Matt Wisler has thrown his slider 89.2% of the time this 12 months, the best share of any pitcher in both league. He’s executed so over 32-and-two-thirds innings, the final 12-and-a-third of them with the Tampa Bay Rays, who acquired the 28-year-old right-hander from the San Francisco Giants on June 11 in change for minor league southpaw Michael Plassmeyer. Since coming to his new membership, Wisler has made a dozen appearances and allowed only one earned run.
Wisler advised the story behind his signature pitch over the cellphone earlier this month.
Matt Wisler: “I’d say I realized [a slider] in highschool. I’d at all times thrown a curveball rising up — from after I was 11 or 12 — after which round sophomore 12 months I began throwing a slider. It was actually extra like a special variation of a curveball, although. It was just a bit bit totally different spin.
“The slider I’ve now, I realized in Low-A approach. My pitching coach was Willie Blair, and we have been attempting to get extra separation between my curveball and my slider. We went by a bunch of various grips. Lastly, the second time I attempted his grip, it sort of clicked for me. That was in 2012. I’ve saved that one ever since, and have clearly began throwing it increasingly more over the past couple of years.
“My unique slider was extra like a slurve — it was in all probability high-70s, low-80s — and we have been looking for a pitch that I may get into the low- to mid-80s with a bit bit totally different break. There are nonetheless instances the place it’s going to get a bit slurvy and be within the high-70s, and a bit larger and rounder.
“I feel what makes mine profitable, and permits me to throw it a lot, is that it doesn’t at all times transfer the identical. Most guys could have a fairly constant break to their sliders, whereas mine has some totally different variations of break relying on how I grip it and launch it. We modified the grip to get it tighter and later, however I’ve gotten to the place I can manipulate it to make it larger or smaller.
“I’m not [throwing it with a stiff wrist]. The freer my wrist is… that snap of the wrist is what I feel will get it that late motion. It’s not one thing I want to consider. It looks like a fastball out of my hand and the grip dictates how I launch it.
“Typically [varying the shape] is on function and generally it’s not. If I end a bit bit extra side-to-side, or if I end extra straight down… my arm-finish slot will dictate if it’s extra horizontal or extra vertical motion. And clearly, on totally different sides of the plate it’s going to transfer a bit bit in another way.
Matt Wisler’s slider grip.
“The grip… once more, the previous one was considerably just like a curveball, however the way in which I threw it was totally different than a curveball: I used to be extra behind it as an alternative of getting on prime of it. Now it’s virtually like an offset-fastball sort of grip, with my thumb grabbing on a seam. My fingers are across the horseshoe, whereas a variety of guys these days sort of go throughout that two-seam factor. Mine is throughout the horseshoe. Take into consideration a four-seam fastball with the seams to the surface. My fingers are gripping that horseshoe, after which my thumb grips the inner seam and rips off of that. Actually, it looks like it’s a must to spin it primarily based on the grip. I attempt to get 10-plus horizontal, and my finest ones are perhaps three-plus vertical, so I’m getting that two-plane slider.
“Being on the third base facet of the rubber and throwing the ball to the glove facet, I’m naturally going to complete extra in direction of first base, which can pull me a bit bit extra horizontal. The instances that I am going backdoor, it stays a bit bit extra vertical. And for some guys, I attempt to throw the ball straight over the plate and down, as a result of sure hitters don’t chase off the plate, however they may chase down. That’s a time after I’ll get extra ‘vert’ to it, as a result of I’m consciously attempting to complete it on the plate.”
“There’s additionally the aggressiveness of my slider. I feel my hand velocity is an enormous key to getting swings-and-misses. Some guys will sort of decelerate on their slider. The most important secret’s to have the identical hand velocity as a fastball in order that it seems to the hitter prefer it’s popping out like a heater.
“The Rays truly need me to throw just a few extra fastballs. This 12 months I’ve been round 90% sliders, and ideally I’d go to a mixture of about 75-80% sliders and about 20-25% fastballs. That approach I’d have a bit extra unpredictability the place guys can’t simply sit on sliders. That can purchase me a bit extra room for error, in order that my slider doesn’t should be so good. Mixing in additional heaters will put a bit little bit of doubt in hitters’ minds and never allow them to time me as a lot.
“My struggles early within the season have been partly attributable to a mechanical subject: I used to be entering into my quad as an alternative of entering into my glutes. [Giants pitching coach] Andrew Bailey helped me with that. I’ve additionally realized much more about how the physique works within the final couple pf years, the biomechanics stuff. [Twins pitching coach] Wes Johnson was actually good with it in Minnesota. I’ve realized about what they name ‘the hinge,’ which is an enormous key for me to make use of my legs correctly.
“Final 12 months I did a very good job of it; I used to be entering into my hamstrings and my glutes, and staying in the midst of my foot. With most sports activities you’re on the balls of your ft to be athletic, however with pitching you’ve obtained to remain in the midst of your ft and push together with your complete foot for path. Firstly of this 12 months, I used to be getting ‘toe-y’ — I used to be pushing off my toe quite a bit — and that breaks the chain. Because of this, my slider break wasn’t very constant. By retaining my heel on the mound so long as attainable, I’m pushing with the complete of my foot, which turns into pushing extra together with your hamstring and your glute, the place extra energy comes from. Ever since I made that adjustment, my velocity has ticked up and my break has been larger.”