The Nastiest Pitches of 2020 Tournament: Smokin’ Sixteen

Boy, do we have a holiday treat for you...

2020 was a shorter season than we all hoped it would be, but it was also one we will never forget. While it lacked longevity, it certainly didn’t lack excitement—and around these parts, one of the most exciting aspects of a season is of course the nasty pitches. There was no shortage of options to choose from for this year’s iteration of the Nastiest Pitches tournament and it was incredibly difficult to whittle the selection down to only 16 pitches. Alas, we have gone through hundreds of pitches to bring you what you’ll see below.

Now, there are a few rules we must follow:

  • Please vote for whichever pitches you feel are the nastiest in each matchup. The best thing about Nastiest Pitches is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – we all have different definitions of what we think a nasty pitch looks like, so there will likely be some surprises in the results.
  • You can only vote on a matchup once, so make sure you pick the one you absolutely want.
  • Voting will continue until 12:00 a.m. EST the following morning.

Without further ado, here’s how the 2020 bracket shapes up:

Bracket Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)


Sixto Sánchez‘ Changeup (1)






Sixto Sánchez‘ Fastball (4)




The man on the graphic is the only man to have two separate pitches included in this year’s Nastiest Pitches tournament, so it’s only fitting for them to square off against each other in the Smokin’ Sixteen. Sixto Sánchez exploded onto the scene this season with a triple-digit fastball and a filthy changeup that both flashed at times this season. The #1 overall seed is an absolutely disgusting changeup that completely fooled Asdrúbal Cabrera, and while it came in a game that he would eventually get the loss, it was absolutely his filthiest pitch of the season. Meanwhile, Sixto’s 100 MPH heater is from his MLB debut and he literally could not have made a better pitch, hitting his spot on a crucial 1-1 pitch against one of the game’s best hitters. This first matchup is the best of both worlds for those who love both heaters and offspeed filth, and you honestly can’t go wrong with either choice.


Sixto Sánchez’ Changeup vs. Sixto Sánchez’ Fastball


Brad Brach’s Changeup (3)






Adam Ottavino’s Slider (2)




You’re going to notice a recurring theme this year—there are a lot of changeups. While I’m selfishly totally cool with it (they are my favorite pitch, after all), it wasn’t by design. I tried to incorporate other pitches but there were just so many filthy changeups that I couldn’t bring myself to leave out. That’s the case with this Brad Brach changeup from the Mets’ 8-2 win on August 13th, where his herky-jerky windup and above-average vertical drop make Carter Kieboom look like he’s simply trying to get out of a greenside bunker. Meanwhile, old friend Adam Ottavino is no stranger to the Nastiest Pitches realm and this is yet another A+ pitch that is worthy of consideration for the top pitch of the year. There is a similar slider that we’ll get to later on, but Ottavino is the OG in the filthy slider game and he deserves all the respect in the world for his offering.


Brad Brach’s Changeup vs. Adam Ottavino’s Slider


Codi Heuer’s Sinker (1)






Kevin Gausman’s Splitter (4)




One of the best things about being in charge of this tournament this year is the simple fact that I am the captain now. I’ve got the final say on who gets in and who doesn’t, and this Codi Heuer sinker is my number one absolute favorite pitch of the 2020 season. It’s got everything you want in a filthy pitch:

  • Dope camera angle
  • Disgusting movement
  • Hits his spot to perfection
  • Totally confuses the batter

These are the elements I’m looking for whenever I’m GIF hunting (my process of jumping through games looking for pitches), and this pitch is absolutely perfect in my eyes. Heuer’s sinker is squaring off against another pitch that I saw plenty of in 2020, Kevin Gausman’s ridiculous splitter. This particular offering nearly broke Stephen Piscotty’s ankles in a game that Gausman struck out 11 batters. There were a bunch to choose from, as Gausman became must-watch TV for me anytime he pitched, but this particular one was just a cut above the rest. Heuer’s got some tough competition in the Smokin’ Sixteen and I can’t wait to see how this one plays out.


Codi Heuer’s Sinker vs. Kevin Gausman’s Splitter


Zach Davies‘ Changeup (3)






Yu Darvish’s Slider (2)




We go from one guy I watched a ton of in Gausman, to a guy that I actually didn’t really watch much of in Zach Davies. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t on my radar, and his changeup was one that kept popping up as I looked back at GIFs from this season. This changeup to strike out Raimel Tapia looked like a very hittable fastball before completely dropping out of the sky to elicit a silly-looking whiff. That pitch is facing off against another of my favorite moments of the season, this filthy slider from Yu Darvish in Game 2 of the NL Wildcard where both Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini are absolutely fired up after the strikeout. The baseball purists hate the emotion, but this is exactly what I love to see out of players, especially in a playoff game when the season is on the line. The pitch itself is in the zone for what seems like forever, until the last moment when it just disappears. Filthy stuff.


Zach Davies’ Changeup vs. Yu Darvish’s Slider


Devin Williams‘ Changeup (1)






Brusdar Graterol’s Sinker (4)




We’ve finally reached who I think is the prohibitive favorite to win this tournament – Devin Williams and his absolutely disgusting changeup. This pitch exploded onto the scene in 2020, and the first time I saw it was on the night of Kenta Maeda’s near no-hitter. At the time I had no idea that Williams would eventually end up as the NL Rookie of the Year, but I did know that I had a new target for my nightly GIF hunting expedition.



What Williams does to opposing batters is absolutely unfair, and I can’t wait to watch this changeup for many years to come.

Williams’ opponent in this round is no slouch himself. Brusdar Graterol can certainly bring the heat, as evidenced by this ridiculous 100 MPH sinker that bends like a banana back towards the corner of the plate for a called strike. These two rookie pitchers are going to be a lot of fun to watch in the coming years.


Devin Williams’ Changeup vs. Brusdar Graterol’s Sinker


Charlie Morton’s Curveball (3)






Sandy Alcántara’s Changeup (2)




Nasty pitches aren’t always nasty because of what the baseball itself does; sometimes, it’s the ridiculous swings that take a great pitch to the next level. These two pitches are good examples of that. This Charlie Morton curveball was responsible for one of the most insane looking swings of the entire season, and I feel bad for making fun of Adam Eaton’s attempt here but what else am I supposed to do? This swing has broken ankles, pulled groin, separated shoulder, and bullet wound written all over it. Eaton was incredibly lucky to have walked away unscathed after this pitcher-on-batter crime, and while Morton wasn’t arrested after this pitch he did go on to lose the game. I guess karma is a thing after all.

Meanwhile, I want a sip of whatever’s in the water down in Miami because it seems like their entire starting rotation carries a filthy changeup in their arsenal. Sandy Alcántara’s variation of it hovers around 90 MPH on average but this one came in at an insane 94 MPH with criminal movement of its’ own. The NL East is packed with young stars and it’s going to be a lot of fun watching these guys square off for years to come.


Charlie Morton’s Curveball vs. Sandy Alcantara’s Changeup


Dan Straily’s Changeup (1)






Kenta Maeda’s Changeup (4)




2020 was the year that the KBO went mainstream, so it’s only fitting that one of the filthiest pitches of the year came out of Korea while many of us were fast asleep. Here at Pitcher List, we were not, and if you followed any of our incredible KBO coverage you know just how hard our KBO team worked to help fill in the void that existed in all of our hearts. Special shoutout to Alex Fast, Scott Chu, Adam Dubbin, Nick Bucher, Liam Casey, and everyone else on the Pitcher List staff who helped out with our KBO recaps throughout the season—you da real MVPs, and you all deserve a giant sword for your hard work.



As for Dan Straily’s changeup, I fondly remember laying in bed, wrapping up the nightly Nastiest Pitches article when this pitch graced my Twitter timeline courtesy of Alex Fast. My jaw literally dropped, and the Lance McCullers sinker I was planning to lead with immediately got bumped to #2. It is still one of the best pitches I’ve seen all year, and it’s worthy of consideration for the nastiest pitch of the year. It’s going up against a pitch that I watched a lot of in 2020, Kenta Maeda’s changeup. The slider was also filthy on many occasions this year, but this changeup made professional hitter (and new Royal) Carlos Santana look like a little leaguer. That’s not an easy thing to do but Maeda made it look reáally easy here.


Dan Straily’s Changeup vs. Kenta Maeda’s Changeup


Shane Bieber’s Curveball (3)






Tanner Houck’s Slider (2)




Our final matchup of this round features the 2020 AL Cy Young Winner and a rookie who looks like he’s got future Cy Young stuff in his arsenal. Shane Bieber cruised through AL Central lineups all season long, making guys like Josh Donaldson question what’s real and what’s a mirage. This pitch was in fact real, though Donaldson’s reaction makes me think he couldn’t believe his eyes.

Meanwhile, here’s the other slider I alluded to earlier in Ottavino’s blurb. This pitch gets such a ridiculous amount of horizontal movement and Travis d’Arnaud’s swing was nowhere near making contact with this pitch. The pitch on the surface is filthy, but when you overlay it with his fastball you can really see just how disgusting it is.



Shane Bieber’s Curveball vs. Tanner Houck’s Slider


Tune in tomorrow for the Exciting Eight, and don’t forget to let me know if your favorite pitch was left out.


Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Ben Brown

Ben is a lifelong resident of the great state of Maine who loves the wild and wacky intricacies of baseball. During the summer months, you'll find him either in the woods at a golf course or floating on the water upta camp, both with a local beer in hand and a game on the radio.

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