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Odrisamer Despaigne: Eephus Master

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Odrisamer Despaigne may never be a star pitcher, but he is unparalleled in one facet of pitching.

Denis Poroy

Odrisamer Despaigne is not exactly a household name. In fact, if it's a name you've never heard before you could probably be forgiven. While he's flirted with a moment of national notoriety, it has yet to come his way. The Padres hurler has a 2.79 ERA to his name, but an unimpressive 3.98 FIP and 5.75 K/9 paint the picture of a fairly unremarkable guy.

However, unremarkable results often mask a remarkable process, and Despaigne doesn't have to be an amazing pitcher to be a fascinating one. The Cuban import comes at hitters with a baffling array of pitches, making up for a lack of  plus velocity with unpredictability and deception. According to Brooks Baseball, Despaigne has thrown seven different pitch types this season.

Of all those pitches, by far the most interesting is the eephus pitch. The eephus is always going to be a fan favorite. It's a shock-and-awe pitch designed solely to catch the hitter by surprise. Pretty much any MLB hitter would be able to crush an eephus pitch if they saw it coming, but it's a tough thing to predict. You don't often hear commentators saying "Mike Trout is sitting on an eephus here".

Other than R.A. Dickey's eephus pitches, which are slow knuckle balls that have been been classified incorrectly, 152 eephuses have been thrown in the major leagues this year. The following chart shows how they break down by pitcher.

Pitcher Eephus Pitches
Odrisamer Despaigne 65
Bruce Chen 35
Paul Maholm 20
Henderson Alvarez 13
Jeremy Guthrie 13
Zack Greinke 4
Randy Wolfe 2

Despaigne is the clear leader. Moreover he's thrown the third fewest pitches of the group, having made only nine starts in the major leagues. As a percentage, the Padres starter has thrown more eephus pitches than anyone in the PITCHf/x era.

Pitcher Eephus%
Odrisamer Despaigne 7.15%
Vicente Padilla 4.11%
Casey Fossum 2.14%
Bruce Chen 0.93%
Dusty Hughes 0.39%
Carlos Villanueva 0.38%
Paul Maholm 0.25%
Henderson Alvarez 0.18%
Jeremy Guthrie 0.13%
Randy Wolf 0.11%
Jose Fernandez 0.03%
Jacob Turner 0.02%
Zack Greinke 0.02%
Rick Porcello 0.01%
Yu Darvish 0.01%

Vincente Padilla is considered to be the modern day king of the eephus, but Despaigne is lapping him, albeit in a small sample. When it comes to the pitch's effectiveness the 27-year-old Cuban has also exceeded Padilla so far.

Pitcher AVG BABIP BB% K% FIP
Vincente Padilla .255 .245 0.04% 0.02% 4.49
Odrisamer Despaigne .250 .333 0.13% 0.2% 3.20

Despagine has looked better with the eephus so far than Padilla, although not a ton can be gleaned from the result of 65 pitches. That being said, the title "Odrisamer Despaigne: Eephus Master" might have hinted that this wasn't the most serious piece of baseball research every presented.

Only nine starts into his MLB career Odrisamer Despiagne is already doing something we haven't seen in years. Perhaps there was a day when the eephus ran rampant through the league, but we have no definitive proof of that. What we do know is that the Padres rookie  is tossing agonizing slow pitches at an impressive rate.

His eephus will be something to watch in the years to come, but in 56.1 short innings Despaigne has already laid claim to the title "Eephus Master". Move aside Vincente Padilla, there's a new sheriff in town.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphsBrooks Baseball and Baseball Savant

Nick Ashbourne is an Editor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @Nick_Ashbourne.