Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is Padilla Soap Bubble Due For A Correction?

Great off-day feature piece by MLB.com's Ken Gurnick on Vicente Padilla's "soap bubble" pitch, a term coined by Vin Scully to describe the ~50 mph soft toss that Padilla mixes in with his mid-90's fastball. Make sure to click through for a complementary Scully video, but here's an excerpt:

It's barely a blip on the sophisticated stadium radar guns, this high-arcing, slo-mo breaking ball of Padilla's. But whatever-you-call-it has coincided with yet another comeback in his unpredictable career. While observers might find it amusing, it's a serious weapon for Padilla.

Going into Tuesday night's start in Philadelphia, the former Phillies pitcher is duplicating the roll that helped the Dodgers down the stretch after his acquisition a year ago. After missing two months with an inflamed radial nerve in his forearm, Padilla has a 1.32 ERA since June 25, second lowest in MLB.

And the "Soap Bubble," which generally clocks in in the mid-50-mph range, has advanced from a gimmicky curiosity to a legitimate secondary pitch that complements Padilla's 94-mph fastball.

"It's slower than slow," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who remembers Pedro Borbon throwing a pitch just like it.

Scully said he named it the "Soap Bubble" as soon as Padilla started throwing it.

"It just reminded me -- you know the children's game where they have the little wire, and you dip it in the soapy water and you hold it up and you blow and this little bubble comes out?" said Scully. "And I was just looking at this, and I thought, 'God, it reminds me of a bubble,' and it just came out.

"We've never had any [Dodgers pitcher] throw that kind of a pitch. The guy who had the real one -- they call it the Eephus pitch -- that was a fellow named Rip Sewell, and that pitch was very high. And he would throw it once in a while and he threw it once to Ted Williams, and Williams hit it into orbit. But no, I never used [the term before] because we never had anybody with that pitch." [...]

According to the pitch tracker on MLB.com Gameday, Padilla has thrown the pitch 98 times this year, getting 27 outs while allowing only one hit, a home run. There have been 32 called strikes, two swinging strikes, five foul balls and 36 balls.

Here's hoping that particular bubble doesn't pop.


Josh S. said...

I thought it was funny how a bunch of us on Twitter yesterday jumped all over the inaccuracy of there being only one home run hit off the soap bubble. (Jay Bruce, back in April.)

rbnlaw said...

And Josh had the video catch.

Never knew Twitter could actually be fun.

Your father, The Garv, was on the KTLA Morning News talking about Bark in the Park Aug. 21 at the Yard.

Fred's Brim said...

El Duque threw virtually the same pitch the last few seasons of his career. I remember it being fairly effective for him too

Steve Sax said...

So Gurnick's fact-checking was wrong? What's the truth, then?

Josh S. said...

Gurnick's not wrong, per se, but Gameday isn't the best source of info on an eephus pitch.


Steve Sax said...

nice sleuthing.

pretty sneaky, sis.