The Mockingbird

Last Minute Rewrite

with 9 comments

Last night was following an eerily familiar script for the Jays – a decent starter performance, but the Jays find themselves down by one run early in the game. Then the bullpen holds brilliantly so that the missed opportunities with runners on base every single inning burn just that much deeper. Finally, they load the bases late and Jamie Campbell goes absolutely ape over a hit to the outfield that settles comfortably in the glov—

Whaaaaa??? Ichiro does a weird little hop and gift wraps a walk-off win for the Jays?! I actually followed through with my customary turn-off-the-TV-in-disgust-and-get-out-the-scotch but then did a double take, carefully rethought what I had just seen, panicked because I didn’t know how to react, settled on a hesitant, lame little fist pump, and then hid under the couch for a while in case this was a sign of the apocalypse.

I haven’t done one  lately, so here’s a gratuitous pitch f/x look at Brandon League’s one inning tonight.  I noticed something that seemed new- some of his pitches had his usual ridiculous sink, while others were more flat (and controllable?). Sure enough, it looks like two distinct pitches about 4 inches of sink apart, but with the exact same velocity (graph explanation here).

This makes zero sense to me. Sinkers/2 seamers are always a few miles an hour slower. And if you look at League’s movement this year compared to, oh I dunno, the best sinkerballer in the world (also a Brandon), you’ll see that they’re pretty similar. Except League’s is about 8 mph faster and tails a little more.

Ok, I know that I’m not saying anything a lot different from Pat Tabler’s daily “he could be something special if he finds his command”, but I’m going to take it to the next level: Brandon League has a pitch that nobody else in the majors throws, that I would venture to say nobody has ever thrown- a 97 mph sinker. It boggles the mind. And there’s no particular reason to think he’s “another A.J.” just because he throws hard and hasn’t taken off yet (at 25), as his walk rate has been under 3 per nine innings in the minors. </rant>, but hear this: League is not just a promising youngish power arm. He’s a total freak who could be a one-of-a kind pitcher. (P.S. boy does his slider suck).

Moving along, my agent is always riding me to pump out less lame attempts at analysis and more things people actually care about, so here we go- facial hair! Danny Cox was in town for Flashback Fridays sporting an absolutely killer handlebar mustache (screencap coming). But I gotta bust him on the Grecian formula: it’s ranged from the vaguely red-brown we saw tonight:

To jet black back in the day:

And a few more crowd pleasers: first, a bunch of vintage eyewear from Joesportsfan (Tom Henke was this four-eyes’ idol…) And have you ever wanted to see former Jay/king roider/Incredible douchebag Jose Canseco get knocked the @#$@#$@ out? Well now you can:

Written by halejon

July 26, 2008 at 1:39 am

Posted in Seriousness

9 Responses

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  1. I wonder if the fastballs that didn’t move were sinkers up in the zone that just naturally flattened out.

    Cito’s confidence in League is awesome to see. If that guy gets his ’06 you-cannot-hit-me swagger back and just goes right after everyone, he’s going to be a machine. I am convinced.

    obal

    July 26, 2008 at 5:53 pm

  2. Nah, that’s another one of those pitch myths (see: curveball, hanging). High sinkers aren’t really any flatter, it’s just that the angle they finish at is (although there was a Hardball Times study that found unlike the changeup they’re not such a disaster pitch after all when they’re high- I thought it was interesting that League left a few up in the zone in today’s game that still resulted in grounders).

    halejon

    July 26, 2008 at 6:34 pm

  3. Serious eh? Wow. Learn something new every day. I knew movement was about 500x more important for getting groundballs than ‘keeping the ball down’ but had no idea high sinkers sink just as much as low ones. It’s counterintuitive but it makes sense.

    Looking at League’s velocity vs vertical movement for the whole season (comn) it looks like you’re right. If he’s not throwing a non sinker intentionally once in a while, then whenever he lets one slip, it straightens out REALLY badly and there’s no in between, which would be really weird. Might be interesting to look at the signs Zaun or Barajas throws down next time, to see if there are two separate fastball signals…

    obal

    July 26, 2008 at 7:04 pm

  4. Yeah, it’s one of those baseball sayings that is accurate in terms of the perceptions of someone playing the game (like the rising fastball, late break, etc) but not the physics of what’s actually happening.

    That’s a good idea, I’ll go back and Tivo it (god I need help). The no in-between the two groups is what really caught my eye. It’s the same over the entire season, it doesn’t look like just inconsistency in one pitches movement.

    halejon

    July 26, 2008 at 8:45 pm

  5. Jon-

    Sinkers 2/Seamers aren’t always slower than 4seamers-

    Hm… off the top of my head… Josh Beckett throws 2 fastballs that are the same speed but different movement… but they are very close together in movement actually, quite similar to the pitcher you link (though not nearly as “sinky”). Actually, Andy Pettitte who pitched today also does this – and very clearly if you plot speed against Horizontal movement:

    http://brooksbaseball.net/pfx/horzspeed.php?xml=http://gd2.mlb.com/components/game/mlb/year_2008/month_07/day_26/gid_2008_07_26_nyamlb_bosmlb_1//pbp/pitchers/120485.xml&innings=yyyyyyyyy&s_type=1&sp_type=1&h_size=700&v_size=500

    He’s got a pretty clear 2seamer that’s basically thrown as hard as his 4seamer…

    but yeah, a 97mph sinker thrown like that? I haven’t seen him pitch, but I better get watching soon before his elbow gives way.

    Dan Brooks

    July 27, 2008 at 3:46 am

  6. This makes me feel all weird and tingly. I unabashedly love Brandon League, but never considered he was a historical oddity. Hooray!

    lloyd the ghostrunner

    July 27, 2008 at 10:03 pm

  7. Cool, thanks! I’m glad it’s not just a pitch f/x glitch or something. :)

    I wonder about League’s elbow…he slings it 3/4 and it doesn’t look particularly violent. Scouts said he had the “perfect body” for pitching. And he doesn’t throw a lot of cutters/sliders. Yes, I’m attempting to kid myself. Shut up.

    halejon

    July 28, 2008 at 9:15 am

  8. [...] enough for the 4th fastest pitch thrown this season. Now did anyone mention that it was one of the best sinkers in the league as well?? Ryan who? « The Next [...]

  9. [...] It might also seem a strange thing for me to do but The Jays traded cyborg Halladay and weirdo Brandon League.  As necessary or good as those trades might be, it’s decimated my population of favourite [...]


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