Tezuka conceded that if the gyroball is anything, it's closest to a slider – and that, he said, is what makes it so special.
If thrown correctly, Tezuka said, the two-seam gyroball should look to a batter like a slider and act like a fastball. That is why, as described in the title of the book he and Himeno wrote, it is a "miracle pitch."
"Everyone," Tezuka said meekly, "kind of misunderstood."
The theory behind the gyroball is this: When a baseball spins sideways, like a bullet, it should cut down on the amount of resistance on its path to the plate. Without the same amount of air resistance as a regular fastball, which rotates backward, the four-seam gyroball should not experience the same slowdown and look as if it's exploding toward the plate.
A perfect gyroball should be straighter than the crease on a pair of slacks.
"It doesn't move," Tezuka said. "It doesn't move at all."
Pedro Martinez thought he was throwing fastballs during his prime as well, Tezuka explained. He said slow-motion analysis shows Martinez with the correct motion, arm action, grip and spin for a four-seam gyroball.
"He probably didn't even know," Tezuka said.
And that would seem the essence of the gyroball: We don't know. We don't know if it's simply a theory that plays out in a computer and not in real life. We don't know if it's a new kind of grip, like the first time someone grabbed a baseball holding the OK sign and created the circle changeup. We don't know if it's an arm motion that has been used by another player and never given a label. We don't know if it's a fastball or a cutter or a changeup or a slider.
There is one thing I do know: It's something, all right.