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An Announcing Question

Oct 11 2005 08:35 PM

Jon Miller and Joe Morgan are doing the ALCS game on radio.
I usually don't listen to (or watch) them.

They were both calling the White Sox pitcher's delivery a "fork ball", not a splitter.

I know some sportscasters have some peculiarities in what they name things. For example, Vin Scully refuses to use the term "sacrifice fly". Instead, he calls it a "scoring fly" because he doesn't think it should be considered a sacrifice.

For those of you who have listened to them do a game, is this usual? Or are they trying to differentiate between the two pitches?

Their use of fork ball is giving me ElRoy Face flashbacks. He was the first pitcher I heard of who threw that pitch. I also remember that Mel Allen kept calling him Leroy Face, even when the Yankees faced (no pun intended) him in the 1960 World Series.


Oct 11 2005 08:51 PM

I don't think they usually call splitters a forkball but Jose Contreras does throw a forkball IIRC.

Oct 11 2005 08:54 PM

What's the difference?


Oct 11 2005 09:04 PM

I see what you mean now 62, but I have heard other announcers say Contreras has a forkball, a google search says both the forkball and splitter are pretty much obsolete and have evolved into other pitches.

Pitchers still throw the splitter don't they?

Oct 11 2005 09:10 PM

Actually, pitchers use the term "fork ball" all the time in post game interviews.

When they are asked howcome the opposing batter hit a home run, they usually answer "The forking pitch didn't break".
Well, at least it sounds like what they say.


Oct 11 2005 09:14 PM

This is an interesting topic 62 and I believe I have found a better article on the subject, a forkball according to these experts is a slower version of the splitter..

]Throwing an effective Split-Finger pitch is tricky. Most times a splitter is not thrown for strikes, it is thrown to tempt the batter to swing where he thinks the ball is, but it “disappears” as it breaks hard, down and away from the hitter. The pitch is thrown a lot like a two-seam fastball (the speed is about 4 to 6 mph slower) and a batter may read fastball at release. The difference is the splitter grip has the fingers spread just outside the seams instead of along the seams, changing its rotation. Roger Craig became a very successful coach and manager in the 80’s by teaching this pitch to his players. By learning the split-finger pitch, one of Craig’s students Mike Scott went from a below average pitcher to Cy Young award winner. The splitter works because splitting the fingers has a big effect on the rotation of the ball. If you are watching on television, the ball seems to “fall off the table” when it gets to the plate.

The forkball is the slower version of the splitter. Like the splitter, the forkball is not thrown for strikes. The late downward movement is meant to fool hitters. The fingers are split even wider, which takes some speed off the ball. A good forkball can make hitters look very bad. Bruce Sutter popularized this pitch in the late 70’s.

Oct 11 2005 09:24 PM

Irish nailed it. Tim McCarver, in [u:97cca3271c]Baseball For Brain Surgeons[/u:97cca3271c], does a great job of illustrating the differences between the pitches.

(It's really a great book; I really enjoyed it.)

Oct 11 2005 09:30 PM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Oct 11 2005 09:38 PM

Well I only nailed it thanks to google, still not something I ever really thought about, and there have been times when the announcer would call a pitch and I would wonder if he's kinda half guessing at the pitch.

Oct 11 2005 09:35 PM

Thanks for the info.
After all these years, I can now check that off my list of questions I always wanted to know the answers to.


Oct 11 2005 09:55 PM

I always thought they were the same pitch, and got annoyed when it became
cool all of a sudden that some pitcher's career was saved by this new great
pitch - good thread and good diggins for answers.

Oct 11 2005 10:02 PM

Question on Mike Scott, the article credits Roger Craig with teaching Scott the split-finger pitch helping Scott go from an average pitcher to Cy Young award winner, don't some people and some Mets believe that Scott "doctored" the ball that year?

Oct 11 2005 10:18 PM

He did get caught flicking that piece of emory paper off his finger once,
didn't he? I don't remember exactly when that was though.

Edgy DC
Oct 11 2005 10:44 PM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Oct 11 2005 11:37 PM

The fork is slower, according to Rob Neyer and Bill James:

FORKBALL Precursor to the Split-Finger Fastball, the Forkball was popularized shortly after World War I by Bullet Joe Bush, then with the Red Sox. Basically a sort of change-up, Bush's forkball was gripped with the index and middle finger spread as far apart as possible, and when thrown correctly would travel plateward with little spin, almost like a knuckleball, and appear to dip suddenly upon its arrival aqt the plate.

Over the years, it's likely that the pitch was generally thrown with the fingers held closer together, and more spin.

What distinguishes the forkball from the splitter? As thrown by Bush and Roy Face (its most famous practitioners), the forkball is held deeper in the hand and thrown with less velocity than the split-finger fastball (think of the hard curve vs. the slow curve).

For more about the forkball, see article on page 45. (1)

SPLIT-FINGERED FASTBALL a.k.a.Splittter Invented by Fred Martin, perfected by Bruce Sutter in the late 1970s, and popularized by Roger Craig in the early '80s, the splitter looks to the hitter like a fastball until it takes an abrupt dip. What's the difference between a forkball and a splitter? Not always a lot. But according to Sutter, "The way Martin taught it and I threw it, the pitch wasn't the same as a forkball. You threw it a lot harder. And the ball has spin on it.... It's like a changeup except harder."(2)

For more on the split-fingered fastball see article on page 45. (3)

There's a lot of overlap in the discussion of pitches and it is well that we want specifications to better define their distinctions. What some pitchers call their fastball, others might call their cut fastball. What some call their cutter, others might call their slider. What some call their slider, others might call their curve, even thought the former pitch has similar characteristics in the delivery and effect as the latter pitch with a different pitcher.

Sinkers, and splitters, and forkballs have similar fuzzy borders among them, but as you see above, there are distinctions for most iterations.

(1) Neyer, Rob, and Bill James, The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers: An Historical Compendium of Pitching, Pitchers, and Pitches, Fireside (New York, 2004), p. 15.

(2) Cairns, Bob. Pen Men: Baseball's Greatest Bullpen Stories by the Men Who Brought the Game Relief, St. Martin's Press (New York, 1993) , p. 469.

(3) Ibid. Neyer, pp.21-22.

Frayed Knot
Oct 11 2005 11:30 PM

McCarver actually talked about this briefly tonight.
He said Contreras has a fork ball and said the difference is that the fork "is choked more"; ie. jammed further in between the fingers.