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.