Serving Up Their Bread and Butter

Most pitchers rely on deception to keep hitters guessing, but like Brandon Webb, these six thrive with a signature pitch that gives hitters fits--even though they know it's coming
June 11, 2006

DEREK LOWE, RHP,Dodgers

SINKER

The former closerattacks hitters with a sinking fastball that clocks in at 89 to 93 mph. Bravesthird baseman Chipper Jones says it has "the most movement on a fastballthat I've ever seen." Lowe, who tossed a no-hitter for the Red Sox fouryears ago and was 4-3 with a 2.68 ERA at week's end, has aground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio of better than 3 to 1 since he became a full-timestarter in 2002.

MARIANO RIVERA,RHP, Yankees

CUT FASTBALL

The game'spremier closer owes his Hall of Fame career (390 saves at week's end) to thispitch. Unleashed with an easy, simple motion, the ball buzzes toward the hitterlike a straight fastball, then suddenly breaks down and to the left. Riverauses the cutter, which he throws at 91 to 94 mph, high and low, and when it'sat its best, he collects as many broken bats as he does strikeouts.

CARLOS SILVA,RHP, Twins

SINKER

Known forimpeccable command of his sinker (only nine walks in 188 1/3 innings lastyear), Silva mysteriously struggled early this season (2-7, 7.76 ERA in ninestarts). He seemed to have rediscovered the pitch after a demotion to thebullpen (allowing two runs in seven innings), but in his return to the rotationon Sunday, the A's roughed him up for nine hits and four runs in fiveinnings.

DERRICK TURNBOW,RHP, Brewers

FOUR-SEAMFASTBALL

The Angelsdiscard, who had 54 saves since joining Milwaukee last season, has emerged as atop closer while relying almost exclusively on his 98-mph heater, which heoccasionally sets up with a low-80s curve. "The key for him is that he canthrow [his four-seamer] over and over again for strikes with very goodlocation," says Milwaukee pitching coach Mike Maddux.

BILLY WAGNER,LHP, Mets

FOUR-SEAMFASTBALL

The All-Starcloser (11 saves, 2.57 ERA) can hit 100 mph on the radar gun--particularlyimpressive given his 5'11", 205-pound frame--but he's most effective whenhe throws his four-seamer in the mid-90s, which better facilitates its late,dizzying movement, inside or outside. Wagner occasionally mixes in a hardslider to keep hitters off-balance.

TIM WAKEFIELD,RHP, Red Sox

KNUCKLEBALL

The 39-year-oldinnings-eater, Boston's most consistent starter last season and 4-7 with a 4.05ERA this year, continues to confound hitters with balls that flutter and dipacross the plate. He doesn't try to spot the knuckler because he doesn't knowhow it will break, but he continually changes speeds and occasionally surpriseshitters with a batting-practice fastball.

PHOTOREED SAXON/AP PHOTOJEFF HANISCH/US PRESSWIRE PHOTOROBERT BECK PHOTOJIM ROGASH/WIREIMAGE.COM PHOTOTOM DIPACE PHOTOJOHN IACONO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)