve, the snap of the wrist is late and the arm turns in only half as much as it does for the curve. To carry the metaphor further, the release of the slider is similar to the motion which would be used in pointing the index finger at home plate.

    This is only 12 years after the Baseball Magazine article about Blaeholder, but Feller is talking about a completely different pitch. He's throwing the pitch with a fastball motion, but with a twist of the wrist roughly half what it would be for a curveball.

    While it's true that, today, the slider is generally described as Feller describes it, snapping the wrist was not then, and is not now, a necessity when throwing a slider. Here's what current Tigers pitching coach Bob Cluck recently wrote about the slider:

    The slider is also (like the cut fastball) gripped off-center and simply thrown like a fastball. Because you have more surface of the ball in contact with the middle finger than you have with the cutter, the ball will break down and across 10 to 12 inches. If the break on the ball is big one time and short the next, the pitcher is twisting or turning around the ball and the pitch will never be consistent. Remember, if you twist the ball, it is not only tough on your elbow but the break will never be the same from pitch to pitch.

    Best Sliders of All-Time
    1. Steve Carlton
    2. Randy Johnson
    3. Bob Gibson
    4. Larry Andersen
    5. Sparky Lyle
    6. Ron Guidry
    7. Dave Stieb
    8. Bob Lemon
    9. Dick Donovan
    10. J.R. Richard

    Others: Johnny Allen, Jim Bunning, Bob Feller, Mike Jackson, Larry Jansen, Vern Law, Jeff Nelson, Francisco Rodriguez, Red Ruffing
    -- Rob Neyer

    While writing this article I got into a heated argument with Bill James, my co-author. If the pitcher wasn't breaking his wrist (I e-mailed Bill), then it wasn't really a slider. Bill thought I was daft.

    I wouldn't come around to Bill's way of thinking ... until a few days later, when I happened to run across Cluck's editorial, which demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that indeed one doesn't have to snap his wrist to throw a slider. It's still true, I think, that we'll never know if Blaeholder and Uhle threw what we would consider sliders, or cut fastballs (or something in between; there's plenty of room in the middle). But they called them sliders, and that's probably about all we'll ever know for sure.

    So who threw the first great slider? Red Ruffing and Johnny Allen, big stars in the 1930s, are real possibilities, and Feller also is a candidate. With most of the great pitchers drafted into the Army or Navy during World War II (Feller actually enlisted), there weren't a lot of great pitches thrown during those years. But Feller came back after the war, and wrote in his book, "It was the slider which was of the greatest help to me in 1946 when I established a strikeout record of 348 for a season. I used it in many spots where I had used a curve before."

    Feller pitched for the Indians, of course, and he soon was joined by another great slider. In the late 1940s, Indians outfielder Bob Lemon became Indians pitcher Bob Lemon, and he learned the slider from pitching coach Mel Harder. Lemon's in the Hall of Fame, and he probably wouldn't be there without his slider.

    Dick Donovan's not in the Hall of Fame, but he did come up with a Hall of Fame slider in the 1950s, and in 1961 his 2.40 ERA was the lowest in the majors. Meanwhile, Jim Bunning was throwing a great slider of which Ted Williams later said, "unlike most sliders, Bunning's tended to rise, he kind of slung it sidearm ..." And Bunning, like Lemon, eventually wound up in the Hall of Fame.

    Bob Gibson probably threw the best slider of the 1960s, but the decade didn't see a lot of great sliders. Most of the best pitchers of the '60s threw overpowering fastballs and tough curveballs (overhand or sidearm), in part because the conditions of the time rewarded pitchers with that style.

    In the 1970s, though, things changed. One of the most vivid memories of my youth involves listening to Royals games on the radio, and hearing Denny Matthews or Fred White refer to an opposition starter as a "sinker/slider guy." Those were the two pitches of the '70s: good sinker, hard slider. Steve Carlton's slider was known as perhaps the toughest pitch in the National League, and for a few years Sparky Lyle dominated American League hitters while throwing mostly sliders. In the 1980s, reliever Larry Andersen perfected his slider to the point where he rarely bothered throwing anything else. And in the 1990s, Randy Johnson threw what might have been the scariest slider -- just ask John Kruk -- ever.

    The slider's a great pitch, but not everybody's a fan of it. Back in the 1950s, it was disdained by a lot of the old-timers; the basic sentiment, I think, being that the slider was for pansies. As noted tough guy Sal Maglie said, "All pitchers today are lazy. They all look for the easy way out, and the slider gives them that pitch."

    There were also those who thought throwing the slider would likely lead to an injury. In The Dodger Way to Play Baseball, a 256-page book written by Al Campanis and published in 1954, the word "slider" does not appear once. Nearly 20 years later, Dodgers manager Walter Alston put together a huge instructional book, The Complete Baseball Handbook, and while Alston admitted the slider "can be a highly effective pitch and has attained considerable prominence among present-day major league pitchers," he also said, "The general feeling among pitching authorities is that the young pitcher should stay away from the slider until he his physically equipped and has sufficient talent to throw it properly." And to this day, there are coaches and entire organizations that will teach the slider only as a last result, because they're afraid of what might happen.

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  • csh19792001
    replied
    Originally posted by Love The Game View Post
    Tell me which pitch you think is better and why. Curveball or slider?
    I guess I'll start by asking for clarification...

    Better in what way? More fun to watch/aesthetics? More conducive to producing outs (of any kind)? More devastating/likely to produce strikeouts? Knee buckler strike threes?

    Without reading through this thread, I'd say what has probably been stated several times- "better" depends on nearly an enumerate number of circumstantial variables. What's the count/score/inning? Which pitch does the guy have the most command of that day? Which is his fallback pitch? What are the hitters' proclivities which can be exploited? I.e., how eager is he to want to pull the ball for power, versus taking any pitch the other way to go for a single? These variables coalesce to make certain pitches better than others, from pitch to pitch.

    Maddux won 350 games mainly by knowing how to play the situation and offset one pitch with another. He never threw harder than the low 90's, but was a wizard at playing to the situation.

    It isn't one discrete pitch that provides the most impact; it's that pitches offset one another. In college I faced guys that topped out in the low 90's, but (believe it or not) that in and of itself wasn't that daunting (they had no idea how to pitch, in the end, but they could throw with top pros). I would go to the cage every day, and eventually, I'd even be able to time the 90 something fastball for consistent line drives up the middle. It was the few people that could throw a genuine 12-6 curve (probably in the high 70's, by and large) that killed me. When you're geared up for a 90ish heater and the pitcher doesn't choreograph his curve at all, it's generally not going to end well if he has at least average control that day.

    It's funny; I knew several guys that were very successful through college that were akin to Maddux- they almost couldn't (or seemed not to be able to) throw a pitch straight. In a way, every fastball was somewhat a slider. I suppose that's just a fluke of the way the shoulder and elbow joint are comprised??

    Personally, a good hard splitter thrown at nearly the same velocity as the fastball was the most devastating pitch for me to hit. Why? It was the pitch I had the least experience facing; I faced lots of fantastic curves after age 18, but not too many fantastic splitters.

    I'd love the insights of our professionals (and ex professionals) here.

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  • Love The Game
    replied
    Or vice versa for a small percentage of guys. That's all I'm saying.
    Last edited by Love The Game; 05-19-2008, 02:40 PM.

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  • Sultan_1895-1948
    replied
    Originally posted by Love The Game View Post
    I had a mediocre heater-- 83-85 but a wicked yacker. If a pitcher has a pitch that is more difficult to hit than their fastball they work off that pitch. Trevor Hoffman, for example. He pitches off his changeup because it is so deceptive. The key with him is hitters go up there looking change and still can't square it up most of the time. Then when he throws his 84mph heater they are foooled by that. So in my opinion he pitches off his change.
    The threat of the fastball is what makes the other pitches so effective.

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  • brett
    replied
    Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
    That Bench scenario must have been only against a certain pitcher or pitchers at a certain point in time. No way you can take that approach and hit successfully for any length of time.

    Kile's had a great curveball that was effective because of his fastball. Hitters can sit on, and hit any curve, no matter how good it is. It needs to be working off something. Zito doesn't have a fastball that demands respect, we see where he is.

    So you're disagreeing with my post then?

    No, I'm just pointing out some rare and somewhat exceptional instances. Bench may have gotten so dangerous for a couple seasons that pitchers were afraid to throw their fastball very much. I'll try to find his quote.

    With Kile, I just know that in Colorado, he would throw a curve to start of the batter probably 55% of the time. If he missed, it was like: Uh-Oh, what can he do know. He can throw another curve and risk missing, or throw a fastball that everybody is expecting. That was largely due to the troubles of Coors though. I remember him throwing about 38 pitches in the first 2 innings one game, and you could guess 75% what he was going to throw.

    My real problem with the curve versus the slider is that if you are missing with the curve, it is useless. If you miss with the slider I think it can still set up the other pitches

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  • Love The Game
    replied
    Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
    Who pitches off anything other than a fastball. That pitcher would get rocked. Lets back up. Maybe you misunderstand what I am saying. I'm not even saying that the fastball has to be his featured pitch, his out pitch, or anything like that.

    What I am saying, is that everything works off the fastball. Whether it's Moyer, Gagne, Oswalt, Glavine, Santana, Hoffman, etc..You establish your fastball, whether it be 85 or 95, and your other pitchers are only effective based on the hitter's respect for that pitch and your ability to locate with it. (Btw; one of the reasons I don't believe Pedro will ever reach near the same level of pitching, is due to his fastball velocity decrease).

    Hitters think fastball and adjust, bottom line.

    That is the only successful way of hitting on a consistent basis. The main reason the splitty is so effective, is because speed wise, its close to a fastball and appears to be a fastball until it dips. Changeup has fastball arm motion. Hitters' knees buckle on curves because they are thinking fastball and adjusting. The great hitters can turn on the heater and keep their hands back on offspeed stuff, still driving it.

    This isn't to say their aren't guess hitters. There are hitters who guess location and there are hitters who guess the pitch in certain situations and counts. The point remains though. Everything works off the fastball. Believe it. If you don't, feel free to ask people who have played the game beyond high school, either on here, or anywhere else for other opinions.

    To answer your question again. I would prefer a sharp curveball that breaks on both plaines (side to side and up and down) at about 77-82 MPH if the guy throws 90. Technically that would be a slurve. A true curve in really 12-6, like Nolan's or Gooden's, and a true slider breaks on both plaines, but more side to side. Smoltz has a great one that he throws hard and appears to be a heater until breaking away and slightly down.
    I agree that the fastball is the best and most effective pitch in the game. Most hurlers set up off of it. Not all. I played baseball and pitched through college and I pitched (for the most part off Uncle Charlie) I had a mediocre heater-- 83-85 but a wicked yacker. If a pitcher has a pitch that is more difficult to hit than their fastball they work off that pitch. Trevor Hoffman, for example. He pitches off his changeup because it is so deceptive. The key with him is hitters go up there looking change and still can't square it up most of the time. Then when he throws his 84mph heater they are foooled by that. So in my opinion he pitches off his change. Mariano Rivera pitches off his cutter, which is just a very hard slider with less downwars tilt. He also throws a two seamer he runs in on righties and away from lefties which is more of a true fastball than his cut, so he doesn't pitch off a conventional fastball. There are a ton of lefthanded relief guys with a 3/4 to sidearm delivery who throw 90% sliders and back them up with the occasional heater. Heater works off that slider in that situation. There are others I could list. I agree with you for the most part, but there are very succesfull exceptions. Another is Wakefield, but knucklers are in a whole different category.
    Last edited by Love The Game; 05-18-2008, 10:10 PM.

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  • Sultan_1895-1948
    replied
    Originally posted by brett View Post
    Johnny Bench said that in '72 when everything was going perfectly, he would actually go up to the plate thinking breaking ball, and then reacting to the fastball because at the time he felt he could turn on anyone's fastball reflexively. Granted he only hit .270 but relatively he was pretty dominant.

    When Darryl Kile pitched in Colorado, I felt that he worked off of the curve. He wasn't successful though. He spent about half of his pitches trying to locate his curve, and then was forced to throw his 88 MPH fastball and everyone in the ballpark knew it was coming.


    That Bench scenario must have been only against a certain pitcher or pitchers at a certain point in time. No way you can take that approach and hit successfully for any length of time.

    Kile's had a great curveball that was effective because of his fastball. Hitters can sit on, and hit any curve, no matter how good it is. It needs to be working off something. Zito doesn't have a fastball that demands respect, we see where he is.

    So you're disagreeing with my post then?
    Last edited by Sultan_1895-1948; 05-18-2008, 08:45 PM.

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  • brett
    replied
    Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post

    Hitters think fastball and adjust, bottom line.

    Johnny Bench said that in '72 when everything was going perfectly, he would actually go up to the plate thinking breaking ball, and then reacting to the fastball because at the time he felt he could turn on anyone's fastball reflexively. Granted he only hit .270 but relatively he was pretty dominant.

    When Darryl Kile pitched in Colorado, I felt that he worked off of the curve. He wasn't successful though. He spent about half of his pitches trying to locate his curve, and then was forced to throw his 88 MPH fastball and everyone in the ballpark knew it was coming.

    Leave a comment:


  • Sultan_1895-1948
    replied
    Originally posted by Love The Game View Post

    There have been a lot of pitchers who pitch off of sliders and changeups. Not all pitchers set up off their fastball.
    Who pitches off anything other than a fastball. That pitcher would get rocked. Lets back up. Maybe you misunderstand what I am saying. I'm not even saying that the fastball has to be his featured pitch, his out pitch, or anything like that.

    What I am saying, is that everything works off the fastball. Whether it's Moyer, Gagne, Oswalt, Glavine, Santana, Hoffman, etc..You establish your fastball, whether it be 85 or 95, and your other pitchers are only effective based on the hitter's respect for that pitch and your ability to locate with it. (Btw; one of the reasons I don't believe Pedro will ever reach near the same level of pitching, is due to his fastball velocity decrease).

    Hitters think fastball and adjust, bottom line.

    That is the only successful way of hitting on a consistent basis. The main reason the splitty is so effective, is because speed wise, its close to a fastball and appears to be a fastball until it dips. Changeup has fastball arm motion. Hitters' knees buckle on curves because they are thinking fastball and adjusting. The great hitters can turn on the heater and keep their hands back on offspeed stuff, still driving it.

    This isn't to say their aren't guess hitters. There are hitters who guess location and there are hitters who guess the pitch in certain situations and counts. The point remains though. Everything works off the fastball. Believe it. If you don't, feel free to ask people who have played the game beyond high school, either on here, or anywhere else for other opinions.

    To answer your question again. I would prefer a sharp curveball that breaks on both plaines (side to side and up and down) at about 77-82 MPH if the guy throws 90. Technically that would be a slurve. A true curve in really 12-6, like Nolan's or Gooden's, and a true slider breaks on both plaines, but more side to side. Smoltz has a great one that he throws hard and appears to be a heater until breaking away and slightly down.
    Last edited by Sultan_1895-1948; 05-18-2008, 08:11 PM.

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  • brett
    replied
    Originally posted by Love The Game View Post
    Ok guys, I didn't expect such in depth answers to this question. I probably should have. I know the effectiveness of a pitch depends on the situation (count, pitch sequence, the batter, etc., etc.). I'll ask a more specific question. If you were a pitcher in the MLB with a plus fastball 93-96mph, which pitch would you rather have in your arsenal, a 12-6 hammer curve around 73-78mph or a sharp late breaking slide piece at 85-89mph?
    I think (pure opinion) that it depends on whether you have a second, dropping fastball/splitter. If you have a dropping fastball then I would prefer the curve. If you use a circle changeup then I prefer the slider. Its more a matter of speed contrast but I'm saying that I prefer one of 2 options:

    Fastball, dropping fastball, curve.

    Fastball, slider, changeup. In this case, the changeup is the slowest pitch and so the slider gives you a middle pitch.

    The biggest potetial problem with the curve is that it is probably easier to lose control of in the sense that you can throw a good curve, and still consistently miss the zone. Its a little easier to lay off of than the slider.

    For a lefty I might SLIGHTLY prefer the curve.

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  • Love The Game
    replied
    The fastball sets up everything else, no matter how slow it is. It's all relative. QUOTE]

    There have been a lot of pitchers who pitch off of sliders and changeups. Not all pitchers set up off their fastball.

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  • Love The Game
    replied
    Ok guys, I didn't expect such in depth answers to this question. I probably should have. I know the effectiveness of a pitch depends on the situation (count, pitch sequence, the batter, etc., etc.). I'll ask a more specific question. If you were a pitcher in the MLB with a plus fastball 93-96mph, which pitch would you rather have in your arsenal, a 12-6 hammer curve around 73-78mph or a sharp late breaking slide piece at 85-89mph?

    Leave a comment:


  • MDog795
    replied
    It's not the pitch that matters, it matters who's throwing it, the batter, and the count.

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  • brett
    replied
    There HAVE been a few pitchers who might have called the curve their feature pitch-although when they threw too many curves they were in big trouble.

    My observation is that the curve tends to be a little tougher on the opposite handed batters than the slider. A curve from a lefty is a little more effective against a righty than a slider-all else being equal. There tend to be more lefties who rely on the curve.

    Also, I think the curve goes a little better with the splitter, or hard sinker. The slider a little better with the basic changeup.

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  • SHOELESSJOE3
    replied
    Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
    Depends on many things. Who is at bat. What is the count. What was the pitch sequence. What kind of curve is it. What kind of slider. How do they break and what is the speed of each compared with the fastball. The fastball sets up everything else, no matter how slow it is. It's all relative. A changeup coming off an 82 MPH fastball will be just as effective as a changeup coming off a 95 MPH fastball. It's about speed variance. Ignoring all the answers needed to truly answer that question, I will say that I prefer a sharp breaking curveball that breaks on both plaines, thrown at a velocity no more than 13 MPH, and no less than 8 MPH, from the fastball.
    Correct, there is no answer, which pitch is better, whats the situation at the time the pitch is thown. And thats true, you can get as many guys out with a 70 MPH pitch as you can with a 98 MPH pitch.

    Don't remember his exact words but this is close enough....."Hitting is timing, the pitcher's job is to upset the timing." Brilliant words, that wraps up the whole deal. From a guy who should know what he was talking about, one of the greatest Warren Spahn.

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