Talking Orioles Baseball and … Dead Fish

My theme for the 2021 Baltimore Orioles season is “If you can’t be good, at least be interesting. I’ll use Roar From 34 to write about the quirkiness, color, and culture of #Birdland. If you know, you know.

Today’s topic: The Dead Fish

Cesar Valdez’s Baseball Reference page reads like a menu with two stops in Tabasco and a visit to Margarita.

Johnny Cash thinks he’s been everywhere? Hold Cesar’s Natty Boh, Man in Black.

Know what else is on the menu when we’re talking Cesar Valdez? Dead fish.

It’s Not Just Change-Ups That Are Known as Dead Fish

Cesar Valdez’s changeup earned its nickname thanks to its movement, its spin, and the frequency with which he uses it.

It wasn’t that Valdez succeeded in the bullpen that made it him unique; plenty of pitchers do that. It was how he excelled: by utilizing a bizzaro pitch more than 80% of the time. 

There’s a saying in baseball: throw your best pitch most. Valdez took that advice to heart.

The righty threw his changeup 83.2% of the time in 2020. Since the pitch-tracking era begun, it’s the only pitch (fastballs, cutters, and knuckleballs aside) that has a usage rate over 80 percent, per Fangraphs.

Although it’s thrown at 78 mph, the pitch plays up due to its extreme movement profile and its unique spin.

His dominance has earned the pitch a unique nickname: the dead fish. Although that moniker doesn’t inspire the same sense of fear as Williams’ “Airbender” or James Karinchak’s “The Freezy Boi“, it’s virtually as dominant as any pitch in the game.

Baseball Cloud

Valdez isn’t the first pitcher to have his changeup called a dead fish. In fact, the term isn’t reserved for changeups. Dave Stieb described his “batting-practice fastball” as a dead fish, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

John Madden similarly compares the pitch to a batting-practice fastball in the instructional video below.

The Orioles Have a History of Dead Fish

Mike Boddicker is thought to be the first pitcher to throw the Fosh, a mix of a change-up and a split-fingered fastball. Legendary O’s skipper Earl Weaver described the pitch as a “cross between a fastball and a dead fish.”

Meanwhile, a 1983 Sports Illustrated article about the Orioles incorporates a dead fish description of Boddicker’s “Foshball” by pitching coach Ray Miller.

Boddicker's most effective pitch is a forkball changeup, which Miller calls a "foshball," a contraction of "dead fish," the Orioles' term for change-up, and "fork," as in forkball. None other than Yaz himself has said that the foshball is unhittable even when the hitter knows it's coming.

Sports Illustrated, Sept. 26, 1983

Valdez Learned His Changeup in the Diamondbacks System

Valdez birthed the dead fish while pitching in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system in 2006, according to a 2020 profile of Valdez by The Sun’s Nathan Ruiz. Fittingly, it happened in Washington State.

The Diamondbacks’ organization required all pitchers to try and learn a change-up.

Yakima Bears pitching coach Erik Sabel taught Valdez the change-up. Apparently, it wasn’t a particularly memorable experience for him.

Sabel told The Sun: “I didn’t even know he was still pitching. I just kind of lost track of him.”

Dead Fish Aren’t Just For the Pitcher’s Mound

Angels in the Outfield? Try dead fish.

It’s tough to top a baseball headline like “Dead fish drops from the sky in Florida baseball game.”

Here’s a description from the Associated Press:

It wasn’t a pop-fly that landed in shallow right field during the eighth inning of a college baseball game.

It was a dead fish.

An osprey being chased by an eagle dropped the fish last Saturday near the second baseman as Florida’s Jacksonville University hosted Alabama’s Jacksonville State University at John Sessions Stadium.

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Which Baltimore Orioles Batters Have Put The Most Social Distance Between Themselves and the Baseball in the Statcast Era?

Major League Baseball installed Statcast technology in all 30 ballparks in 2015. Amidst a wealth of advanced data made available by the system rests a simple classic: home run distance.

Statcast collected information on more than 1,000 Baltimore Orioles home runs between 2015 and 2019. So, which Orioles batter has put the most social distance between himself and baseball in that time period?

Jonathan Schoop’s fourth-inning, 484-foot homer on Aug. 26, 2015 off Johnny Cueto at Kauffman Stadium tops the O’s charts. Cueto’s 91 mph offering left Schoop’s bat with a 110.6 mph exit velocity.

Fun Fact: Schoop and Nelson Cruz have five of the 10 longest home runs by Minnesota Twins batters in the Statcast era.

Have a look below. Be sure to check out Adam Jones’ reaction. And of course, Manny Machado offers Schoop an animated greeting as he returns to the dugout.

Speaking of Manny Machado, he has six of the top 20 longest Orioles home runs since 2015. That’s the most of any O’s player.

Machado holds the three, four, and five spots on the O’s long-ball leaderboard. His longest was a 470-foot bomb on April 28, 2017 against the New York Yankees. Machado deposited a 90.7 mph offering C.C. Sabathia offering into the center field seats with a 113.9 mph exit velocity.

Fun fact: Machado homered off of C.C. Sabathia five times. Sabathia is tied with David Price as the pitchers Machado has homered off the most.

Check out the 1:12 mark of the video below to watch Machado’s blast.

Finally, let’s talk surprises. The second-longest Orioles home run of the Statcast era belongs to a guy who played 37 games in a Baltimore uniform: Keon Broxton.

Broxton’s first of four Orioles home runs traveled 474 feet through the thin Colorado air at Coors Field on May 24, 2019.

Fun Fact: Norm Charlton and Rocky Coppinger each appeared in one less game in an Orioles uniform than did Keon Broxton.

Check out the 1:25 mark of the game recap video to hear Jim Hunter proclaim, “Welcome to Baltimore, Keon Broxton.

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Which Type of Quarantined Orioles Fan Are You?

It’s Opening Day. Well, it was supposed to be anyway. Instead, we have #OpeningDayAtHome. Sigh.

We each have our own coping methods. Still, I’m thinking there are some general categories of quarantined baseball fans that capture many members of the #Birdland community.

Which of these types of quarantined O’s fan descriptions fits you best?

The Extr-O-vert

These days of self-quarantine have produced a debate about what qualifies as an essential service; however, no one’s questioning the value of grocery stores.As an Extra-O-vert, you can use that to your advantage.Get outside of the house, go to the grocery store, grab a cart and some frosty beverages, and make like the cart boys.

Don’t worry, people will be more than happy to keep a safe social distance from you while you celebrate. Ain’t the Beer Cold!

Most likely example: @editti22.

 

The Intr-O-vert

Crowds aren’t your thing, unless of course it’s at Camden Yards.As an Intr-O-vert, you’re content to grab some reading material, curl up in your favorite chair, and read about better days gone by while dreaming of glory days yet to come.
Baltimore Orioles bookMaybe take a pass on Astroball for the time being.

Most likely example: @JMcGuireMLB (aka @BaseballBookPod)

 

The Audi-O-phile

Who doesn’t love the sights and smells of a ballpark? What you really love, though, is the sounds.Substitute the joys of an Orioles Radio broadcast with some classic O’s tunes and make the most of your days.

Baltimore Orioles Music
“Something magic happens ….”

Most likely example: @SamAbate


The Vide-O

You started your day with a simple YouTube search for the Delmon Young double. Who can possibly wait until the afternoon to see it on the MLB Livestream?

Hours later, you’ve watched official highlights from every O’s postseason victory, endless homemade fan tributes, and feature packages.

Boog Powell Meets Boog Powell
If you can’t be at Boog’s day, you may as well watch “Boog Powell meets the A’s Boog Powell,” right?

Most likely example: @AlainnFocail

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