I have this affinity for slow, looping curveballs. I’ve made no mystery of this, so stop looking at me that way. It’s part of the reason why I hold such an irrational and all-consuming but not weird at all love for Erik Bedard. Never mind the other parts. I’ve thought about this a lot (too much), and I really can’t seem to put my finger on why this specific style of pitch unleashes such joy within my normally cold and lifeless soul area. It’s probably a combination of many things. The very slow curveball is a rare sight, it’s movement very fluid and aesthetically pleasing. Rare and good looking are two qualities I admire. It also takes a great deal of courage to throw a very slow baseball towards a very talented major league hitter, and I am a coward who lacks courage, leaving me to covet the trait in others. Slow baseballs headed near the center of home plate tend to get absolutely crushed. Sometimes they go over the wall for home runs and while I’m not a Major League pitcher, I can’t imagine they care for home runs all that much. And what if a hang once of these pitches and a baseball gets smashed into your face?! Terrifying. The face is delicate and there are many important things connected to and within it. Randy Wolf must not like his own face too much because yesterday, he threw an extremely slow curveball. Perhaps the slowest curveball of all the curveballs. This pitch traveled trough the air at an agonizing 49 miles per hour. Randy Wolf is not afraid. Randy Wolf might just be a hero.
As of this writing. MLB has not made this video available on their media website. That’s ok, they’re not typically the most whimsical bunch. Hundreds if not thousands of thanks go to Grant Brisbee of SB Nation for doing the yeoman’s work of creating the above gif. It is wonderful and I enjoy looking at it. When I was reading Mr. Brisbee’s post, I noticed an image that classified this curveball as an “Eephus,” and I honestly thought there was Photoshop tomfoolery afoot. The Eephus, if you did not know, is a mythical junk pitch of a very slow speed that few pitchers rarely deploy in order to fool the shit out of some poor, unsuspecting batter. It has it’s own Wikipedia page and everything. I did a bit of research (painful) and discovered for myself that this was not photo manipulation, but rather the actual designation MLB Gameday used to label Randy Wolf’s 49 mile per hour curveball. This is fantastic. Perhaps I should be taking back my above comment about MLB’s lack of whimsy.
The fact that this pitch was not a strike does not matter. The fact that Brandon Phillips was in the box, himself and his batting stance a unique and interesting aesthetic contribution, only adds to the enjoyment of the pitch. It’s also possible that this Eephus was a challenge to Zack Greinke, which makes things so interesting I can hardly stand it. The involvement of Zack Greinke makes everything better. I wonder what the catcher was expecting. You can see he wanted the pitch low and down the middle, but what did he think the speed was going to be? If he was anticipating 49 miles an hour then he is a very smart man who prepares diligently before games and has great communication with his pitchers.