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Gausman's splitter might be most dominant pitch in baseball

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Kevin Gausman

You probably didn't think much of it, and you might not have even noticed, but when Rhys Hoskins yanked a ground ball past Brandon Crawford in the third inning Monday night, he pulled off one of the most impressive feats of the season by a Giants opponent.

The single to left came on a two-strike splitter by Kevin Gausman, who very quietly might have the single most dominant pitch in the game right now. It was the first hit on Gausman's splitter this season, and just the second going back to last August 9.

According to research done by Mark Simon of Sports Info Solutions, Gausman had thrown 289 splitters in 12 appearances since that day and allowed just one hit in the 73 at-bats that ended with the pitch. That's a mind-boggling .014 batting average, making it the most dominant pitch in the majors, just ahead of Devin Williams' "airbender" changeup and sliders by Dinelson Lamet, Trevor Bauer and Yu Darvish, who made up 60 percent of the Cy Young Award leaderboard. 

Gausman knew the pitch was in fine form, but after his last start he was shown some numbers on just how dominant it was. 

"I joked with Andrew Bailey, our pitching coach, I was like, 'I should just throw that every time, every single pitch,'" Gausman said after Monday's 2-0 win

Aside from the obvious -- that every starter needs to mix it up -- Gausman does have to limit the usage at times because it takes a toll on his pitching arm. He barely threw the split in the spring, but it came roaring back on Opening Night and Gausman has thrown it 30 percent of the time in four starts, helping him to a 2.45 ERA. 

 

Of the 33 at-bats this season that have ended with the splitter, Gausman has 16 strikeouts and has allowed just three hits, all singles, all coming Monday night. After Hoskins pulled one into left, Bryce Harper rolled one down the left side of the infield that went for a single because the Giants had the shift on. In the sixth, shortstop Nick Maton got his first career hit by poking a splitter softly into left-center, where it dropped in between three Giants. 

Hoskins is the only player this season to truly square the splitter up for a base hit, which is why Gausman is such a big fan of the weapon. In tough spots, he can throw it over and over again, which is exactly what he did after Jean Segura's historic double put two on with no outs in the fourth. Gausman faced three straight lefties and threw 12 pitches, eight of which were splitters. He got five swinging strikes, ending the threat with two strikeouts and a weak grounder. 

"Honestly, I just kind of got lucky with the guys that were coming up to the plate -- two young guys who are left-handed hitters," he said. "I was going to pitch to my strengths. I knew I was going to make them beat me with my best pitch."

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Even for a pitcher who hits 98 mph on good days, there's no doubt about what that strength is. Gausman has credited the Giants for letting him be himself after he bounced around, failing to stick with the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds. He sets hitters up with the four-seamer and then puts them away with the splitter, which he said is better than it's ever been.

"It's one of those feel pitches that when you find it you can lock it in and throw five, six really good ones in a row," he said. "That's when it's fun. It's just a fun pitch to throw. It moves so much. I'm a big fan of it and I like throwing it. Sometimes I have to remind myself I have other pitches in my back pocket, but I also want to pitch to my strengths and it's a huge strength of mine." 

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