December 6, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009
We don't have any in-house mechanics experts here at THT anymore (although you never know what Studes has up his sleeve), so don't expect much in the way of hardcore analysis here. A recent New York Times article by Mark Hyman outlined a study by doctors from the American Sports Medicine Institute which reportedly found that curveballs are no more stressful on a kid's arm than fastballs.
This goes completely against everything everybody knows, so it must be wrong (kidding). But there has been a lot of talk around the web since the article came out just three days ago. As soon as I read the article, I emailed Kyle Boddy of Driveline Mechanics fame to ask what he thought. He copied a response he posted elsewhere on the web, which can be found here. He says that less force applied to the arm doesn't necessarily mean that the pitch is less dangerous.
Trip Somers, whose every word on TexasLeaguers.com deeply captivates me, had a more detailed take on the study in question. He goes into great detail about specific ligaments and muscle groups interacting in different situations (throwing a curveball versus a fastball), and provides links to his glossary for when he says something like "valgus force" in the middle of a sentence, just so you don't get too lost. This take is by far the most thorough I've seen on the subject, and I haven't seen any rebuttals of the specific points Somers makes. If you have seen something that contradicts what Somers says here, post it in the comments--I'd love to see it.
In reading the comments at Tango's blog, I was pointed to a third take on the subject at hand. This one, by Graham MacAree of Lookout Landing, takes a different approach. Graham made a lot of noise when he wrote a post almost exactly a year ago entitled, "Biomechanics and You." In that post, Graham called out the so-called biomechanics experts for being too cavalier with their claims. This more recent post also calls for more discretion. I disagreed with this sentence here:
"As always, we should be moving away from the idea that we can accurately look at what motions cause/do not cause damage and towards what we actually know"
I felt that the quote contradicted what Graham said two lines later, when he wrote, "Someday, we'll be able to look at stresses in ligaments and get a good idea on which motions are detrimental and beneficial, but attempting to do so now without all the tools in place is short-sighted." If we move away from trying to figure out what motions cause or don't cause damage, then how can we accomplish what Graham says in the second quote?
I don't want to get into a debate here with people more qualified then myself, it's interesting enough just to watch it happen. But if you'd like to find out what's going on in the minds of some really smart people, I urge you to click the links above.
Last night Delwyn Young made an outstanding catch with his bare hand, catching the ball after it kicked up off right fielder Garrett Jones' foot. The only problem is the umpire ruled the ball hit the ground so it was not ruled a catch. See for yourself:
Yesterday I wrote about one of the hottest hitting prospects in the game. Today, I'll focus on Baltimore's stud pitcher Brian Matusz.
After tossing seven shut out innings last night Matusz has now won his first seven starts in Double-A.
In his first professional season since being taken with the fourth overall pick in 2008 Matusz has been simply dominating. His FIP between Advanced-A and Double-A is 2.70. He has averaged 9.64 strikeouts per nine innings. His command has been oustanding this season with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.87.
The tall, projectable left hander has also done a nice job of keeping the ball on the ground and preventing longballs. His ground ball ratio is 48.5 percent this year and his homerun-to-flyball rate is just 6.2 percent.
Matusz's fastball currently sits between 92-94, although he has the potential to gain velocity as he matures. He also features a curveball and change-up that could develop into plus pitches. His curve is especially tough on lefties. His change-up can be deceptive and has a good speed differential from his fastball clocking in the low 80s.
Matusz signed a major league contract so he could find himself pitching in Baltimore rather soon. The Orioles are assembling a strong cast of young talent and they seem to be following the Tampa Bay Ray's model of success. There is no doubting the thought of a Matusz-Weiters battery in the future is an exciting prospect for Oriole fans.
Yesterday, I listed the worst teams to win 10 straight games. Let's flip it around and figure out the best teams to lose ten straight.
The best of them all was actually a very famous squad: the 1951 Giants, who memorably won the pennant on Bobby Thomson's home run to end a three game playoff against the Dodgers. The Giants, who went 95-59 (.624) on the year, had their slump at the very beginning of the year. After a 2-1 start, they flopped to 2-11. They won nearly two-thirds of their games the rest of the way.
Only one other .600+ club ever lost ten straight: the 1896 Reds. It's OK - they never heard of you, either. They were in first place by a half-game with a record of 69-31 heading into August 20. By the time they posted win #70, they were 6.5 games back, having dropped 11 straight. They never fully righted themselves, and in the three weeks after the losing streak they fell to third, 12.5 games back. I have no idea what happened to them, but they just completely collapsed at the end.
Next worst were the 1925 A's, who went 88-64. When they began their skid in late August, they were just one game out of first. After dropping 12 straight, they were nine game back, and they ended up losing the pennant by eight games to the Washington Senators. Then again, four of the dozen loses came at the hands of the Senators.
The fourth worst streak came from the 1961 Dodgers. Like the Reds, they were in first place in August when they began their slump. Their 10-game slide pushed them from 2.5 up to 3.5 down. They ended up losing the pennant by four games. They ended up 89-65 on the year.
While some of the above teams lost their pennant hopes late in the season, no team can claim a more dramatically timed losing streak than the fifth best team to ever lose 10 straight: the 1964 Phillies. They famously possessed a 6.5 game lead with only 12 to play, but by dropping ten in a row they eliminated themselves from the postseason before winning their next game. They finished with a 92-70 record.
Only two other squads with 10-game slumps finished with winning records over .550: the 1987 Brewers (91-71) and 1932 Pirates (86-68). The Brewers were famous for winning their first 13 straight games. They were 20-3 before a slide dropped them to 20-15. Now that's a streaky team.
Like many teams here, the Pirates were in first place when they began their slide. Unlike all the others, they were also in first when the skid ended. After losing their tenth straight on August (another August slump!), they were 0.5 ahead of second with a 59-48 record. As you might guess, it was a very tightly packed league. Heck, they were only 8.5 games out of seventh place. Thus when they dropped 12 of their next 17, they fell out of the running. Even a ten-game winning streak that took place immediately after that spell couldn't lift them back into the driver's seat.
Monday, July 27, 2009
The Monday of Hall of Fame Weekend is usually a slow day in town because it is also getaway day for the 50-plus Hall of Famers and the two dozen other retired players who have spent several days in the village. That’s usually the case—but not this year. As I drove into town in the late morning, Main Street still looked packed, both with slow-moving cars and weary pedestrians. The north side of Main Street was especially congested, thanks to a long line of autograph seekers lining up outside of CVS for a shot at 2009 inductee Rickey Henderson. The line stretched all the way from CVS, located in the middle of the block, to Pioneer Street, and then some.
Those fans needed to exert extraordinary patience, since Henderson arrived about 40 minutes late for his signing. Unfortunately, Henderson’s tardiness is typical of too many ballplayers who routinely arrive late for autograph shows. It is simply amazing to me how many players, whether retired or active, pay so little attention to start times. As someone who occasionally does book signings, the idea of arriving late for any of them strikes me as thoroughly rude and completely unprofessional, but I get the feeling that it’s the norm in the autograph business…
All in all, the weekend provided success, both economically and artistically. The rains, except for the heavy downpours on Friday, stayed away for the most part, Henderson delivered a surprisingly good and funny induction speech; and fans had plenty of opportunities to acquire autographs of both Hall of Famers and retired standouts. The Friday afternoon youth clinic was also a big hit, thanks to impeccable organization by the Hall and the MLB Alumni Association, and the enthusiastic presence of ten former major leaguers…
As nice as Hall of Fame Weekend was, leave it to Keith Olbermann to bestow his arrogance on the village. In his error-prone Baseball Nerd blog, Olbermann decided to poke fun at former Giant John “The Count” Montefusco because his autographed picture is selling for only $4.95 at the local CVS. Hey Keith, that’s $4.95 more than most of Cooperstown would pay for your Cornell-trained signature. Of course, Olbermann didn’t mention (because he didn’t bother to ask anyone) that Montefusco signed those prints as part of an appearance that raised money for a CVS-sponsored charity. (Graciously, Montefusco also signed for a longer period of time than he was originally scheduled.) And last I looked, Montefusco had a pretty respectable career, winning 90 games and National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1976. Hey, I’d pay triple the listed price for The Count’s signature…
Olbermann’s presence aside, Hall of Fame Weekend provided a needed boost of energy to a town that has been hit hard by both the national and state economies. Bolstered by an estimated 20,000 fans and a cast of nearly 80 former ballplayers, Cooperstown felt revitalized over the last five days. As someone who has been living in Cooperstown for the past 16 summers, I never get tired of this special weekend. For a baseball fan and for someone who wants to see Cooperstown thrive and prosper, Hall of Fame Weekend is a worthy endeavor.