Siberian Baseball

Monday, November 13, 2006

Gyroball - Fact or Fiction?

I was talking baseball with my boss last week and of course the name Matsuzaka came up. It had to.

Between the outrageous outlay of cash (Boston is rumored to be the winner Monday night night with a pledge of $42 million to the Seibu Lions just for the right to negotiate with Scott Boras according to Peter Gammons) and the mythical gyroball as part of the right-hander's arsenal, there's not a more interesting topic for baseball fans in November.

My boss made some comment about how he'd heard that Matsuzaka can only throw it a few times a game if that and it didn't really add up for me.

Check on YouTube and the best videos can be found here:

And here:

Gyroball or not, that's pretty nasty stuff. There's a longer clip of him pitching in the World Baseball Classic but he's making guys look pretty stupid throughout using a full array of pitches in that.

As for the gyroball, Yahoo! did a piece on it during the WBC's and it's a crazy, crazy story. Assuming the write-up is on the level, it's some monster pitch developed by scientists who were working out physics problems.

The best that I can gather is that the pitch itself is thrown like a spiral on a football - which makes sense, actually and gives it a crazy rotation. From the descriptions I'd read, it behaves a lot like a screwball, but for right-handers. The cool thing is that it's also described as looking like a hanging curveball a split second before it darts back over the plate.

One of the only confirmed pitchers to use the pitch is a teenager, Joey Niezer, and in one of the articles on him, there are reports of batters backing out of the box, afraid of being hit only to jump back to try and chase it as it paints the inside corner.

Need more? The pitch thrown nearly incorrectly - that is to say the bare minimum of spin and coordination - can drop up to a foot. Thrown well, it's rumored to dance a full yard. Are these tall tales? Probably, but just imagine the damage you could do if the claims are only half-substantiated...

Yeah, awesome.

To speak to my boss' assertion that it's only thrown once in a while, apparently you need to synch up your arm and your hips perfectly to get the desired rotation.

Even the man who will supposedly bring the pitch to the major leagues isn't saying much about it, other than that he's trying to get command on it and has throw it sparingly and sometimes by accident. "I would like to make it my out pitch," Matsuzaka said. "But it's not a miracle pitch."

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  • This is Will Carroll from Baseball Prospectus. I'm the one that taught the pitch to Joey Niezer (and some others) and I'm usually quoted in the recent spate of gyro articles. I'm still learning about the pitch - turns out the version I teach is a variation on the "pure gyro." It's more like a slider/cutter variant than a screwball. I'd be happy to answer any questions you or your readers have about the pitch.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At Tuesday, November 14, 2006 2:06:00 PM  

  • I was doing back flips when I heard that the Sox had posted the highest bid. Matsuzaka fits the profile Epstein likes perfectly - pay big bucks only for young players (pitchers) in their prime, not past it. I don't know if the gyroball is the killer pitch that is rumored but just watching him pitch in the WBC and seeing the variety of pitches he has is enough for me. After watching the Yankees get owned by the Tigers and their power arms, the more power pitchers on the Sox staff, the better. And hopefully Beckett will be have learned that he by the time your typical AL no. 8 hitter sees his thrid straight 95 mph pitch, he's likely to hit it over the fence. Now if we could just do something about that pesky Scott Boras . . . Anyone else wondering about the Matsuzaka/JD Drew package deal? Seriously, I hate agents.

    By Blogger doublenicks, At Tuesday, November 14, 2006 3:03:00 PM  

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