Laurila: Twins’ Zack Littell on his two sliders

From SABR member David Laurila at FanGraphs on February 27, 2020:

Zack Littell was stellar out of the Minnesota Twins bullpen in 2019. In his first big-league season as a full-time reliever, the 24-year-old right-hander went an unblemished 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 outings covering 37 innings. His slider was a big reason for his success. Make that his pair of sliders.

“They’re two different pitches,” Littell told me late in the campaign. “When I got moved to the pen and got rid of the curveball — a pitch I’d had my whole career — they said, ‘We’re going to go predominantly slider-fastball, and mix in a few changeups.’ I kind of got used to that, throwing a lot of sliders.”

That would be an understatement. The North Carolina native threw the pitch… er, the two pitches, a full 49.6% of the time last year. He threw his four-seam fastball 48.6% of the time.

Littell, who we first wrote about in 2016 when he was a 19-year-old unranked prospect in the Seattle Mariners system, originally developed a slider in 2017 after being traded to the New York Yankees. At the time, “it was more lateral than downward,” and while the righty called it a slider, it was “pretty much a big cutter.”

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Originally published: February 28, 2020. Last Updated: February 28, 2020.