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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?

21 Responses to “Time to name baseball’s newest pitch…”

  1. I’m no Al Nipper, but I saw Hudson throw this, and I can’t see why its not a screwball.

  2. Nick Kapur says:

    I used to watch Fernando Valenzuela throw a screwball all the time when I was growing up as a Dodgers fan in LA. A screwball is like a reverse curveball. It is way slow – we’re talking mid 70s. There is no screwball in the world that goes 88 mph…

  3. Yeah- I suppose you’re right. I imagine the Maddux version wasn’t in the mid/high 80′s either.

    So it some variation of a cutter? Whatever the case, “shootball” doesn’t cut it.

    Is this the same pitch that Rob Nyer describes as the “gyroball”?

    http://www.robneyer.com/book_04_gyroball.html

  4. Nick Kapur says:

    No, the alleged “gyroball” supposedly breaks in the complete opposite direction from the shuuto, to the left, like a turbocharged slider.

    It is true that Will Carroll identifies the gyroball with the “shooto” in the article you cite, which has caused a lot of confusion on the internet, but I emailed Carroll and he confirmed that the shuuto is completely different, and said he simply didn’t know what a shuuto really was when he wrote that article.

    For the straight dope on the gyroball, you can check out a piece on it over at Everything2

  5. Nice piece.

    This concept is bizzarro. It reminds me of Shaolin Soccer.

    It also reminds me of Eddie “The King” Feigner throwing a softball over 110 mph over 10 times in an air force wind tunnel in the early 60′s. Anomalies occur I guess.

    You’ve obviously invested research into this- and its fascinating, but why and how would a less-than-mediocre journeyman like Luke Hudson be able to throw a pitch that the greatest Japanese player (with the aid of the worlds most advanced biomechaical engineering) hasn’t mastered yet?

    Nice work on this, Nick.

  6. Just to be clear- That wasn’t meant to be sarcastic- I think your thoughts and research on the Shuuto is original and very cool.

  7. Uh- I was clearly confused.

    The shuuto IS thrown by Japanese pros, and the “gyroball” is more of a conceptual superpitch, right? So Hudson could be throwing the shuuto. My B.

  8. Sarah Green says:

    When I was little, my mom told me a funny story. A pitcher threw a fat one down the middle of the plate and the hitter completely crushed it to win the game. Afterwards, a reporter asked the pitcher what kind of pitch it was.

    “It was a combination screwball and changeup,” said the pitcher. “A screw-up.”

  9. Screw the Japanese. Let’s call it the “freedom pitch.”

  10. Nick Kapur says:

    That is an awesome video, Jeb! That is exactly the pitch I am talking about!

    Thanks a lot for posting that.

  11. Sarah-

    I think Cubbies reliever Bob Patterson said that. You guys should definitely have a great baseball quotes thread.

    My favorite:

    Reggie Jackson once fanned 3 times versus Nolan Ryan in the late 70′s (mostly on 100 mph gas) , and a reporter asked him,

    “Reggie, Don’t you like hitting fastballs?”

    Jackson asked the reporter if he liked eating ice cream to which the reporter said, “Sure.”

    Reggie then asked. “How would you like it if someone shoved a gallon of it down your throat?”

    Classic.

  12. Doesn’t Papelstud figure into this equation?

  13. Papelstud is a *closer* Jeb. For this reason, I felt that adding Jonastud Papelbon would make this post a little bit too much like a baseball version of that old Sesame Street classic, “One of these things is not like the other.” Also, three is a cooler number than four.

    You might also bring up Stud Lester of the Red Sox as another hot AL rookie. After all, he’s 5-0. However, he has not been as dominating (yet) as these three. And of course, Lance would’ve killed me. (Hi Lance.)

  14. Oh really? Papelbon is a closer? I assumed he was just chronically tardy. I checked it out, almost twice as many starters (14) have won the ROY as relievers (8). Interestingly, the last 3 pitchers to win the AL ROY have all been relievers: Huston Street in ’05, Kaz Sasaki in ’00 and Greg Olson in ’89.

    What does this mean? Lance hates the Red Sox.

  15. Nick Kapur says:

    Last time I checked, nobody cared at all if your team made the playoffs when voting for Cy Young or RoY. That only matters for the MVP.

  16. Sarah Green says:

    You don’t think that would come into play as a tiebreaker? Everything else being equal?

    I feel like this is when Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were both up for Best New Artist at the Grammys. The anticipation is killing me!

  17. Hi Sarah!

  18. Eric Vinyl says:

    What’s wrong with “shootball?”

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