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Whatever Happened to the Screwball in Baseball? The Pitch, Not the Player!

Whatever happened to the great screwball? Seems to me that it has all but disappeared from the baseball scene. The first great screwball pitcher was Christy Mathewson. Back in his day they called the pitch a fadeaway.

Mathewson would win 373 games in his illustrious career, far and away the most by any screwball pitcher in MLB history. SO, why has the pitch all but disappeared from the pitcher’s repertoire? First, it is a hard pitch to master. It is not a natural throwing motion turning your wrist to the inside. Second, there is a myth that the pitch will lead to injuries to a pitcher’s arm. Just the mention of time on the IL sends shivers down the spine of front offices everywhere.

There are a couple of pitchers on active rosters now who throw the pitch. Yu Darvish of the Padres, and Devin Williams of the Brewers. Four former Dodgers used the pitch and had decent success with it. Jim Brewer, Bobby Castillo, who taught the pitch to Valenzuela, and Mike Marshall, the 1974 Cy Young winner. It is interesting to note that three of those guys were mainly relief pitchers.

Another great starting pitcher who threw the pitch was Carl Hubble of the Giants. Hubble was nicknamed “The Meal Ticket” and “King Carl”. He is most noted for striking out five future Hall of Famers in a row in the 1934 All-Star game. Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons and Cronin.

He also set a major league record for consecutive wins by a pitcher, 24. He won 253 games in his career and was on one World Championship team, the 1933 Giants. He wasn’t a big strikeout pitcher, 1,677 in his career. He pitched a no-hitter in 1929.

Other notable pitchers who used the screwgie, Mike Cuellar, John Franco, Mel Parnell, Mike Norris of the A’s, no relation, Juan Marichal, Ruben Gomez. The first Japanese player in MLB history, Masanori Murakami, Tom Browning, Tug McGraw, Willie Hernandez, and Paul Byrd.

It is also notable that it is almost split down the middle between lefties and righties. So, if the arm problem fear is a myth, why don’t more coaches teach the pitch? Probably because if you look, many of the pitching coaches today never threw it.

Today it is mostly about velocity and location. But you have to wonder since so many power pitchers are losing a season or more to Tommy John surgery. I actually tried using one when I pitched for a short time in high school. Could not really get it to move much, so I understand how difficult it would be to master.

But I also think it would be a significant strikeout weapon if a pitcher did manage to master and control the pitch. Maybe we will see a resurgence, but with the way rosters are constructed and the idea that faster is better, I doubt this will happen.


MiLB Game Summary Reports


Sugar Land Space Cowboys (Houston) 5 – OKC Baseball Club 4

OKC got on the board first in the 2nd inning.  Andre Lipcius opened with a single and moved to 3rd on a Kevin Padlo double.   Hunter Feduccia singled home Lipcius and Padlo scored when Kody Hoese hit into a double play.

Eduardo Salazar was very good for the first three innings.  He allowed one hit (single).  But in inning 4, he allowed a lead off single followed by a double putting runners on 2nd and 3rd.  One run scored on a ground out, and after a 2nd ground out he allowed 2 singles to plate the second and tying run.

In the 5th, Salazar allowed 3 straight singles to load the bases with nobody out.  He struck out the next batter, but walked the batter after that, forcing in a run.  The next batter hit into an inning double play.

Jonathan Araúz hit a game tying HR in the 7th.


In the 8th, OKC took the lead when Trey Sweeney opened the inning with a double.  Sweeney scored on a Kevin Padlo single.


Nick Ramirez, Matt Gage, and new AAA reliever Jack Dreyer each pitched a perfect 1.0 inning.  9 up and 9 down.

But in the 9th, with Kevin Gowdy in relief, Sugar Land got a lead off single, a ground out, and two more singles to tie the score.  After Gowdy got a K, he gave up a run scoring walk off single.

  • Trey Sweeney – 2-4, 1 run, double (10)
  • Kevin Padlo – 2-4, 1 run, 2 RBI, double (10)
  • Jonathan Araúz – 2-4, 1 run, 1 RBI, HR (2)
  • Chris Owings – double (4)


Box Score


Tulsa Drillers 5 – Midland RockHounds 2

In the 1st inning, Taylor Young hit a one-out double, stole 3B, and scored on a Brendon Davis SF.  In the 3rd, Brandon Lewis hit a solo HR and a 2-0 lead.

In his first start since he was reassigned to Tulsa, Hyun-il Choi was effective.  After two scoreless innings, Choi allowed 2 one out singles that was followed by a 2-run double allowing Midland to tie the score.


Tulsa broke the tie in the 6th.  After Taylor Young singled, Griffin Lockwood-Powell slugged a 2-run HR.

The Drillers got another run in the 7th.  Lolo Sanchez drew a 1 out BB.  He moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and scored on a Brandon Lewis single.

Four Drillers relievers faced 11 batters and got all of them, 4 on Ks.  After a tough first three starts, Sauryn Lao is looking very much like the high leverage reliever he was thought to be.  In his next 7 relief appearances, 10 IP, he has not allowed a run on 5 hits, 3 BB, plus 11 K.  The opponents are batting .156 against Lao.  Remember Lao is a converted corner infielder, in only his 2nd year as a pitcher.


Lao got his first save.  He now has 70.2 professional IP.

  • Taylor Young – 2-4, 1 run, double (8)
  • Brendon Davis – 2-4, 1 RBI, double (6)
  • Brandon Lewis – 2-4, 1 run, 2 RBI, HR94)
  • Griffin Lockwood-Powell – HR (5)


Box Score


Lansing Lugnuts (A’s) 7 – Great Lakes Loons 6

Great Lakes got on the board first in the 1st inning.  With one out, Thayron Liranzo and Noah Miller each singled.  After a 2nd out, Jake Gelof and Dylan Campbell each hit run scoring singles.

Lansing got one back in the 3rd.  SP Jacob Meador gave up a 2 out walk that was followed by a run scoring double.

After 4.0 innings of 3 hit, 1 run, 2 BB start, Jonathan Edwards relieved Jacob Meador.  In his one inning, Edwards got two quick strikeouts, but then a single, walk, and double plated two runs.

The Loons got the two back in the bottom of the 5th.  With 1 out, Noah Miller doubled and Chris Newell hit a 2-run HR.


In the 7th, Madison Jeffrey came in relief.  With one out, Jeffrey gave up a single, WP, walk, and HBP.  Kelvin Ramirez replaced Jeffrey.  He got a pop out for the 2nd out, but allowed a single to tie the game.

The Loons took the lead in the 8th.  Jake Gelof opened with a double and went to 3rd on a Dylan Campbell single.  Gelof scored on a double play.

The Loons were in position to win.  In his 2nd inning, Edgardo Henriquez got the first two outs, but it was 2 base error by 1B, Nick Biddison, that put the tying run in scoring position.  A double scored the tying run.

In the 10th, Lucas Wepf came in to relieve Henriquez.  With a runner on 2B, Wepf threw a WP and the runner moved to third.  After a 6-3 groundout, Lansing got a sac fly.

In the bottom of the 10th, Noah Miller was the free runner.  Jake Gelof hit a run scoring double to tie the score.  Dylan Campbell drew a BB, but the next two Loons struck out.

Livan Reinoso was the reliever in the 11th.  A ground ball got the free runner to 3rd, who scored on a SF.

With Jake Vogel at 2B, Nick Biddison grounded out, Kyle Nevin struck out, and Vogel was thrown out at third attempting to steal.

  • Jake Gelof – 3-5, 1 run, 2 RBI, 2 doubles (2)
  • Noah Miller – 2-4, 1 BB, 3 runs, double (7)
  • Dylan Campbell – 2-4, 1 BB, 1 RBI
  • Chris Newell – 1-5, 1 run, 2 RBI, HR (9)

Chris Newell has now hit 4 HRs in his last 5 games.

In his first four games at Great Lakes, Jake Gelof is 5-15, with 2 doubles, 1 HR, and 6 RBI.



Box Start



Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 4 – Visalia Rawhide (Arizona) 2

Cam Day did start with a 3 inning opener followed by 4.0 innings from Garrett McDaniels.  I guess this is more of a piggyback with 2 multiple inning relievers.  Day allowed 1 hit, 2 BB, with 3 K, in his 3.0 scoreless innings.

In the 2nd inning, Jordan Thompson drew a walk and scored on a Samuel Munoz double.  Munoz moved to third on the throw to the plate.  Carlos Rojas hit a 2-out run scoring single for a 2-0 Quakes lead.

In the 6th, McDaniels struck out the side, but Visalia got three singles in between for a run.

In the 8th with Jorge Gonzalez now on the mound, Druw Jones opened the inning with a single.  A WP moved Jones to 2nd with one out.  Jones moved to third on a ground ball, and scored the tying run on a run scoring single.

RC was shut down for 6.0 innings on 1 hit.  In the 9th, with 1 out, Jordan Thompson singled.  Thompson moved to 2nd on a ground out, and scored on a 2-out RBI single from Juan Alonso.  Logan Wagner and Carlos Rojas followed with singles, and RC had a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the 9th.

Gonzalez got the win after retiring the side in order in the 9th for a RC victory.

  • Juan Alonso – 2-4, 1 run, 1 RBI
  • Carlos Rojas – 2-4, 2 RBI
  • Samuel Munoz – 1-4, 1 run, 1 RBI, double (1)


Box Score


ACL White Sox 5 – ACL Dodgers 3

ACL Dodgers dropped their 3rd straight.  In those three games, the ACL Dodgers scored 8 runs on 10 hits.  They have been outscored 23-8 in those 3 games.


Box Score





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King had the thumb under index finger two seamer going last night. It acts like a screwball and is the pitch I’ve been asking for from our staff. Hershiser had the best one I ever saw. His went both directions. He’s sitting up in the booth talking about pizza, he’d be of more use talking to staff about the two seamer. King also had a Bugs Bunny change going as well.

4 hits, 11 Ks, 0 for 4 WRISP. Pretty weak. Padres with 3 hits and 13Ks. Great effort by the staff was wasted. Sure got quiet in here last night.

Last edited 6 days ago by Badger

I have never heard of Fernando working with our young pitchers, he seems like the one to teach that pitch. Did I miss something? Or maybe he’s just not the “teacher” type?


For years it was generally accepted that the screwball was hard on the arm.

But, maybe not:

Hubbell’s Elbow: Don’t Blame the Screwball

Phil Jones

Great article again, Badger. Thanks
While there is controversy about the screwball being hard on arms or not, the pitch is very similar as a “Gavin circle change” to me. The action and speed is very similar to me. The true circle change had lots of pronation. The teach was to turn that circle on the grip, over towards the ground. I had a problem with young pitchers during that time, getting soreness with that much pronation. We scrapped it. To be in vogue, we still called it a circle change but eliminated any emphasis on pronation and turning it over. We threw it like a fastball and allowed the grip to scrape the speed and not the pronation. No more soreness but still a nice change up.


The change I was taught, by a pitcher from the old Texas Leagues in the 20’s and early 30’s, was essentially a palm ball with the thumb from under the index finger (arm side spin) to under the middle finger (glove side spin). It worked great for me. Another thing that old guy, my grandfather, taught me was never throw that pitch to a bad hitter. Since there are no bad hitters in MLB it should work there. It really isn’t that hard a pitch to learn. I was throwing it when I was 11. I modified it some as I got older by moving forward a bit in my hand.

In my opinion two seamers and change ups should be in every pitchers arsenal. Counting the 4 seamer, that is four different pitches without having to throw a rotating forward spin (curve) which I have read is the one that hurts the most. I guess there is ongoing debate about that, but that’s what I learned in 1959.


Badger, I struggled with the change up stuff back in the hand with tall pitchers . With all those levers, they wanted to shot-put the pitch instead of throwing it.. I actually learned a grip from one of my pitchers that just disappeared. As you know the thumb is vital. This grip moved the baseball as far onto the fingertips of the long fingered guys as possible, with a crab grip. Bird finger and ring finger across seams like a 4-seamer, fastball release. The trick was to move the ball as far as possible to the fingertips that allowed control. That scraped enough speed to make it effective, looking like a fastball rotation out of hand. I taught that change withgreat success.
Also it had to be a special 7,8, 9 guy in the rotation for us to speed him up with a changeup. Don’t speed those guys up until that are on time.

Last edited 6 days ago by philjones

Tall I ain’t, but I do know others who threw it that way. The Major League pitchers who know how to use it definitely have an out pitch with it.


I threw a palm ball as hard as I did a fastball. It didn’t spin or move. Hitters swung at the motion. I threw it at batting practice and kept it at the same speed as a 4 seamer.


Some left-hander from the Mets had a pretty good one too.

Phil Jones

Despite the loss, what a terrific game.
Michael King and Glasgow had it going in a good old fashion pitching duel. Hitters were going down like little leaguers against the 13 year old fireballer, Ace.
Kings change up and 2-seamer had outstanding movement. And Glasnow’s fastball at the top of the zone, is a thing of beauty along with that snappy curveball. King was successful east and west and Glasnow north and south. It was a clinic.
And wash my mouth out with soap as I saw Gavin Lux actually make a perfect across the bag pivot on the throw from Muncy. Just like it’s supposed to look, cutting down the distance of the throw and getting something on his relay. Very nice. 
Then Treinen with darting sinkers and snappy sliders.
I seriously don’t know how anybody hits anymore.


I posted something that other people already posted. So I edited to this nothing post.

Last edited 6 days ago by Bluto

I agree with you 100%


Watching Cubs-Pirates. Wow Paul Skenens has some big time stuff!


After we trade for Bobby Witt, we can trade for him!


Good plan.

In what year would that take place?


Jung Hoo Lee not what the Giants hoped he would be so far


Good. Neither is Chapman, Ahmed, Yastrzemski or Soler.

Last edited 5 days ago by Badger

or Blake Snell haha


Nice game by Paxton and just enough offense to win. My guess is that Outman gets sent down when Heyward is activated next week after his rehab. Best thing for him actually. He is totally discombobulated at the plate. Mookie’s BA has dropped over 40 points in the last two weeks.

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