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Major League Baseball pitchers are constantly developing new ways to deceive opposing batters. Breaking balls, such as curveballs and sliders, are prevalent in the modern era because they spin and move in such a way that hitters have trouble knowing when and where to swing. Pitchers also try to deceive batters by switching up the speed at which they throw the ball. Off-speed pitches include changeups and eephus pitches.
An eephus is an especially slow pitch that is usually thrown high in the air. It is intended to catch a hitter off guard and prompt the hitter to swing too early. The eephus pitch is rarely thrown in professional baseball.
If the opposing hitter is prepared and stays on top of the eephus pitch, he should not have much trouble hitting the ball. In theory, nothing is easier to hit than an eephus, because this pitch does not move or spin very quickly. This explains why eephus pitches are so rare: in order to get a hitter out with an eephus pitch, you need to catch him by surprise.
What Makes an Eephus Pitch Hard to Hit?
Eephus pitches work thanks to the element of surprise. MLB players are used to seeing pitches that cross the plate at 80 to 100 miles per hour. Therefore, when a pitch comes in at a much slower speed, it can catch the hitters off guard.
In addition, eephus pitches come across the plate at a different angle than most pitches. A typical eephus pitch is lobbed up high, so the hitter has to watch the ball come down through the air. Professional hitters have very little practice hitting pitches that cross the plate at such an angle.
If a pitcher throws eephus pitches too often, opposing hitters will quickly catch on. Therefore, eephus pitches are only hard to hit when they are thrown infrequently.
Why Is it Called an Eephus Pitch?
According to the official website of Major League Baseball, the eephus pitch was named by Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Maurice Van Robays. Robays came up with the term to describe a pitch thrown by his teammate Rip Sewell.
It is believed that the word “eephus” comes from the Hebrew word for “nothing” or “zero.” Robays described the eephus as a “nothing pitch” because it has so little speed, spin, and movement.
Who Threw the First Eephus Pitch?
Rip Sewell threw the first pitch to be called an eephus, but he was not the first pitcher to try out the strategy of throwing a slow, looping pitch right over the plate. Baseball researchers believe the first player to throw such a pitch was Bill Phillips, who played for the Cincinnati Reds in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Are Eephus Pitches Legal in Major League Baseball?
Yes, eephus pitches are completely legal in MLB. There are no rules about the speed or the angle at which a pitcher needs to throw the ball.
However, a pitcher is not allowed to purposefully deceive the batter or the baserunners by stopping or slowing down his motion. Once a pitcher begins to throw the ball, he must complete his windup in a continuous movement. Therefore, in order to throw a legal eephus, a pitcher must be able to throw it using a continuous motion.
What’s more, umpires have some discretion to stop players from “confusing” the opposing team or “making a travesty of the game.” If an umpire feels a pitcher is using eephus pitches for the purpose of mocking his opponents rather than as a legitimate strategy, the umpire can ask the player to stop or even eject the player from the game. This rarely happens in Major League Baseball.
Who Throws the Most Eephus Pitches?
These days, most eephus pitches are thrown by position players pitching. A position player is any baseball player who is not a natural pitcher. These players do not have much practice pitching, and they only take the mound when the game has gotten out of hand or their team has run out of regular pitchers.
Position players cannot pitch with as much speed or movement as a natural pitcher, so they often try to catch hitters off guard with an eephus. In addition, they are much less likely to hurt their arms throwing eephus pitches, because eephus pitches require less exertion.
Which MLB Pitchers Throw Eephus Pitches?
While most eephus pitches are thrown by position players, there are some pitchers who are known to whip out the occasional eephus themselves. Among active major leaguers, this includes Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Yu Darvish, and Rich Hill. All four have had long, successful major league careers.
Throughout the history of baseball, many more pitchers were well-known for their eephus pitches. This includes Hall of Famers Satchel Paige and Phil Niekro, as well as other successful pitchers like Luis Tiant, Pedro Borbón, Liván Hernández, Carlos Zambrano, and Vincente Padilla.
How Fast Is an Eephus Pitch?
There is no official speed limit for an eephus pitch, but the general rule of thumb is that an eephus is any pitch thrown 55 mph or slower.
What Was the Slowest Pitch in Baseball History?
In August 2021, Brock Holt of the Texas Rangers threw an eephus pitch recorded at 31.1 mph. It was the slowest pitch to be called a strike in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008). Meanwhile, the slowest pitch to be thrown for a swinging strike was a 44.9-mph pitch by Andrelton Simmons.
Finally, the slowest pitch hit for a home run in the pitch-tracking era was a 35.1-mph eephus pitch by Frank Schwindel. Holt, Simmons, and Schwindel are all position players and not natural pitchers. Thus, they were trying to use eephus pitches to keep opposing batters on their toes.
See More: 17 Slowest MLB Pitchers In History
What Else Is an Eephus Pitch Called?
The official name for a slow, looping pitch is an eephus, but this type of pitch also has all sorts of nicknames. These include “big blooper,” “balloon ball,” “gondola,” “rainbow pitch,” “parachute pitch,” “slowball,” “overhand softball pitch,” “folly floater,” “bloop curve,” “gravity curve,” “soap bubble,” “Bugs Bunny curve,” and “spaceball.”
Some nicknames for the eephus were introduced to describe a specific eephus pitch thrown by a specific pitcher. This includes Dave LaRoche’s “LaLob,” Casey Fossum’s “Fossum Flip,” and Bill Lee’s “Leephus.”
The Difference Between an Eephus Pitch and a Softball Pitch
Some people describe an eephus as looking like a slow-pitch softball pitch. This is because it travels slowly and moves in a large, swooping arc.
However, it is important to note that an eephus pitch is still thrown overhand, like a typical MLB pitch. All softball pitches are thrown underhand. This is one of the primary differences between baseball and softball.
It is also critical to remember that an eephus only resembles a slow-pitch softball pitch. In competitive fast-pitch softball, the pitchers can throw nearly as fast as their baseball counterparts.
What Is the Rarest Pitch in Baseball?
Some people consider the eephus to be the rarest pitch in baseball. However, with the growing trend of position players pitching, the eephus pitch is becoming more common.
The rarest pitch of all, then, might be the screwball. The screwball is a type of breaking ball, but it moves in an unusual direction. Unlike other breaking balls, it moves toward the pitcher’s arm side. This type of movement can only be achieved using a highly irregular pitching motion.
The screwball is rare because it is so difficult to throw, yet it hasn’t proven to be more effective than a traditional breaking ball. This differs from the eephus pitch, which is much easier to throw and can be effective in the right situation.
How Many Types of Pitches Are There in Baseball?
There are many different types of pitches in baseball, which can be separated into three basic categories: fastballs, breaking balls, and off-speed pitches. Fastballs include four-seam fastballs, sinkers, cut fastballs, and split-finger fastballs. Breaking balls include curveballs and sliders. Off-speed pitches include changeups, knuckleballs, and eephus pitches.
What Pitches Are Banned in Baseball?
Over the years, certain types of pitches have been banned in the name of player safety. The most well-known illegal pitch is the spitball, in which the pitcher applies a lubricating substance such as saliva or Vaseline to the baseball. Other sticky substances, such as Spider Tack, are also banned.
Another illegal pitch is the emery ball. To throw an emery ball, the pitcher must scuff the surface of the baseball with sandpaper or an emery board. Such an alteration can have a significant effect on how the baseball moves through the air.
What Is the Fastest Pitch in Baseball?
The fastest pitch in baseball is aptly named the fastball. The fastest types of fastball are the four-seam fastball and the sinker. Both pitches can be thrown above 100 miles per hour.
The fastest MLB pitch on record was thrown by left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman on September 24, 2010. The pitch was recorded to be 105.1 mph. Chapman has since tied his own record, but no one has broken it in the many years since.