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April 4, 2014

Pebble Hunting

The Best Pitches Thrown This Week

by Sam Miller


Baseball's back, which means: PITCHES! Literally. Without the pitches, we'd still be waiting for the season to start. Thank heavens for pitches!

3. Jose Fernandez’s changeup
In his remarkable Opening Day start, Fernandez threw just seven changeups. This isn’t an entirely insignificant thing to note; late last year I tracked Fernandez’s emergence as an ace to Jeff Mathis’ emergence as his personal catcher. Mathis generally calls fewer changeups than his teammates, and Mathis often pocketed Fernandez’s changeup completely for entire starts at a time. Overall, Fernandez cut his changeup usage nearly in half as he worked with Mathis, and in his first start throwing to Jarrod Saltalamacchia he maintained the reduced changeup usage. By the way, this is what that changeup looked like on Monday, and what a batter swinging at that changeup looked like:

At 91 mph, we could be talking about one of the league's better two-seam fastballs, more or less. Now, the world is full of stories of masterpieces overlooked, of unpolished treasures that go unnoticed by their owners. Some old couple that has a dusty Gutenberg Bible propping up the wobbly leg on their kitchen table. Hey, bless their hearts: They didn’t need vast riches to be happy; they just needed something to keep the dadgum table steady. Fernandez doesn’t need a ridiculous changeup to make stupid dumb lefties look stupid, and dumb. (Though he said early in the spring that it’s the pitch he was most working on.) He’s perfect as he is. He couldn’t possibly be better than he is. But some day, I promise you, Fernandez is going to take the glasses off that thing, he’s going to put it in a cute party dress, he’s going to let its hair out of that tight bun, and he’s going to realize that the sexiest pitch in school was right in front of him the whole time.

2. Samuel Deduno’s Curveball
What we have here is a pitch that doesn’t exist:

As Deduno began his motion, C.B. Bucknor or some such umpire called Deduno for a balk. As you’ll recall from our discussion of balks last summer, it is relatively common for balks to go entirely unnoticed by nearly everybody in the park, including the announcers, and in this case the Twins announcers a) declare Eaton out, then b) confusedly wonder how they apparently lost track of the count, then c) wonder why Alexei Ramirez was allowed to steal second base in apparent slow motion, then d) conclude that they were definitely right about the count. Some number of pitches later, they finally realize that there was a balk. Which means that, after approximately 90 seconds of living in a world in which that Samuel Deduno curveball exists, we now live in a world where it didn’t exist. It never happened. If you go look at Deduno’s Brooks Baseball profile, the pitch is on no zone charts, it appears in no tables. It is not in his pitch count, and it does not count as a demerit on Adam Eaton’s contact rate.

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Related Content:  Jose Fernandez,  Matt Albers,  Samuel Deduno

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Premium Article Overthinking It: Is De... (04/04)
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