In one corner, we have Rip Sewell. In the other corner, we have Nolan Ryan. There is, perhaps, no greater difference between pitching strategies in baseball history than these two hurlers. Sewell, who made a string of All-Star appearances in the 1940's, was known by a pitch he invented: the eephus. Wikipedia tells me that Sewell began throwing the eephus -- or the “blooper pitch,” as Sewell deemed it -- after being shot in the foot during a hunting accident, requiring him to completely reengineer his pitching motion. He tossed the inaugural eephus in a spring training game whereupon Sewell described the batter, "He started to swing, he stopped, he started again, he stopped, and then he swung and missed it by a mile. I thought everybody was going to fall off the bench, they were laughing so hard.”

Nolan Ryan, on the other hand, is known for his unrelenting, blistering fastball that he would throw as hard as he could as often as he wanted. I don’t think I have to describe his pitching strategy to you, just as long as you’re familiar with this.

Sewell and Ryan are long gone, but there are multitudes of pitching strategies in today’s game honed by sensational athletes and obese 40-year-olds alike. I’m here to introduce you to three very different ways three very different pitchers excel at getting batters out.

All pitching statistics are courtesy of All pitch-type data comes from

Madison Bumgarner


It’s come to my attention recently that I’m not manly. Like at all. All the things which have come to define what it means to be a man’s man, I have none of them. It was a painful realization to say the least. And it all started with stupid Mo-vember.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the fact that November has become prostate cancer awareness month and all of that. But it’s also become a month of de facto discrimination against those of us who cannot grow beards, mustaches, or even suitable lamb chops. I can’t grow proper facial hair, a fact that until recently never bothered me. Every woman I’ve ever dated, including the one I ended up marrying, hated facial hair. So I never really aspired to grow a springy goat, a slick handlebar, or daft chimneysweep's broom. But when my Facebook feed started blowing up the first week of Turkey Month with pictures of my buddies and their mustaches, I was forced to consider my own manliness and how I might compensate for my newly perceived shortcomings. I ran down in my mind all the things that define someone as manly. I mentally checked ‘no’ on nearly every line. Since you’re not inside my mind, I’ll write the list of my manly failures for you.


The first time I heard Maroon 5, I thought I was listening to Justin Timberlake backed by a jazzy Memphis rock trio. Their music was funky. It was eminently listenable. Lead singer Adam Levine’s voice was a silky as Timberlake’s, but it had an edge. An edge that comes only with years of labor in obscurity.

Maroon 5 had existed, in some form, for nearly a decade before they won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2005. Though their first album under the name Maroon 5, Songs About Jane, debuted in 2002, it wasn’t until 2004 that the band finally popped into the national and international scene. Their sound was different than anything else on the pop or rock airwaves. With Levine’s crystal pipes at the forefront, their music had an incredible smoothness. But behind Levine’s vocals was real musicianship. There was an unmistakably sexy funk in the present but not overbearing drumming. And more importantly the wah-pedal infused, blues-riff guitar was just as much a tentpole of the band’s sound as its frontman’s vocals. Songs About Jane proved Maroon 5 was original, captivating, and versatile. The tracks on the album ranged from the stripped down “Tangled” to the arena-worthy “Not Coming Home”. All the songs on the were about the complications of love, which isn’t a unique premise, but when combined the band’s novel sound, it made for one of the best records of the early 2000's.

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  1. The pitcher takes a running start.

  2. Hitting the batter with the ball is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.


NBA Pictures, also known as Bout Dis Life Studios, has enjoyed some smashing success this year with its reboots of Con Air and Ocean’s Eleven. But all that success has gone to our heads. Trying to cash in on the summer blockbusters, our screenwriting department has been churning out pitches for new remakes 24 hours a day since the NBA playoffs started. I won’t sugar coat it for you. They all suck. Unmitigated garbage. As Dave Chappelle might say, “These are straight up snout.”

But admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, so consider the publishing of these atrocious pitches our admission. You’re welcome, America.

Read the pitches and check out the awesome Photoshop work at

 Seriously, you have to check out the photos. They're incredible. Big thanks to BallerBall E-i-C Jason Gallagher.


The NBA Skills Market model is an analysis of the current market value of specific skills, abilities, and achievements for NBA players. For the second year in a row, I’ve built this model and published its findings at the start of free agency. July is the month when players’ values are determined, and the Skills Market model is very useful for making predictions about the type of money a player will earn on the open market. No matter how much money a player signs for, writers like myself will constantly critique both the player who signed the contract, and the GM who offered it to him over the entire life of the deal. I believe that turnabout is fair play, so in that spirit, I’ve turned my critical eye to my own model’s predictions to see which free agent contracts it correctly predicted and which it was way off base on.

Check out the good, the bad, and the ugly of the NBA Skills Market at Valley of the Suns

The best part of NBA free agency is the existence of hope. Even if it lasts only until the moratorium is over, July 1st provides NBA fans with the hope that this could be the year their team signs a marquee free agent and begins the march to a championship. That hope isn’t always realize and often it evaporates just as quickly as it appeared. For those who don’t get caught up in the hype, however, there is always the second-best part of NBA free agency: delusion.

We covered yesterday that free agency is like Christmas in July for some players. But not everyone is in for a big pay day. Some players’ expectations for their next contract are so off base, they are laughable. Whether it’s their agents, their entourage, or just their own overflowing self-esteem, some players have so inflated their own value in their minds, it’s almost sad to watch their bubble get burst. Almost.

Reveling in this delusion is the best way for disappointed fans to cheer themselves up when all the impact players have signed elsewhere.

Check out the list of players about to take a pay cut at Valley of the Suns

In a free market, prices for commodities eventually come to a perfect equilibrium that maximizes the benefit to both customers and suppliers. But the NBA is far from a free market. Free markets don’t have salary caps. Free markets don’t have moratoriums. Free markets don’t have maximum salaries, rookie scales, and luxury taxes. And most importantly, free markets do have what is known as perfect information. This means that both sides, customer and supplier, know everything about the product being sold and the benefits it will confer. The concept of perfect information in the NBA is laughable.

When it comes to free agency negotiations, agents are the suppliers, GM’s are the customers, and players are the commodities. As we covered yesterday, each player/commodity has a specific market price depending on their skills, stats, abilities, and experience. An agent’s job is to get their client a contract which will pay higher than the market price in annual salary. A GM’s job is to get the best value for their contract dollar. GM’s are not in the business of low-balling necessarily; they’re just trying to maximize the skill, ability, and experience of every commodity on their roster. Agents try to sell their clients based on their best possible performance. GM’s evaluate commodities based on their expected performance. The information is less than perfect because neither side actually knows how the player will perform once the contract is signed. Every free agent contract is a gamble. Sometimes that gamble pays off for both team and player. Sometimes it just pays off for the player. Either way, for several current NBA free agents, Christmas will come early this year because they’re in for a significant raise. Here are some of the players in the market who are about to get paid.

Read the list of who's going to get paid at ESPN TrueHoop's Valley of the Suns

In the wake of a seven-game NBA Finals and the one of the most unpredictable drafts in recent memory, the NBA community turned off their cell phones this weekend, sat down on the couch with a bowl of chips, and finally got around to watching those Netflix DVD’s which had been sitting next to the TV since the All Star break. But after a weekend spent relaxing, recovering, and being disappointed by Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, it’s time to get back to work. Free agency is here once again, and though this crop of free agents may not be as bountiful as years’ past, the stakes have never been higher for NBA teams.

The effects of the new CBA are finally being felt as teams scramble to sign impact players while trying to avoid the dreaded repeater tax. In addition to a more punitive luxury tax, the new rules have limited exceptions for tax-paying teams making it harder to sign valuable role players. Now more than ever, teams have to maximize player value for their contract dollar. One bad deal can cripple a team financially and fatally limit their roster flexibility for years to come (Unless of course Danny Ainge is willing to take those contracts off your hands.) Properly valuing free agents and having the discipline not to overpay for them is the name of the game this summer. In the spirit of that, I’ve spent the last several weeks building an economic model for player salaries. Welcome to the NBA Skills Market 2.0.

Read the rest at Valley of the Suns

Outside of watching David Stern host the NBA Draft (and take shots of Goldschlager between picks), there is no more entertaining part of the NBA offseason than the start of free agency. For teams like the Clippers, July is the first step towards becoming a Championship contender. For others like the Celtics and Bucks, it’s a way to kick off the tanking process with a bang. For players, the free agency period is when fortunes are made and bubbles are burst. Whether or not a player gets paid depends not only on their talents and marketability, but also on their agent’s ability to sell. The relationship between player and agent, and the trust they share, can make all the difference in a player’s financial future. It’s a lot like Jerry McGuire, but with a distinct lack of Cuba Gooding, Jr.

One of the most intriguing and compelling free agents in this year’s class is Milwaukee Bucks’ guard Monta Ellis. Mr. Ellis has been kind enough to give BallerBall complete access behind the scenes to both he and his agent as they endeavor to land a rich free agent contract. The relationship between Monta and his agent is much like a marriage. Monta is passionate to a fault. His agent is demure and stoic. More than once, I observed Monta grab his agent and shake him vigorously when he was desperate for an answer. During these exchanges, Ellis’ agent always handled his client like a pro. Much like a Buddhist monk, he always seemed to give Monta the answer he needed to hear without any bias or emotion. It was an incredible experience to watch the two of them work together. Below is a first hand account of several exchanges between Ellis and his agent at the offices of the M.E.B Agency in downtown Milwaukee.

One final thing worth mentioning: Monta Ellis’ agent is a Magic 8-Ball.

Read the transcripts at


The goal posts moved on Monta Ellis. Since Ellis came into the league in 2005, NBA teams have put more emphasis on efficiency and less on per-game production. In the face of that changing barometer for what makes a player great, Ellis’ game has remained seemingly unchanged. This stubbornness combined with the overall lack of efficiency in his game has led some pundits to write him off completely as nothing more than a chucker. After all, this season Ellis posted the lowest PER of any player who averaged 18.5 points or more.

But there is still hope for an efficient Ellis, and it wouldn’t take a total overhaul of his offensive game to do it.

The criticism perpetually surrounding Ellis always seems to far outweigh the praise, but that clouds over the fact that Ellis has some impressive talents. Over the last four years, the only guards who have gotten to the rim more consistently than Ellis are Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and Tyreke Evans. Playing alongside point guards Steph Curry and Brandon Jennings, Ellis has averaged at least 5 assists per game for four straight seasons.

Ellis checks a lot of boxes in the plus column for a starting guard in the NBA. His biggest problem, at least on offense, is his poor shooting percentages. Ellis can shoot, so his statistics are more a result of reckless shot selection.

Read the rest of the Monta analysis at HoopSpeak


It’s been seven years since the NBA enacted the so-called “one-and-done” rule which prevents players from declaring for the NBA draft until they are one year removed from high school. This rule fundamentally changed the draft by preventing high school players from jumping directly to the NBA. People in and around the league have many different justifications for “one-and-done”, but two in particular stand out above the rest.

1) The eligibility requirement gives teams more time to evaluate players. NBA Commissioner David Stern, in an interview with USA TODAY, said of the eligibility rule, “…we would like a year to look at them and I think it’s been interesting to see how the players do against first-class competition in the NCAAs and then teams have the ability to judge and make judgments, because high-ranking draft picks are very, very valuable.”

2) This requirement raises the profile, star power, and marketability of incoming draftees. In a piece for Grantland, NBA Analyst and former Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr explained, “In the old days, college basketball was the NBA’s single best marketing tool. Nearly all of the league’s future stars were well known by the time they were drafted … How often does that happen today?” Kerr’s point is that incoming players who have stay in college spend time on the national stage for longer before entering the NBA, thus arriving more recognizable and marketable.

Setting aside objections about whether adults should be barred from certain jobs based on age, “One-and-done” has produced some unintended consequences for the league, its incoming players, and college basketball, which may outweigh any and all benefits this rule has conferred.

Read the rest of the piece at HoopSpeak


Editor's Note: This is my first piece for Hardwood Paroxysm. HP is The New Yorker of ESPN's Truehoop Network. Enjoy!

Gunners. Players who do nothing on offense but shoot and score. When they’re on, we love to watch them. When they’re off, we love to hate them. And all the while, advanced stats tell us they do more harm than good. But sometimes advanced stats take the fun out of the game. Sometimes a guy chucking off-balance 20-footers is more fun to watch than ruthless efficiency. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, gunners have a place in the NBA.

But who is the biggest gunner of them all? How do we rank and quantify the “achievements” of those whom advanced stats have sought to expose? I give you the Gunner Rating.

Gunner Rating = (% of possessions ending in a missed FG) – (Assist Rate) – (Offensive Rebound Rate)

Read the rest at Hardwood Paroxysm


The NBA has a plethora of postseason awards. Each May, the league gives out trophies for MVP, Sixth Man, and Rookie of the Year, no to mention the Shut the Hell Up Cup, which is awarded annually to Dwight Howard. Each of these awards is voted on by different groups within the NBA universe. Because all voters have some measure of bias, the recipients of these awards are subject to scrutiny about whether or not they deserved to win. Case in point: Marc Gasol wins the Defensive Player of the Year yet comes in third among centers in All-Defensive Team voting. Second case in point: Dwight Howard refuses to shut the hell up.

But there is one trophy which is awarded on pure merit alone. The Arena DJ of the Year. The recipient of this trophy ascends above the scrutiny of the blogosphere, Skip Bayless, and the guy who refused to vote for LeBron for MVP. That’s because the ADJoY isn’t chosen by votes. A DJ can only win the title by defeating all comers in the Arena DJ Year-End Tournament. Like the NCAA Tourney (but with better jumpshooting and less charges), the DJ title is decided by a single elimination tournament where team DJ’s face off against one another in a head-to-head battle for in-game entertainment supremacy. Today is the final of that tournament. I’m pleased to introduce our competitors.

Read the rest at ESPN TrueHoop's BallerBall: The Web's #1 site for NBA satire


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