Ontology of Baseball Pitches

Its too soon in the season for me to write anything serious about the Red Sox, and I already bored people with my fantasy team. I’ll make up for it by calling attention to a great article by Max Marchi over at The Hardball Times on classifying pitches. Essentially, Marchi uses the MLB database of PITCH/fx numbers (which tracks the speed and break of every pitch thrown) to expand the traditional 6 categories for pitchers (fastball, curveball, slider, sinker, change-up) into 14 categories.

Here they are with his brief comments:

  • No. 1 – Slow change or, as they used to say in the past, simply slow ball.
  • No. 2 – Hard curve, tight curve.
  • No. 3 – Slider.
  • No. 4 – Heater (hummer, blazer…).
  • No. 5 – Sinker.
  • No. 6 – Floater, junk, feather.
  • No. 7 – Cutter, sailer.
  • No. 8 – This one tails to the throwing arm side. I would suggest tailing fastball, but according to Neyer and James, they used to call a pitch from a righty that runs into a right-handed batter a riding fastball.
  • No. 9 – I really don’t like the terms hard change and slow change, so I expect good suggestions from you for this and No. 1.
  • No. 10 – Slow curve, drop curve.
  • No. 11 – Low-arm-angle pitches. How do we call them as a group? Sidearmers? Submariners?
  • No. 12 – Okay, this is a fastball that’s not quite fast (high 80s), but stays up. I go with rising fastball.
  • No. 13 – Slurve.
  • No. 14 – Similar to No. 12, but 4-5 mph faster. Hopper comes to my mind.

Take a trip over there if you have time to peruse the whole article (its quality) and offer a few naming suggestions in the comments.



  1. raysfanboy

    What? No “Big Bender”? Or is that too associated with heavy weekend drinking? I hate “Slurve”. Reminds me of the word “slurry” which is just a nasty word to me. And isn’t a “Slurve” really just a slider anyway?


  2. santosis

    The gist of the slurve is that like a slider it breaks further toward the plate. Unlike a slider, once it breaks, it has far more “roll” to it. But, yeah, slurry is nasty.

    The one thing this kind of pitching research has yet to take into account is how late a pitch breaks. That’s what makes Rivera’s cutter so damn special. Its not only the fact that it moves five inches, but it does so waaaay later in a hitter’s decision window.

    I remember an interview with Orel Hershiser where he describes what changed his career: it was a Dodger pitching coach telling his to throw his curveball with less break but more “nasty”–essentially, making sure that the curve looked more like a fastball out of his hand and broke closer to the plate. He said he lost the big Barry Zito like movement, but gain deception. And greatness.

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