12 Best "Novelty" Pitches in MLB History
Most organizations in baseball covet a prospect that has a number of pitches in his arsenal.
A solid fastball, slider, curveball and changeup can help a pitcher make his way up through the ranks of a farm system and can eventually lead to a long and prosperous career.
But what about an eephus? Shuuto? Gyroball?
A number of unorthodox pitches have been developed throughout the course of baseball history, and while they aren't seen very often, they can sure turn the heads (and lock the knees) of opposing batters.
Originally thrown by Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates over 80 years ago, the eephus is thrown at a very slow speed and tends to have a high arc to it.
The pitch isn't thrown too often, but Carlos Zambrano and Kazuhito Tadano have used it in recent years.
The yellow hammer is simply a slower version of a pitcher's 12-to-6 curveball. The drop on this pitch is even more severe, and it is almost always thrown below 60 mph.
The screwball, when thrown properly, is essentially a curveball that has the opposite break that would be intended from a standard curveball.
It's been used by pitchers for over 100 years, most notably by Christy Mathewson and Fernando Valenzuela.
Dave LaRoche spent 14 seasons as a reliever for five different teams, appearing in 647 games.
In one bullpen session he developed his own signature pitch, the LaLob.
The speed of this pitch typically dropped below 30 mph, and the arc was known to be upwards of 20 feet, undoubtedly catching hitters off guard.
A variation of the changeup, the palmball encompasses a very tight grip in the palm and then a release similar to that of a fastball.
In theory, the reduced velocity coming out of the hand should catch the batter off guard. It's worked for recent pitchers like Roy Halladay and Trevor Hoffman.
David Cone's "Laredo Slider" was known for the severity of its break inward/outward from batters on both sides of the plate.
His arm motion was almost painful to watch, but the effectiveness of the pitch was hard to ignore.
A pitch devised in Nippon Professional Baseball, the gyroball is rarely thrown in Major League Baseball (although Daisuke Matsuzaka has been known to use it at times).
Its spin is similar to a football spiral but also has a certain loss in velocity that allows it to drop slightly, making it difficult to adjust for.
The spitball was thrown frequently in the early 1900s by pitchers, but its use was banned after the 1920 season.
A few thought processes went into the decision, but it's most frequently tied to a tragic incident when pitcher Carl Mays' throw was ultimately deemed a spitball to Cleveland Indians infielder Ray Chapman.
The ball hit Chapman in the head, and he would eventually die from damage sustained.
The shuuto is another pitch not commonly seen in Major League Baseball but rather utilized more frequently in Japanese leagues.
The theory behind the pitch is that it will cut sharply late, giving it a steep downward plane that makes the ball difficult to make contact with.
Tim Wakefield is one of the few knuckleballers that have effectively thrown the pitch in recent years.
Before him, the most notable pitcher to use the knuckleball effectively was Phil Niekro, who is widely considered one of the best knuckleballers of all time.
Its velocity is remarkably low, but the wobbly movements it makes when thrown properly more than make up for it, as the pitch tends to give most hitters fits.
Throwing an effective slurve entails a fair amount of deception.
The basis of the pitch is that you throw what will look like a slider off the mound, but the slower velocity (similar to a curveball) will force it to take longer to reach the plate and keep the hitter off balance.
Since former major leaguer Bill Lee didn't have the fire behind his pitches that he'd hoped, he embarked upon a mission to develop his own pitch.
This is where the Spaceball comes in.
A variation of the eephus, the Bill "Spaceman" Lee spaceball had an extremely high arc and moved at an intolerably slow velocity.