Mariners Insider Blog

In the majors, down the middle works - or not

You'd think talking to a handful of major league players - hitters, pitchers, even coaches - would provide the answer to most any baseball question.

Think again.

The question: Which pitch is the toughest to hit?

"The slightly above the belt changeup," Jarrod Washburn said.

"The backdoor slider," hitting coach Alan Cockrell.

"Fastball down and away," Mark Lowe said.

And then, there was the opinion of Ken Griffey Jr. - backed up by Jose Lopez, Adrian Beltre and, sort of, by Mike Sweeney.

"The pitch right down the middle," Junior insisted. "It freezes you, because it looks so good and you never see it, so you're never looking for it."

Griffey's theory was that good hitters may look for a pitch, but not that one. And he used Lopez as an example.

"That 0-2 pitch the other night that froze you, where was it?" Griffey asked.

"I was looking fastball in," Lopez said. "And it was right down the middle."

Beltre nodded.

"It's a pitch you never expect and you can't sit on," Beltre said.

Not surprisingly, pitchers disagreed. What's happened to pitches Brandon Morrow has thrown down the middle?

"I never get away with those," he said, laughing.

"They don't come back," Washburn said.

Morrow did, however, have a story about the theory.

"John Wetteland was telling us about pitching to Tony Gwynn," he said, "and he said the best pitch to throw him was the one down the middle."


"John said Tony knew what to do with the pitch away - he'd take it to left field. And he knew what to do with the pitch in. He'd pull that. He said Tony couldn't always decide what to do with the pitch down the middle, so that was your best shot."