Carlos Villanueva Throws Eephus Pitch (Sort of)
I saw a piece on yahoo.com on a 57 mph bloop pitch that the Cubs’ Carlos Villanueva threw the Nationals’ Jason Werth yesterday. The pitch is described as an “eephus” pitch, but it looks more like a real slow 12-to-6 curve ball in the video provided. At any rate, it was good enough to steal a strike from Werth.
The yahoo article also contains footage of Dave LaRoche‘s “LaLob”, the last real eephus pitch thrown in the majors on a regular basis. The article also links to footage of Randy Wolf throwing a 49 mph pitch in 2012, but the video is no longer available. You can see it here. Not a true eephus pitch in my book.
The pitcher to first make the eephus pitch famous, of course, was Rip Sewell. He was extremely successful with it for a few years, although he’s most famous today for the home run he gave up to Ted Williams on the pitch in the 1946 All-Star Game. Here’s the footage (starting at 1:39).
A number of pitchers have tried out the eephus pitch over the years. Here’s footage of Steve Hamilton‘s “Folly Floater” around 1970. Japanese pitcher Kaz Tadano, who pitched briefly for the Indians, threw a good eephus. Here’s footage on him throwing one in the AAA Pacific Coast League in 2007.
The true, high-arcing eephus isn’t a common pitch for fairly obvious reasons. First, it is a true “trick” pitch which relies almost entirely on surprising the hitter. With even an eephus thrown as high as Rip Sewell’s or Dave LaRoche’s, hitters will be able to time the pitch if they see it regularly.
Second, it is very difficult to throw the pitch consistently for strikes, much like the overhand curveball. Not only is it tough to get into today’s short strike zone, but the pitch often fools the umpire as much as the batter.
The key to dealing with the pitch as a hitter is generally not to swing at it. You can see in the LaRoche video that he gets Gorman Thomas out with it mainly because Thomas is willing to chase the soft toss well out of the strike zone.
The lower arching floaters of Padilla and El Duque are easier to command, but also can’t be thrown with any regularity. Here is footage of a young Alex Rodriguez hitting it long when Hernandez throws one too many during an at-bat — ARod double-clutches, but thanks in part to Vitamin S perhaps, he hits it a long way. The standard change-up is a much more effective pitch, simply because it looks like a fastball coming out of the pitcher’s hand.