Matt Brash continues to get recognition for his overspeed stuff, specifically his slider, which, according to Pitching Ninja, Rob Friedman, generated 23 swords this past season. Swords are a new stat unveiled through Baseball Savant and Friedman. What is a sword? The answer is the pitch causes a batter to look foolish in the box. But Major League Baseball took it one step further by bringing in a data scientist, Clay Nunnelly, to define the boxes pitchers must check to get credit for a sword.
In a recent Mike Petriello article at MLB.com, Nunnelly broke down those parameters:
- It must be a swinging strike with no fouls.
- The pitch must cross the front face of home plate.
- It must be an incomplete swing, meaning the bat speed must be in the 10th percentile for that player, and the bat head crosses an imaginary line set five inches in front of the plate.
Brash authored one of the most dominant seasons in Mariner relief pitcher history, eclipsing the century mark in strikeouts with opposing batters only hitting .162 off his slider. His Baseball Savant page is littered in red, but what stands out is the sheer amount of break on Brash's offspeed stuff. The slider has 31.4 inches of vertical drop, with the horizontal movement averaging a league-high 7.1 inches. The trend makes the offering unique because hitters know it's coming; they can sit on the pitch and can and usually still do get fooled.
The cool thing about this 'new' stat is even middling starters and solid relievers like newly-minted Mariner Anthony DeSclafani can make the cut just by hurling a quality pitch. Swinging strike, check. Pitch crossed the front of the plate; check. Extremely low bat speed and a half swing, check. The batter looks foolish; check. I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see swords as an actual counting stat and hopefully a few more of these Brash offerings.
Poor Jose Ramirez corkscrewed thanks to one of Brash's 23 swords in 2023. Here's to the flamethrowing Canandian racking up even more foolish half-swings in 2024.