April 4, 2013
Maholm Throws Utley a Curve (Literally)
Last season, there were 21 called strikes thrown slower than 60 miles per hour. Nineteen of them were eephus pitches by Vicente Padilla, and the other two were slow curves by Randy Wolf. Padilla is now pitching for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, and Wolf will spend the whole season recovering from October Tommy John surgery. So we wondered—those of us who wonder about these things—who would take up the mantle of the under-60-mph strike thrower in 2013.
We got our first answer on Wednesday night:
With a seven-run lead in the fifth, two outs, and no one on, Paul Maholm threw a curve to Chase Utley clocked at 57.8 mph. Utley wasn’t thrilled with the call, but PITCHf/x suggested that it caught the corner.
Maholm has thrown slow pitches before, but never one that slow; his previous low was 60.0, on a ball to Jason Bourgeois in 2010. His slowest previous called strike was clocked at 62.1 mph and came against Brett Pill last June. It’s notable that this pitch came against a lefty. After Maholm struck out Utley swinging in the first, Braves announcer Joe Simpson said, “That wasn’t that lollipop slow curveball that he’ll probably try on some right-handed hitters and backdoor them tonight. That was just his normal breaking pitching to a lefty.” After he threw it to Utley’s front door, Simpson said, “I didn’t think he’d throw it to a lefty. Neither did Utley.”
Before last night, Maholm’s 56 slowest recorded pitches had been thrown to righties; his previous low to a lefty was a 67.9-mph curve to Bryce Harper last August that got a swinging strike. So now we know what he’s capable of. With Padilla and Wolf out of baseball, it’s a relief to learn that someone can still get a sub-60-mph strike.