I'm fascinated by the eephus. The Eephus is one of my two standby names for my teams in fantasy leagues (the other being The Interrobangs). I'll pull it out when I'm playing catch with my brother. I considered, for a time, getting "EEPHUS" as a custom plate on my motorcycle, since it doesn't go quite as fast as it should. When the eephus comes up in conversation, I can't help but laugh. It's one of the many little quirks that I love about this game.
The eephus, for those who have no idea what I'm talking about, is a pitch so excruciatingly slow that hitters fall over themselves trying to crush it. They almost always fail, and ground out. It was invented by Rip Sewell of the WWII era Pirates, who famously never game up a home run on the eephus. (Except to Ted Williams in the All-Star game, but he cheated to hit it.)
Here's an incredibly scientific illustration (nearly to scale, really!) of the trajectory differences between the eephus and normal pitches. The red line is a fastball, the blue one a curveball, and the green a typical eephus. The yellow line on top represents the 25-foot high eephus that Sewell was purported to have thrown at the height of his career (pardon the pun).
I'm not sure if I completely buy that Sewell's pitch traveled quite that high, but I'll go with it for the sake of tradition.
While I don't recall the specifics of the first time I saw someone "uncork" the mother of all junkballs, I do know that I couldn't believe what I'd just seen. It looks as ridiculous as if someone were to walk to the plate holding the bat by the barrel. So... when I read that Kaz Tadano was bringing back the eephus this spring, I was delighted. Against all reason, I'm now rooting for Tadano to make the club.
Apparently Tadano has been using the pitch for years. He can allegedly throw it for strikes, too. I get the impression that the two A's that saw the eephus didn't really know how to react.
"It's just like a softball pitch," said outfielder Mark Kotsay. "He threw it twice to our group. ... I swung at it."
"It jammed me," he admitted with a shrug.
Infielder Mark Ellis, who didn't know Tadano threw an eephus, also got one Sunday.
"I knew it was coming and I was still surprised," Ellis said. "I swung really hard and it hit the top of the cage."
I don't know how many times I've watched and rewatched clips of Orlando Hernandez and Kaz Tadano throwing the eephus. The look on the faces of the players who will just stare the all-too-hittable pitch all the way into the catcher's mitt is one of the small joys of baseball. When they do recognize what's coming their way, load up and get ready to hit the ball harder than anything they've ever hit in their life... I love the sheer frustration and embarassment expressed as they swing mightily and tap out softly to third.
Somewhere on MLB.com, there's a clip (which seems to be down at the moment) of Kaz Tadano throwing the eephus to Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod subsequently grounds out softly to third base, and he can't believe what just happened. He just stands there looking as befuddled as if he'd just been thrown a peeled potato. (The potato incident is one of my favorite episodes in baseball, but that's another story...)
Does it make me a superficial pitching fan if I were to relish the idea of someday seeing a bullpen with Dallas Braden (screwball), Kaz Tadano (eephus), Brad Ziegler (submariner), Craig Italiano (98+ mph smoke) and Scott Dunn (occasional knuckleball)? The A's already have Huston Street (sidearm slider), Justin Duchscherer (ridiculous curve) and Kiko Calero (three distinct sliders‽) in the pen, which should cover all of the bases for pitch-type, if you'll excuse me mangling a metaphor.