June 16, 2011
A New Screwballer
The screwball is fairly rare pitch in the major leagues, thrown in recent years by only two pitchers. Daniel Ray Herrera uses the screwball regularly, and Dallas Braden has thrown it on rare occasion. It's time to add another member to the screwballers club.
Yoshinori Tateyama was signed by the Texas Rangers this past winter after a 12-year career with the Nippon Ham Fighters. Tateyama put up good numbers in 21 relief innings with the Triple-A Round Rock Express before getting the call to the big leagues on May 23. In ten games with Texas, he has struck out nine and walked none, but he has allowed seven runs as the consequence of 12 hits, including three home runs.
But more interesting than his control or his performance thus far, to me at least, is his screwball. During the Rangers-Yankees game on June 14, the outstanding YES-MO slow-motion camera captured one of the screwballs that Tateyama threw to Brett Gardner. Here is a succession of still frames from that slo-mo replay. Note first of all his Vulcan grip on the baseball and secondly how much he turned his wrist over toward his body on release.
A little bit of pronation is normal on a splitter or a circle changeup, but the amount of wrist action that Tateyama applied to this pitch went well beyond that. Tateyama's finger action around the ball also slowed down the pitch. He seems to throw two variations of this off-speed pitch--a faster version in the low 70s and a slower version in the upper 60s. The slower version has more screwball action.
As you can see from the photo, Tateyama is a sidearmer. He has used his screwball almost exclusively to left-handed hitters, and he has a sidearm curveball at 71 mph that he has used mostly against right-handed hitters. His fastball has come in around 87 mph.
Welcome to America, Mr. Tateyama, and welcome to the club of major-league screwballers.