The Sinker

My favorite pitch in baseball.  It is almost unhittable if it is mastered.  It allows you to get ground ball outs which gets you deeper into games.  And it is and has been the key pitch for so many pitchers to play the game of baseball.  Some of the names that pop out to you on stat sheets are those of power pitchers.  But so many of the good pitchers in baseball establish their supremacy with their finesse.  Their changeups, their sliders, their sinkers.  Those are my types of pitchers.  The guys that work around a count with their secondary pitches, not just their fastball.  Nothing against guys like Tim Lincecum or Randy Johnson or any other power pitchers (I am a big fan of Lincecum), but finesse pitching is the stuff I enjoy watching.  The likes of Derek Lowe, Aaron Cook and Johan Santana (despite being a big strikeout guy) are who I am talking about.

Derek Lowe spent about a year in Seattle with the Mariners where he picked up his first win on June 6th against the Twins.  He was then traded to Boston along with catcher Jason Varitek.  In Boston, Lowe thrived.  He was very successful both in the bullpen and in the starting rotation.  After being in Boston for seven years.  He was part of the team that won the first championship in 86 years, breaking the “Curse of the Bambino.”  He then went on to play with the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 2004 championship run.  He did return to Boston in a Red Sox jersey for their ring ceremony.  He played with LA for three years before signing with the Atlanta Braves where he is currently playing.  Over his career, Lowe never put up big strikeout numbers, never was a huge name that the opposing team highlighted on their game board before a series.  He was good, but he wasn’t considered the toughest guy that would be on the mound.

Aaron Cook came up to the big leagues in 2002.  He has played with the Rockies his whole career.  He doesn’t have as interesting a story as Lowe does, but nonetheless, he is relevant to what I am talking about right now.  He is another guy who doesn’t rely on the fastball 100% of the time.  He is a finesse pitcher.  He uses his sinker a lot to get guys out.  He gets a lot of ground ball outs from this and he has been a very reliable guy for the Rockies over his career.  Like Lowe, Cook’s strikeout numbers are never very high.  But he is still a very big part of what is going on over in Colorado.

Johan Santana has a little bit of a different style of pitching than Lowe and Cook do.  They both have very good sinkers but don’t have as good third and fourth pitches.  Santana has the fastball, the very good changeup, and some other pitches that he uses to get guys out.  Santana creates finesse pitching differently because he does it with the changeup.  His strikeout numbers are generally up there.  He has been the strikeout leader before and has always been close.  Santana’s finesse is fun to watch because you never know when he is going to pull out that changeup.  He doesn’t have the sinker, but he has that changeup.

So, I hope you all see how important finesse pitchers are to baseball.  It’s not all about strikeouts.  Although they are good to get, ground ball outs do the job just as well as strikeouts.  It’s just that they don’t get on the stat sheet.



  1. redstatebluestate

    Nice job. I would argue against the statement that the sinker is “almost unhittable if mastered”. The sinker, which initially looks like a fastball, is supposed to be hit. Sinkerball pitchers pitch to contact and the good ones get lots and lots of groundball outs. That’s what the pitch is designed for. The best sinkerballers, those who master the pitch, don’t strike out a whole lot of people. They want the hitter to hit it into the ground and let the defense take over. Sinkerballers get hurt when they leave the pitch up in the zone… that’s when guys go yard on ’em.

  2. thatbaseballguy

    Pretty much what I meant with “unhittable if mastered” was that if it is mastered, the batters have a hard time getting a hit off it. They will definitely ground into a lot of outs and that’s another point I wanted to make. But you get the idea. And yeah, if pitcher’s leave the pitch up, they are going to get in trouble.

  3. xcicix

    The sinker is probably the most beautiful pitch out there if it can be mastered. I agree. And Santana does pitch beautifully…man, his pitches look great (except when he gives up grand slams to Felix Hernandez. But I’m sure King Felix thought that pitch looked great…)
    I’ll take ground ball outs over strikeouts any day. Strikeout pitchers tend to be fly-ball pitchers, and there aren’t often home runs on ground balls. Ground ball outs are part of the fundamentals, and if you’ve got a good defensive infield you need ground ball pitchers.
    And I’m glad that you agree with me that Lincecum doesn’t pitch pretty. Pretty pitches are what makes baseball more fun to watch…

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