Is Zach Britton’s sinker the best single pitch in the majors?

Is Zach Britton’s sinker the single best pitch thrown by any pitcher in the major leagues?

You can make a strong case for that. After all, he was a dominant closer throwing mostly that one pitch and didn’t blow a save all year. Britton led the American League and tied for second in the majors in saves. His 0.54 ERA with four earned runs allowed all year led major league relievers and was the lowest in major league history among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched.

zach-britton-in-white-close-Sidebar.pngBritton did that throwing the sinker more than nine times out of every 10 pitches on average. Hitters knew it was coming and they could neither lay off it and let it break down and out of the zone nor hit it very well.

But this postseason, we have seen some strong candidates to also consider for having the best single pitch in the sport.

Let’s start with Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman’s four-seam fastball. Let’s also consider Indians lefty Andrew Miller’s devastating slider. And what about Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen’s amazing cutter?

Britton throws his sinker 92 percent of the time, Chapman throws the four-seamer 82 percent, Jansen throws his cutter 88 percent and Miller throws his slider 61 percent, as he also has that mid-90s fastball to feature.

Of those four pitches, Miller’s slider got the highest percentage of swings and misses, while Chapman’s fastball produced the lowest batting average against and Britton’s sinker produced the lowest slugging percentage against.

Tale of the tape:
* Britton sinker: 97.4 mph, 17.8 percent whiff rate, .157 average against, .193 slugging against
* Chapman fastball: 101.2 mph, 18.3 percent whiff rate, .149 average against, .199 slugging against
* Miller slider: 84.6 mph, 24.8 percent whiff rate, .159 average against, .287 slugging against
* Jansen cutter: 94.2 mph, 19.3 percent whiff rate, .157 average against, .281 slugging against

Britton’s perfect save mark was not equaled by any of the other pitchers discussed here. Chapman saved 92.3 percent (36-for-39) of games, Jansen saved 88.6 percent (47-for-53) and Miller was at 85.7 percent (12-for-14). Britton could have blown three saves this year and still would have a better save percentage than the others mentioned here.

But that gets away a bit from our argument. This is subjective and no one can go wrong with Britton’s sinker, Miller’s slider, Chapman’s heater or Jansen’s cutter.

While Britton had the lowest swing-and-miss rate, that just shows that hitters could get to the pitch sometime, but they would beat it into the ground and just could not square it up. He also had the lowest slugging percentage against, as hitters just could not do damage against that pitch.

If we could dream of the near perfect pitcher we could take the above four pitches and add in a Max Scherzer or Marco Estrada type of changeup for an off-speed offering and have someone that would probably be the greatest pitcher ever.

So who does have the single best pitch in the major leagues? And, if it is not one of these four hurlers, which pitcher and pitch might it be?

A look at the AFL Orioles: There is no crying in baseball, but there is tying - at least there is in the Arizona Fall League. There, when teams complete 11 innings still tied, the result is a tie game. Thus, the Peoria Javelinas, a team featuring seven Orioles minor leaguers, are 3-1-2, which is the best record in the AFL after six games.

O’s left-hander Tanner Scott pitched two innings in his second AFL start on Monday. In four innings over two outings, he has allowed five hits and two runs with one walk and one strikeout. Right-hander Stefan Crichton has thrown three scoreless innings, allowing three hits. Right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis has pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and one run, and right-hander Jesus Liranzo has thrown 1 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and one run.

Outfielder DJ Stewart is batting .267 (4-for-15) with a double, triple, two RBIs, five walks and a .450 OBP. Infielder Adrian Marin is batting .250 (3-for-12) with a double and three RBIs. Catcher Austin Wynns is batting .200 (2-for-10) with a pair of singles and a walk.

Meanwhile, two Orioles are playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. Dariel Alvarez is batting .371 (13-for-35) with four doubles and four RBIs. Henry Urrutia is batting .314 (11-for-35) with three doubles and seven RBIs.

Nearly there: Finally, the Cleveland Indians beat Toronto 4-2 last night to take a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series. Cleveland is now 6-0 in the postseason, allowing just 10 runs. Cleveland is now just one win away from the World Series for the first time since they beat the Orioles in the ALCS on their way there in 1997.

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