Robert Coello, a 28-year-old righty in the Angels' pen, has appeared in but eight games this season. Yet what games they were! He has faced 38 batters and struck out 18 of them, with only six hits and one walk allowed. What's to credit? A pitch that might be magic.
Jeff Passan has a nice column up at Yahoo about Coello and his pitch (seen in the video above), which is, naturally, called the "WTF." The pitch employs an exaggerated forkball grip, spins like a knuckleball (which is to say that it doesn't), and travels at 80 miles per hour, faster even than R.A. Dickey's nutty fast knuckler of 2012. Pitch/FX cannot recognize it. Rob Neyer traces it way back to Bullet Joe Bush, who starred in the 1910s and '20s.
Where'd the pitch come from, in this case? Coello, who was then a catcher, worked it up while goofing around with a knuckleball back in high school in Florida. He couldn't get the ball to knuckle with the traditional grip, so he settled on a new grip, where he'd dig the ball between his pointer and middle fingers, with his thumb on its underside. It knuckled, and it moved fast.
But then there was the problem of when he could actually use that pitch in a game. The Reds drafted him in the 20th round in 2004 to catch, but he never played for any of their farm teams. He broke a rib while coughing in spring training in 2005, and evidently that kept him away for good. He didn't turn up in organized professional baseball until 2007, when he earned a chance to pitch—he had by then undertaken the all-important conversion—for the Angels' Arizona Fall League affiliate. The Angels didn't keep him around, so he went to the independent leagues in Canada. From there the Red Sox plucked him, and he shined on every one of their organizational levels, with enough success to get him six MLB appearances in 2010. The Sox then traded him to the Cubs, and then he left for the Blue Jays, where, in 2012, he had six more big-league appearances. He got hit hard, but evidently not hard enough to scare the Angels away from signing him as a minor-league free agent in 2013.
He started the season at triple-A Salt Lake, and, well, here we are now. He can't keep up his crazy success—no one could—but it's still fun to gawk at, reminding ourselves that baseball can still dig up things so old and lost they seem new.