As was pointed out by Lil’ Roro in a recent post, Scott Feldman throws his curveball more than any other pitcher in the major leagues. Scotty gets paid good money to throw that mediocre curveball 30.3% of the time — in fact he’s making 12 million dollars this year to serve up voluptuous curves to the league’s hungriest hitters. The question is, does he know something that we don’t? After all, he makes more per season than some of us will make in our entire lives. 

The following is a fictional tale, inspired by a true story. 

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Scotty (presumably) throws a home run to Miguel Cabrera.

Scotty jogs out toward the mound, modest applause trickling down from the sparse conglomeration at Minute Maid Park. The pitcher’s 6’7″ frame casts a long shadow on the infield grass. He picks up the rosin bag — he’s seen other pitchers do this, but is unsure why — and lightly tosses it into the air, briefly catching it with the back side of his hand. Like Scotty, like us, the rosin bag knows what goes up must come down, so it enjoys the fleeting moments airborne, only to then brace itself for the imminent landing. The rosin bag can expect a few more rides before the day is through. It looks forward to them; it relishes the attention.

Scotty toes the rubber. It’s just Jason Castro, Scotty, and Scotty’s little secret today. The Baltimore Orioles — a former employer to Mr. Feldman — will be the unenviable bastards faced with the tall task of combating those three agents. Scotty steps his left foot back, pivots his right foot to where it finds a resting spot just in front of the rubber, kicks his left leg into the air, cocks his arm behind his body and explodes his right side through an imaginary zone, toward the target, with a familiar ease. The ball smacks Castro’s dutiful glove, and the few thousand spectators audibly stir.

“These cocksuckers can’t touch me,” he mutters to himself, but the rosin bag hears all. It knows the Orioles are in for it. Payback is a bitch, thinks the inanimate object.

Scotty receives the ball, and walks deliberately, back toward the rubber. He again stands atop it, gazing down at the world that looms beneath. He reflexively waves his glove toward Castro, pocket down, indicating another fastball. The ball smacks the glove, and the proverbial pitching battery reenacts this routine several more times before a chill shoots down Scotty’s spine. Butterflies fill his heart. It’s his favorite time of the day: it’s time to show off ole Uncle Charlie. He waves his glove toward Castro, but this time the pocket begins facing him, and finishes as though he is catching a ball below his belt. Castro braces himself for the curveball, as do the fans. The Orioles warming up in the on-deck circle stop and watch. The Astros’ infielders watch out of the corners of their eyes. Television cameras fixate on the 31-year-old righthander.

Feldman rocks back, splits his hands, and begins to bring his arm over his head, turning his wrist ever so slightly to the right. He gently pulls the ball downward, flicking his fingers to initiate the heavy topspin necessary for his Picasso. The ball explodes out of his hand, tumbling downward, toward Castro’s eager mitt. Castro squares up the ball, knee-high, on the outside corner. He clenches it tight, letting the glove linger, a silent commentary on precision, art, beauty. The catcher fires the ball back. The earth slowly resumes its rotation, horizontally mimicking the vertical revolutions of Scotty’s last pitch.

Eventually Castro throws the ball through to second base. Scotty walks around the mound, holding his glove with his right hand, holding his hat in his left, wiping the sweat off his brow with one of his forearms. The infielders send the ball around the horn, and then back to Scotty.

Nick Markakis steps to the plate, thus initiating the impending slaughter. Feldman looks in for the sign. Castro puts down one finger, requesting a fastball. Feldman nods his head yes, and fires a strike. Markakis watches it into the glove, establishing a rhythm with which to approach the pitch in the future. Scotty gets the ball back. Castro again puts down one finger, and the pitcher again concurs. He misses outside, a mere pothole on the road to destiny.

Scotty takes a deep breath. Castro wants the changeup. Scotty wants to throw his dirty little secret, but instead obeys the catcher’s orders. He lets the changeup go, the ball traveling into the zone higher than he would have wished. Markakis unleashes a mighty swing, catching the ball square on the trademark, sending a screaming line drive into the seats along the first baseline. Markakis knows he might have missed the only good pitch he will see — he was early on the changeup, as is often the case. The count is 1-2. Markakis has proven he can handle the straight stuff, but he knows that might ultimately spell his demise.

Scotty is grinning. Castro glances up toward Markakis, half to make sure he’s not looking in at the signs, half to bask in the abject fear now on display in the batter’s eyes. Castro moves his right fist to that spot in between his legs. He can’t help but smile himself. He forms an upside-down peace sign with his pointer and middle fingers, a brash metaphor for the violent nature of Scotty’s little secret. Scotty nods his head yes, but the grin is gone, as though he is a sniper just now accepting the terminal effect he is about to have on another man’s life.

The crowd is now standing in anticipation — on their feet, with no outs yet recorded in the game! — a low murmur growing in steam. Scotty rocks back, he kicks, and smoothly snaps his wrist. The ball comes crashing toward the helpless, flailing bat. The sound of wood. The crowd gasps: the ball is headed for the empty seats beyond the right field wall, but maybe even further. Markakis is calmly rounding first, his actions belying the excitement welling up in his chest.

It seems like hours ago Scotty was grinning, looking in to get his sign. He is now behind the mound, flipping the rosin bag into the air again. The rosin bag saw what happened, and it is no longer sure that Sir Isaac Newton was right: the rosin bag has no idea if that ball will ever come down.

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Scotty Feldman’s middle name is Win. Actually, it’s “Wynne,” but the point remains the same: all Scotty does is win (though he actually loses more often). He was raised in Northern California, the son of an FBI agent — let’s just say keeping secrets runs in the family. Despite this, Scotty’s secret weapon is hardly a secret anymore: he throws his curveball nearly one-third of the time! The question for opposing hitters is, can they hit it, even when they know it’s coming? The answer has been, decidedly: yes. Opposing hitters are slashing a comical .315/.343/.492 when Scotty throws his “hammer.” This leads us back to where we started: does Scotty know something that we don’t?

It seems more likely we know something that Scotty does not.

 

Cover Image taken by Trei Brundrett.