A while back I wrote in this space about watching Livan Hernandez throw a pitch the Japanese call the shuuto or “shootball.” At the time, I had heard that Maddux had been throwing a pitch very much like the shuuto for several years, and some players in the minors were experimenting with it, but I was surprised to see a pitcher like Livan, who I have watched for many years, throwing it all of a sudden when I had never seen him throw it before.
But since then, thanks to my subscription to MLB.tv, I’ve been watching more games this year than ever before, and I have seen the pitch again on four or five occasions. I’m becoming convinced that this is definitely a new pitch at the major league level, or at least a pitch that has not been seen much before, mainly for the reason that announcers don’t know what to call it.
For example, a few weeks back I saw a Rangers rookie throwing it against the Yankees. The Yankees announcer said something like, “There’s that pitch again. The one they’re all throwing these days.” After which the Yankees color guy said something like, “You used to see only Maddux throw it, but now you see other guys throwing it more and more.”
Then yesterday when I was watching the Red Sox play the Royals, I saw Royals rookie Luke Hudson throw it several times. At one point, Don Orsillo says, “Well I’m guessing that’s his changeup, because it’s only 88 miles per hour,” whereupon Jerry Remy says, “Yeah, it must be, because his fastball has consistently been around 93, 94.”
Exqueeze me? An 88 mph changeup? If you are changing up on a 93 mph fastball with a pitch that goes 88 mph, you are not going to be anywhere near the major leagues. Moreover, 88 mph changeups do not move 6 inches back across the plate and strike out talented Red Sox hitters looking.
Clearly, we need to help these poor broadcasters out and come up with a name for this new pitch. What do you guys think? What should we call a pitch around 87-88 mph that breaks to the right like a reverse slider? Should we just call it the shuuto or the shootball, after the Japanese? Or can we come up with a more colorful name?