December 23, 2006
MAKE YOU WANNA SHOUT!:
Thrown for a Loop: Matsuzaka's Mystery Pitch, the Gyroball, Is an Enigma Wrapped in Horsehide (Dave Sheinin, 12/23/06, Washington Post)
But perhaps most tantalizingly, at least to a small subset of Internet surfers, fanatics, historians, pitching gurus and other true believers, Matsuzaka's arrival in the United States next spring holds the promise of introducing into the highest level of the game the first distinctively new pitch in more than three decades -- if, in fact, Matsuzaka throws the mysterious gyroball, and if, for that matter, it exists at all outside of the realm of the theoretical.
This much is known: The gyroball was invented on a supercomputer by a Japanese physicist named Ryutaro Himeno, with the help of a baseball trainer named Kazushi Tezuka, and was described in their 2001 book "Makyuu no Shoutai" -- which, translated loosely, means "Secrets of the Demon Miracle Pitch."
The gyroball, as theorized by Himeno and Tezuka, would behave unlike any other pitch in baseball -- with either an exaggerated drop or an exaggerated side-to-side motion (even on this there is some disagreement) -- owing to its special spin, which is more like the spiral of a football or a bullet than the backspin of a fastball or the topspin of a curve.
"I can teach it in 10 minutes," said Will Carroll, an expert on pitching injuries and a writer for BaseballProspectus.com who is also the gyroball's leading champion in the United States. "Perfecting it? That's a lot longer."
New pitches come along in baseball about as often as Triple Crown winners; the last was the split-fingered fastball, which was popularized by closer Bruce Sutter in the 1970s. This is why the arrival of Matsuzaka, who is said to throw the gyroball (but who has been vague when pressed about it), is creating such a frenzy among believers such as Carroll.
"As the pitch becomes more of a known quantity, and as more people learn how to throw it and more importantly teach it," Carroll said, "we'll see who the Bruce Sutter of the gyroball is."
From the film we've seen so far it would appear that Dice-K throws a fairly classic screwball, but it's hard to recall the last righthander in the majors to use one...maybe Mike Marshall?
Posted by Orrin Judd at December 23, 2006 8:56 AM