Must-click link: the vanishing screwball

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Screwballers are all but extinct. Their fire has gone out of the universe. Hector Santiago, my friend, is all that’s left of their religion.

Bruce Schoenfeld of the New York Times Magazine investigates the screwballers today. He talks to Santiago, past practitioners of the dark, screwballing art and tries to find out why the pitch is almost entirely a relic of history these days.

He also reminds us that the screwball made and resurrected a whole host of pitching careers:

When Carl Hubbell was released by the Tigers in 1928, he went to a minor-league team in Beaumont, Tex., perfected the screwball, then won 253 games for the Giants. Warren Spahn began using the pitch in 1956, at 34, with a career that appeared to be winding down. He recorded six more 20-victory seasons for the Braves. After going 4-19 from 1965 to 1967, Tug McGraw remade himself as a screwballer and pitched until 1984. “The screwball has saved a lot of pitchers,” says Ron Swoboda, a former teammate of McGraw’s. “When Tug found it, he found gold.”

Will anyone else find gold like that? It seems doubtful, as there there is now a widespread belief that the screwball is hard on the arm and thus opens pitchers up to injuries. But is this belief well-founded or is it, like so many other baseball beliefs, based on nothing more than gut feeling and received wisdom?

Schoenfeld investigated and got a pretty good answer. Click through to read the article and find out if there is an actual medical reason why we see so few screwballers these days.

Matt Davidson to train to be a two-way player this offseason

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Look out Shohei Ohtani, someone is stealing your bit.

White Sox corner guy/DH Matt Davidson pitched three innings in three appearances in 2018. He was pretty good too, blanking the opposition, facing 11 batters, allowing one hit and striking out two. That’s not too bad for a 27-year-old guy who hasn’t pitched since high school. In fact, it’s good enough that, according to 670 The Score, the White Sox have given him the OK to do some serious pitching work this offseason in an attempt to become a two-way player next year.

There’s nothing certain about it — the Sox will see where he’s at after he puts some work in and decide whether or not to let him continue — but it’s notable that they’re entertaining the idea. And says a lot about just how much teams have come to value bullpen arms.

On offense Davidson hit .228/.319/.419 with 20 homers and 62 RBI on the year. That’s not exactly setting the world on fire for a guy with little defensive value, but marry it up with the skills to pitch an inning or two of relief here and there and maybe you got something.