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What Robert Coello And I Have In Common

Robert Coello has a really cool pitch that mystifies most people, but this writer has some rare insight on the powers of this pitch.


Some of you may be wondering why you're supposed to care about Robert Coello (or me). After all, Coello is a 28-year-old Angels reliever who had a whole 12 major league innings under his belt before this year. He was drafted after high school and junior college, but not after his four-year school, not a typical success story.

First, he is literally breaking FIP, having posted a -0.13 mark so far this season, striking out 18 and walking only one out of 38 batters faced. No one can expect him to post such a low mark over the whole season, as Craig Kimbrel set the record last year at 0.78. However, no one ever expected this either. His fastball is 90-93 with some gyro action on it, the main reason for his success, but everyone is talking about the GIFed pitch.

Based on catcher Chris Iannetta's reaction, it looked like it was a knuckleball. However, his fingers are in a wide forkball grip. If you're trying to think of a standard forkball, Jose Contreras and Hideo Nomo are probably the best examples in recent memory. It is typically 10-12 MPH slower than the fastball, and it breaks straight down with good depth. Coello's pitch moves up to half a foot in either direction, fairly unpredictable. No one knows what to call the pitch, ranging from forkleball to names not publishable by most people's standards.

While many of you may be fairly interested in what seems to be a new type of pitch, I am probably most fascinated, as I have actually thrown this pitch (once). During fall ball my senior year of high school, I had a good forkball, a pitch I picked up once I realized I couldn't, and still can't, throw a curveball. With 2 strikes, 2 outs, and a runner on 3rd base, I accidentally threw a forkball without my normal wrist snap down.

The ball floated to home plate with basically no rotation, dropping at the last second into the strike zone. I thought I had the K, along with my catcher and the hitter. The only problem was that the home plate umpire never even made a call, apparently dumbfounded by what he just saw. Fortunately, the runner on 3rd also thought it was out number three, as he made his way down the line towards the first-base dugout. Once he froze realizing the ball was still live, he was too far off and he became the third out.

I've been a part of some crazy things on the field throughout my playing career. In Omaha, I saw a pop-up hit down the third base line end up landing 10 feet from second base. Just this year, the home plate umpire put the ball back in play before the base umpire was back on the field, which caused a bit of chaos when the other team stole second base on the first pitch as the base ump is running back from the bathroom. As crazy as those things were, seeing the umpire paying perfect attention and not making a call still takes the cake. I continued to throw forkballs through my college career, but I never threw another one like that fall day.