What is a broom? Look at the ballpark that MLB takes over

PHOENIX (AP) — Bob Melvin was talking about improving Padres reliever Steven Wilson, when the San Diego captain dropped some of the cool kid language that’s doing the rounds in Major League Baseball these days.

“Sweeper ended up being a really big show for him,” said Melvin.

A few seconds later, Melvin was asked a simple question: What exactly is a sweeper?

It is set.

“I don’t know,” said Melvin, laughing. “It’s a modern take on baseball. The slider would probably come in a little deeper and the sweeper would probably come in a little more. I made that joke up too. I still write it as a slider.”

Move over the slider, curve, and screwball, there’s a new(ish) crushing ball that’s all the rage in MLB: the sweeper. Angels star Shohei Ohtani uses it, as does Padres starter Yu Darvish and Yankees lefty Nestor Cortes and dozens of other pitchers.

To be honest, it’s not really a new ballpark, but rather a new term to describe a specific type of ball breaking that has been around for a long time. And fans are sure to notice more this season, after MLB’s Statcast created a new pitch rating — meaning “sweeper” appears on broadcasts and scoreboards as “curveball” and “slider.”

The 61-year-old Melvin may joke that he doesn’t understand the “new baseball talk,” but the veteran manager has a very good understanding of what makes a good player. Its main motion is side to side, and it does not drop downward like a regular slider or curveball.

to Otani The sweeper is considered one of the best In today’s game, with a good game producing about 20 inches of horizontal movement. But there are dozens of batters trying the field, including Mets reliever Adam Ottavino.

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The 37-year-old is actually one of the OGs in the current sweeping world, making a difference on the field for 15 years.

Ottavino grew up in New York City adoring break-ball pitchers like David Kuhn and Orlando Hernandez on the Yankees, and wanted to have a big bad batter of his own. The right-hander already had a traditional curveball, but because the ball would exit his hand first before it landed, it was easy for hitters to distinguish it from his other pitches.

“Some of the hitters I covered with in the minors said if they didn’t do it, maybe it would be more effective,” Ottavino said. “So I tried to keep it down, changing the separator from top to bottom to more right to left.”

Ottavino also credited former Giants offloader Sergio Romo with his broom, saying he provided some inspiration.

“I tried to make it as big as I could and I think I found something in there,” Ottavino said. “Now you see a lot of people doing that.”

Ottavino’s description of the church is a good example of why she likes it on the court. Sometimes, larger balls are easier for hitters to spot, so a tighter spin that feels more like a fastball is beneficial. Pitchers also have more advanced tools than ever before to help them precisely set the cut-off angle on their pitches, including high-speed cameras that can measure the amount of spin and the spin axis of each pitch.

Wilson said the analytics he’s seen indicate there is more sway and miss with the slider, but the sweeper results in a smoother connection.

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“It’s a little risk with a reward,” Wilson said. “But I think it works for me.”

Orioles outfielder Kyle Gibson was playing for the Phillies last season when pitching coach Caleb Cotham asked the right-hander if he wanted to tinker with his sliding grip. The goal was to make the playing field move more left rather than down.

Gibson proved to be a quick study. By his next game, he had a new stadium. The veteran said the grip wasn’t much different from the original slider—he moved his fingers about an inch on the baseball.

“I told the catcher, warming up against the Braves, that the next start, I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to throw them to warm up here, and I’m going to throw them when I take the mound in the first inning. ‘” “If you throw away some good stuff, we’ll throw it away,” Gibson said.

The pitch felt good on the mound, so he included it in his arsenal. He even hit the game’s first batter on — you guessed it — a sweeper.

Is it much different from a slider? This is debatable.

But if that works, Gibson doesn’t really care about his name.

“Why it’s called a sweeper, I have no idea,” said Gibson. “I think it’s probably just because people don’t want to say it’s a slider with more side to side.”


Associated Press baseball writers Jenny McCauley in San Francisco and Noah Traister in Baltimore contributed to this story.


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