MLB

Which Pitch Is the Hardest to Master in Baseball and Who Mastered It?

To those who never played baseball, pitching may seem as simple as throwing the ball at high velocity down the center of the plate. At its core, this is the goal of pitching. However, pitching requires thousands of hours of practice to accomplish. This is why you’ll never see most position players take the pitcher’s mound. One pitch, however, is so hard to master that many questions its feasibility at all.

Know your baseball pitches

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Some pitches in baseball are household names. The fastball is the obvious champion when it comes to the most popular pitches. Fastballs might seem simple, but every pitcher’s success depends on their mechanics. Some might do better with a four-seam fastball while others might use the two-seam fastball. These differentiate the finger position when the ball is actually thrown. There’s a reason many of the best pitchers have mastered the fastball — because it works. 

Breaking balls are meant to confuse batters. From curveballs to sliders seem to change mid-air and throw the batter completely off. Screwballs aim to completely discombobulate the batter with their ability to defy gravity on the way to the pitcher’s mound. The key to these pitches lies in the way that they are held and the arm motion of the thrower. They are the most scientific of the pitches. 

Changeups aim to throw off batters with a wind-up that may seem faster than the throw. These throws can often lead to long careers, as they do not strain a pitcher’s arm as much as a fastball. There’s a certain amount of showmanship that comes with these pitches and those who master them are among the greatest ever. 

All of these pitches are staples in every professional league on the planet. They take years of dedication to even have the opportunity to perfect, and even then they can require even more. One pitch, however, might be the most difficult to master. The gyroball is not as widely used because it is so difficult, but the mechanics that allow it to reach the mound are a pain for even the greatest pitchers to pull off. 

What is the gyroball?

The gyroball was not invented by a bored pitcher on the mound, according to Slate. Instead, it was invented by Japanese scientist Ryutaro Himeno. Himeno worked with people in baseball to simulate a new type of pitch that could confuse batters and preserve the thrower’s arm. While a normal pitch sees the thrower’s arm go inward toward their bodies. It requires great arm-strength to throw an average pitch, but the gyroball is all in the legs. 

The goal of the gyroball is to send it straight down the middle with minimal backspin. This lack of backspin is made possible by the ball’s rotation from side to side rather than up and down. Batters who are awaiting a pitch will often swing where they think it would normally go only to watch it pass across the middle.

The pitch is hard to master, and many view this as a reason not to do so. Even the science behind the pitch perplexes those who study baseball and physics for a living. As such, the gyroball remains a mysterious possibility more so than an active pitch in baseball.

Fact or fiction? 

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The gyroball is most closely associated with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka made his name as a high-school pitcher with a golden arm, and when the Boston Red Sox paid lots of money to bring him into the States, the gyroball dominated headlines. There was just one problem, reports Deadspin, Matsuzaka doesn’t see himself as a gyroball pitcher. 

Scouts claimed that Matsuzaka threw the gyroball multiple times, but when he finally made his MLB debut, it looked more like a slightly different fastball than the demon pitch that was meant to give batters nightmares. Matsuzaka enjoyed a successful, albeit underwhelming career in Major League Baseball, but his pitch never reached the lengths promised by the gyroball.

The gyroball is the hardest pitch to master because no one can seem to master it. People have tried and some have seemingly succeeded, but the pitch is such a mystery that it is hard to tell for sure. In theory, it should be the deadliest pitch in baseball. Until it is shown to be consistently achievable, however, it remains something of an urban legend.