Freshly retired, former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright announced that he’d be part of MLB on Fox’s 2023 American League Division Series announcing lineup. For Fox/FS1’s coverage of the Minnesota Twins-Houston Astros series, Wainwright was in the booth alongside Adam Amin and A.J. Pierzynski.
Wainwright has been a natural fit in the booth this far and provided a great moment during Tuesday’s Twins-Astros game, in which he described the difference between a sweeper and a traditional slider. The sweeper, which is also apparently known as a “slutter” (sorry, Jeff Francoeur), is a pitch that’s taken Major League Baseball by storm this season.
Here’s what MLB officially describes the pitch as:
A sweeper is a variant of a slider that has become popular in the Major Leagues over the last few seasons. The main characteristic of a sweeper is a large amount of horizontal movement, as opposed to a traditional slider, which has a “tighter” break.
Wainwright’s explanation was a bit more nuanced.
Adam Wainwright describing the difference between a Sweeper and a Slider is great TV.
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 10, 2023
“A slider is gonna traditionally break, eight, nine inches horizontal, right?” Wainwright explained. “A sweeper, they call it a sweeper because on average, it’s breaking 12-14 [inches]. Now Sonny’s [Gray] actually slides a little bit more than that. On average, it’s sliding 15.5 inches, right to left.
“It’s a big breaking pitch. And the difference between a sweeper and a slider…When you throw a slider, you’re gonna see a red dot and it’s gonna be towards the bottom left of the ball. That means it’s going down. When you throw the sweeper, when you come through, there’s some science to this. This seam right here…It has to be pointed in the right direction and it’s kind of angled up and to the right. And when that catches the air halfway through, that’s when it really starts taking off. Like what happens, it just moves more than a hitter’s eyes think it’s moving. So, it’s totally different than another slider. It’s totally different than a curveball. And it’s different. It’s just weird, right? Like hitters don’t see that.”
What a refreshing perspective. Wainwright doesn’t have a sweeper in his arsenal, but his knowledge of the pitch just brings an entirely different dynamic to the broadcast.
And that was with Gray giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits in four innings of work during Game 3 of the ALDS Tuesday. According to Baseball Savant, Gray used his sweeper 33 percent of the time on Tuesday and induced 17 swings, but only three whiffs. Both José Abreu and Alex Bregman hit home runs off Gray’s sweeper, so that pitch wasn’t exactly working for the 33-year-old right-hander.
But what did work was Wainwright’s explanation. More of that, please.
[Awful Announcing on Twitter]