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Wednesday, May 15
Big Unit's slider reigns supreme

The question: What is the game's toughest pitch to hit?

Tony Gwynn
Randy Johnson's slider
His "Mr. Snappy" is the toughest pitch to hit. When Johnson's slider is on, I don't think anyone feels comfortable seeing it. And the 98-100 mph fastball makes the slider even more deadly.

Rob Dibble
Trevor Hoffman's changeup
About five years ago, Trevor hurt his pitching arm and developed a devastating change-of-pace pitch -- the circle change. And since hitters have so much trouble distinguishing the changeup from his fastball, they swing through this nasty pitch that most times ends up in the dirt in front of home plate. He throws it 12-15 mph slower than his fastball. His career batting average against is an awesome .203, and he has only given up 486 hits in 655 career innings. Again, awesome. With 326 career saves, he should easily attain 400 before he is through.

Dave Campbell
Pedro Martinez's changeup
Watching the game Sunday in Seattle, Martinez was suddenly hitting 96 mph on the gun. The thing that separates Pedro is that he has three outstanding pitches. Now that his arm appears to be OK, hitters have to gear up for the 96-97 mph fastball. Then he throws a breaking ball, a slurve, at 84, and the changeup comes in at 77. The key to his changeup is the arm speed, which is the same as it is for his fastball. The 20 mph difference between the fastball and the changeup totally wrecks a hitter's timing.

Tom Candiotti
Randy Johnson's slider
Pitchers like Pedro Martinez have three great pitches that he uses to succeed. Several have one signature pitch that is almost unhittable -- Hideo Nomo and his forkball, Kazuhiro Sasaki and his splitter, Steve Sparks and his knuckleball, and Mariano Rivera and his cut fastball. But Johnson's slider is as unhittable as pitch in today's game. Of course, his 100 mph heater helps set up his slider. It also helps that Johnson is 6-foot-10 and strides halfway to home before he releases it.

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