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MLB’s tracking data calls this pitch a slider, but there’s one problem with that: Rays reliver Oliver Drake is right-handed, and the pitch breaks away hard from the left-handed hitter, Leury Garcia of the White Sox.
The movement makes it look like a screwball, a pitch that hasn’t been thrown by a major leaguer with any regularity since Jim Mecir retired in 2005. There have been pitchers like Hector Santiago who threw them occasionally. According to FanGraphs, Santiago is the only pitcher to have thrown a single screwball since 2015, and no pitcher has thrown one in 2019.
Eno Sarris of the Athletic thought it looked like a splitter, which does go away from opposite-hand hitters, although not like that.
But screwballs aren’t that fast, either, traditionally clocking in the 70s or even slower. Drake’s pitch was 83.7 mph. Trevor Bauer used to throw a pitch he called a “power screwball,” which would be a devastating pitch if mastered — something like a reverse slider.
The Rays have the only major screwball-throwing prospect, Brent Honeywell, who they’ve had to shut down with major arm injuries each of the last two seasons. Drake, 31, is a definitional journeyman — he pitched for a major-league record five teams in 2018 alone, so giving him a weird pitch to try out makes sense. If he can throw this pitch with any kind of frequency, his career could be headed for a second act.
This pitch might have broken physics. pic.twitter.com/9M62Y5gzRt— MLB (@MLB) July 21, 2019
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