The Magic Cut Shuuto Japanese Miracle Pitch (シュート)
Some time ago, I wrote a post poking fun at the many faces and excessive love for the Gyroball. Since then, the pitch has largely vanished from the public eye- although there is still the occasional new article written about it, the tone is now one normally reserved for Bigfoot updates: “is it a stupid hoax or an amazing phenomenon- only you can decide!!!” Even Matsuzaka himself has admitted what has been increasingly obvious- that he doesn’t throw one, never has, and has only been coy because why the heck would he go out of his way to vaporize free mystique.
So why all the excitement without a shred of real evidence? Because breaking balls are like magic to fans. Even though the fastball always has been and always will be the best pitch in baseball, making the ball move after it has left your hand is just freaking COOL. The first time I saw a ball really curve is burnt into my memory as deeply as the first time I saw a naked lady- and the effort I went to reproduce the experience, neglecting all other pursuits and practices; devoting every free evening to straining the cartilage of my teenage wrist, was almost as quixotic and ultimately destructive. The same effect occurs with the knuckleball- people who throw them never have winning records, but some kid in the minors trots one out and two days later there’s a fleet of reporters following him around.
I bring this up because I have discovered a new phenomenon clearly ready to take the place of the sadly debunked Gyroball. When someone comes to this page from a search engine, I get to see what they were searching for in the first place. Over the last month, the overwhelming favorite search term is some variant of how to throw the “Shuuto” (the “cut shuuto” – a pitch that would have to move in two different directions at once, is very popular as well…the only other oft-repeated phrases are “japanese miracle pitch” and “matsuzaka magic pitch”).
So what’s a Shuuto, you all apparently want to know? Well, it’s the pitch that Will Carroll famously mistook for a Gyroball, it does actually exist, and Matsuzaka does actually throw it. It has the same type of movement as a screwball (breaking back towards right handed hitters when thrown by a right-hander), but it’s faster and breaks less. In other words, it’s the two-seam fastball that Greg Maddux has been throwing for his entire career. But it’s great that people have moved on to this kind of wrinkle pitch rather than staying obsessed with the 5 foot break fantasy of the Gyro. Because while a good two-seamer might not be sexy, it’s the real magic secret for how to get today’s juiced-up, home-run-hitting behemoths out: throw something that really looks like a fastball but stays low and does something awkward at the last minute. So for all you eager beaver little leaguers searching for the next big thing to propel yourself over Joey Freshman for the last starting spot, here’s the magic key to success: put your fingers along the seams, throw really hard, and when the press conferences start to pour in, play dumb.