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April 13, 2012

Pebble Hunting

The Best Pitches Thrown This Week

by Sam Miller

If you followed any games last season on MLB.com’s Gameday application, you saw “Nasty Factor,” which assigned a number to each pitch based on its perceived nastiness. If you have followed any games this season on Gameday, you’ve seen “Scout,” which describes the action like this: “Sergio Romo is having trouble locating his four-seam fastball” and so on. We’re about to watch the three best pitches* thrown in the first week of the season, and, frankly, Nasty Factor and Scout can’t do these pitches justice. So enjoy the moving pictures, and then read the expert analysis provided by some MLB.com apps that are still in development.

3. Fernando Rodney’s 2-1 fastball to Russell Martin, April 6.

Russell Martin’s Bat app:
I didn’t see it coming. I thought, okay, you’ve done this a million times. And it’s not like it was the most dangerous assignment. I faced Matt Moore. I faced James Shields. I faced Brian Matusz. What I’m saying is, I faced a lot of fastballs better than Fernando Rodney’s fastball.

But when I showed up, it was the strangest thing. The pitch came at me like a doberman, just attacking me and biting at me with this territorial violence. It was so hard, and so sharp, and I thought I had plenty of space between it and me but before I knew it my ankles were bloodied and I couldn’t walk. And then two-thirds of me is flying through the air, and Russell Martin is holding this pathetic skinny stump of mine. You never realize how absurd your handle looks until it’s naked, without the rest of the body giving it heft. The handle is so scrawny and pathetic. I was so scrawny, and so pathetic. He flung me away, and that was it for me. On a Fernando Rodney fastball. Never saw it coming.

Drooling Ed Wade app:
Oh my God.
And he’s a reliever?
Oh my. I’ll give him three years and $27 million.
Oh God what if Tony Reagins gets him first.
Seven years and $75 million.

Scout (Finch) app:
Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog.

2: Aroldis Chapman’s 0-2 fastball to David Freese, April 11.

David Freese app:
All right, here we goooooooohhhh no don’t do that CRUD. Come on you stupid suck dude whatareyou stupid suck.

Pass/Fail Professor app:

Upton Sinclair app:
Under the kitchen floor, beneath the refrigerated warehouses, the elephant-sized blenders, and the punch clocks for brigades of laborers, the blood from the slaughtered hogs flows down gutters toward the sewers beneath the factory. At each elbow along the route, the blood sloshes out of cracks in the pathway and puddles in the building’s crevices. In the winter, it freezes but in the spring it thaws into a thick rot. It draws cockroaches, mosquitoes, rats, ants, fleas from blocks away, and this zoo of pestilence grows fat with the sickly mixture, a layered mulch of blood and cockroach corpses and chunks of mold and bug dung. This filth, this diseased casserole, this nastiness—this is the nastiness of Aroldis Chapman’s fastball.

1: Stephen Strasburg’s 1-2 changeup to Lucas Duda, April 11.

Second-Grade Progress Report app:
Velocity: Outstanding
Movement: Outstanding
Location: Satisfactory
Behavior: Needs Improvement
Citizenship: Needs Improvement
Notes: Stephen Strasburg’s Changeup is definitely the brightest changeup in his class. He is also unruly at times, and his running action makes it hard for me to teach other changeups and also makes him very difficult to hit. He doesn’t have much contact with others, and tends to humiliate others. He also seems to want to be a left-hander’s slider rather than a right-hander’s changeup, but he makes it work. Overall, there is great potential here, and holy crap did you see Lucas Duda try to hit it oh my gosh.

The Billy From Family Circus Map app:

Lazy Doctor app:
That’s sick.

*Best pitches determined by me, with some effort taken not to simply post three Justin Verlander pitches. If you have a nomination for the next edition of baseball’s best pitches, email the guy listed below.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

31 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Replacement Cat

Sam, what a filthy read! droooool

Apr 13, 2012 02:34 AM
rating: 4

The slightly less lazy doctor app (As mine said when looking at my sore throat this winter): "That looks like it hurts. Would you like a prescription painkiller?"

Apr 13, 2012 04:56 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Ed Wade comment made me spit my coffee out

Apr 13, 2012 05:41 AM


Apr 13, 2012 05:58 AM
rating: 1
Randy Brown

The Tutor Russell Martin's Kid app would be helpful too:

I don't know if it will help saying this to you... some men in this world are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us... your father is one of them.

Apr 13, 2012 06:41 AM
rating: 1

Love it! Especially the Ed Wade comment.

Apr 13, 2012 07:08 AM
rating: 1

Wow. I heart Strasburg

Apr 13, 2012 07:27 AM
rating: 1
Brian Kopec

Can we do this every week please?

Apr 13, 2012 07:29 AM
rating: 15

Love the David Freese app. Would have liked to hear the discussion that may have ensued when he walked back into the dugout after that "swing.".

Apr 13, 2012 07:37 AM
rating: 0
Dan W.
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Are the infinitely repeating GIFs necessary because MLB won't allow you to embed video content? They're unbelievably distracting and make it impossible for me to actually read any of your content.

Apr 13, 2012 07:48 AM
rating: -7
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Video embedding typically becomes available 48+ hrs after the game now which is a step up from the past when embedding was never permitted

Apr 13, 2012 09:49 AM

Press ESC on your keyboard and viola!, all is well.

Apr 13, 2012 10:18 AM
rating: 7
Dan W.

Thanks, didn't know that.

Apr 13, 2012 13:21 PM
rating: 0
Mike W

This column is almost as awesome as that Strasberg wiffle ball pitch. BP's GIF-fu is strong.

Apr 13, 2012 08:06 AM
rating: 2

Nice work, Sam!

Apr 13, 2012 08:22 AM
rating: 1

The most I've ever laughed at the Family Circus. Nasty stuff, Sam.

Apr 13, 2012 08:32 AM
rating: 4

I laughed when I saw that Strasburg pitch. Duda swings, realizes it looked foolish, and got back to the dugout as quickly as possible. Thanks for the laughs Sam

Apr 13, 2012 08:57 AM
rating: 0
Ian Miller

One of the best things I've read on this site, which is truly saying something. And yes, a weekly version of this would be a wondrous thing.

Apr 13, 2012 09:03 AM
rating: 0

this is spectacular.

Apr 13, 2012 09:07 AM
rating: 1

Do this every week or else.

Apr 13, 2012 09:46 AM
rating: 3

Sam - not sure if you watched David Price's first start, but he threw a tilt-a-licious slider to a right-handed hitter for a swinging strikeout, and that pitch was as filthy as filthy gets. That was the single pitch I saw this week that most sticks out in my memory.

Apr 13, 2012 11:32 AM
rating: 0

The Strasburg pitch to Duda actually raises a point I've been thinking about the last couple of years: I think there's a visual distortion from watching games via the center field camera when the catcher has to move his glove across the plate to catch a ball, wherein the pitch "looks" to break across the plate (in the direction the catcher's glove moves) when it may not actually do so.

In the Strasburg pitch above, the Nationals catcher (presumably Wilson Ramos) moves his glove from over the plate into the right-handed batters box, making it look like the changeup breaks like a left-handed slider. What I've wondered is - does the pitch break, or does it head in a direct/straight path to its ultimate location? Are we confused into thinking there was a big break because we confuse the movement of the catcher's mitt with the movement of the ball?

Apr 13, 2012 11:39 AM
rating: 3

I agree that this may happen often, but from the way Duda swung at that pitch, I think it had some heavy break. Just my .02

Apr 13, 2012 20:37 PM
rating: 0

That's a good question, but in my experience change-ups don't actually break much. Whereas true breaking pitches, sharp sliders for example, are thrown with accelerated spin--you snap them and try to increase rotations to increase 'break', with a changeup you're actually reversing the process, trying to reduce spin. The 'break that we 'see' is really an illusion partly brought on--as you correctly note--by the camera angle. From Duda's perspective, he locates the ball at Strasburg's typical release point, anticipates that it will run towards the plate, and it simply never arrives. it 'drifts' a little bit to Strasburg's arm side, in the same way that a ball 'gets away' from you on a wild throw. I would say it drifts more than 'breaks' and the camera angle certainly contributes to our perception.

Apr 18, 2012 22:23 PM
rating: 1

Best column thrown this week. Thanks, do it again and again.

Apr 13, 2012 13:41 PM
rating: 0

Should've put Zito's curveball to Todd Helton on here. Helton literally ducked thinking the ball was going to hit him only to have it go for a strike.

Apr 13, 2012 13:43 PM
rating: 0

Yes. Plus plus column.

Funny Scout Finch reference.

Apr 13, 2012 22:35 PM
rating: 0

To hell with weekly. Do this column daily, with a best-of at the end of the week!

Apr 14, 2012 07:45 AM
rating: 0

Sam - this is outstanding.

Apr 14, 2012 11:54 AM
rating: 0

I've never even considered having a twitter account, but I may sign up just to follow your feed.

Apr 15, 2012 02:59 AM
rating: 0

I hereby demand that all future references to Aroldis Chapman's fastball call it by its rightful name: Bubbly Creek.

Apr 15, 2012 11:16 AM
rating: 0
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