Back to the Grind
The Drunk Jays Fans summed up the other day the sense of perseverance it takes to keep watching the Jays’ second half. As I mentioned in their comments, that song starts with a kid breaking free on the open road for a weekend of freedom and ends with him coming back to have the crap beaten out of him by his stepfather. This weekend felt a lot like that – on rolling back to the TV late Tuesday night, I see the Jays are pretty much where I left them, losing one-run games in ridiculous fashion at the hands of a bullpen that is lights out (4th best in majors), but somehow manages to lose a ridiculous number of games (4-17). Help.
It’s hard to fault Cito when Beltre hit one out on a pitch over his head, but if Gibbons had
- Allowed RHB to hit 2 home runs off of LHB late in the game
- Left Downs in for a second inning with B.J. on the bench in a tied game
- Brought in Shaun Camp with the game on the line
He would have been burnt in effigy across Toronto. I know Cito is more of a motivator than an “X’s and O’s” guy, but this could get ugly. Hopefully Brandon League (called up on Sat) will turn into the right handed setup man he should be, or Accardo will throw, well, ever.
On to pitch f/x! Barajas has been going around lately giving high marks to the increased “late life” in fastballs from Burnett:
“It’s like the last 10 feet, it just picks up,”
and B.J. Ryan
“They end up being late, because that last 10 feet, it seems like it picks us a couple miles per hour,”
Now if you’re like me, you wonder WHAT THE HELL THAT IS SUPPOSED TO MEAN, and why everyone just nods and smiles at the crazy catcher. Because just like “late break”, “late life” is not physically possible (and more obviously absurd). However, as with most of these things (see: “rising” fastball), players are describing an effect in the way that it looks to them. A quick look at pitch f/x from one of Ryan’s first and latest starts shows Ryan’s fastball has had:
- No increase in velocity.
- No big change in movement (pfx/pfz).
- Almost 3 inches more “break” (and straighter up and down).
Ok, no change in movement but a big change in break- what the hell am I talking about? Well, “break” is another column in pitch f/x I rarely use that measures what is probably easier to think of as the “bend” of a pitch. If you were looking at a bow, the “break” is the distance between the string that attaches both ends and the middle of the bow (here’s a graphic stolen from Mike Fast, who adapted it from Mike Walsh):
The official term is something like “the greatest distance between the balls actual path and a straight line between release and final destination”.
Anyway, long story short- Ryan’s fastball is bending more and thus appears to rise more as it gets close to the plate. To a catcher (and a hitter), that looks like it’s picking up speed. And that’s why an 88 mph fastball from Ryan is not the same as an 88 mph fastball from Josh Towers…
In Other News
Zaun is doing the whole “I’m not going to complain” complaining about playing time and the “random” use of catchers from both Gibby and Cito (or if you want (and why would you or have to in this day and age??), you can read the sanitized version over on the Jays’ main page). Rosenthal mentioned that the Dodgers have talked to the Jays about Matt Stairs, but the Jays aren’t ready to give up on the season yet. And Roy Halladay is still thinking and learning how to be a better pitcher:
“I sometimes get stuck in how I think we can get them out,” Halladay said. “Rod and I talked and he did a great job of making me mix things up and sometimes go against the book. “It makes a big difference, especially when you start rolling the lineup over, showing them some different things.”