Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Knowledge is Power

The good men at Mop Up Duty wrote an interesting post yesterday about the rise of the power pitcher. Callum provides a laundry list of big-armed hurlers known to touch triple digits on the handy stadium radar gun. Despite taking spurious shots at Brandon League, the M.U.D.men make a fair observation. My questions is why?

Hard throwing guys getting chance after chance is nothing new to baseball, but perhaps the volumes of research done over the past 15 years or so is coming home to roost. The value of missed bats, ground balls, and strikes thrown causes a selection bias of Strasburgian proportions.

While finding phenoms in the rough is no easier now than before, the combination of better training, more specified coaching at younger ages, and baseball's age of enlightenment funneling these pitchers — let's call them "good" — to the big leagues in record numbers.

Impossibly tall athletes like Ubaldo or Halladay or whomever are steered towards the the fine art of pitching. Baseball grooms pitchers with very specific skills sets, emphasizing very specific outcomes (grounders, whiffs) where once guys (may have) gotten by on guile, reputation, and harder-to-pin-down soft skills. Such training isn't quite available to hitters, their's being an reactive event to the pitcher's initiation of the action.

That isn't to say focusing on big arms and big whiffs is a new phenomenon. But perhaps the ability to drill down to the bare essentials causes the upswing in pitcher performance. As this Denver Post piece on "The Year of The Pitcher" points out, the type of offensive players and offensive strategies (Ks aren't the end of the world) make it much easier to rack up big strikeout numbers. Or maybe it's just a cyclical thing, one coinciding with a drug shakedown inside the sport. Whatever, it's fun to watch.

Midsummer SuperNova

If you have any sense, you read the Tao's pro-All Star post long ago. If not, do so now. Twice even. The Tao makes a impassioned case for the All Star game and for not losing sight of what makes us all fans. And he's right. Except for one sad little thing: I don't like the All Star festivities because it's bad TV.

Bad TV is a hell of a thing. Overproduced, underwhelming broadcasts choke full of so much hyperbole and time-filling garbage as to overshadow the actual thing I'm supposed to be enjoying.

The NFL is largely bad TV, unless you use that TV as an excuse to do scores of other, awesomer things. To sit and watch a full football game is an excruciating experience unless your home is awash in beer, friends, and greasy snack foods.

Much like the All Star Weekend Spectacular. It's an ESPN property now, meaning all the stuff that once made it fun and exciting is now scrubbed clean and/or shoe-horned into every moment of television time.

The home run derby is much worse, but as a made of TV extravaganza, I have a hard time taking it in. The Bermanisms get turned to 1000, the steadicam shots add nothing (which is really hard to do; steadicam should be impossible to fuck up), the boring interviews and the interminable round after round coverage and the endless commercial breaks don't exactly make for appointment TV.

Hey, I realize the kids gotta eat and networks need to make money, but quality of that being broadcast suffers when the event is an exhibition game at best. The attempts to legitimize it while grafting weirdly inclusive rules and working extra hard to keep the egg of Bud Selig's face don't really excite me. Watching Matt Thornton strike out Brian McCann, David Wright, and Joey Votto1 Ryan Howard in order en route to another American League victory certainly does excite me, I simply can't handle the 4 hours of hype and ESPYs promos required to get there.

1 - Yeah right, Votto will stick'em.

Image courtesy of the Mud Monkey's Photostream on Flickr. It's awesome, huge thanks to them.


  1. The home run derby is just straight up boring. I couldn't care less about which MLB player can hit the greatest number of batting practice pitches over the fence.

    Though it will never happen because of the risk of injury, I continue to dream of the day when there is an All-Star skills competition.

  2. Drew, you definitely nailed it on the ASG. I know it 's an overproduced TVgasm, but I eat it up nonetheless. Less Berman would make it watchable, as the "back back back" gets old after about the first two or three Derby hitters. The Derby could also stand to be about an hour and a half shorter.

  3. Did some comments disappear into the ether?

  4. I agree that the endless hyperbole and time-fillers make the Home Run Derby a largely unwatchable event (though if JoBau or Vernon are involved, I'll likely be glued to the screen regardless), but the actual ASG itself isn't so bad -- just don't tune in until first pitch, and you'll have managed to avoid most of the time-wasting BS. Sure, the announcers are annoying and they'll undoubtedly bore us with over-produced montages between innings, but in the end we'll still get exactly what we came for. Nine innings of excellent baseball is good enough, for me at least, to withstand a bit of extraneous pandering to the lowest common denominator in between.

  5. Brace yourselves to be reminded for the 4 billionth time that that Josh Hamilton guy once had a bit of a drug problem.

  6. You and Tao are both right. They are two separate issues.

  7. The Fox production of the game itself is way too whoooooshy and graphically enhanced and packed with too much Joe Buck. I'd be interested to see the MLB International production, because I've become rather fond of their postseason production.

    I guess I try to look past that aspect of it, but I totally concur that it can be headache inducing to try to watch the game through all of that nonsense.

    Home Run Derby might be fun if they got rid of Berman, but I'm sure that he has it in his contract that he gets so many "Back-back-back-back"'s per year.


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