Bases empty, two outs, a 3-1 game, #8 hitter up. Nothing comes down to this.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Change-ups > Sliders

There are many ways by which pitchers can attempt to fool batters in the great game of baseball. They can throw the ball fast, throw it slow, spin it down, spin it across, make it rise, make it zigzag, throw two (or more) balls at once, bank it off the ceiling, make it boomerang, shoot it out of a cannon.... the list goes on and on.

Two of the most prevalent techniques in a pitcher's arsenal are the slider and the change-up. I'm here to tell you why the change-up is always, in every case, definitively better than the slider.

1. Sliders Are Gross

As you well know, the slider is named after the miniature hamburger popularized by American chain White Castle. According to this nutritional information, an "A1 Slider", the namesake of the pitch, contains 9% of a person's recommended daily fat intake, and 18% of their daily sodium. Now, that may not seem like much, but remember - these are miniature hamburgers we're talking about. An average White Castle meal contains four of those bad boys. We're talking more than a third of your daily fat, and almost three-quarters of your daily sodium! And that doesn't even include the fries and coke!

Sliders embody everything wrong with America: unhealthy processed food, deception-based marketing, sharp left turns (did I just analogize the motion of a baseball pitch to the political climate of the most powerful country on Earth? You better believe I did). And with slider usage on the rise in baseball, it's no surprise our kids are getting fatter and fatter.

6 grams of fat per pitch

2. Change-ups Are Classier

Did you know that broadcasters used to call the change-up the "change of pace"? Isn't that awesome? Doesn't it just remind you of those crazy old-school pitching mechanics? The slider doesn't have any cool old-school nicknames. In fact, according to Wikipedia, one of its nicknames is the "yakker", which really only adds to the Gross Hypothesis.

Plus, whoever came up with the change-up was a genius. I can imagine the first time someone figured out there were pitches other than fastballs. "Hey, I keep throwing it as hard as I can, and they keep hitting it really hard. What should I do?" "Uh, throw it faster?" "Dude, I told you, I'm throwing as fast as I can!" "Um, okay, why don't you try throwing it, uh, slower?" "Slower? What? That's stupid. They'll just hit it harder!" "Man, I dunno. Just try it!"

(In case you're wondering, 19th century baseball players did in fact call each other 'dude' and 'man'.)

3. Sliders Are Gross

I want you to take a moment, close your eyes, and imagine a pitcher throwing a slider. Visualize every detail - the batter, the teams, the weather, the score, how well-attended the game is, who's umpiring, what merchandise is for sale, what else is going on the city that day. Everything.

Got it?

Now watch that game in your head for at least seven minutes.


The pitcher had a gross '80s moustache, right?

4. 'Pulling the String'

There are a lot of stupid baseball clichés out there, and while players, managers and fans have been known to spout these meaningless banalities from time to time, nobody is more distinguished in the cliché arts than the broadcaster. 

However, sometimes a cliché enters the lexicon simply because it's great, and though it gets overused and sometimes misused, it doesn't diminish that greatness. I love when broadcasters say "Santana really pulled the string on that one", because it's a very satisfying descriptive phrase. Watching a batter flail wildly at a pitch that's still ten feet from reaching him makes one believe that the pitcher really does have a string that he can yank at any moment to make the hitter look foolish, and that's a beautiful metaphor, at least in my mind.

5. Sliders Are Gross

"Slider? I hardly even know her!"

How many times have you heard this disgusting, horrific, misogynistic phrase uttered by players, coaches, announcers? I'll tell you how many times: too many times. Stop the sexism. Abort sliders.


If there was any doubt in your mind before, obviously that's been erased. The change-up is superior to the slider in every way, and it's not particularly close. Why any pitcher would continue to use the slider is beyond me. But then, I'm a vegetarian.

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