Saturday, February 13, 2010

Da nah nah nah nah, it's the Eephus Countdown

I had a request to do a column dedicated to the Eephus pitch. The Eephus pitch is one area that i'm not too familiar with so I went to Wikipedia to look it up because, well that's why Wikipedia exists.

First impression is that it strikes me as a slow version of the knuckleball. I'm not sure why it was extinct but at some point some pitcher or failed minor-league middle infielder will try it out, catch the league off guard and be successful. I mean if the knuckleball allows Tim Wakefield and Phil Niekro pitch well into their 40s there's no reason why the Eephus could extend pitching careers into the 50s and 60s.

It appears that there have been a few pitchers known to throw the Eephus and a good proportion of them have pitched recently, giving hope and reason for the Eephus to rise from the ashes and into the repertoire of pitchers and now the top 10 pitchers of all time known to throw the Eephus:

Hadn't heard of him before. Seems like a fairly typical 60's middle reliever. Had a solid career at 40-31 3.05 era 114 ERA+. The only really interesting tidbit I could pull out of his career was that he was a 2-sport player as he played a couple seasons for the Minneapolis Lakers.

Had a decent career 67-68 3.44 era 110 ERA+ but I get the vibe it could have been better. His career ended prematurely due to drug issues. If you get the chance to see the MLB Network special on the 1984 Padres, you will get a chance to see how he was part of one of the biggest brawls of the decade (pretty much he unintentionally united that team by drilling their lead-off hitter Alan Wiggins. The Padres threw at Perez every time he came up to the plate, many fights broke out, Padres won the National League championship)

Amongst the highlights:

  • "(Bob) Horner tackled (Champ) Summers with the unsolicited help of two fans who leaped out of the stands."
  • "On his way back to the Padres' dugout, (Kurt) Bevacqua was pelted in the head by a mug of beer tossed from the crowd. He hurdled atop the dugout to attack the perpetrator but slipped while throwing a punch and fell into the seats."

So, fans getting into the action and player getting pelted by beer. Wow, if this would have happened in 2004 instead of 1984, we would have had around the clock coverage about this fight and we would be making as big of a deal about this as the Malace at the Palace and someone would have been suspended for at least a year. And all because the 9th best Eephus pitcher ever had to drill the Padres lead-off hitter

Another that that sticks out is in 1988, Perez was really good as he pulled off a ridiculous .941 WHIP definitely indicates that he had the potential for a better career than he actually had

A Decent run as a closer in the 70s and a couple All-Star appearances. Also to note, he is the father of Adam LaRoche who would be known as a much better player if only stats from after the All-Star break were counted.

If there is one thing Tewksbury was known for, it is pinpoint control. He had a legitimate chance to have more wins than walks drawn twice.....16 wins and 20 walks in '92 and 17 wins with 20 walks in '93.....his 1992 season was really good as he finished 3rd in Cy Young Voting but had an otherwise pedestrian career. Ironically, as I am writing this, the replay of Mark Whiten's 4 home-run game on MLB Network is in the background. And who might the beneficiary of all that run support be? The 7th best Eephus pitcher of all time.

The one pitcher whose name is most associated with the Eephus pitch. The father of the Eephus pitch doesn't even crack the Top five. According to the Wikipedia page, he only gave up one career home run using the Eephus pitching. This leads to speculation that maybe he should have used it more often as he gave up 116 home runs in his career.

El Duque had a nice run for the Yankees. One of the bigger what-if's in baseball will be what Hernandez could have accomplished if he had made it to the states if he was younger. As it was, he didn't make his debut until he was 32 and had a penchant for coming up big in the post-season.

Had a solid career with the Red Sox and Expos. Known more for his quirky "spaceman" personality than what he did on field. Best season was in '73 which was also his only All-Star season. Interesting thing to note is he gave up an unthinkable 320 hits in 1974 (granted it was in 282 innings). Second player on this list (Tewksbury the other) to lead their respective league in hits allowed.

Alongside being the only active player on this list, Buerhle is a case of interesting contrasts. In addition to leading the AL in hits allowed (thrice 2005,2006 & 2008), he has also thrown a couple of no-hitters (including a perfect game). Buerhle has been around for awhile and it is hard to believe he still only 30. He still isn't close to being considered a Hall of Famer but that could change with about 5 more solid years under his belt (along with moving up this list)

What's not to like, 176 career wins, 1 no-hitter in 1990, coming one out away from a couple perfect games in consecutive starts in the 80's and beloved enough by Blue Jays fans to have a blog (The Tao of Stieb named after him).

Definitely the LAST pitcher I would expect to be known to throw the Eephus, Johnson was all about throwing really fast, long hair and mullets but even Johnson knew the value of throwing the Eephus. Still, he's definitely headed to Cooperstown. Come on pitchers, if The Big Unit can find value in throwing the Eephus, this pitch has got to come back to the mainstream. To verify that this isn't a typo a Google search for Randy Johnson Eephus gives 7,790 results.

1 comment:

  1. Good Eephus column, and thanks for fulfilling my request! I wish there were more statistics for this kind of thing. What was the opposing BA against the Eephus? How often was in thrown? For example, Randy Johnson has thrown in at most twice in his career. I could imagine the pitch being most effective if thrown once or twice per 9 batters, more if the windup looked really the same as when throwing a fastball, so the batter doesn't realize it's coming until it's 20 feet in the air. Eephus pitch must also be the easiest call for an umpire to make. If it hits the plate, it must've been a strike!