The 5th World Baseball Classic (WBC) held last month drew attention from baseball fans around the world. In order to meet the expectations of such fans, the tournament ended with a historic scene.
It was a duel between Shohei Ohtani of Japan and Mike Trout of the USA. As the two belong together to the LA Angels of the Major League (MLB), they played a match that had never been seen before. The winner was Ohtani, who struck out Trout after a full count match.
The decisive ball that struck out was a breaking ball with a speed of 140.3 km per hour. Until last year, it was a pitch that would be called a slider, but Baseball-Savant, a stats site under the MLB official website, classified this ball as a sweeper. And that’s not all. Baseball Savant added the sweeper as a new pitch at the beginning of the year, and changed 982 pitches, or 94.3%, of the 1041 sliders Ohtani threw in 2022 to the sweeper.
Ohtani is not alone in using the sweeper. Darvish Yu, who also played for the WBC Japan team, also throws a third of the slider-type breaking balls he threw last year as a sweeper. Even across the league, the percentage of sweepers has more than quadrupled, from 0.4% in 2019 to 1.9% in 2022.
Why do pitchers throw so many sweepers? You can understand the reason by comparing it with the slider, the mother of the sweeper.
Sliders and sweepers can be largely classified into three perspectives. The grip, the motion of the ball, and the result of hitting that ball are different.
As the sweeper pitch was taken out of the slider, the grip difference between the two is not large. If there is a difference, it is that the index and middle fingers are held closer to the seam than the slider and the thumb is positioned so that the ball can be thrown with a more sideways sweep, as the name suggests. The throwing method is also the same as that of the slider. In other words, it can be interpreted as being more accessible to pitchers who used to throw sliders because it is more of a variation than a completely new pitch.
Unlike the grip, the difference between the two pitches is noticeable in the movement of the ball. Let’s take a look at every slider and sweeper recorded in MLB from 2021 to 2022. The sweeper had less vertical (up and down) movement than the slider, but the horizontal (left and right) change was more than twice that of the slider. The number of rotations was also about 140 more per minute in the sweeper than in the slider. On the other hand, the speed of the ball was about 5 km per hour lower for the sweeper than for the slider.
The hitting results also show the difference between the two. When hitting the sweeper versus the slider, the fly ball came out more than 6%. Ground balls came out less by nearly 8%. Floating balls are more likely to be out than ground balls. Robert Stark, who played for the Doosan Bears last year, said in an interview, “I try to induce more floating balls wherever I play. This is because a fly ball is more likely to lead to an out than a ground ball.” In fact, according to the statistics of Fangraph.com in 2014, the batting average of a fly ball was more than 0.03 lower than the batting average of a ground ball.
A low batting average does not necessarily mean less risky. All home runs, except inside the park home runs, come from flying balls. However, among fly balls, the rate of infield pop-ups, which are batted balls that can never come out with a home run, is also higher than that of sweepers by more than 3%. On the other hand, the sweeper showed a 6% lower result than the slider in the hard hit percentage (HardHit%). As such, it can be interpreted that the sweeper has an advantage over the slider in suppressing long hits including home runs.
In conclusion, the slider and sweeper show significantly different ball movement and hitting results with small differences in the grip. The easiest pitches for pitchers to learn are the curve and slider. Since the sweeper comes from the slider, it is more accessible than other pitches such as splitters and changeups. Also, since it can bring different results from the existing slider, it can be seen that the share of pitches is gradually increasing.
Since Ohtani entered the MLB, he threw a slider with a different trajectory from other pitchers as a deciding ball. That’s what recently came to be recognized as a sweeper. He is also the opposite. Chris Bassett, who moved to the Toronto Blue Jays last winter and became a teammate of Ryu Hyun-jin, said in a recent interview with The Athletic, an American sports media outlet, “I throw two types of sliders, and the slow slider is classified as a sweeper from a baseball servant. It seems to do,” he said.
Bassett made his MLB debut in 2014. He was a pitcher who used the slider as his main weapon at the time. After that, he performed decently until 2019, but he was lacking in terms of being an excellent starter. Then, from 2020, which was a shortened season, he started throwing with a different speed of the slider instead of increasing the proportion of the curve. The two sliders differed not only in velocity but also in trajectory.
In 2020, Bassett, whose potential exploded by ranking third in the American League in ERA (2.29), continued to win and win.스포츠토토 Last season, when the combined pitch ratio of sliders and sweepers reached the highest level since 2015, he filled the regular innings for the first time in his career and vomited his spirit to rise to 5th place (15 wins) in the National League.
As the times go by, baseball technology develops and new weapons are emerging accordingly. If the hitters brought out the launch angle, the pitchers brought out the high fastball. The sweeper is expected to be another weapon for pitchers. From this year, when the sweeper is officially recognized, it is expected to see what kind of change this new pitch will bring to the league.