The so-called "gyroball
" is a supposed new type of pitch
that is reputed to be thrown in Japan
. Fact, myth, and legend have swirled around the pitch such that it is almost impossible to know for sure what the pitch is, how it works, or if it even exists. However, a small legion of gyroball fanatics has sprung up on the internet to propagate its legend, convinced that it not only is real, but is coming to America and will revolutionize the sport of baseball.
What is known for sure is that the pitch was first devised by a pair of Japanese scientists with the aid of a supercomputer. In computer simulations, Ryutaro Himeno and Kazushi Tezuka demonstrated that by using a special kind of pitching mechanics based on advanced biomechanical research, a pitcher could theoretically throw a baseball in a way that it spins like a bullet – in other words like a perfect football spiral – and breaks like nothing anyone has ever seen. The two men wrote a book about the pitch, loaded with mathematical formulas and detailed anime cartoons on how to throw it, called Makyuu no Shoutai, "The Secrets of the Miracle Pitch."
When properly thrown by a right-handed pitcher, the pitch is said to start in on a right-handed batter and then break dramatically away toward the outside at the last moment, like some sort of slider on steroids. According to Baseball Prospectus columnist Will Carroll, who claims to have seen the gyroball in action, it can break as much as three feet. By comparison, the best major-league curveballs break about 12-14 inches.
Supposedly, the pitch makes use of something the book calls "double spin mechanics," in which the pitcher's hips and throwing shoulder must rotate in perfect sync. This type of mechanics not only produces the miracle gyroball, but is also biomechanically stable and therefore dramatically reduces the chance of injury, or so the authors claim.
If such a pitch could truly be thrown in practice, as described, it truly would revolutionize the game. A new pitch has not been invented in more than three decades, since the split-finger fastball was developed in the late 1960s. Moreover, a hard and fast rule of baseball pitches has always been that the harder a ball is thrown, the less break it has, and vice versa. Even if the gyroball only broke one foot instead of three, it would be a revelation because it would be thrown with fastball-type velocity, and would probably dramatically tip the balance of the game in favor of pitchers.
But getting back to the heart of the matter, does the pitch really exist? It remains hard to say. Many Japanese players say they have never even heard of it, but others say it does exist. For a long time it was rumored that Daisuke Matsuzaka, widely considered the best Japanese pitcher alive, had mastered the pitch and had thrown it in a live game. There was even a grainy video that circulated the web purporting to show him throwing the pitch in a real game. In a recent interview however, Matsuzaka said he has never thrown the pitch in a live game, although tanatalizingly, he said that he is trying to learn the pitch and thinks he has thrown it in practice sessions.
Then there is Japanese national team pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, who was surprised to hear that anyone had not heard of the gyroball in America. It definitely does exist, he declared confidently, although he admitted that he had never seen it thrown. Asked how he could be so sure it existed in that case he replied, that well, he had seen it in comic books, and everyone throws it in the comic books!
Will Carroll, "The Ghost Pitch," http://www.robneyer.com/book_04_gyroball.html
Jeff Passan, "Searching for Baseball's Bigfoot," http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=A0SO57OTwBZERGMBfwoRvLYF?slug=jp-gyro031306&prov=yhoo&type=lgns