I watched Livan Hernandez pitch against the Dodgers tonight. Interestingly, he struck out five batters in seven innings, all of them looking, all of them batting left handed (except for LA pitcher Brett Tomko), and all of them using the exact same pitch – an 82 mph offering that started way inside on the lefty batters and then cut back right over the middle of the plate at the last minute, like some sort of reverse slider.

   Now this type of movement is somewhat exceptional because Livan is a right-handed pitcher, yet the  pitch was clearly different from the usual suspects – it was not a screwball, nor was it a two-seam fastball, nor a circle change with screwball action.  Even the Nats TV announcers didn’t know what to call it – they kept calling it a fastball, but at 82 mph it was a pretty slow pitch even for Livan, and well off the 88 mph clip he was registering with his four-seam fastball.

   I’m pretty sure it was the same pitch that the Japanese call a shuutobooru (ie “shootball”), or shuuto for short.  It had the shuuto’s classic signs – way too fast to be a screwball, way too slow with way too much movement to be a two-seamer, and with the typical appearance of “rolling over” as it nears the plate and darting back to the right.  The shuuto is quite common in Japan, but is said to be rare in the US.  I saw it a lot when I was watching baseball in Japan, but this is the first time I’ve really noticed something like it in the Majors.

    In any case it was damn impressive, especially on two full counts against J.D. Drew.  In both cases Drew bailed out of the box like he thought he was going to get hit only to watch the ball sail right back over the heart of the plate.

12 Responses to “Livan throwing the shuuto?”

  1. Coley Ward says:

    Abreu won a golden glove award last year. You forgot that. But despite the fact that Abreu’s OBP, speed and glove are off the charts, Philly fans would just as soon see him traded. Why? His laid back demeanor doesn’t play with Philly fans who favor the likes of Aaron Rowand and Lenny Dykstra — guys who will run through walls instead of gracefully loping after flyballs.
    But here’s a secret that doesn’t get written about often: while Philly fans ache for the day that Abreu is replaced with a more aggressive outfielder, they secretly dread the possibility that Abreu will lead his next team to a world series victory. Is there any doubt that as soon as Abreu leaves town, he’ll morph into the dynamic leader and dominant player the Phils always hoped he would be?

  2. Abreu is widely regarded as a player who often fails to show up in the big spot. Sure, his numbers get overlooked by anyone not playing fantasy baseball, but does he truly deserve acclaim for being an all star caliber player? He goes in long stretches without stealing a base and has been known to get “moody” with off the field issues. Although one of his strengths is his very consistent home/road splits this season, he is typically a much better hitter at home. He’s a top 10 outfielder who happens to play in a football town and for a team that has always lacked starting pitching. Although I think he would be a great mid-season addition to almost any team, I highly doubt that he will morph into some sort of dynamic leader that will catapult his new team to glory.

  3. Nick Kapur says:

    Crashing into outfield walls is overrated. Sure you get an extra out here or there, but then you go and lose yourself a player to the DL for several months. Abreu may not break his nose on the fence, but he has also never played less than 152 games in a season since becoming a regular.

  4. Nick,
    You wrote the article so obviously you like Abreu and his laid-back demeanor. And I don’t really have a problem with that, but Lance hit the nail in the head with this one…does Abreu ever produce in the big spot?

    I haven’t looked at the stats, but to me it seems that Abreu always bounces to second when the game is on the line.

    He goes through stretches where he doesn’t steal, although he has great speed.

    He goes through stretches where he doesn’t hit for power, although he has an electrifying bat. Bronson Arroyo nearly had more homeruns in two weeks this season than Abreu had in all of the second half of last year.

    And the biggest letdown of all, he goes through stretches in which it seems like he doesn’t give a damn, although he plays in a city with the most die-hard fans in baseball. And it’s magnified this season because he’s playing alongside Aaron Rowand…a bigger and better Eric Byrnes that does anything to catch a ball – including faceplanting into a chain-link fence and bleeding profusely for the next 15 minutes.

    I’ll take Abreu in fantasy, but Rowand on my all-badass team.

  5. Nick Kapur says:

    I don’t know if I would necessarily say that I like Abreu. My main purpose was just to point out that he is on a heck of a pace this season. While it’s true that Abreu had a rather significant offensive drop-off in the second half last season, that was somewhat of an abberation because in previous years he did not have any drop-off. So I would imagine that barring injury or an even bigger collapse than last year, he is going to have some pretty nifty numbers by the end of the season.

    As for whether Abreu is “clutch” or not, I can’t really speak to that without seeing some sort of numbers on it.

  6. dan eberle says:

    The only thing I want to chime in on in this engaging discussion is the comment made by Mr. Zvee Geffen that the Philly fans are the most die-hard fans in baseball. Perhaps you could say this if you’re comparing them to Braves fans, Zvee, but certainly not Cubs or Red Sox fans! I’m sorry, but it’s true.

    P.S. Yankee fans don’t count here. There’s nothing die-hard about a fan whose team has won 27 Championships.

    P.P.S. To add something about Abreu. No, he’s not clutch. I don’t care about seeing numbers to back this up or not. The only memorable Phillies highlights I’ve seen were of Pat Burell hitting walk-offs against Smoltz (when he was closing) and pointing to the dug-out. That and J-Ro’s late inning heroics to extend his hitting streak late last year. I’ve never seen a clutch moment that gets national, David Ortiz-like attention in clutch situations. He’s like A-Rod in a way…great all around skills and huge stats, but he hits HRs when his team is up big or down big and never when it’s a one-run game.

  7. I stand corrected. I should have stated that Philly fans are in the upper-tier of diehard fans…

    They are, however, the only fans that will throw batteries at you.

  8. Coley Ward says:

    Zvee, I knew as soon as you described Philly fans as “the most die-hard” that it would be about 30 seconds before Dan got offended and wrote a response. That was so predictable. Still, I knew what you meant. Philly fans aren’t the most passionate — they’re just the most consistently hostile.
    Abreu isn’t clutch, it’s true. He’s no David Ortiz, anyway. But he’s not a total choke artist, either. He frequently draws that big walk or hits that needed sac fly. He rarely strikes out in a clutch situation.
    Abreu is one of the truly complete players of his generation. If the worst thing we can say about him is that he’s just another A-Rod, well, that’s not so bad.

  9. Sarah Green says:

    Coley, you should also have known that if Dan hadn’t leapt forward to defend the honor of our fair Beantown, I would also have done so. “Most die-hard indeed.” Asphinctersayswhat? So Abreu doesn’t have the most die-hard fans, and, as you noted, he’s not David Ortiz. Well then thank baby Jesus that I live in BOSTON, where we DO have the most die-hard fans and we DO have David Ortiz. Booya! Suck it, Philly!

    (Sorry, I couldn’t help it. Sox are losing a laugher to the Yankees.)

  10. regarding abreu not being clutch, here are his numbers with runners in scoring position for the last three years:

    AVG: .329
    OBP: .450
    SLG: .566
    OPS: 1.016

    here are his numbers in “close and late” situations (meaning it’s during or after the 7th inning in a one-run game):

    AVG: .288
    OBP: .431
    SLG: .464
    OPS: .895

    his runners in scoring position numbers are better than his usual numbers. as far as his “close and late” numbers, it’s pretty much in line with his usual production, which are:

    AVG: .296
    OBP: .414
    SLG: .495
    OPS: .909

    so i don’t know where this “not clutch” reputation comes from. the guy’s not superman. yes, david ortiz comes through more often than abreu does. but that’s because ortiz is just a better hitter. it has nothing to do with whatever the hell “clutchness” means.

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