Answering that question is not quite so simple as you'd think.
The last time I was at a Spring Training game, I tossed down a couple bucks for charity, threw dignity to the winds, and stepped into the radar gun tent. I used the first two pitches to ramp it up before letting fly for reals on the third: 72 mph. I carried my beer left-handed for the rest of the day.
I bring that up because you should understand who is writing this, but mostly because speed is sexy. We all love to watch a 100 mph pitch because it’s amazing but also because it’s rare. Most major league pitchers, let alone internet writers, can’t throw that fast no matter how many times we embarrass ourselves in front of small children throws we make. When at a game, we count the number of pitches that break 100. For example, take a look at this Aroldis Chapman fastball:
Zack Greinke is famous for experimenting on the mound. How extraordinary is the range of his repertoire?
In 2005, Baseball Prospectus ran perhaps the giddiest, glowingest comment in BP Annual history. It was more than 500 words, and it was about a pitcher who, according to PECOTA, had a 0 percent collapse rate and a 63 percent improve rate:
Jered Weaver is way better than he used to be, but all his improvement has come against left-handed hitters. This is how he's done it.
I remember this Angels-Yankees game from 2009 because MLB.tv decided to let me watch it. I was in the blacked out area for Angels games, which was unfortunate, because I had just convinced my boss to pay for my MLB.tv so I could watch Angels games. And then this game played with no restrictions. I thought maybe it was where I was sitting in the building, that I had found a 10-square-foot pocket of Southern California that was somehow outside the law, like a tiny baseball Reservation. I tried for a month but never found it again. That’s why I remember this game.
The Yankees’ lineup that day had Derek Jeter, followed by eight hitters who batted left-handed or switch-hit. This mattered because Jered Weaver was pitching, and everybody knew that Jered Weaver was lethal against righties but vulnerable to lefties, who hit .276/.335/.477 against Weaver that year. Against lefties that year, Weaver was a below-average pitcher. Against righties, he was an ace. Overall, he was not an ace.
Doug looks at what pitching experts mean when they call a delivery "violent," and why this violence can be inextricable from success.
Baseball is a funny sport. We live in an age when athletes are paid handsomely to challenge the physical boundaries of competition, and when pitcher velocity is paramount, yet the most damning label that a baseball hurler can earn is of having a “violent” delivery. Developing pitchers face a natural dichotomy where an increase of velocity essentially requires an associated uptick of kinetic energy, and the resulting mechanics run the risk of being perceived as violent, and as potential red flags for injury. The ingrained link between fastball velocity and injury risk was echoed in Dr. Glenn Fleisig's interview with Ben Lindbergh last month, and the time has come for the baseball-viewing public to appreciate this connection and to accept that the athletes with the most extreme skills will naturally run the greatest risk for injury, and are therefore dependent on mechanical efficiency for their survival.
Professional pitchers must endure some mixed messages as they adjust to the demands of playing ball across many levels, dealing with coaches whose advice can seem contradictory at times. One minute a pitcher is being told not to “rush” his delivery from the windup, and the next minute he is listening to the coach tell him to use a slide step from the stretch in order to hurry the motion with runners on base. Pitchers are being drafted, signed, and acquired with an increasing emphasis on fastball velocity, but teams are hesitant to sign off on a pitcher whose mechanics appear to require considerable effort to achieve that velocity.
If you had to pick a pitcher for a big game tomorrow, who would you take? How about a big game in 2015? Some MLB execs weigh in with their choices.
On the surface, the question seems like an easy one: if your team were playing in a championship game tomorrow, and you could have any starting pitcher to pitch that game for you, who would it be? Your choice is of any ace in the game, but for some it's not just about statistics, it's about comfort and mitigating risk. The question was posed to 12 industry insiders, ranging from pro scout to general manager, and those twelve generated five different responses.
Thirteen reasons why the national pastime isn't always rated PG.
When I moved up from the 11-and-12 league to 13-and-14, there was a 14-year-old kid named Andrade who had grown himself a pretty good mustache. He caught, and whenever a pitch would get past him, he would yell “F***” as he turned to retrieve the pitch. The first time I heard this, I was shocked, and almost embarrassed. I’d used my share of swears, but never like this, in front of grown-ups. I had no idea that swearing was possible on a baseball field.
Of course, swearing is very possible on a baseball field. Perhaps going back to 1898, major-league baseball has been a place where profanity has thrived. On-field microphones rarely pick up the audio (except in Boston, I've found), but the cameras are careful to catch foul lips in high definition. “Well, if you can read lips,” the announcers sometimes will say. “Hey you can’t say that you’re outta here,” the umpires sometimes will say. Mostly, though, we just move on and don’t talk about it. Let’s talk about it. Why not? We might as well talk about it. What follows is a taxonomy of 13 major-league F-bombs. NSFW? I honestly don't know.
Fans were treated to weird baseball in Boston when the O's and Sox resorted to using position players as pitchers.
The Weekend Takeaway
Everyone loves a good dose of weird baseball, and that’s precisely what fans at Fenway Park were treated to on Sunday afternoon. The Orioles capped off their first sweep of the Red Sox in Boston since 1994, but that does not even begin to describe what transpired on Yawkey Way.
In one of the most bizarre goat-to-hero stories you will ever see, designated hitter Chris Davis hit like a pitcher… and then pitched like one, too. Davis began the afternoon by collecting a platinum sombrero, added a double-play ball in his sixth at-bat, and wound up 0-for-8 by the time the 17-inning marathon was over. But with the media preparing to make Davis the butt of many a Monday joke, Davis put the joke on the hometown nine, hurling two shutout innings to earn the win.
Yesterday's games included three walk-offs and a no-hitter.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Trying to choose one takeaway from a night like last night is like being a 5-year-old at Baskin Robbins deciding between ice cream flavors. It might be doable, but whichever one you pick, you’ll be slighting other, equally worthy choices.
Two players over the age of 40 hit walk-off home runs last night.
BP's new expert on pitcher mechanics debuts with a primer on the most important components of the pitching motion.
My name is Doug, and I am a baseball junkie.
It all started with an eight-year old kid and an innocent pack of Topps baseball cards. There must have been something laced into that stale piece of gum, because my formative years are nothing but a haze of cardboard stats, makeshift whiffleball fields, Mark McGwire moon shots, and heated Saberhagen-Valenzuela duels in RBI Baseball. By college I was on to the hard stuff, with fantasy baseball teams stretching as far as the eye could see, buoyed by the mass consumption of designer statistics like VORP, PAP, and EQA.