Monday, August 30, 2010

Bacsik on Baseball Terminology

Mike Bacsik has been writing periodic baseball blogs here for the last little bit. He is a wealth of knowledge and is quite a resource. This particular entry was inspired by a reader email over the weekend. Check it out:

For all the baseball guys that don’t quite understand certain terms when it comes to baseball, I’m here to try to help. First pitching terms: When a commentator refers to a pitcher as a control pitcher it usually means 2 things. The pitcher throws strikes with multiple pitches and he doesn’t throw hard. The word command is similar but has nothing to do with the speed the pitcher throws. John Smoltz had great command of his fastball. He threw in the upper 90’s. Trevor Hoffman has great command of his changeup. Cliff Lee commands the strike zone with multiple pitches. These words (control/command) can be interchangeable but have a little different meaning.

Another one I get is what’s the difference between a curve ball and slider? Players like to use the clock to describe a pitchers breaking ball because a lot of times there is very little difference between a pitchers curve or slider. Also, most pitchers throw one or the other, not both. Back to the clock, a true curve ball has a 12 to 6 break (think of numbers on a clock). A slider from a lefty is going to be a 2 to 8 breaking ball. Opposite for a righty it will be a 10 to 4 breaking ball. This helps out hitters in the back of the order. It is the leadoff hitter’s job if he makes an out to describe to other hitters on the bench and the hitting coach how the ball is breaking. If the hitter says his breaking ball is flat, that means it has no depth to it and is a 9 to 3 or 3 to 9 breaking ball. In general curve balls are usually thrown slower than sliders. If a pitcher is more than 10 mph off his fastball than it is usually a curve. Less than 10 it is usually a slider but you can’t put everybody in the same box with that speed chart.

Sometimes you’ll hear a player say, he has good life on his fastball. Life means both speed and movement. This is WAY more important than just speed. Have you ever asked yourself, how did a guy like Tommy Hunter get so many swing and misses on his fastball tonight and in the same game Feliz throwing 8 mph harder to the same hitters get hit so hard? It’s because the starter had life on his fastball tonight and Feliz didn’t. (This might not be the best example but hopefully you get it)

The question of why didn’t that guy throw an off-speed pitch in that situation or how come he can’t throw a changeup are very common questions I get when someone really wants to break down a game. The simple answer I usually give is because he can’t. Pitching is different from any other position in all of sports. You only have so many throws in a day. Usually you can play catch for 10 to 15 minutes in a day during the season. For starting pitchers they get bullpen work on the 2nd day after they pitch. That bullpen will be anywhere from 40 to 60 pitches. Anything over 60 and your arm might not recover for your next start. Relievers rarely get any bullpen work because they have to be ready everyday. Think about other sports. If you want to become a 3 point shooter you can shoot up to 1000 shots in one day. Quarterbacks can throw for an hour straight and come back in the afternoon and have another throwing session. Hitters in baseball can take hundreds of swings in a day. A pitcher is limited in his work to develop his game. You will always spend most your time working on your fastball. That is always your best pitch. Also, you don’t want to get beat with your 3rd or 4th best pitch. A great question pitching coaches and catchers should ask there pitchers in spring training are what your go to fastball is, and what is your go to off-speed pitch? This way when a big situation comes up the catcher knows what your strengths are. If you go away from that the pitching coach can ask why did you throw that pitch because you told me your bread and butter was this not that. So the simple answer to how come he doesn’t throw that is because he can’t.

That’s enough on this topic. If you have any other baseball questions email Bob and he’ll email them to me. Next blog I’ll write about what a pitching coach says to pitchers when they visit the mound. Go Rangers!

1 comment:

P1 Steven said...

During the peak of Pedro Martinez career, SI did an article about his ability to pitch well. His best pitch was his change-up. Besides the obvious of the ball looking the same coming out of his hand whether it be a FB or CO, he also had calluses on the tips of his fingers. The calluses caused the ball an extra ridge to roll off as the pitch his hand.