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Wednesday, October 23, 2002

SF Gate: Multimedia (image)

This makes me want to take a trip to the batting cage.  I was a fair hitter in high school, but now I have a tough time making hard contact off live pitching.

Sean Forman Posted: October 23, 2002 at 05:00 AM | 1 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Bangkok9 eschews 1 from Column A Posted: October 23, 2002 at 07:12 AM (#177364)
The accompanying article is a pretty good read also.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/10/21/SP68726.DTL&type=sports

Found this nugget interesting: "Bonds may get a head start from... a vast store of 'pitch templates' -- pictures in his head of particular pitches and the associated swing that connects with each pitch."

This would certainly make sense as you couldn't hope to hit a pitch if you didn't have some certainty of where it was going to be at the plate. But that seems to beg the question of what other information a hitter absorbs and processes to help him guage whether a pitch should be swung at and which swing template to use.

If I remember correctly a 4-seam fastball rides more [drops less] than a 2-seam fast ball because of the greater air resitance on the underside of the ball. But the mechanics of the delivery should be the same and the performance difference of the ball in flight should be imperceptible until after the swing has been started. The fact that anyone can adjust to the inch or two difference in location is pretty staggering.

But how does the batter sort all that out? Does a 4-seamer make the ball look just a little bit redder because of the extra seams? Or can the mind actually perceive the rotation of the ball even if it's just a blur to the conscious mind?

They said Ted Williams could see the rotation [and that he hated movies because of the way they flickered] and if that's more than apocryphal then it's evidence of a 'rate of perception' -- some people 'see faster' than others. I can see where a faster frame-rate would be better since you'd get more frames per distance traveled and have a better identification of the type of pitch.

Now really going out on a limb, could it be possible that every pitcher has a more or less individual rotational signature on his pitches? You hear about guys losing arm strength, but that would only affect pitch speed. Do guys ever gain or lose wrist strength, which I'd think is where most of the rotation rate of the pitch is generated?

What I'm thinking is that there may be some sort of relationship between a batter's frame-rate of perception and a pitcher's rotational rate, and that could explain why certain batter-pitcher matchups are so lop-sided even when the players' competencies are generally different. [Yes, I'm trying to hypothesize 'ownage' -- the slugger who can't hit the journeyman pitcher or the light-hitting utility man who kills the Cy Younger.]

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