Odrisamer Despaigne is a sometimes starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres who slings some of the funkiest junk around. The pitch he's probably most famous for is his eephus, which he's keeping warm for Yu Darvish as Darvish rehabs from Tommy John surgery. With an average velocity of 69.7 mph, it's so hypnotically slow that it appears to be surrendering to gravity rather than bending from the spin. It's pretty awesome. Take a look.
Dang. Not the best intro clip to this pitch profile. It's a shame that despite the fact that he's the only major leaguer to regularly throw the eephus pitch this season, there aren't any freely available clips showing the pitch hit the catcher's mit. Well, at least you'll get a sense of the shape, mostly.
And one more.
The fan in that last one has a pretty solid arm. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to hear that it came out of the stands with greater velocity than it was presented to Castillo. Anyway, those three bombs are the full compliment of home runs that Despaigne has allowed on his slow curve this season, which isn't awful considering that he's thrown it 160 times. So how does he typically use the eephus pitch?
Despaigne has thrown the eephus pitch approximately 8% of the time this season. As you might expect, the right-handed pitcher is more than twice as likely to throw the pitch to left-handed batters (11%) as he is to righties (5%). He's also able to throw the pitch for a strike finding the zone nearly half the time (48%) this season. When he's thrown it for a ball, he's gone down and in or up and away to lefties, while to right-handers he mostly throws it down and away.
While he can throw the pitch for a strike or bury it in the dirt, it's not exactly a put-away pitch. He's thrown it for a called strike (18 percent) twice as often as he's gotten a swinging strike (9 percent), and it's been fouled off a further 13 percent of the time. This -- combined with his ability to throw the pitch for a strike -- means that he is willing use it in almost any count. However, he prefers to throw it early and has used it most frequently (37 percent) as the first pitch in an at-bat (though only once to open a game).
|Count||% of Eephus pitches||Ball||Called Strike||Swinging Strike||Foul||BIP + HR|
It looks like the plan has been to throw the ball for strikes early in the count. Batters were passive early on, taking 53 of the 60 eephus pitches that Despaigne presented. When he did hazard to throw the pitch later in an at-bat, pitches were more likely to be fouled off or put in play, particularly in two-strike counts.
This pattern is not unique to Despainge's slow curve; rather it serves to illustrate the importance of throwing it for a strike. Of those 53 first-pitch takes, 31 were outside the zone. While this isn't the only reason his 58.5 percent first-strike rate is more than two percent below league average, it hasn't worked well for him this season.
While having an unusual pitch makes a swing man like Despainge more interesting to watch, it hasn't helped him on the mound. By linear weights, his eephus has a -4.8 rating this season, in large part because of his difficulty finding the zone when he throws it as the first pitch. While this may not be his biggest problem overall, it is the biggest problem with this pitch. So fix it, Odrisamer, and maybe MLB will reward you with some highlight clips that show your eephus doing something other than leaving the park.
. . .