Nothing new under the sun? Well, the Hot Stove League always has something for baseball fans to warm themselves upon. I don’t know what new Japanese video games might have shown up for Christmas, but supposedly the Land of the Rising Sun has given us the first new baseball pitch in three decades, since the advent of the split-fingered fastball (and even that arguably was just a forkball thrown harder). The Boston Red Sox’s recently-signed import, Daisuke Matsuzaka, is said to possess something called the “gyroball,” described in this Washington Post article. The pitch supposedly was invented on a supercomputer by a Japanese physicist named Ryutaro Himeno, with the help of a baseball trainer named Kazushi Tezuka. The gyroball was designed to behave unlike any other pitch – with either an exaggerated drop or an exaggerated side-to-side motion – owing to its peculiar spin, which is more like the spiral of a football than the backspin of a fastball or the topspin of a curve.
Bunk, says Bobby Valentine, the former Major League manager now with the Chiba Lotte Mariners, whose team has faced Matsuzaka. "No such pitch." Robert Kemp Adair, professor emeritus at Yale and the dean of baseball physicists – yes, there are such creatures – agrees. Another former manager, Buck Martinez, believes it is a screwball. Others say it is really a change-up or a variation on the cut fastball.
Ah, only 50 days until pitchers and catchers report.