Rob Friedman
Rob Friedman, better known as “Pitching Ninja” has changed the way we look at pitching. He’s also helping players get noticed too. (Audra Melton The New York Times)

Rob Friedman, “The Pitching Ninja”

The past few years of baseball have granted us some of the most popular players. Major League Baseball has made an effort to market some of their most electrifying players in the game. Ronald Acuña Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and so many more. It’s drawn a lot of interest into our nation’s pastime, but along the way, it seems pitchers were being neglected.

Enter Rob Friedman, commonly referred to as “Pitching Ninja”.

Rob joined Twitter in 2014 but really began gaining traction over the past few seasons for his gifs and videos of Major League Pitchers. He’s also a spokesperson for the unspoken. Many pitchers in our game today, whether it be in the Major Leagues, College Baseball, even International Players feature incredible movement on their sliders, sinkers, two-seam fastballs, and other pitches that we may have never noticed without him. Aside from having a dropbox with a plethora of current and past pitchers, Rob also tweets around the clock, especially during the season. His overlays show us just how hard it is to hit a baseball, and the term “lucking into a homerun” ceased to exist. Rather than explaining, I’ll let his work speak for himself:

Other overlays such as this one show just how ridiculously dominant Jacob deGrom is:

So, who is Rob Friedman?

“I’m a pitching whisperer”, Friedman said in an interview with the NY Times. Rob is a lawyer, who has managed a division of a software firm he co-founded back in 1999. Like most of us, he’s just an avid lover of our great game.

Just as most of us who grew up playing baseball, Rob just wanted to be a pitcher. He never coached outside the youth level but discovered something that many pitching coaches today in high schools don’t realize: every pitcher is different. The way one pitcher trains to up their velocity might not work for another. Subsequently, Friedman knew there was a better way to teach the youth rather than the traditional teachings a pitching coach would teach to all their pitchers.

He’s also coined terms that are used exclusively in baseball today. He’s used the word “Airbender” to describe Brewers’ Devin Williams’ filthy changeup, and also incorporated the “sword”, when a player check-swings on a pitch horribly, based on the scene from Benchwarmers where Gus (Rob Schneider) tells Richie (David Spade) to not “chop” when he swings at the ball.

He has created a movement among pitchers. Many players across NCAA are often shocked but honored when they’re featured on the Pitching Ninja Twitter account. He sheds light on pitchers that usually would not be acknowledged, such as Missippi State Closer Landon Sims, who had 30 strikeouts in 11.2 innings last year and is one of the most prolific pitchers across the NCAA. It’s no surprise Rob has amassed 343 thousand followers on Twitter. Many of which are current professional pitchers, waiting eagerly to see if they’ll make his page.

Rob Connects the Past to the Present

The aforementioned dropbox shows us gifs of numerous pitchers from the past. It also shows us the comparisons among pitchers from our past, and pitchers now.

Pitchers today are throwing harder than before, that’s no secret. But these gifs allow us to see just how surgical guys such as Greg Maddux, Roy Halladay, and Kerry Wood were in their prime. He even dedicated an entire post to Wood’s 20 strikeout game, detailing just how dominant he was that day. It’s a great ode to the past to see how pitching has really changed. While many pitchers today focus on blowing their 100mph fastball at the eyes of the hitter, these gifs show how our games best operated back then on the hill.

When legendary Hall of Fame Pitcher Bob Gibson passed away last October, Rob began to upload various gifs and videos of the legend. Some videos detailing just how filthy Bob was on the mound, his incredibly insightful philosophy on the steroid era, and his views on racism within the game. It’s stuff like this that allows our new generation, and future generations, to see just how incredible many of our games’ best truly were, as both pitchers and as people.

The Flatground App

One of the harsh realities in baseball is that not everyone gets noticed. More than often players spend much of their prime years trying to get noticed if they’re already not affiliated with a team.

Rob created The Flatground App to help these unheard voices be heard. The Flatground Twitter bio reads “Harnessing the power of social media to break down barriers & prevent pitchers from falling thru the cracks. Improve skills & showcase talent”, essentially, a voice for the unspoken.

If you scroll through the Flatground Twitter Page, you’ll see pitchers of all archetypes. Pitchers recovering from injury, pitchers trying to get recruited, pitchers trying to get a contract; they even created a Flatground page dedicated solely to hitters as well. To say Rob is revolutionizing the game is an understatement.

MLB Needs More People Like Rob Friedman

In an era where the league is trying desperately to gain more of an audience, we should be thankful for content contributors who go above and beyond such as Rob. MLB suspended his account at one point. Why? Probably because they hate people who promote their game for some reason (and fun in general), while not actually being an MLB affiliate. It’s free advertisement, yet MLB didn’t see that.

Aside from the gifs and clips of multiple pitchers talking about their repertoire, Rob has opened the floodgates of pitching. His overlays give us regular people the ability to see how good these pitchers really are. His comparisons show maybe pitchers today really aren’t that different than pitchers of the past.

Above all, he’s helping people get noticed. His incredibly large following helps anyone, anywhere get attention. It’s amazing for the sport, and it couldn’t have come at a better and more crucial time.

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