It’s pronounced reh-per-twar, Orel. Or, alternately, reh-puh-twar. You can listen to it right here. No need to pronounce it in the original French, my friend.

To the box score:


A.

(Tim Wakefield)

The pitch can work differently in different conditions. Cold days are bad. High humidity is good. “It makes the air more sticky,” Wakefield says. “When it’s dry, it’s like a bowling ball going down a lane that’s too slick.”

It’s 49 degrees “and dropping” in Boston at the start of play Sunday night, Orel Hershiser tells us. The humidity is high — 86 percent, according to wunderground. Does any of that really matter for starting pitcher Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball? My guess — based on a woefully limited survey of his very best and very worst starts — is no.

Here are the 10 best road starts of his career, by game score, and the temperature and humidity in each city that day:

  • 10. July 29, 1995: 85 degrees, humidity n/a
  • 9. Aug. 26, 1992: 75 degrees, humidity n/a
  • 8. April 27, 2009: 84 degrees, 36% humidity
  • 7. May 30, 1995: 58 degrees, 87% humidity
  • 6. Sept. 13, 1995: 80 degrees, 68%
  • 5. July 18, 1997: 78 degrees, 76%
  • 4. May 10, 1998: 68 degrees, 74%
  • 3. June 24, 2005: 72 degrees, 66%
  • 2. Sept. 11, 2005: 71 degrees, 51%
  • 1. May 6, 2008: 56 degrees, 57%

And the worst:

  • 10. June 11, 1993: 84 degrees, 68%
  • 9. May 23, 2008: 58 degrees, 67%
  • 8. April 4, 2006: 66 degrees, 52%
  • 7. June 10, 1996: 62 degrees, 85%
  • 6. May 15, 1993: 63 degrees, 62%
  • 5. Sept. 6, 2007: 79 degrees, 70%
  • 4. April 16, 1993: 64 degrees, humidity n/a
  • 3. Sept. 6, 2008: 78 degrees, 63%
  • 2. May 13, 2009: 69 degrees, 67%
  • 1. Sept. 13, 1999: 70 degrees, 75%

The average temperature for the best starts is 72.7 degrees, and for the worst it’s 69.3. But the average humidity for the good starts is 64.3 percent, and for the poor starts it is 67.9 percent.

So is there anything here? Oh, who knows. I had only very blunt weather statistics, which didn’t account for the time the game started or anything like that. And it’s a tiny sample. And I don’t even really know what humidity measurements are. (This guy didn’t help.) And the science behind it is itself debatable. In one story about knuckleballs and weather, I see this:

To understand the path of Haeger’s career is to understand the Bernoulli Effect, a theory developed in the 18th century by Daniel Bernoulli, a Swiss physicist.

The Bernoulli Effect explains how faster air flow across one side of an object creates a drop in pressure on that side. The air speeds up across the curved side of an airplane wing, creating lift, and the airplane takes flight. The air speeds up across the seams on one side of a baseball, creating a drop in pressure, and the ball darts in that direction.

But in Arizona, where Haeger developed his knuckleball, the air is thinner, and the pitch danced less. It wasn’t until Haeger was sent to hot, muggy Kannapolis of the Class A South Atlantic League last summer that his career took off like a Boeing 747.

“The thicker the air is, for some reason the ball just wants to move,” Haeger said. “You can throw it out there in Arizona and really struggle, even when you throw a good one.”

Rick Matthews, the chairman of the physics department at Wake Forest, said that Haeger had science on his side.

“The amount of pressure drop is proportional to the atmospheric density,” Matthews said. “So he’s exactly right.”

But in another, I see this:

The knuckleball is more complicated. Bahill said a pitcher cannot control the amount of spin on a knuckleball. A knuckleball will have a different amount of spin each time, making it hard to predict what will happen.

Because a knuckleball has little spin – it will make about half of a rotation en route to the plate – it does not apply to the previously mentioned spin equation, Bahill said. So, Bahill said it is unknown if the knuckleball breaks less here in Arizona.

“There are too many unpredictables,” he said.

And pitching wonk Mike Marshall told the New York Times:

“Cold weather means there are more molecules per cubic foot of air, which creates more resistance,” he said. ”Any pitch that is designed to move will move more in cold weather, and fastballs will slow down significantly. The colder it is, the better it is for someone like Tim Wakefield.”

All I would conclude is that weather hasn’t played a particularly obvious role in Wakefield’s success or struggle in his career. Given the paucity of knuckleballers, we might never get a sample big enough to answer this question, but given the paucity of knuckleballers, it probably doesn’t matter anyway.

(Wakefield’s game score for this game was 65, his best start since June 8.)

B.

(Starlin Castro doubles)

Bobby Valentine went there:

“I think he can be as good as any Cubs shortstop ever.”

That’s crazy, right? “Yes sir,” Ernie Banks probably says. But it’s worth pointing out that, simply by being in the league right now, Starlin Castro is a really, really, really, really good bet to be at least a borderline star.

Castro is the youngest player in the majors this year. He was also the youngest player in the majors last year. Here’s a chart of all the guys who have been the youngest player in the majors (minimum 200 plate appearances) since 1990:

A couple weeks ago, I looked at all the No. 1 overall draft picks in baseball history and concluded that the median player is Phil Nevin. Compared to No. 1 overall picks, then, Youngest Players In Baseball are far safer bets. The median player here would probably be Carl Crawford, or maybe Justin Upton. Those guys are a lot better than Phil Nevin. Starlin Castro will probably be a lot better than Phil Nevin.

(Side note: Castro is the fourth man since 1990 to be the youngest player in the majors for two years. The others: Adrian Beltre, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Ivan Rodriguez, who was the youngest player in the majors three years in a row.)

C.

(Carl Crawford reached on catcher’s interference)

Carl Crawford reached first base on catcher’s interference six times last year. There are usually around 10-30 instances of catcher’s interference in all of baseball each year, so Crawford and David Murphy (4) combined for an entire league’s worth in 2010. Sunday night’s was the 13th CI of Crawford’s career, making him the active leader but not yet halfway to Pete Rose’s all-time record of 29.

D.

(Cubs ground into a double play.)

I’m an Orel Hershiser fan. I like his pitching insights. I like his casual dismissal of Bobby Valentine. I like how, every week, he seems to have a line that he thought of in advance but never got a chance to practice, so it comes out a little weird. I thought I’d see what some of those lines would look like if I put them through every single language in Google Translate until I got back to English. (Because, stupid.)

Week 1: “I tell you what. He’s a panda, but he likes the high cheese right here.”

Megatranslated: Tell mothers. I am a huge visa IS, but this was like butter high school.

Week 3: “He got firm. He got turned. And he hit a home run.”

Megatranslated: And they have a little success and Sat down with him

This week: “The difference between a ball in the air that can hit the outfield grass and a ball that hits the infield grass is the infielders can turn a double play on it.”

Megatranslated: Sometimes, the ball in the air, will leave the stadium, will be hit twice within a field handball.

Well said, Urdu Orel.

Thanks to R.J. Anderson for pointing out Crawford’s catcher’s-interference skill to me.

Sam Miller is a baseball writer who covers the Angels for the Orange County Register. He is on Twitter.

Comments (5)

  1. good call on repertoire… that one had me questioning the sunday night baseball crew, but not as much as the poor direction of the cameras… is it just me or does espn focus too much on players’ faces? they zoom in so close that we often miss actual baseball! it seems to me like rogers sportsnet uses better camera angles and direction. i really like dan schulman but as for watching a baseball game, i find the sunday night games the least consistent when it comes to covering the actual game. they pan across the crowd and the bench in the middle of at bats. I enjoy watching baseball on tv because you usually get to see every pitch and watch the pitcher, catcher, batter and umpire at work. espn’s sunday night baseball games need to focus on showing the whole game, play by play… am i the only one that has noticed this?

  2. That’s interesting, Chris. You might be onto something regarding the closeups — they do love their overly dramatic shots on Sunday nights. But overall I think the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast is overwhelmingly beautiful. I love the cameras around the dugouts, the various outfield angles, most of the close-ups and super-slow motion, and many of the intros and outros to innings. Much as I sometimes tear my hair out with the commentary — even, occasionally, with this year’s improved crew — I do think they do a great job of turning it into an event. There’s something dramatic about the production that gets me extra hyped to watch a baseball game — which is really something, considering it’s usually the 15th or 20th game I’ve watched that week.

  3. you are right Sam, there are some beautiful shots and set ups, and they do make it into an event, i guess my issue is that they seem to be applying an nfl mentality to the production. baseball is an everyday sport, not a once-a-week circus. i wouldn’t mind the extra shots and pans, if i still got to see every pitch, and not just the end of the pitch, but from the beginning of the pitcher’s windup. they also don’t seem to have wide shots that follow the whole play… on sportsnet jays telecasts, they use several cameras to show every ground out, i find on espn’s sunday night coverage we often miss what i guess they deem to be inconsequential and uneventful plays… they are so zoomed in that we see the hitters face and then the fielders face after they’ve already made the play… they don’t follow the ball and cover the whole diamond on every shot… just my two cents…

  4. Sam, these are the best.

  5. Being in Whistler BC but from Toronto I understand that even though the humidity is far greater here, the air feels much drier. Its all about dew point which measures humidity relative to air pressure. I’d like to see if dew point yielded better results.

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