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April 25, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Does Darvish Throw a Shuuto?

by Jason Parks

As I was watching the Yu Darvish start against the Yankees, it dawned on me that the Japanese hurler might have more pitches than I was originally led to believe. Those who read this site are aware that I’ve been watching Darvish since his first intra-squad game back in early March, which makes me a Darvish hipster, and an unapologetic one at that. Because of my familiarity with the pitcher, I’ve been able to identify his deep arsenal, one that features both a two- and four-seam fastball, a cutter, two type of curveballs, a slider, a splitter, and a straight-change, but up until tonight’s game against the Yankees, I hadn’t noticed that he was throwing what I’ve seen described as a shuuto, or a reverse slider.

I’m not certain of the classification—Gameday and Brooks Baseball classified the pitch as a two-seam fastball. I’ve seen Darvish throw numerous two- and four-seam fastballs, but I’ve never seen a fastball that moves with such violent horizontal run as the offering Darvish was throwing last night. The pitch (when thrown correctly) will start on the plate and run away from left-handed hitters and bore into the hands on right-handed hitters with intensity. It’s almost impossible to square up, and the combination of movement and velocity make it look like a slider, only with the extreme action tailing arm-side rather than glove-side.

I was confused until the seventh inning, when catcher Mike Napoli appeared to be using a different sign for the pitch than the standard fastball, placing an L between his legs when he wanted the pitch with the extreme arm-side run. The announcers referred to the offering as a two-seamer, but as I stated, the movement was way more extreme, as was evident by the catcher’s pre-pitch setup and anticipation of the pitch (he expected run). The best example can be seen in the sixth and final pitch of Darvish’s seventh-inning matchup against Raul Ibanez, as the standard fastball morphs into a reverse slider that runs away from the hitter like the hitter has cooties. The image below shows the trajectory from Gameday, but you can also view the pitch at the 44-second mark here.

I wanted to assume that it was just a four-seamer that had late arm-side explosion, because Darvish’s four-seamer has serious movement, but this pitch freaked out and ran away like nothing I have ever seen before. I’m not overly familiar with PITCHf/x, which is to say I’m aware of its existence and I respect those that have a mastery of such data, but I’m not fluent in its language. That said, I’d love to see a breakdown of Darvish’s pitch movements to see if my eye was just playing tricks on me or if he was manipulating this particular ball for effect, as was suggested by the sign from the catcher and the outcome of the offering.

Not that Darvish needed another pitch to put in his already crowded bag, but the extreme running fastball was an aspect of his game that I either failed to recognize and appreciate early on or had been unsuccessfully executed up to this point. I was fully aware that his fastball had plus-plus movement, but I’ve never seen a fastball with legs like that. From a scouting perspective, that’s easy 80-grade movement, regardless of what you call it. 

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Scouting,  Raul Ibanez,  Yu Darvish,  Shuuto

31 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

lemppi

Good article......Darvish works a little slow for my taste, but other than that I have enjoyed watching all four of his starts quite a bit. I completely agree that to the naked eye via television some of those pitches had amazing run to them. He had the Yankees tied up all night.

Apr 25, 2012 05:05 AM
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amazin_mess

Why is it that when many Asian pitchers come over, some people assume they throw a never-before-seen pitch? Didn't we go through this with the vaunted gyroball?

Apr 25, 2012 05:32 AM
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brems321

regardless of what it is, and I love the treasure hunt aspect of this post, last night was bad-ass. Like the first few strasburg games, just electric atmosphere. Love having the MLB package sometimes. Can't wait for the podcast re-hash of last night, and I know it will have a segment on it, with lots of laughing and swearing. mmmm

Apr 25, 2012 07:03 AM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

He's got a wicked arsenal. I just think that pitchers get individual results from pitches thrown the same way, that's all. Some of the movement he gets is ridiculous. If he maintains his command, he's deadly.

Apr 25, 2012 07:18 AM
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BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

No question that Darvish's hand-to-ball relationship is unique, therefore the characteristics of the offerings will be unique. I'm not out hunting for the Loch Ness monster here. I just noticed a pitch that featured more extreme movement than I had seen before and commented on it. I've been lucky enough to see Darvish from favorable angles in the past, so I've had an unobstructed view of the movement of his fastball, which is ridiculous. But up until last night, I had yet to recognize a particular fastball with so much tail, which given the sign and setup from Napoli, seemed deliberate. It's entirely possible that my eye played the trick and it was just a fastball with lots of arm-side run, and not a reverse slider like it appeared to be.

Apr 25, 2012 07:31 AM
 
amazin_mess

What does Patricia think?

Apr 25, 2012 09:00 AM
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BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Sadly, I haven't spoken to her in weeks. She's out there somewhere.....

Apr 25, 2012 09:12 AM
 
adrock

This is very exciting. I happen to be lucky enough to have seats behind home plate for his start next week against the Blue Jays (May 1st, if the internet can be trusted).

Jason, is there anything in particular I should be looking for from Darvish, or should I just sit back and enjoy the awesomeness.

Also, if any BP folks are interested in a pint before the game, please suggest a location and time.

Apr 25, 2012 08:19 AM
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Peter Ellwood

I feel I have about the same knowledge of Pitch FX as Jason, though I will just assume that mine is even less.

According to Brooks Baseball, Darvish has only thrown what Pitch FX calls a two-seamer in his first start against the Mariners, and last night against the Yankees. He didn't reveal it to the Twins or Tigers (likely trying to work on his command/control issues with fewer pitches).

Against the Mariners, the two-seamer averaged 93.5 mph with -9.46 H-break (H-break is in inches, I believe, and the negative sign would be running into a right-handed hitter). Last night, the two-seamer averaged 92.0 mph with -9.36 H-break.

The pitch to Ibanez was 94.2 mph with -8.5 H-break.

That seems a little fast to be a shutto, or reverse slider, but whatever it was, it was sexy as hell.

Apr 25, 2012 08:45 AM
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SaberTJ

Jason,

Any thoughts on Darvish choosing to pitch exclusively from the stretch? Certainly seemed to help his command.

Apr 25, 2012 08:49 AM
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BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

It's a feel thing. If he feels more comfortable from the stretch, that's how he will roll. I liked his tempo/pace last night out of the stretch. He achieved a good rhythm and he was balanced.

Apr 25, 2012 09:00 AM
 
SaberTJ

Yah, he certainly was able to repeat his delivery much more frequently than his previous starts while restricting himself to the stretch.

Which I find a bit strange because a lot of starters struggle to get the same release point and command when they are forced to pitch from the stretch as opposed to the windup. Some starters are different pitchers (in a bad way) when they have to pitch from the stretch ie..the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona.

Apr 25, 2012 09:10 AM
rating: 0
 
Jivas
(649)

Jason - is there a reason you avoided using the word "screwball" to describe a pitch with reverse-slider movement? I assume the term refers to a specific type of arm action that Darvish doesn't use to get the effects you're describing?

Apr 25, 2012 08:50 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I've seen a few screwballs, or at least pitches that were referred to as screwballs, and they didn't look like the pitch Darvish threw. The screwballs I've seen appear to have similar movement, but with velocity closer to a changeup than a four-seam fastball.

Apr 25, 2012 09:04 AM
 
dduncan

Jason, I agree. I saw the same thing. Example, Derek Jeter 0-1 pitch on his last AB. 94 mph with crazy movement in. Jeter swinging strike and the look on his fast toward Darvish was classic. A WTF moment.

Apr 25, 2012 09:15 AM
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BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Just to reiterate: I don't really care what the pitch is called, be it a fastball or a shuuto or a ball of tailing #want. I was just really blown away by the movement of the pitch, and given the sign and setup by Napoli, I assumed it was a different offering than the standard fastball.

Apr 25, 2012 09:16 AM
 
dduncan

Jason, you think bartender in Delaware was thinking he could have hit the ball of want?

Apr 25, 2012 09:26 AM
rating: 1
 
MichaelTheBonz

Darvish is just plain nasty. Jason, in the fourth inning, what was the pitch that Darvish struck Teixeira out with? Gameday called it a cutter, and Nolan Ryan called it a sinker, but that was his splitty, right?

Apr 25, 2012 09:31 AM
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BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Yeah. It was funky. It looked like a cutter/splitter hybrid. Whatever is was, it was delicious.

Apr 25, 2012 09:39 AM
 
Dave Holgado

I had no idea that Francisco Liriano threw a shuuto. If only he knew where it was going.

Apr 25, 2012 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
gparker1515

I was going to post the same thing. Recently, on either Sportscenter or Baseball Tonight, they were commenting on Liriano's lack of control. They showed his two-seam fastball with some serious movement. It looks a lot like the pitch Darvish is throwing. The difference being, Darvish seems to control it where Liriano is just hoping something "good" happens.

Apr 25, 2012 11:02 AM
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jballauer

It was reported during the game that Darvish was throwing into a strong wind. Nolan Ryan said during the game that he felt it made his breaking pitches more effective, as opposed to throwing with the wind.

As a high school pitcher, I once chopped off a guy above the ankles on a two-seamer that, I swear, broke more than Darvish's "shuutos" last night...albeit I was throwing into some substantial gusts.

That said, have you considered wind as a factor?

Apr 25, 2012 10:55 AM
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jballauer

BTW, three additional thoughts...

1.) If that pitch is also so effective for Darvish (as opposed to a regular tailing two-seamer), why wouldn't we see him use it more often as a backdoor "reverse slider" against righties? The fact that he doesn't, to me, seems to indicate that last night's movement was a surprise to even him. Hell, if I knew I had such a pitch, I'd be backdooring it to righties all-day long.

2.) Definitely watch for repeatability in subsequent starts. Unless the wind conditions are similar, I'd be willing to bet that the pitch will look more like Darvish's previous outings.

3.) The extreme snappiness to his pitches didn't seem isolated to his fastball. I'm going to look at pitchfx data to confirm it, but his other pitches, especially his fast curveball and his cutter, seemed to have much more movement to my eyes as well.

Apr 25, 2012 11:09 AM
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jballauer

I should have said that I'm NOT going to look at pitchfx data, but if I did, I'd also look to see if the delta measurements from release to the plate are greater than typical. If the greater movement is wind aided, the velocity would fall-off at the plate slightly more than normal. Just a thought.

Apr 25, 2012 11:16 AM
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marctacoma

That looks like a two-seamer to me; its movement is in line with some other two-seamers with good arm side run, and it's less insane than Daniel Bard's freakish pitch here.

I didn't see this game, and I'm just looking at the pitch fx plot (which looks pretty crazy), but if he has a shuuto, would it look more like the swinging strike he got on Eric Chavez in the 5th (2nd pitch of the AB)? Kind of looks like a change-up, but you'd know more about his straight change. In any event, it's very different from the pitch he threw Teixeira in the 2nd, which could be a change too. Darvish is fascinating.

Apr 25, 2012 11:17 AM
rating: 1
 
tim270

Yeah that's a 2S fastball. I don't believe he could throw a 94 mph slider, let alone shutto.
Regardless, it's an impressive pitch; and he in general is impressive. If his arm stays attached, and he gets a little more efficient, he could be one of the best in the game.
BTW, I'm a little surprised the Rangers are being quite so aggressive w his workload this early. He's def going to need to adjust to the 5 day rotation, and the Texas heat (which is coming), and they'll want him fresh for Sept. and Oct you would imagine. The O's for instance are skipping Chen if possible to give him the extra day to transition to the 5 man rotation. I'd hate for their sake for him to be run down when they really need him because he was throwing 120 pitches a game in April.

Apr 25, 2012 14:26 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I like articles where you can learn more in the comment section than from the article itself. Very well done.

Chet can throw a 94 mph slider, by the way.

Apr 25, 2012 15:47 PM
 
tim270

Is Chet some nickname I'm not aware of for Darvish?
I've watched some of his first start and some of this latest one, and I must admit I didn't see a 94 mph slider. I realize you've seen him extensively so I'll defer to you on that. I know it's possible. I've seen Dennis Sarfate throw a 94 mph slider; it just didn't slide much, and he had no idea where it was going.

Apr 25, 2012 17:31 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Chet is a shortstop prospect/bartender in Wilmington, DE.

I don't think the 94 mph offering was a slider; rather, the movement looked like a reverse slider, with extreme tailing action to the arm side. It seems likely that it was just a two-seam fastball, albeit one that was dipped in #want water before being thrown.

Apr 25, 2012 17:57 PM
 
jfranco77

The wind was pretty ridiculous that night. It could have been a gust of #want blowing across the field at a convenient time.

Apr 26, 2012 09:44 AM
rating: 0
 
Vriez10

I'm thinking 'fastball with tailing #want' as well. There's definitely pitchers with more arm-side tail than others. The gif that marctacoma posted of Bard is an absolute disgusting example. Another is Ubaldo. His command is shitty, but he's got as much arm-side tail on his two-seamer than anybody in baseball.

It's entirely possible that Darvish just has far more control over the movement of his two-seamer, ie...finger-placement/arm-action differences that give him 1) a standard 2S'er with slight movement and 2) a 2S'er with more explosive movement, is harder to control/execute, but is used as an out-pitch. That would explain Napoli's different sign. If he's got 2 different kinds of curves, maybe he has 2 different kinds of 2S'ers. Regardless, it seems like Darvish can do whatever he wants with the baseball when he's on.

Is anyone else weirded-out/scared of his delivery though? Maybe it's what his movement can be attributed to, but his arm-action is different from anyone else in the game. I don't like it. It looks violent -- really whippy and more has far more elbow than normal. I know he held up to extensive workloads in Japan...but his mechanics scream "TJ" to me.

Apr 28, 2012 08:39 AM
rating: 0
 
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