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Sunday, August 15, 2021

She astonishes me’: How an astrophysicist is helping the Oakland A’s fine-tune their pitches

A’s relief pitcher Lou Trivino has a pitch — a cut fastball — that was widely considered to be one of the best in baseball a few years ago. Somewhere along the way, he lost it. Schultz is helping him find it. That’s her job.

“She really understands numbers and is able to communicate it well,” Trivino said. “I usually don’t like talking to people that only look at numbers because it’s data-driven, and I’m like, ‘OK, cool, my cutter sucks. I obviously know it sucks. How can you help me figure it out?’”

To get his cutter back to its elite form without inundating him with numbers, Schultz gave Trivino a simple course of action: throw it negative-2 or negative-3 inches more toward his glove side.

During bullpen sessions, Trivino will tinker with grip tweaks or throw it at a slightly different angle while Schultz, monitoring the movement on an iPad, replies with a simple “good” or “bad” grade.

“One of my biggest strengths is to take this complicated stuff and put it into baseball language,” Schultz said. “It’s not like I’m on the mound doing equations with the pitchers.”

Schultz understands a breaking ball can be more effective when its gyro spin — or bullet spin — is high. Or a two-seam fastball can be more effective when it creates turbulent pockets of air. She’ll suggest a pitcher adjust his grip or throw harder at a different angle to create the wanted movement.

“If I say, ‘OK, we need to get more gyro spin on this ball,’ what I might say to a pitcher is to roll it off your middle finger,” Schultz said.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 15, 2021 at 02:24 PM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics

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   1. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 16, 2021 at 12:55 PM (#6034585)
I'd be interested to learn more about what she actually does. Like, does a background in physics add anything specific that a non-physicist couldn't do? Or is it just basic data analysis (this pitch moves more and is more effective when it has this much spin, etc.) and she's good at communicating that to players in a way that they can understand?
   2. The importance of being Ernest Riles Posted: August 17, 2021 at 01:02 AM (#6034685)
My wife has an advanced degree in physics but took some dumb job in cutting edge research instead of analyzing pitchers. I'll have a talk with her on her career choices.
   3. Adam Starblind Posted: August 17, 2021 at 07:07 AM (#6034691)
Schultz gave Trivino a simple course of action: throw it negative-2 or negative-3 inches more toward his glove side.


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