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Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Economist: Whirling Darvish

Will Yu be the next Dice-K?

Mr Darvish’s Japanese statistics are significantly better than Mr Matsuzaka’s were. He has allowed just 47% as many earned runs over the last five years as an average NPB pitcher would have in the same number of innings. In contrast, Mr Matsuzaka gave up earned runs at 60% of the league-average rate during his final four years in NPB.

Moreover, Mr Darvish has much more of a classic pitcher’s build than does Mr Matsuzaka. At six feet, five inches (1.96m) and 216 pounds (98kg), he throws on a sharp downward plane, forcing batters to hit the ball on the ground—a particularly valuable asset in the Rangers’ stadium, where the hot, humid air transforms harmless fly balls into towering home runs. His size may also help his body hold up to the wear and tear of pitching every five days in MLB, rather than the six that is customary in Japan. Mr Matsuzaka, who stands a comparatively modest six feet and weighs 185 pounds, induced far too few ground balls and broke down in just his third season in Boston.

Finally, Mr Darvish is likely to find the transition to America easier than Mr Matsuzaka did. He comes from a multicultural family: his Iranian father attended high school and university in the United States, where he met Mr Darvish’s mother. The family spoke English at home until their son was three, and Nolan Ryan, the Rangers’ CEO and an iconic pitcher of the 1970s and 80s, reported that Mr Darvish “understands a lot of English” after meeting him earlier this month. And Mr Darvish is already comfortable in the spotlight. Thanks both to his success on the field and his marriage to Saeko, a famous Japanese actress (which ended on January 19th), he has been a celebrity in his home country for years, and frequently poses for magazine covers.

David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: January 19, 2012 at 12:57 PM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: general

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   1. Khrushin it bro Posted: January 19, 2012 at 01:12 PM (#4040307)
where the hot, humid air transforms harmless fly balls into towering home runs


I thought humidity worked the other way around.
   2. I Am Not a Number Posted: January 19, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4040322)
I am hoping that every conceivable pun relating to the words you and whirling dervish can be exhausted by the time the season starts. They are already tiresome.
   3. I Am Not a Number Posted: January 19, 2012 at 01:20 PM (#4040325)
I thought humidity worked the other way around.

Homeruns go up in the summer because of heat and humidity. What hurts flyballs are the cold, dry air of the spring and fall.
   4. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: January 19, 2012 at 01:22 PM (#4040327)
You'd think, right? But it ain't so: http://www.aolnews.com/2010/07/12/if-you-like-home-runs-root-for-hot-humid-weather.
   5. depletion Posted: January 19, 2012 at 01:30 PM (#4040346)
I would guess that H2O molecules are easier to knock out of the way than N2 or O2 molecules, due to weighing 18 as opposed to 28 or 32 amu.
Good Luck to Mr. Darvish. Ready to join the long list of Iranian-Japanese heros in Texas. Let's hope we're not bombing his grandparents any time.
   6. Khrushin it bro Posted: January 19, 2012 at 01:34 PM (#4040357)
Hmm maybe I was confused about how the humidor works in Colorado.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: January 19, 2012 at 01:36 PM (#4040360)
I'll admit that, having never seen him, in my mind's eye I had Darvish as a tiny, nerdy guy not 6'5".
   8. Bob Evans Posted: January 19, 2012 at 02:06 PM (#4040413)
I'd never heard that being 6'5" would make you more durable than being 6'0". Nor had I heard that being taller would help a pitcher induce ground balls. But now I have heard both.
   9. Basil Ganglia Posted: January 19, 2012 at 02:10 PM (#4040419)
5. depletion Posted: January 19, 2012 at 01:30 PM (#4040346)
I would guess that H2O molecules are easier to knock out of the way than N2 or O2 molecules, due to weighing 18 as opposed to 28 or 32 amu.

Yep. Less dense => less friction.

Factors that lead to lower air density are higher temps, higher elevation, and higher humidity. Of those three, humidity is generally the least significant.
   10. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: January 19, 2012 at 02:35 PM (#4040457)
Instead of Whirling Darvish can we call him El Scorcho?
   11. Randy Jones Posted: January 19, 2012 at 02:38 PM (#4040461)
Instead of Whirling Darvish can we call him El Scorcho?


It's Hurling Darvish.
   12. OMJ, urban D machine Posted: January 19, 2012 at 02:44 PM (#4040472)
Hmm maybe I was confused about how the humidor works in Colorado.


They put the balls in the humidor, to make them heavier (and easier for pitchers to grip?) and harder to hit far. I think.

Unless they have put the entire stadium in a humidor, in which case, you are correct and I am confused about how the humidor works.
   13. aberg Posted: January 19, 2012 at 02:47 PM (#4040477)
Instead of Whirling Darvish can we call him El Scorcho?


I see what you did there. Half-japanese pitchers, do it to me every time.
   14. Athletic Supporter is USDA certified lean Posted: January 19, 2012 at 02:49 PM (#4040480)
Instead of Whirling Darvish can we call him El Scorcho?


+1
   15. Randy Jones Posted: January 19, 2012 at 02:54 PM (#4040484)
They put the balls in the humidor, to make them heavier (and easier for pitchers to grip?) and harder to hit far. I think.


This and also I believe they said when the balls dry out the laces aren't raised as much, which leads to breaking balls not breaking.
   16. The Good Face Posted: January 19, 2012 at 03:11 PM (#4040510)
Moreover, Mr Darvish has much more of a classic pitcher’s build .... At six feet, five inches (1.96m) and 216 pounds (98kg)


Just like Mark Prior!
   17. DL from MN Posted: January 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM (#4040512)
Yes, when baseballs get dry the leather shrinks and pulls the laces down. They lose weight and will travel further given the same initial force. So, on a hot, humid day the baseball does weigh more but the air resistance more than makes up for that.
   18. LionoftheSenate Posted: January 19, 2012 at 03:16 PM (#4040519)
I'd never heard that being 6'5" would make you more durable than being 6'0". Nor had I heard that being taller would help a pitcher induce ground balls. But now I have heard both.


Not to pick on you, but I thought durability and height (taller=better, short=inferior) for pitchers was an old saw that has been around for decades in baseball? The ground ball correlation with tall pitchers does seem to be a concept created a bit more recently, but just as entrenched.

   19. Khrushin it bro Posted: January 19, 2012 at 03:27 PM (#4040538)
I think #17 just made me understand the humidor / humidity chess game.

Maybe the tall durability factor has to do with more distance for the arm to decelerate and less angular velocity in the shoulder. (That or it looks like the little guy is trying harder)
   20. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: January 19, 2012 at 03:30 PM (#4040542)
Factors that lead to lower air density are higher temps, higher elevation, and higher humidity. Of those three, humidity is generally the least significant.


And lower atmospheric pressure. A .01 change in the mercury (say, going from 29.92 inches to 29.91 is the equivalent of going up 10 feet in elevation). So, the difference between a really high pressure day, say 30.40 inches, to a really low pressure day, say 29.60 inches, is like moving 800 feet in elevation.
   21. Khrushin it bro Posted: January 19, 2012 at 03:33 PM (#4040550)
So will the White Sox park factor change without all the hot air coming out of their manager?
   22. flournoy Posted: January 19, 2012 at 03:34 PM (#4040552)
Taller pitchers inducing more ground balls makes intuitive sense to me. Their pitches have a steeper downward trajectory than those of short pitchers. Whether it's scientifically valid, I have no idea.
   23. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: January 19, 2012 at 03:49 PM (#4040579)
Following up #20, during the 6 month baseball season last year, the atmospheric pressure in Arlington ranged from a high of 30.43 inches, to a low of 29.34 inches. The elevation of the ballpark is about 630 feet, so, independent of the temp and humidity, the park played at anywhere from 1210 feet MSL to 120 feet. These difference can be mitigated or exacerbated by temp and humidity. A hot, humid, low pressure day (these commonly go together) and the park can play like it's 1500 feet. A cool, dry, high pressure day (these also commonly go together), and the park can be effectively at sea level.
   24. Bug Selig Posted: January 19, 2012 at 03:56 PM (#4040590)
Their pitches have a steeper downward trajectory than those of short pitchers.


Like Chad Bradford! LOL

It makes perfect sense, assuming everybody is throwing essentially overhand. It seems, though, like many/most tall guys whip it from the side - that creates tail, I guess, but it seems like giving away an inherent advantage.
   25. DL from MN Posted: January 19, 2012 at 04:04 PM (#4040604)
Add increased wind speeds to things that go with hot, humid and low pressure. Has anyone ever used weather data to correct for park effects?
   26. Randy Jones Posted: January 19, 2012 at 04:06 PM (#4040611)
In theory taller pitchers are capable of gaining an advantage by releasing the ball closer to home plate. Was a study last year that showed that pitchers could make their pitches more effective by releasing them farther forward. It gave an effective speed increase(though not an actual one). Of course this apparently has more to do with mechanics than arm length as the pitcher who gained the most in this study was David Robertson, who is not tall.
   27. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: January 19, 2012 at 07:59 PM (#4040798)
I remember 6'10" Chris Young had the biggest gap between actual and batter-perceived velocity per a BP study. And of course smaller pitchers are seen as more likely to break down--that's why Tim Lincecum wasn't picked until 10th, why Boston wouldn't re-sign Pedro to a 4-year deal (to my knowledge) etc...conversely, the roly-poly types, be them CC Sabathia or Boomer Wells or Rick Reuschel or even Roger Clemens, are often perceived as horses. That said, I haven't seen an actual empirical study one way or the other, so it's fair of you to accuse me of jumping the gun.
   28. Good cripple hitter Posted: January 19, 2012 at 08:23 PM (#4040805)
For what it's worth, another study showed that the best pitcher for gaining velocity was the 5 foot 11 David Robertson. The earlier baseball prospectus study claimed that Young gained almost 7 MPH, the Danish study had the Robertson (and other, taller pitchers like Mark Hendrickson) gaining only 2 MPH.
   29. Bote Man Posted: January 19, 2012 at 08:32 PM (#4040810)
I am hoping that every conceivable pun relating to the words you and whirling dervish can be exhausted by the time the season starts. They are already tiresom

If they ever make Chin-lung Hu a catcher it would be the Yu-Hu battery.

Too soon?
   30. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: January 19, 2012 at 10:48 PM (#4040881)
If they ever make Chin-lung Hu a catcher it would be the Yu-Hu battery.


No. Hu is the new leder of China
   31. My name is RMc and I feel extremely affected Posted: January 20, 2012 at 09:31 PM (#4041702)
Hu did?
Naturally!

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