KNUCKLEBALLS, By Dave Clark - Knuckleball HQ
Why Sidewinders Get Lit Up
Watch major league sidearm pitchers and you'll see they don't last long, as a general rule.
Call me an ignorant amateur (and someone will) but I think I see a fatal flaw in their delivery.
A batter is trying to judge two things in each pitch: location, and time of arrival.
Swinging early or late isn't necessarily a tragic thing. There is often an advantage to going with the pitch and hitting something off-field. The diamond covers an area of ninety degrees from the plate, so timing can be off and a hit may still come out of it.
It's location that's the most important. Up/down, or left/right, a batter is at his best when he has a pretty good idea where the next pitch is going. Guessing location well makes it far easier to put the bat sweet spot square on the ball and drive it.
Most pitchers deliver with an arm slot that roughly passes diagonally through the strike zone. This automatically gives the pitcher an easier chance to throw a strike. Depending upon the movement of the pitch, it's not hard to move a pitch to most anywhere in the strike zone from that approximate path. Naturally there is a difference between what side the pitcher throws from and what side the batter hits from that slightly increases or decreases the ease of pitching or hitting. We all know about those lefty-righty matchups that managers also try to work to their advantage, and the numbers do show there's something to that.
A sidearm pitcher is at a disadvantage right away, in that his delivery passes through the strike zone at its narrowest, which reduces the ability to throw a strike. Furthermore, its easy for a batter to tell the approximate height of the pitch, greatly increasing the ability to guess the pinpoint arrival of it. If the arm sweeps low, the batter knows early on that the ball isn't going upstairs. And it's also pretty easy for that pitcher to miss inside and outside, and batters know that, so they find it easier to lay off a pitch that is fairly obviously a strike or not.
I never see many sidearm pitchers who develop much velocity. I'm sure an exercise physiologist could explain the biomechanics and perhaps explain if it's a harmful way to start a career. True, velocity is overrated, but if a pitcher can develop a wide difference in speeds such as a plus fastball and knee-buckling changeup, he's more likely to throw a good game. A side-armer has to depend a lot more on movement, and that may be about his only weapon. From what I see, the ideal pitching mechanics demand that the ball be lifted high at some point and delivered from around that approximate angle to the pitcher. Is there some possible physical harm that can come of this at a young age? Something to think about if Daddy is taking Junior out to the backyard for some practice.
It may help young pitchers if some expert were to research this and present this in a forum that may help them become more successful. Barry Bonds isn't the only batter out there who has gotten way too good, and I think it's time pitchers had more of an open discussion as to what they need to do to get more of the game on their side.
And that's the no-spin truth.
AUTOGRAPH HOUND, By Marc Schoder - Autograph Dog
Cheaters Never Prosper
I began thinking to myself the other day about the implications of San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds surpassing Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time home run list. The first companies standing in line to make money will be the sports memorabilia industry. The first thought of the person who is lucky enough to catch either the tie-breaker ball or the ball that actually ties for the record will be: "How much can I get for this on eBay?"
I will be the first to admit the majority of my income comes from this industry in one way or another via either sports memorabilia sales or writing about them, like this column for example, carried by 14 different web sites and 2 trade magazines. Today I am speaking just as a fan, the way I started on this earth. Looking at it from that perspective, if Bonds was actually taking performance-enhancing drugs he should retire in order to save face on a career that only seemed to get good after the now 40-plus-year-old Bonds whined that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were getting all the attention.
I hope, for Barry’s sake, he retires at the end of the season and does not turn out like his godfather who is charging $500 for an autograph now.
Marc Schoder is a freelance writer and computer consultant in New Mexico. He can be contacted at autographdog.com or usavirtualassistant.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The contents of the respective articles represent the opinions of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the editor/owner of The Oddball Mall Sports Cards.
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