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A primer on how pitchers produce movement and vary velocity by gripping and releasing their pitches.

Pitching mechanics tend to dominate the word count here in Raising Aces, so it may surprise some readers to learn that my favorite element of pitching is “stuff.” Nothing lights me up like blazing heat, baffling change-ups, and exploding sliders that paint a catcher's target. Some pitches are so devastating as to take on a personality of their own, effectively defining a player's legacy, such as the cutter of Mariano Rivera or the change-up of Johan Santana. There are even pitches that are so legendary that their reputations have survived the passage of time, to be appreciated by people who never personally witnessed their glory, including Walter Johnson's eye-blink heater and Sandy Koufax's knee-buckling curve.

The quality of a pitcher's stuff is intertwined with his mechanics. Pitch velocity is determined by kinetic energy that is transferred through linear momentum, torque, and the rotational elements of the delivery. Pitch command is directly tied to the consistency of mechanical timing and sequencing, in addition to dynamic balance and posture. The key ingredient to pitch movement is also rooted in mechanics, and though a pitcher's grip on the baseball tends to steal the spotlight, the more critical determinant of pitch break is the angle of the pitcher's forearm at release point.

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November 15, 2006 12:00 am

Under The Knife: Matsuzaka and the Gyroball


Will Carroll

The Japanese right-hander may be throwing his famous pitch in the AL next season, but it's just a small part of his repertoire.

Since discovering the pitch back in 2003, I've been on something of a quest to figure it out. Guided by a Japanese text that I can only roughly translate as "The Secret of the Demon Pitch," and that I can't actually read, I have sought to both learn the pitch's nature and to understand the man who has come to embody the pitch, Matsuzaka.

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