Ye Olde Eephus Pitch

Bernie Carbohydrate

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Here's a fun one:


There are some Youtube videos labelled "Eephus Pitch" but most of them are slow curves or knucklers. The proper Eeephus has a crazy apogee-- think 10-15 feet at its highest arc. Consider Dave LaRoche:


And, alas, there was our own Spaceman Bill Lee, who uncorked an Eephus in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, only to see Tony Perez send it over the Citgo sign.

 

drbretto

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I've always wondered about this. Is it just plain lobbed in and you're banking on the player just being fooled or not used to something so slow, or is there still some trickery in the trajectory?
 

Earthbound64

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I've always wondered about this. Is it just plain lobbed in and you're banking on the player just being fooled or not used to something so slow, or is there still some trickery in the trajectory?
A little from column A, a little from column B (and a bit from a 3rd column too).

Slow pitch means the batter has to generate most of the power
Difficult angle
And, yeah, unexpected.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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I've always wondered about this. Is it just plain lobbed in and you're banking on the player just being fooled or not used to something so slow, or is there still some trickery in the trajectory?
I think it messes with the hitter's timing the way a good knuckler can. A lot of players will have a toe-tap or some other sort of movement that syncs up with the pitcher's movement, but if the pitch comes much slower than expected and you try to re-time it, it's easy for even great hitters to swing right through it because they're so off-balance.

The one Lee threw in that clip... blech. I'm willing to bet he'd take that back if he could.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Slow pitch means the batter has to generate most of the power
So this has always puzzled me, and this thread seems as good a place as any to unlock the mystery. :)

Shouldn't it be true that given the same swing, a pitch with less incoming velocity will go farther than a pitch with more, since there is less opposing force for the batter to overcome before the ball begins traveling in the direction of the swing?
 

Kliq

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LaRoche's ball "LaLob" is probably my favorite Yankee highlight of all-time. The crowd demanded that he threw it, so he obliges and Thomas knew it was coming and takes the biggest cut imaginable and completely whiffs. The crowd goes crazy and Thomas seethes.
 

kartvelo

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I played slow pitch softball for a few years. One of the other teams brought in a ringer who'd played semi-pro baseball. The arc on the ball coming down at him completely neutralized him as a hitter. He couldn't get good wood (well, aluminum) on it.
 

djbayko

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So this has always puzzled me, and this thread seems as good a place as any to unlock the mystery. :)

Shouldn't it be true that given the same swing, a pitch with less incoming velocity will go farther than a pitch with more, since there is less opposing force for the batter to overcome before the ball begins traveling in the direction of the swing?
Think about dribbling a basketball. If your logic held true, then the harder you threw the ball down at the ground, the less bounce it would have. That doesn't agree with your experience, does it? The harder you dribble the ball (down), the higher it bounces back in the opposite direction (up). Now turn that system 90-degrees sideways and replace the dribbled basketball with a pitched baseball and replace the ground with a bat, and you'll understand why pitch speed is important for a batter generating power.

From Newton's second law of motion, we get the conservation of momentum. The momentum of an object is its mass X velocity. Since the momentum of the system (bat and ball) must be equal both before and after the moment the bat hits the ball, the more momentum the pitched ball has coming to the plate, the more momentum it's going to have after it's been batted (because the bat isn't going very far).
 
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Bread of Yaz

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Here's a fun one:


There are some Youtube videos labelled "Eephus Pitch" but most of them are slow curves or knucklers. The proper Eeephus has a crazy apogee-- think 10-15 feet at its highest arc. Consider Dave LaRoche:


And, alas, there was our own Spaceman Bill Lee, who uncorked an Eephus in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, only to see Tony Perez send it over the Citgo sign.

The memory of Perez's home run is still so painful that I cannot watch this clip.
 

StupendousMan

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Shouldn't it be true that given the same swing, a pitch with less incoming velocity will go farther than a pitch with more, since there is less opposing force for the batter to overcome before the ball begins traveling in the direction of the swing?
Oooh, oooh, Mr. Kot-TAIR!

I know the answer to this one. It turns out that, from a physics point of view, one needs to consider both the speed of the ball (and the bat), and the MASS of the ball (and the bat). If the batter were swinging with a toothpick-like bat, very thin, which had the same mass as the ball, you'd be right: the faster the ball comes in, the harder it would be for the batter to send it out of the park. But since the bat has a much larger mass than the ball, and a speed which is (at the point of contact) almost as fast as the ball, then the bat has a much larger momentum. You can see how fast the bat moves if you check out the "Meeting the bat" section of my little document here:

http://spiff.rit.edu/richmond/baseball/precept/precept.html

and, in particular, this little video clip:

http://spiff.rit.edu/richmond/baseball/precept/cabrera_swing.mp4

Now, in cases in which two objects meet head-on, travelling in opposite directions, and one (the bat) has a much larger mass than the other (the ball), the conservation of momentum allows one to derive a simple result: the massive object keeps moving in its original direction, slowed down just a bit ... but the less-massive object (the ball) basically turns around and leaves the collision with more than its original speed.

For example, for some typical speeds of bat and ball, take a look at the result:



If you'd like, I can go through the math ... but I'd suggest you just read the document. Feel free to ask me questions via PM or here, if you like.
 

Bozo Texino

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The problem is Lee threw two of them! It worked the first time, and Lee greedily went back for seconds. Perez knew one night be coming.
Right. Which is fine in Williams' clip - the All-Star Game should be fun. Granted, it was a lot more competitive back in the day, but still.

For Lee to do it in GAME SEVEN OF THE WORLD SERIES is... Yeah.
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

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Right. Which is fine in Williams' clip - the All-Star Game should be fun. Granted, it was a lot more competitive back in the day, but still.

For Lee to do it in GAME SEVEN OF THE WORLD SERIES is... Yeah.
Lee describes the Perez homer thusly:

He counted the seams on the ball as it floated up to the plate, checked to see if Lee MacPhail's signature was on it, signed his own name to it, and then jumped all over it.
 

wiffleballhero

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Oooh, oooh, Mr. Kot-TAIR!

I know the answer to this one. It turns out that, from a physics point of view, one needs to consider both the speed of the ball (and the bat), and the MASS of the ball (and the bat). If the batter were swinging with a toothpick-like bat, very thin, which had the same mass as the ball, you'd be right: the faster the ball comes in, the harder it would be for the batter to send it out of the park. But since the bat has a much larger mass than the ball, and a speed which is (at the point of contact) almost as fast as the ball, then the bat has a much larger momentum. You can see how fast the bat moves if you check out the "Meeting the bat" section of my little document here:

http://spiff.rit.edu/richmond/baseball/precept/precept.html

and, in particular, this little video clip:

http://spiff.rit.edu/richmond/baseball/precept/cabrera_swing.mp4

Now, in cases in which two objects meet head-on, travelling in opposite directions, and one (the bat) has a much larger mass than the other (the ball), the conservation of momentum allows one to derive a simple result: the massive object keeps moving in its original direction, slowed down just a bit ... but the less-massive object (the ball) basically turns around and leaves the collision with more than its original speed.

For example, for some typical speeds of bat and ball, take a look at the result:



If you'd like, I can go through the math ... but I'd suggest you just read the document. Feel free to ask me questions via PM or here, if you like.
This is a great article, and the brief discussion of the wiffleball riser was fun. I should write this in the form of a question, but it also seems to confirm something I've always suspected: lots of people likely should swing lighter bats -- the advantage of the extra weight pales in comparison to the benefit of the faster bat or the burden of the extra strength required to get that heavy bat moving. Is that a fair reading of this graph and that part of the article?
 

Humphrey

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The only problem with Lee throwing that pitch was IIRC they told him not to throw it to that specific guy.
 

StupendousMan

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This is a great article, and the brief discussion of the wiffleball riser was fun. I should write this in the form of a question, but it also seems to confirm something I've always suspected: lots of people likely should swing lighter bats -- the advantage of the extra weight pales in comparison to the benefit of the faster bat or the burden of the extra strength required to get that heavy bat moving. Is that a fair reading of this graph and that part of the article?
I think that's probably a fair point. If it were all just simple physics, then each person's strength would yield some ideal bat weight, which would swing with just the right speed to cause a typical fastball to travel the largest distance.

However, there's a lot more than physics. People have different swing styles, and different arm lengths, and even different grips, which will lead them to achieve slightly different results with the same bat. Perhaps more important is the effect of eyesight and reflexes: someone who can process information _very_ quickly, and send signals to his muscles _very_ quickly, may particularly benefit from a lightweight bat: it will allow him to make last-second adjustments in the middle of the swing in order to strike the ball squarely. If one can raise one's batting average by 0.050 in exchange for a slightly lower average launch speed, it's probably worth it. On the other hand, someone who cannot make these fine adjustments may benefit from using a somewhat heavier bat and just swinging hard: more strikeouts and popups, sure, but when the contact _is_ solid, some extra distance.

I always liked to use a lighter bat, in order to aim for the opposite field foul line :)
 

Deweys New Stance

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The memory of Perez's home run is still so painful that I cannot watch this clip.
Yeah, I know that Spaceman Lee is revered by Sox fans of a certain age (in other words, a fair section of SoSH) as the iconoclast Buffalo Head who sprinkled weed on his pancakes and gave the (deservedly) reviled Zimmer the "Gerbil" moniker, but throwing that pitch to that hitter in that situation was one of the stupidest decisions in baseball history, and I've always blamed him for blowing the '75 Series just as much as Johnson for taking out Willoughby.

And it wasn't the 2nd time he threw it to Perez in that series, it was the 3rd time. Here's a good recap from a few years ago:

“Bill Lee had a habit,” then-Boston pitching coach Stan Williams said. “Not that he wasn’t a good pitcher, he was. But his best pitch was his sinker and he had a habit of getting cute at times.”
What Williams meant was Lee liked to use his blooper pitch, a slow curveball that started face-high and dropped through the zone. It often baffled hitters, but if poorly executed or too predictable could be crushed by any major leaguer.
Perez fell victim to that pitch twice in the series. The first time Perez swung at a pitch in the dirt. The second one, which came in an at-bat earlier that night, he watched it go by for a strike.
“Perez double-clutched on it but he saw it,” Lynn said. “I was thinking, ‘OK you threw that pitch but don’t do it again.’”
Perez said he noticed Lee stop his motion slightly before delivering the pitch the second time. If Lee threw it again, he would know it was coming.
“I knew what I had to do,” Perez said. “I had that in the back of my mind.”


https://www.sportingnews.com/us/mlb/news/1975-world-series-game-7-reds-red-sox-game-6-carlton-fisk-homer-sparky-anderson-dwight-evans-fred-lynn/12x6gwkk2u0sa13zeox5ammzsh
 

lexrageorge

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What's fascinating is that Lee's career had two distinct points: pre-Eephus, and post-Eepuhs.

From 1973-1975, he was one of the better lefthanded pitchers in Red Sox history, winning 17 games 3 seasons in a row, and bERA+ of 146, 111, and 105. His 1975 numbers were hurt a bit by some rough outings in April and again late September. But he redeemed himself with a stellar performance in Game 2, with Darrell Johnson making some questionable decisions in the 9th inning that ended up being costly (Lee never should have started the 9th after the rain delay, and 2B Denny Doyle was not positioned properly and so wasn't able to field Concepcion's grounder).

And he was cruising again in Game 7 until that stupid eephus, and Lee has since said he really wasn't thinking when he threw that.

Lee got off to a brutal start in 1976, with an ERA over 12 after his first 4 starts. After a mediocre start against the Rangers, he was cruising against the Yankees in a pivotal series. The Sox had won 7 of 8 and were hoping to back into the playoff hunt. Lee gets involved in a fight against Mickey Rivers and Craig Nettles, hurts his shoulder, rushes back in July, and was never the same pitcher again.
 

allmanbro

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I think it messes with the hitter's timing the way a good knuckler can. A lot of players will have a toe-tap or some other sort of movement that syncs up with the pitcher's movement, but if the pitch comes much slower than expected and you try to re-time it, it's easy for even great hitters to swing right through it because they're so off-balance.

The one Lee threw in that clip... blech. I'm willing to bet he'd take that back if he could.
I think the timing and the trajectory work together. Remember how Ted Williams recommended a slight uppercut because the swing plane matches the plane of the pitch better, they overlap more, and you get a bit more time. When the ball is coming down like that, its plane only very quickly intersects the swing plane, so your timing has to be perfect. And your timing is thrown off, so this is especially hard.

Lee's eephus also looks flatter than the others in the thread.

Here's a picture:
 

billsleephus1

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Glad to see that you guys greeted a SOSH newcomer (with a memory) about a unique pitch from one of my all time favorite Sox Players
 

Minneapolis Millers

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My 10 year old self didn’t know it at the time, but having often looked back, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that my entire sports fan existence was formed by Lee’s pitch in that at bat.
 

Humphrey

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What's fascinating is that Lee's career had two distinct points: pre-Eephus, and post-Eepuhs.

From 1973-1975, he was one of the better lefthanded pitchers in Red Sox history, winning 17 games 3 seasons in a row, and bERA+ of 146, 111, and 105. His 1975 numbers were hurt a bit by some rough outings in April and again late September. But he redeemed himself with a stellar performance in Game 2, with Darrell Johnson making some questionable decisions in the 9th inning that ended up being costly (Lee never should have started the 9th after the rain delay, and 2B Denny Doyle was not positioned properly and so wasn't able to field Concepcion's grounder).

And he was cruising again in Game 7 until that stupid eephus, and Lee has since said he really wasn't thinking when he threw that.

Lee got off to a brutal start in 1976, with an ERA over 12 after his first 4 starts. After a mediocre start against the Rangers, he was cruising against the Yankees in a pivotal series. The Sox had won 7 of 8 and were hoping to back into the playoff hunt. Lee gets involved in a fight against Mickey Rivers and Craig Nettles, hurts his shoulder, rushes back in July, and was never the same pitcher again.
Lee had a very good 1979 season with the Expos, 16-10, well over 200 innings pitched.

The NL was known as being more of a fastball league at the time; his style of pitching was anything but that, perhaps that had a lot to do with his success. The Big O kept a lot of fly balls in the park, too.

When the strike in 81 ended, Lee, who didn't have very much left in the tank, got to pitch at Fenway in an exhibition game and threw several "Leephi" as Peter Gammons described them.
 

lexrageorge

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Lee had a very good 1979 season with the Expos, 16-10, well over 200 innings pitched.

The NL was known as being more of a fastball league at the time; his style of pitching was anything but that, perhaps that had a lot to do with his success. The Big O kept a lot of fly balls in the park, too.

When the strike in 81 ended, Lee, who didn't have very much left in the tank, got to pitch at Fenway in an exhibition game and threw several "Leephi" as Peter Gammons described them.
He actually wasn't half bad in 1978 either. He had a hard luck losing 0-7 losing streak where he had some bad starts mixed in with a couple of hard luck losses with zero run support. But Zimmer took him out of the rotation, and relegated him to mop-up relief, including 2 effective appearances against the Yankees during the Massacre.
 

Captaincoop

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I think it messes with the hitter's timing the way a good knuckler can. A lot of players will have a toe-tap or some other sort of movement that syncs up with the pitcher's movement, but if the pitch comes much slower than expected and you try to re-time it, it's easy for even great hitters to swing right through it because they're so off-balance.

The one Lee threw in that clip... blech. I'm willing to bet he'd take that back if he could.
Not much of a gambler, eh?