COMMENTARY | There is joy in the unknown, and that is why it is fun to watch Minnesota Twins righty Sam Deduno pitch. Not only do you have no idea where his pitches are going, but, most of the time, he also doesn't have a clue.
Deduno is not easy to categorize. He is not a fireballer like Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds because he does not throw in the upper-90s. He's not a finesse pitcher like teammate Scott Diamond because his off-speed stuff is not all that great. And he is not a knuckleballer like former Twins and current Toronto Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey because, well, he does not throw a knuckleball.
Deduno can only be described as a wild card.
He throws his fastball in such a way that it tails either left or right. Because his catchers do not know where it is going to go, they sit in the middle and react to it as it crosses the plate. Last year, both Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit said that if Deduno could harness his ability and have more control over his pitches, he would be one of the most dominant pitchers in the league.
The problem is that as soon as Deduno tries to control his pitch, he ends up throwing wildly. During his final outings of the year, he often left the field emotionally drained. He was trying so hard to control something that needs to be set free.
It was during the World Baseball Classic, which took place before this season, that something clicked for Deduno. He allowed just one run and posted a 17:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the 13 innings he pitched and led the Dominican to a WBC championship.
"Deduno seems to have taken a step forward now," wrote Matthew Pouliot of NBC Sports. "Instead of aiming for the corners, he's just throwing to the catcher's mitt and let his fastball cut and dive as it will."
In short, he just let go.
In that sense, he is like a knuckleballer. It seems counterintuitive for a 29-year-old pitcher that could not stick with the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres and had nearly as many walks (53) as strikeouts (57) last season to just let his fastball fly. But it works.
Deduno was 6-5 with a 4.44 ERA last season. He had starts where he went deep into the game and was nearly unhittable, and then there were outings like his penultimate showing where he gave up seven runs on seven hits in 2.1 innings pitched.
Deduno himself is kind of a mystery. You can try and read his body language, but he is reserved and is unlikely to go all Carlos Zambrano in the dugout. He speaks in broken English, so it is difficult for him to articulate what is going on inside his head. And, finally, his throwing style is so different that it is hard to tell if he needs to adjust his mechanics.
From what I can tell, however, Deduno is at his best when he is just out there pitching. When he gets caught up in why his fastball is not going over the plate, he usually ends up walking a lot of players and digging himself a bigger hole. When he just throws his fastball and lets it do its thing, even the best players in the league have a trouble getting a hold of it because nobody, including the person delivering it, knows where the ball is going to go.
Baseball -- and all sports, really -- is at its best when its participants are just playing. Players should obviously study up on an opponent's tendencies and constantly strive to improve themselves but once they take the field, it's more fun to see them just go out and do their thing.
None of us, including Deduno, may ever fully understand what is going on with his wacky fastball, but that's just fine. As I said earlier, there is a lot of joy in the unknown. And there is something to be said about letting go, too.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report. He has been credentialed to Twins games for the past three seasons and is a lifetime fan of the team. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tschreier3.
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