Yesterday, I linked to Mike Fast’s article at Baseball Prospectus which partially explained Joakim Soria’s supposed drop in velocity as a result of changes to the calibrations of Kaufman Stadium’s Pitch FX readings. Today, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs tweeted a link to a story about radar gun shenanigans and Kevin Towers’ manipulation of readings while he was general manager in San Diego.
We used to dial it down. I know for a fact that every time Brad Penny pitched for the Dodgers in San Diego it was probably the lowest velocities he ever had. He liked velocity. He’d stare at the board. He was throwing 95-96 (mph), but we’d have it at 91 and he’d get pissed off and throw harder and harder and start elevating.
With the Pitch FX readings that several teams now use, these type of mental games, which MLB tries to discourage, are going the way of the dinosaur, just not Dinger, the Colorado Rockies mascot.
According to Arizona Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz, the Chicago White Sox used to gauge the accuracy of radar guns around the league by watching Matt Thornton throw some of his 95 or 96 mph heat and then reading the radar gun. Still, some ballparks have earned a reputation among pitchers. According to Putz:
I remember Thornton was saying he was talking to Jered Weaver at the All-Star Game, talking about the radar gun in Anaheim. And it’s kind of a joke with the guys in Anaheim that it’s called ‘The Humbler.’ You reach back and let one loose and look back and it’s like 90. It’s ‘The Humbler.’
Accurate or not, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at another velocity reading at a baseball stadium without thinking of Brad Penny losing his mind over the radar gun at Petco Park.