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July 1, 2004
From The Mailbag
Subluxations, The Pitcher's Mound and J.T. SnowUnder the Knife
This would be an easy one to describe in person--harder in e-mail.
OK, take one hand and make a "C" or cup with it. Take your other hand and make a fist. Put the fist in the C. That's a shoulder. The C is the glenoid fossa; the fist is the head of the humerus. It would take a lot more hands to imitate the muscles, labrum, etc, but that's not necessary here.
The shoulder can rotate in any direction, but when the fist comes OUT of the C, that's a dislocation/separation. If it unseats, but doesn't quite come out, that's a subluxation. You'll also hear it called "partial separation" and "popped in and out" but that's the basics of it.
In the really old days, there wasn't even a mound, just a line on flat ground that the pitcher had to stand behind when he pitched, and it was ususally 45' away.
By the 1880s the line turned into a box, and the pitcher had to stay inside of the box the entire time. Prior to that, they had been taking long running starts up to the line, like a cricket bowler still does today. The box cut him down to a two-or-three step delivery. The front of the box was 50' from home.
Starting in 1893, the pitcher was required to pitch from a set position off of a slab of rubber 60'6" from the back of the plate, and that rule remains the same today. Notice that 60'6" now defines the distance to a pitcher's *back* foot, while the old rule limited the placement of his *front* foot, and so the change isn't quite as dramatic as it first appears.
Sometime in the 1880s the pitcher's area began to be built up into a mound, but by whom and when is uncertain. The term "mound" doesn't appear in any rules until 1903.
In response to your reference that J.T. Snow is 'a useful platoon source of OBP,' I am not sure the stats bear that out, as Snow has a higher OBP against lefties than against righties. If Snow is in the lineup because of his OBP, then there is no reason to platoon him.
The nice thing about limited sample sizes is that they're limited. Snow's OBP over the last three seasons (from ESPN.com) superficially supports what you're saying, but let's take a more extended look at Snow's platoon data over the last six seasons:
2003 (AVG/OBP/SLG, PA) vs. RHP .284/.387/.450 ~337 vs. LHP .208/.387/.229 ~58 2002 vs. RHP .250/.336/.347 ~400 vs. LHP .228/.382/.429 ~88 2001 vs. RHP .233/.368/.377 ~285 vs. LHP .306/.386/.388 ~55 2000 vs. RHP .292/.370/.479 ~462 vs. LHP .256/.351/.395 ~140 1999 vs. RHP .292/.394/.501 ~469 vs. LHP .231/.313/.331 ~187 1998 vs. RHP .265/.347/.459 ~410 vs. LHP .164/.259/.247 ~83
Now, reasonable people can disagree. You might want to operate on the assumption that his injury-marred 2001-2003 seasons kept him from piling up at-bats against lefties. However, in previous seasons with more at- bats to give us a more comprehensive picture of Snow's batting against lefties, I see a guy with a significant platoon problem. Even if you accept the limited samples of the last three years, you're talking about a first baseman who doesn't hit.
There's another question about the recent data against lefties, as to whether or not they're representative of Snow's skills. Take 2001, a year where Snow hit "well" against lefties. He actually spent the season being platooned with Andres Galarraga, so he barely played against them. Without digging up the game data, I'd suggest that he probably didn't see a lot of lefties in game-critical situations if the Big Cat was available, but against second lefties, or with a big lead, a manager might prefer to leave well enough alone. So I'd speculate he often wasn't seeing the best left-handers, even when he was allowed to face them. But that's speculation, and this is a quick response to a good question.