Introducing The Screwball Times - the blog defined by the pitch

by Fred Hofstetter on September 2, 2017

The latest in baseball's goofiness, bat flips, brawls and hot takes. We marvel at random chance. Infinite possibilities yield hilarity. Leave the lofty takeaway at the door.

Screwball Pitcher Carl Hubbell

Screwballing great Carl Hubbell. The pitch supposedly ruined his arm, but also made him terribly interesting.

The screwball pitch is described as a reverse curveball, moving down and in to same handed batters. Most baseball players wouldn’t recognize it if they saw it. Because it’s weird. And doesn’t really make sense in modern pitching.

Mastered by pitching greats such as Christy Mathewson, Juan Marichal, Fernando Valenzuela, and Daniel Ray Herrera, the screwball has etched a curious legacy in baseball history. Pitchers capable of executing the mechanics have found great success.

However, generating reverse curveball spin requires unnatural backward pronation of the forearm; its allure as a kneebuckling out pitch is overshadowed by the specter of injury risk. Screwballs have fallen out of favor in the days of protecting pitchers’ arms, circle changeups, snapping breaking balls, and really hard fastballs. When spotting corners with 98 mph fastballs, you do not need a mind-blower like an eephus, knuckleball, or screwball. Your arm is worth tens of millions – your investors will not love the idea of you twisting your arm all screwy for a novelty.

Why would you throw a screwball.

Adding a screwball to the repertoire highly correlates to the realization your athletic gifts aren’t on par with the competition. Reaching your goals traditionally is not in the cards. Pitchers on the brink of failure with a final gasp of gumption deploy such a thing to give them an edge their bigger, faster, stronger, more talented opponents cannot muster. Or – to which they would never stoop.

Which brings us to The Screwball Times.

There are two characters in Moneyball I will regard as Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. You know the archetypes: physically fit, gruff, and athletically gifted Brad Pitt; nerdy spreadsheet sabermetric genius Jonah Hill. My dream is to be both, and I am neither.

The Screwball Times represents my enthusiastic acceptance. I am not out to change the narrative, take a position, or make predictions. Monday morning quarterbacking bullpen usage or lineup construction begets only unmitigated frustration. Playing armchair GM has netted me nothing but hair-brained toilet soliloquies.

The Screwball Times relegates “important” work to those qualified to do so, dwelling in the chaotic world of strange happenings and random chance. The silliness of whacking a ball with a stick. It’s the pitch so bizarre you simply must turn and ask the catcher – What was that?

If it captures wonder, if only for a moment, I’ll deem it a wild success. Please enjoy.

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