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07/31/2007 Archived Entry: "MLB: Myth of the Gyroball"
MLB: Myth of the Gyroball, by Chris McCartney
The Myth of the Gyroball
The gyroball. For some time this topic has greatly annoyed me. Why? The ignorance I have seen in just about any conversation of this strange pitch. In this article I will expose the gyroball for what it really is.
First and foremost, I will say that no one in the record of Japanese or American baseball throws the gyroball. The gyroball was developed by two Japanese scientists, Ryutaro Himeno and Kazushi Tezuka, who used computer simulations to create a new style of delivery intended to reduce stress on the pitcher. At the point of release, instead of having the pitcher's arm move inwards towards the body (the standard method used in the United States), the pitcher rotates his arm so that it moves away from his body, towards 3rd base (for a right-handed pitcher). The unusual method of delivery creates a bullet-like spin on the ball, like a bicycle tire spins when facing the spokes or a perfectly thrown football. Now when have we seen any pitcher do this? If you have, you must be smarter than me.
Now that we have established what the gyroball is, you must be wondering: what is the pitch Daisuke Matsuzaka throws that looks so much like the gyroball? That pitch is the Japanese "shuuto" pitch. It is a pitch commonly thrown by Japanese pitchers that breaks slightly down and in on right-handed batters when thrown by a right-handed pitcher, somewhat similar to a screwball, although with less break. The shuuto begins as a fastball, taking a straight path toward the plate. However, the pitcher has put a slight spin on the ball, such that as the ball's velocity decreases, it "rolls over" and drifts back toward the batter. The only American pitcher that I know of that throws something similiar to the shuuto is Greg Maddux, who uses the pitch to freeze left handed batters.
The final piont I would like to make is some proof that no one throws the gyroball. First, even Daisuke Matsuzaka has stated that he does not throw it, and that he is trying to learn it. Finnaly, in an interview with ESPN, Bobby Valentine, manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan's Pacific League, stated that no one in Japan he has heard of throws the strange pitch. He even stated that he doesn't believe that any pitcher, Japanese or American, has the ability to throw the gyroball.
Simply put, no pitcher throws the gyroball in game, even though it is real.