The Eephus Pitch: Baseball's Most Unconventional Weapon

The Eephus Pitch: Baseball's Most Unconventional Weapon

By: John S | 05/17/2024

Pitcher throwing an eephus pitch

Brock Holt was known for sneaking in the eephus pitch, with speeds as low as 31 mph.

Baseball, a sport rich in tradition and strategy, has seen its fair share of pitching innovations. Yet, few are as perplexing or as controversial as the eephus pitch. A lobbed, high-arcing pitch that travels at a fraction of the speed of a typical fastball, the eephus is both a spectacle and a testament to the creativity inherent in the game.

Little-known fact: The term "eephus" is derived from the Hebrew word "efes," meaning "nothing."

The origins of the eephus pitch can be traced back to Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1940s. Sewell, recovering from a foot injury, developed the pitch when his reduced ability to push off the rubber forced him to experiment with different approaches. The result was an ultimately unpredictable, slow-motion delivery that confounded hitters and added a new layer of strategy to the game.

Rip Sewell

Rip Sewell was one of the most famous pitchers to use the eephus. He referred to it as the "blooper" pitch.

Throughout the years, the eephus pitch has maintained an almost mythical presence in baseball lore. Fans revel in its unexpected deployment, and hitters are often left scratching their heads as the ball drifts tantalizingly towards the plate. However, it's not without its detractors. Critics argue that the pitch is a gimmick, relying more on its unorthodox nature than any real skill or effectiveness.

"The eephus is a junk pitch, pure and simple. But it has its place, just like any other pitch." - Former MLB Pitcher

OTD's take on the eephus pitch.

Despite the controversy, the eephus pitch has seen success sporadically across the major leagues. In 2017, New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda delivered an eephus to Minnesota Twins' shortstop Eduardo Escobar, clocking in at just 63 mph. Escobar took a mighty swing, only to miss completely, much to the delight of the crowd and sports highlights reels.

Some argue that the effectiveness of the eephus lies in its ability to disrupt a hitter's timing. Baseball is a game of rhythm, and the sudden appearance of a pitch that breaks that rhythm can throw even the best hitters off balance. Unlike a fastball or a curveball, the eephus offers a psychological challenge, daring the batter to stay patient and wait for the pitch to arrive.

Statistic: In a 2015 game, Oakland Athletics' outfielder Brett Lawrie was struck out on an 85 mph fastball right after swinging at an 48 mph eephus from Astros' pitcher Roberto Hernandez.

In essence, the eephus pitch serves as a reminder that baseball is not just about power and speed. It’s a thinking man's game, where strategy and deception play as crucial a role as raw athletic talent. As long as there are pitchers willing to take the risk, the eephus will continue to be a fascinating, if divisive, part of baseball's storied tradition.

The next time you see a pitcher lob an eephus toward the plate, remember: it's more than just a slow pitch. It's an audacious act of creativity in a sport often dominated by rigidity and convention. And for that, it deserves both our respect and our wonder.

  • Published
    May 17, 2024
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