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Brett Lawrie crossed the line when he threw his batting helmet at an umpire.

The Tuesday Takeaway
Brett Lawrie can hit, and the 22-year-old is rapidly learning how to pick it at the hot corner. But the questions about his makeup that led the Brewers to ship him to the Blue Jays in a one-for-one deal that brought back Shaun Marcum reared their ugly heads again last night in an incident that is likely to result in a suspension.

At the plate with nobody on and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, with Toronto trailing Tampa Bay 4-3, Lawrie worked the count to 3-1. Then, home plate umpire Bill Miller clearly gipped him of a walk, calling a Fernando Rodney fastball that crossed the plate at least four inches outside a strike. The payoff pitch was a changeup that threatened the upper fringe of the zone but stayed an inch or so too high. Miller rang Lawrie up, and—moments later—the young third baseman seemed ready to ring the ump’s bell.

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December 12, 2011 9:00 am

Pebble Hunting: These Pitches Three


Sam Miller

Javier Lopez, Brad Lidge, and Henry Rodriguez all have unusual offerings you should be aware of.

When writers make lists of the best pitches in baseball, the list usually goes something like this:

1. (Go-to pitch of best pitcher in baseball)
2. (Mariano Rivera’s cutter)
3. (Go-to pitch of second-best pitcher in baseball)
4. (Go-to pitch of third-best pitcher in baseball)
5. (Go-to pitch of fourth-best pitcher in baseball)

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An analysis of Williams' start with the Angels and a brief comparison to 2007.

Prior to last week, Jerome Williams last played in the major leagues in 2007. He suffered a rotator cuff injury that April and finished with a 7.20 ERA in six starts before being demoted by the Washington Nationals. Since then, he has pitched for minor league affiliates of the Nationals, Twins, Dodgers, and Athletics. He spent the 2010 season with the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan, and he started the 2011 season with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. On June 16, the Angels signed him to a minor league contract and assigned him to the Salt Lake Bees. Last week, the Angels recalled him to the major leagues.

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Evaluating each pitcher who appeared in the Futures Game and identifying the most similar current major-league pitchers and pitches with the aid of PITCHf/x.

Sample size or apple pies? You can choose only one. Apple pies—that’s what I thought. A quick glimpse of a prospect might not tell us all we need to know, but it’s still plenty tempting to draw possibly premature conclusions. With that in mind, I decided to watch the Futures Game for the second straight year and make snap judgments on every single pitcher, even though none of them threw more than a couple dozen pitches. Last year, my main takeaway was that Zach Britton was the man. He still is. This year, I came to the conclusion that the only way to top a Bernie Williams rendition of the national anthem is to catch a Sal Fasano first-base coach sighting.

The following table lists every pitcher who appeared in the game, in order of appearance. I’ll tackle them one by one, offering comps to current major leaguers where applicable, as well as links to videos of similar pitches.

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December 9, 2010 9:00 am

Spinning Yarn: The Forkball


Mike Fast

What are some of the distinguishing characters of one of baseball's most unknown pitches?

Forkball pitchers are a rare breed, perhaps even rarer than the elusive knuckleballer.

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A closer look at what the various pitch types mean and how to approach pitch classification.

Several of the leading pitchers in this year’s postseason make their living with a cut fastball, most notably Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera. The list of playoff pitchers who have the cutter as an important pitch in their arsenal, though, is long. It includes Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, and Tommy Hunter on the Rangers; Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes on the Yankees; and Cole Hamels on the Phillies.

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October 5, 2009 2:39 pm

Checking the Numbers: Location and Perception


Eric Seidman

Changing speeds can depends as much upon where you throw as how hard you're throwing.

The velocity recorded by the radar gun and what the batter perceives do not always match. As discussed previously, several factors can cause a pitch to appear faster or slower to hitters. One such factor is the flight time from the point of release to when the ball crosses home plate relative to the flight time the PITCHf/x system projects at 55 feet away. Pitches released any closer than this predetermined distance result in a higher perceived velocity with the inverse true of pitches let go from distances greater than the default. During our initial look it was observed that a few pitchers generated perceived velocities dissimilar to their recorded velocity, a proof of concept that was much more important than the velocity discrepancies themselves. Johnny Cueto, for example, averaged 92.9 mph with a perceived 90.8 mph, while Ian Snell found himself perceived to throw just 87.6 mph in spite of the reported 91.7 mph. But where Snell threw these pitches must also enter the equation, since the location of a pitch works in conjunction to the flight time to add or subtract perceived miles per hour.

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May 17, 2009 10:11 am

Prospectus Q&A: Jim Palmer


David Laurila

The Orioles Hall of Famer discusses his contemporaries, solo home runs, commanding the strike zone, and... solo home runs,

A lot of great pitchers have worn an Orioles uniform over the years, but none have been better than Jim Palmer. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990, Palmer won 268 games over 19 seasons, winning 20 games or more eight times and twice leading the American League in ERA. Signed by Baltimore as an amateur free agent in 1963, Palmer made his big-league debut in 1965 and went on to play his entire career with the Orioles, pitching 3,948 innings and earning three World Series rings. In Game Two of the 1966 Fall Classic, Palmer became the youngest pitcher to throw a World Series shutout when he defeated Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers 2-0 at the age of 20. The winningest pitcher in team history, Palmer is currently an analyst for Orioles TV.

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A conversation with that rarest of cats in the minor leagues, the inked Wildcat from Northwestern.

Chris Hayes has emerged from the humblest of baseball backgrounds to the doorstep of the major leagues. A walk-on at Northwestern University, Hayes worked his way up to the team's closer his senior year. Following graduation he spent a year in the independent leagues before signing with the Kansas City Royals as an undrafted free agent in 2006.

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October 29, 2008 12:43 pm

Prospectus Q&A: Tom Bradley


David Laurila

Sitting down with the former big-league workhorse and current Low-A pitching coach in the Padres organization.

Tom Bradley played in an era where the workload of a starting pitcher is far different than it is today. Now 61 years old, Bradley pitched from 1969-1975, a time where four-man rotations were the norm, pitchers like Mickey Lolich and Wilbur Wood were throwing upwards of 350 innings a season, and pitch counts had yet to be invented. The right-hander went 55-61 over seven big-league seasons with the Angels, White Sox, and Giants, his best years coming in Chicago where he won 15 games in both 1971 and '72. A hard thrower, Bradley finished in the top 10 in strikeouts in the American League each year. Formerly the head baseball coach at Jacksonville University (1979-1990) and the University of Maryland (1991-2000), Bradley currently serves as the pitching coach for the Fort Wayne Wizards, the Padres' affiliate in the Midwest League.

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October 22, 2008 1:20 pm

Player Profile: Brad Lidge


Marc Normandin and Eric Seidman

The Phillies' closer has been to the big dance before, but will he play the hero this time around?

In a career filled with ups and downs, Brad Lidge is currently on a high note. His team is in the World Series, of course, but that's partially in thanks to his performance as the team's closer this year. This was a season in which he led the majors in WXRL and went a perfect 41-for-41 in save opportunities. This was somewhat of a surprise, given that just last year Lidge had lost the closer's job in Houston thanks to eight blown saves and just 19 successful conversions. In light of that recent failure, which Lidge is the real one, and how did he get to the point he is at now?

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June 9, 2008 12:00 am

Ballad of the Fatigued


Eric Seidman

How do starters who throw particularly high pitch-count initial innings perform subsequently?

Delivering to the dish with a 2-2 count, Wandy Rodriguez hit the outside corner with a 91 mph fastball with which Edgar Renteria could do nothing but whiff. This heater happened to be the 55th pitch that Rodriguez threw in the inning on August 1, 2007. While the pitch brought the inning to a close, it simultaneously placed Rodriguez atop a list of the pitchers who had thrown the most pitches in a single inning. Compiled by Retrosheet's David Smith and posted on the Inside the Book blog, the list is composed of the pitchers with the most pitches thrown in an inning from 2004-2007.

I decided to examine the Pitch F/X for Wandy's game. Analyzing the velocity and movement of Rodriguez's fastball, I was surprised to find that his fastball sustained its velocity and "bite" as he went deeper into the inning. However, during the rest of the game things changed a bit. In the second inning, his velocity lost three miles per hour, but his movement increased. It has been theorized before that some pitchers may throw with more movement when they tire due to a dropping of their arm angle; perhaps this happened here, as Wandy lost velocity but threw with more movement.

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