Here we are in the best baseball of the year: the World Serious playoffs.
I don’t have a favourite. It doesn’t matter who is playing or who is winning. I know, it’s a team sport. But. The pitchers!
Nothing is more enjoyable to watch.
Coming to set…
– beginning with the stretch: back foot touching and parallel with the pitcher’s plate. The right handed pitcher will be facing 3rd base with one hand at his side.
When coming to set he will bring his hands together in front of his body. Most of his weight will be on his back supporting leg. With his back knee slightly bent he will lift his free leg high. The thigh and calf will form a 90 degree angle. Balance is key. A right-handed pitcher’s knee will be facing 3rd base. In one smooth motion; stepping forward with his free leg (stride leg), he releases the ball.
The stretch is used when there are runners on base but is preferred in any circumstance. It has replaced the once popular windup, a motion of bringing the arms up, back, and behind the head, then forward again to deliver the ball.
To be counted as a strike the batter must swing and hit the ball foul (unless there are already 2 strikes on the batter, then a foul ball will not count as the 3rd strike), swing and miss the ball, or the pitched ball must cross over home plate and be horizontally placed as the official rules state: Rule 2.00: The Strike Zone –
“…the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.”
The position of the fingers on the ball and the way it is released determine how it will move. The goal is to make the ball as hard to hit as possible. Confusing the batter is ideal. There are many kinds of trajectories: the breaking ball includes the slider – moving to the side away from the batter, or the curve ball which looks high to the batter but drops into the strike zone. The knuckle ball can be a curve ball but is thrown with the fingers bent around the ball, creating a faster, tighter spin. The screwball, one of my favourites, breaks in the opposite direction to a curve or slider.
The change up takes longer to cross the plate, throwing the batter’s timing off.
The most common pitch is the fastball, thrown hard and fast. Variations in fastballs are determined by the position of the fingers on the seams.
Fastballs cross the plate in the 90 mph range, some faster than 100 mph.
Darren O’Day is one of the few pitchers in North American baseball who uses a side arm delivery. These pitchers are called sidewinders.
” ...the four-seam fastball, when thrown by overhand power pitchers, seems to “hop”, or rise* on its way to the plate. This is because the ball is rotating backwards, lowering the air pressure above the ball. The same pitch thrown by the sidearm pitcher causes a horizontal rotation, and consequent sideways movement. Sidearm pitchers whose deliveries are below the horizontal throw a fastball that rotates nearly forward, so the ball will sink rather than rise….”
Adair, Robert K., The Physics of Baseball, HarperCollins Perennial: New York, NY, 2002, pp. 55–62, ISBN 0-06-008436-7 Contains a discussion about whether it is possible for a fastball to overcome gravity sufficiently to actually rise.
Which brings up one of my other favourites, the submarine.
“ … released underhand, and often just above the ground, with the torso bent at a right angle and shoulders tilted so severely that they rotate around a nearly horizontal axis. (This is in stark contrast to an underhand pitch in softball in which the torso remains upright, the shoulders are level, and the hips do not rotate.)
The “upside down” release of the submariner causes balls to move differently from pitches generated by other arm slots. Gravity plays a significant role, for the submariner’s ball must be thrown considerably above the strike zone, after which it drops rapidly back through. The sinking motion of the submariner’s fastball is enhanced by forward rotation, in contradistinction to the overhand pitcher’s hopping backspin.
… the submariner’s spin is not perfectly level; the ball rotates forward and toward the pitching arm side, jamming same-sided hitters at the last moment, even as the ball drops rapidly through the zone.
Shunsuke Watanabe of the Chiba Lotte Marines is known as “Mr. Submarine” in Japan. Watanabe has an even lower release point than the typical submarine pitcher, dropping his pivot knee so low that it scrapes the ground. He now wears a pad under his uniform to not injure his knee. In addition, his release is so low that his knuckles often become raw from their periodic drag on the ground.”
1 ) Adair, Robert K., The Physics of Baseball, HarperCollins Perennial: New York, NY, 2002, p. 58, ISBN 0-06-008436-7
2 ) Brad Ziegler, AL Rookie of the Year. Hardballtimes.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-20.
Clayton Kershaw is one of the top rated pitchers today. He was the youngest pitcher in major league baseball in 2008, when he was 20. He is left handed.
Left handed pitchers may not be as effective against a right handed batter:
– Their fastball breaks towards the batter, making it easier to hit.
– A right handed batter will be better able to see the release point of the pitch of a left handed pitcher.
This can be overcome by the talent of the pitcher and what he can do with the ball. As well, a left handed pitcher is not what the batter is used to, creating novelty and possible distraction.
complex, flexible, single minded and determined, powerful, focussed, discerning
Fast. Strong. Precise.
I had to include you, Lew.