Angels RP Robert Coello Mystifies MLB with 'WTF' Forkball-Knuckleball Hybrid

Gabe ZaldivarPop Culture Lead WriterMay 29, 2013

Los Angeles Angels reliever Robert Coello is fooling batters with a new pitch. Actually, that sentiment doesn't do this pitch justice, because it is also confusing fans, columnists, catchers, scientists and that newfangled camera that identifies pitches. 

Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan reports on the most beguiling pitch in the majors at the moment. But before we get into specifics, just take a look at the confusion this pitch causes. 

According to Passan, Coello has been bumping around professional baseball for some time, trying to perfect a pitch that has the unpredictability of a knuckleball.

Well, it seems he has finally put a leash on this wild animal, at least enough to post a 0.87 ERA with 0.68 WHIP in 10.1 innings of work on the season. 

This forkball-type pitch is similar to a knuckleball. The only difference is it comes in at a whopping 80 miles per hour, giving catchers added reason to be wary. 

Passan describes the wonder pitch as a "forkball, jammed deep between his index and middle fingers and released, amazingly, with next to no spin, like a knuckleball." But it's the way Coello releases the ball that is making this a dangerous part of his arsenal, as you can see from the GIF below. 

As we said before, the pitch is confounding anyone who comes near it. Batters and catchers have been so confused that Coello and others have taken to calling it the "WTF" pitch. 

Passan even tracked down a physicist whom I imagine greeted him with shrugged shoulders: 

Physicist Alan Nathan, a professor at the University of Illinois who studies baseball and has a particular interest in the knuckleball, hadn't ever seen a pitch like Coello's. His preliminary theory on the pitch: His thumb on the underside of the ball exerts backspin, counteracting the tumbling effect his top fingers put on the ball and balancing the torque so perfectly that the pitch has a knuckleball effect with superior speed (around 80 mph).

"A lot of people like to classify pitches by how they're gripped or released as opposed to what they do," Nathan said. "It's a matter of taste, but whatever you call it, this pitch does look like a knuckleball.

"Maybe he's discovered a new way to throw a knuckleball-type pitch."

I agree that if what he is doing causes a knuckleball effect, we might call it that. However, when you are tossing that kind of pitch at that velocity, you are entering a whole new arena. 

Oh, and I did mention how the pitch is even fooling cameras that track pitches. Passan continues: 

The algorithm for PITCHf/x, the camera system that captures every pitch thrown, cannot classify the WTF. While Baseball Info Solutions says Coello has thrown it 13.9 percent of the time this season, PITCHf/x has him throwing changeups, curveballs, forkballs and cutters, unsure of what is what.

Essentially, PITCHf/x would like to know what the heck Coello is tossing up there these days. 


There is now far more reason to pay attention to the Angels and their bullpen. There is also added incentive for the Angels staff to order more of those oversized catcher's gloves. Backstop Hank Conger even remarked, "When it's on, it has no rotation at all. And the thing comes in hot."

While we can all agree the WTF is some dark magic we have not yet figured out, it does seem to cause the same feelings for pitcher and prey.

You see, even Coello can be confused by the pitch: "When you have the right feel and finish, you kind of have an idea. There are other times when I just don't know."

I am not yet ready to call Coello out for blatant witchcraft, but you can bet we will be monitoring the situation far more closely from here on out. 


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