Remember that show Pitch that aired on Fox in 2016? That show revolved around the question: “What if there was a female pitcher in Major League Baseball?” The show was canceled after one season despite tremendous reviews from critics and audiences alike with the detractors calling the show “cliché”. Essentially, some people viewed the show as a joke they just couldn’t believe. Well, those people best start believing, because female professional pitchers are starting to pop up on the other side of the world.
Meet Genevieve Beacom, 17-year-old southpaw reliever for the Melbourne Aces. As of this morning, Beacom is the first-ever woman to pitch professionally in Australia.
In her debut appearance, Beacom pitched a scoreless sixth inning allowing zero hits and two walks. Although the Adelaide Giants ended up winning the game by a final of 7-1, Beacom was a bright spot on an otherwise miserable day for the Aces. While you can argue all you want that perhaps Beacom got lucky, I’d like to make a counterpoint...
Beacom has a killer breaking ball. That’s a 12-6 curve reminiscent of prime Barry Zito if you ask me. Am I exaggerating? Maybe, but she’s 17 for goodness sake! She can continue developing that breaker and perhaps turn it into a seriously devastating weapon the longer she plays.
What’s even more impressive than the pitch itself is Beacom’s release point. As you can see in the overlay, there is nearly no separation between where she releases her fastball versus her curve. That’s one of the most important aspects of pitching: not tipping your pitches. Hitters will look for any little tidbit of information to figure out whether or not the next pitch thrown their way is going to be 90 mph or 75, so Beacom’s ability to make each of her pitches look the same is pretty impressive for someone her age. When I took the video and broke it down frame-by-frame, you can see that she does actually go slightly more over-the-top with her breaking ball, but the difference is so minuscule, even Major League hitters would have a tough time noticing the difference in live at-bats.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, Beacom’s fastball sits anywhere between 80 and 84 mph, which is close to the fastest pitch ever recorded by a female pitcher. In the show I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, fictional superstar Ginny Baker topped out at 87 mph with her fastball. So, theoretically speaking, we aren’t that far off from the “unrealistic” world portrayed in that 2016 TV show.
There are pitchers in Major League Baseball today who struggle to hit 90 mph who’ve dominated Major League competition. Among active pitchers with at least 200 career innings pitched, two of the top-16 career ERA leaders have an average fastball velocity under 90 mph: the Marlins’ Richard Bleier and the Angels’ Aaron Loup. So, as long as a woman can demonstrate similar control and ability to create weak contact as someone like Bleier or Loup has done throughout their careers, she’d just need to knock her velocity up a few pegs to officially be on the same level as current Major League pitchers. Don’t forget, she’s a lefty pitcher, and those are always in demand.
We’re still likely decades away from seeing the first-ever female in Major League Baseball, but as long as women like Beacom keep showing up, it’ll only be a matter of time before it happens.