Hey, Wikipedia, tell me in one sentence why my life will be much, much better if the St. Louis Cardinals decide to break camp with R.J. Swindle—they picked him up on a minor league deal yesterday—as one of their left-handed relief pitchers?
Swindle throws five pitches: a fastball, slider, change-up, cutter, and a 55 mph curveball with a delivery between three-quarters and sidearm.
R.J. Swindle throws something you might call an eephus pitch. What makes it awesome is that he just calls it a curveball. His fastball sits at 83, his slider lies down at 72, and his curveball digs a hole and buries itself in it at 55. He's probably the only pitcher in baseball who faces a severe platoon disadvantage against beer-league softball players. This is why he's a cult-hero AAAA reliever, instead of a regular AAAA reliever.
One of the sad things about the way the talent level in baseball constantly rises is that as it increases there are fewer and fewer ways to meet it—during World War II the Browns could successfully deploy a one-armed man in the outfield, but at some point you have to maximize the efficiency of your swing and optimize your pitching mechanics because any slack in either thing is the difference between an MLB pension and a bobblehead night in Memphis.
Eventually the best baseball players will probably all have to swing mostly like Albert Pujols, or have a repertoire that mostly resembles Roy Halladay's. But so long as R.J. Swindle types can continue to appear at the fringes of the Major Leagues or arrive on rafts of hype from Japan's weirder leagues I'll always root for them to beat out J.C. Romero.
After the jump: Video of R.J. Swindle's awesome curveball, fished from an apparently suspended Phillies blog's Google Cache.