Ichiro! Does Ichiro! Like Thing

I missed this from last week, but it’s worth resurrecting because I like rarities, and I like them even more when they involve Ichiro!

Facing Luke Hochevar in the bottom of the first inning of last Thursday’s Mariners / Royals tilt, Ichiro! swung and hit a first pitch curveball over the fence in right center field. A first pitch home run, rare by most standards, isn’t even what was so strange about this play.

As Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing notes:

Going back to 2009, PITCHfx has identified 83 first pitches as curveballs, or 0.6%. Of those 83 first-pitch curveballs, batters have swung at just three of them. Of those three swings, two have resulted in fouls, and one has resulted in a home run – Ichiro’s swing.

Throwing a curve ball to open the game is such a rarity because it’s more often than not used as a swing and miss pitch. Only the best curveball pitchers can consistently throw their hooks for strikes and the first batter of the game is far more likely to take a pitch than swing at it.

I’m not so sure Hochevar will be interested in throwing it again:

The first-pitch curveball to Ichiro[!], I don’t even know what to say about that one. The [first pitch] of the game — it was a good pitch and he hit it eight rows deep. I’ve never seen it, I’ve never had it happen. I normally don’t throw first-pitch curveballs in a game, but what do you do?

Comments (3)

  1. only one in 167 games starts with a curve? i mean, i know there are lots of non-fbs that pitchfx tracks, but I found that number surprisingly low nontheless.

  2. totally strange.

  3. I would often serve as the de-facto bullpen catcher in college so I caught my fair share of bullpens, and I wonder how much of this has to do with guys not throwing too many breaking balls while they are getting loose just because of routine. Guys would tell me they’d rather get their arm loose in warmups and get the feel for their offspeed stuff on the mound, typically only going to those pitches after getting ahead in the count to the first few batters of the game and then leading off counts with it as the game progressed. Pitchers also know that leadoff hitters love tend to love taking pitches and are encouraged to do so by their coaches, so most of the time the catcher will just throw down the 1 on one of the corners. I wonder how much less of this happens as pitchers progress up the ladder.

    Ichiro needs 32 hits in the final 16 games to make it 11 straight years. I’m certainly rooting for him.

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