You know what? I love this quote. I really do. I love this guy's mental makeup based solely on this quote.
Me too, but maybe it's just because the Japanese translators have The. Best. CrashDavis. Clichés. Ever.
I think that's his "slider." Varitek's signal was definitely three fingers. OTOH, I watched all six of them in slow motion on a big high-def TV and there were times when I could swear I saw his fingers split! And the signals for the Japanese pitchers are sometimes different (Oki's, at least).
In terms of release and rotation, it is not a conventional slider. The "red dot" on most sliders (top of the spin axis) is, from the batter's POV, on the upper half of the ball and on the third base side, i.e., the spin axis is sort of pointed at the stands above the 3B dugout. A Bard slurve has a red dot on the top half of the ball, but pointed directly at the hitter. The mythical gyroball has the red dot dead center facing the hitter both horizontally and vertically. Tazawa's "slider" also has the spin axis pointing towards the hitter, but it also seems to be pointing at the ground, i.e., if he's throwing it so that the spin axis goes through a seam, the red dot is on the bottom half of the ball. That's why it runs rather than cuts. Very odd.
He was throwing it 10 mph slower than the fastball, which is typical for a slider.
So, 4-seamer and 2-seamer with decent separation, a very good textbook curve, a weird-assed slider, and supposedly a splitter as well. But it's possible that the missing pitch is a normal slider and that what appears to be a weird slider is actually his "splitter" which is actually a very strange forkball ...
In reviewing the NESN video this morning, I couldn't pick out the catcher's signals on most of the pitches, but I also saw a definite split-finger grip on 2 of the 6 pitches between 81 and 83 mph, so I'll refer to it as a splitter. The grip on those 2 pitches was a widely splayed two-finger grip, without the additional contact from the ring finger that I usually associated with a forkball. Tazawa gets a range of horizontal movement on the pitch, anywhere between 0 and -5" in horizontal break, so the release seems to be somewhat variable. That could be due to inconsistent delivery, or possibly some intentional counter-clockwise supination of the wrist, like a split-finger grip with a modified screwball release.
In the cold light of day, there's a lot NOT to like about this offspeed pitch. Tazawa threw 6 of them, all to LHB in his first inning of work, and 3 of them were hammered. The Yankee lefties seemed to have no trouble at all in picking it up and rounding on it. Posada's sharp line drive for a single came on a hanging splitter. Hinske's even sharper drive also came on an inside splitter -- Drew's catch definitely belongs on a highlight reel. The last three were thrown to Cabrera, including one that Cabrera hit hard but just foul. Six instances of the pitch, three hard-hit balls by LHB down the RF line... not a very good ratio. It's not a surprise that Tazawa and Tek discarded the pitch entirely during the second inning, even when facing Teixeira.
And what then would you do today if Buchholz implodes? Seems we still have MDC and Saito left, maybe Paps. I thought Tito managed the pitching well even though we lost, with an eye to a 4pm game today.
Oh, and I thought using Tazawa was the best of the possible options.
Using Tazawa in the 14th inning looked like the only option left -- the last man in the bullpen. With a bullpen of six one-inning relievers gradually having been exhausted, Tazawa would have pitched the rest of the game, or until he dropped. Not the greatest first exposure for a young pitcher, since the leverage could hardly have been higher, but somebody had to do it...
Bard, Ramirez and Papelbon each threw under 20 pitches: I would guess that they will be first in line this afternoon, but that Tazawa may be sent down to bring up another last-in-line reliever. It's not that Tazawa deserves to be sent down, but he's the only one with options left who should not be pitching today.
Sprowl, do you ever get tired of being right?
Sprowl: often wrong, never in doubt. Tito's really gotta get with the Sprowl program.