February 22, 2007

USEFUL MYTHS:

The Japanese Gyroball Mystery (LEE JENKINS, 2/22/07, NY Times)

Is the gyroball a myth, or is it real? And if it is real, what exactly is it?

Kazushi Tezuka says he has the answer, and he flew from Japan to the United States this week to reveal it. Tezuka, a Japanese trainer who is credited with creating the gyroball 12 years ago, walked to the mound at Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday to show off his invention.

Tezuka used a standard fastball grip. He went into a basic motion. Only at the end of his delivery did he deviate. He turned the inside of his throwing arm away from his body and released the ball as if it were a football, making it spiral toward home plate.

The pitch started on the same course as a changeup, but it barely dipped. It looked like a slider, but it did not break. The gyroball, despite its zany name, is supposed to stay perfectly straight.

"That's it!" Tezuka said, laughing hysterically on the mound. "That's the gyro!"

For all of the kids who launch balls around the backyard, baseball is slow to invent new pitches, and even slower to recognize them. The last pitch to be adopted by major leaguers was the split-fingered fastball, about 30 years ago.

The gyroball is not going to revolutionize the sport. Like a four-seam fastball, a four-seam gyroball is designed to surprise hitters with its speed. Like a changeup, a two-seam gyroball is designed to fool hitters with its slower pace.

"I think it's basically a myth, but it's like a lot of myths in baseball -- it can be useful," said Robert Adair, who wrote "The Physics of Baseball." "If you're a batter and you think a guy occasionally throws this pitch, it is something extra to worry about."


Posted by Orrin Judd at February 22, 2007 8:07 AM
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