The Demon Pitch
Daisuke Matsuzaka's advent into the Major Leagues has precipitated a flood of articles about the gyroball, the mysterious pitch he may, or may not, have mastered. On one side, authorities such as physics prof and baseball fan Alan M. Nathan doubt the pitch's existence, saying that its characteristic football-spiral spin won't produce the trajectory that's claimed for it. (Some say it moves like a screwball, others like an exaggerated slider, still others like a sinker.) On the other, two Japanese engineers have penned a gyroball primer--its title has been translated variously as THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SUPERNATURAL PITCH and THE SECRET OF THE DEMON PITCH--in which they lay out the case for what would be the first new baseball pitch since the split-fingered fastball.
This four-part article, from bigempire.com, stands as the most complete and illuminating look at the gyroball I've yet seen, in no small part because its author speaks Japanese and can interview the key figures in the story. Among other things, he visits a Tokyo training facility, the futuristically named Beta Endorphin, that offers one-on-one gyroball instruction for the equivalent of $104 per hour.
The piece includes a movie, reproduced below, that models the "wake," or airflow, created by a two-seam gyroball. The wake is significant here, the Japanese authors believe, because it strongly resembles a forkball's, with one difference: It's considerably narrower--which is to say, it encounters less air resistance. Their conclusion: When it's thrown just right, the gyroball should sink like a forkball, but travel at a much greater velocity. It does sound like a difficult pitch to hit, if it really exists.
One other thread of interest on this subject: The musings of Kyle Boddy, an ex-college pitcher in Seattle who's trying to learn how to throw the gyroball. Boddy says that the pitch is for real, and he writes lucidly about trying to master it.