Jun 7, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres pitcherAndrew Cashner
(34) throws the ball in the 1st inning against the Washington Nationals at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Stan Liu-USA TODAY Sports
You know what pitch I’m talking about. The one with the hard, late break that’s generated 55.9% ground balls. The pitch he uses in any count over any part of the plate, getting a strike 72% of the time. It’s getting almost nine inches of horizontal movement and over five of vertical movement. Hitters are only hitting .223 off of it, barely enough for a 76 wRC+. The devastating pitch has been worth over five runs above average this season, top ten in the league. The pitch is, of course, Andrew Cashner‘s sinker.
Over the offseason, Cashner focused on lasting longer into outings. He wanted a pitch that could help him get early outs, even if it came at the sacrifice of strikeouts. The sinker is the perfect pitch for that, inducing contact often, but rarely giving up anything hard. So he worked with manager Bud Black to help find a good release point and grip for the pitch, and increased his usage from 15% last year all the way up to 45.4% in 2014.
His 2.5% swinging strike rate is below average, yet he’s been so effective by enticing lots of swings and having hitters make lots of contact. The 94.5% contact rate on the pitch is one of the highest in the league, and the offensive numbers against are some of the lowest.
The nature of the pitch is to allow high contact with weak results. It does so by having a hard running motion to it, with considerable sink as it reaches the plate. Here is what it looks like in real time:
And now from the hitter’s perspective:
It’s not hard to see the good, late break the pitch gets, especially from the hitter’s view graphic. The movement is so exceptionally late that it moves in on the hands of righties and off the end of the bat for lefties, both weak contact points.
The sinker is becoming increasingly popular throughout the league, and for good reason. It’s a very effective pitch, used to get quick outs to help a pitcher stay longer in the game. Cashner has understood this, and used it to its full advantage, throwing one of the best in the bigs. With it, he is no longer just a high velocity thrower, but a mature and elite pitcher.