The Informed Reader is almost definitely aware that, beyond noting the movement and velocity of a pitcher’s stuff, scouts will also sometimes take note of opposing batters’ reactions to certain pitches as another means of evaluating a pitcher’s arsenal.
It wouldn’t have taken a very experienced scout to adjudge the quality of the 0-2 slidepiece that Mr. Daniel Bard threw to Mr. Randy Ruiz in the bottom of the 8th inning of last night’s (Wednesday night’s) match-up between Toronto and Boston.
The pitch, clocked at 88 MPH on the NESN radar gun, appeared for all intents and purposes to be headed plateward, innocent as anything, until such time when, say about 15 feet from home plate, it (i.e. the ball), as if caught suddenly in a strong Northerly, proceeded to veer strongly to the left (from the TV audience’s perspective) and very much away from Ruiz.
Mr. Ruiz, who had begun his swing before the sudden change in direction, was demonstrably miffed by this development. The expression on his face changed from one of Optimism and Can-Do Spirit to one of a man in the throes of a Lost Cause. I’m not sure that it’s physically possible for one to slump his shoulders while in the act of swinging a baseball bat, but were it, then that is exactly what Mr. Ruiz proceeded to do.
If memory serves — and it frequently does not — Ruiz had already made his way back to the Jays’ dugout by the time Bard’s offering finally made its way into catcher Victor Martinez’s glove, some five or six feet from the plate.
A brief camera shot of Ruiz during the next half inning captured him (i.e. Ruiz) in the throes of an existential crisis, re-evaluating his decision to ever become a baseball player in the first place.
Such is the devastating effect of Mr. Bard’s slider.
For those not entirely satisfied with the above account, and who would prefer an “accurate” account of the pitch, please point your internet browser to Brooks Baseball’s version.