That there is always something new to learn ranks as one of baseball’s finest attributes. There are layers upon layers for those who seek to better understand the game they love. For some people, advanced statistics allowed for a greater understanding of the game, putting trends and eras into better context.
Increased computer power allows the statistically minded to spot new trends in the game as hobbyists and analysts alike run regressions on massive databases for entertainment and in search of a competitive advantage. Pitch tracking systems installed in every ballpark provide more and more information and food for thought when it comes to learning about pitchers, catchers, and even umpires.
But sometimes there is no substitute for experience. A lifetime spent watching the game at its highest level from right up front allows for observations and insights that escape even the most complex computer algorithms.
The best form of observational insight, for me, comes from pitch tipping. Hitters and coaches are so adept at spotting tiny, subtle changes that suggest what pitch is on its way. Hitters root for such an advantage and then exploit as long as they can – until the pitcher’s side can figure out where the source of the information leak.
Jason Collette of Fangraphs did a great job breaking down reliever John Axford‘s pitch tipping journey, from ineffective fallen closer to the latest in a long line of pitchers “corrected” by the astute Cardinals coaching staff.
Collette uses all the tools at his disposal (pitch fx, gifs and more) to show readers how and where Axford’s mistakes took place. It’s fun to read and you certainly come away feeling like you learned something.
The difference, and the value of experience, is that Axford’s comments and the comments of his St. Louis coaching staff dropped a trail of breadcrumbs. When you know where to look, it makes it much easier to find these subtle differences.
Not to take away from the work of Collette and R.J. Anderson, two of the best online analysts of this type. But doing it in real time, either from the batters box or the dugout, is something else altogether. The true masters at work.
Good Read of the Day
Biomechanics is one avenue of baseball closed off to most fans and writers. There is so much going on so quickly when a pitcher delivers the ball to the plate, the untrained eye is the best place to start making judgments about the long term viability of a pitcher’s mechanics.
An inexact science when conducted from the outside but food for thought at the very least. Health is the next great frontier for baseball discovery, we often here. Though a quick look at the numbers presented here suggests we might have already discovered it?
A dose of reality in Wrigleyville
The Cubs revealed their first-ever official mascot this week and all manner of fun was had at Clark’s expense. Obviously bear mascots are designed for snarky adults with too much internet time on their hands but Will Leitch attempted getting past the easy bear jokes to make a bigger point about the direction of the Cubs.
The most amazing thing, in Leitch’s esteem, about the Cubs transition from “local color” to “billion dollar enterprise” is that it took so long. The more corporately-minded Cubs ownership works diligently to remove all character from the area surrounding Wrigley Field, citing a competitive disadvantage from playing in such an antiquated park.
Are fans holding the Cubs to a different standard? Just because they operated an enormous outdoor bar without much in the way of success for more than 100 years, does that mean they need to continue on the same road forever?
We can let a mascot be a mascot and Cubs fans can lament the new direction or newly scrubbed facade of their venerated club…right up until it wins a World Series. Provided they do conspire to win one some day.
Blessed is the invisible hand of the market
— Rafael Rojas C (@rafaelrojasc) January 14, 2014
Free agent-to-be displays newfound interest in fitness, proudly wears determination on sleeve. Film at 11.
(Sandoval will re-sign in San Francisco, I’m betting. The Giants love their guys.)
I remember the 80s
Today in great moments of selling your youth back you, MLBAM announces RBI Baseball is coming back from the dead. To celebrate, here’s the famous youtube clip of the 1986 World Series, played out with RBI Baseball over Vin Scully’s call.