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Saturday, July 30, 2022

Will Clark, Greg Maddux and the lip-reading that (allegedly) changed baseball

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If nothing else, hearing what’s said behind the gloves supported the notion that pitchers might not be so paranoid after all when it comes to the cone of silence they wear on their non-throwing hands. You don’t think the hitter, Austin Riley, would have loved to have had an earpiece for that at-bat?

Will Clark demonstrated as much during the 1989 National League Championship Series, when he locked his gaze on Greg Maddux during a mound visit and saw him mouth the magic words — “fastball in” — before turning on an inside fastball for a tone-setting Game 1 grand slam.

In the evolution of mound visit paranoia, the case of Clark vs. Maddux still ranks among the most-cited events. But was it the seminal event in glove-talking history? Pinning down the precise origin story is tricky; Jayson Stark dived into the topic years ago and wound up with more theories and dead ends than a search for Bigfoot.

We’ll hear from both parties shortly, but the quick version is that Clark believes that was the tipping point in pitchers covering their mouths with their gloves during mound sessions. (“You’re exactly correct,’’ Clark said.) The quick counter is that Maddux has his own theories about why pitchers now cover their faces with gloves, and his origin story involves some foul language, an annoyed wife and a journeyman outfielder with a mere 20 lifetime home runs.

Rex Hudler, the longtime utility dynamo, leans slightly toward the Clark camp — “They weren’t doing it before that,’’ he said Wednesday. But the Royals television analyst noted that other factors, such as the explosion of camera angles starting in the early ‘90s, put pitchers on alert and denied him a favorite competitive edge. Hudler recalled his own Clark-ian moment, the time he zeroed in on former White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper saying “fastball” during a mound visit.

“And I tagged it. I hit a dinger,’’ Hudler said “Yeah. Gone. And, you know, I told him, ‘Coop! You told me what was coming, man!’”


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 30, 2022 at 09:26 AM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: stealing signs

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   1. winnipegwhip Posted: July 30, 2022 at 09:46 AM (#6088973)
If that homer does not happen than maybe the Cubs win the NL. Since the Giants are not at home for Game 3 traffic is it's usually busy self at 5PM west coast time when the earthquake hits and the injured and deaths are higher. Sorry Cubs fans but this time it may be worth it.
   2. McCoy Posted: July 30, 2022 at 09:50 AM (#6088974)
Cubs lost the series 4-1.
   3. PeteF3 Posted: July 31, 2022 at 12:04 AM (#6089044)
Without meaning to speak for #1, I think the point was maybe they don't lose 4-1 without that grand slam.
   4. McCoy Posted: July 31, 2022 at 07:01 AM (#6089055)
I understand the point. Winning only one game in the series was the rebuttal. To dive into game 1 even more the Cubs were losing 4-3 and were facing a bases loaded situation when Clark would hit his home run. The Cubs didn't score another run and the Giants scored another 3. So at best you've got the Giants winning 7-3 without the homer.

   5. PeteF3 Posted: July 31, 2022 at 11:39 AM (#6089064)
There's some fallacy of predetermined outcome going on there. If there's no grand slam, maybe Maddux stays in the game longer. Maybe the Cubs don't go with Paul Kilgus, pretty much the last man in the pen, to eat up innings afterward (though he pitched fine in this case). Maybe Mitch Williams or Les Lancaster or a fresher Kilgus is in the game in the 8th and not Steve Wilson. Maybe it's Kennedy, Sheridan, and Uribe batting in the 8th instead of a PH and the top of the order.

The Giants were probably the better team, but the better team doesn't always win a short series as I'm sure we all know.
   6. McCoy Posted: July 31, 2022 at 11:45 AM (#6089065)
And then the Cubs lose 4-3 if so.

Sure obviously an unknown future based on a what if is,well, unknown but a)they were losing that game before the GS, b)didn't score another run, and c)lost the series in 5 games. The evidence points heavily towards the Cubs had very little chance to win that series and preventing that GS would have done very little to change the outcome of the series.
   7. donlock Posted: July 31, 2022 at 02:05 PM (#6089076)
How much variation is there in mlb? Pitcher throw fastballs or breaking balls and vary location. I suspect they pretty much know how they will be pitched to. Seems an enormous effort is made to hide the pitcher’s plan but how mysterious can the pitch sequence be? Are the hitter’s skills better than the pitcher’s? Most of the time, the pitch information is unknown but baseball endures.
   8. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 31, 2022 at 03:43 PM (#6089086)
Will Clark was a preposterous 13 for 20 with nearly half the hits for extra bases in that series. The only way the Cubs were going to win that series is if Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers had kidnapped Clark the day before it started.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: July 31, 2022 at 03:57 PM (#6089087)
Heck, with Maddux you had to look out for only the not very fast fastball and the change and that was about 90+ % of his pitches. Knowing he was coming inside might have been more imortant than knowing the pitch type since Maddux was all about location and movement.

But McCoy is right. Sure, we can play butterfly wings all day long but the Cubs got beaten pretty easily, swept in SF, gave up 19 runs in the next 4 games. In his next start, Maddux gave up 4 in 3.1 IP. And seeing as how Will Clark hit 650/682/1200 that series, I don't think knowing that one pitch was gonna be a fastball in was that big of a deal for him. (I mean holy crap, 13 for 20 with 6 XBH.) Grace almost matched him though at 647/682/1118 with 11-17 with 5 XBH. 52 R combined in 5 games, not a lot of great pitching in that series.
   10. McCoy Posted: July 31, 2022 at 04:35 PM (#6089092)
The Cubs did manage to lose two more games by 1 run each and the 4th one by 2 runs but I'm not sure how losing game 1 4-3 would change the outcomes of those 3 games.
   11. . . . . . . Posted: July 31, 2022 at 05:18 PM (#6089096)
#9 - Cubs-era Maddux was one of the fastest pitchers in the NL.
   12. McCoy Posted: July 31, 2022 at 07:54 PM (#6089121)
As in working quickly?

He'd touch "94" occasionally on some friendly guns but he basically topped out at 92 and basically threw in the 89 to 91 mph range as a Cub.
   13. . . . . . . Posted: July 31, 2022 at 08:41 PM (#6089126)
He'd touch "94" occasionally on some friendly guns but he basically topped out at 92 and basically threw in the 89 to 91 mph range as a Cub.

Source? That's not consistent with my recollection or everything I can find on the internet (eg: which say he worked 91-93 mph in his early years. May not sound like much now, but that was fast for a starter! That was where Jack Morris and Mike Scott sat too.
   14. McCoy Posted: August 01, 2022 at 05:44 AM (#6089145)
I mean, is that actually different than what I said?
   15. Ron J Posted: August 01, 2022 at 07:59 AM (#6089149)
#13 I know I've got some early scouting reports (don't know if I can find them though) that graded his fastball as a B for velocity. But noted that in tight situations he relied on movement rather than velocity. I do know that while in high school two scouts graded his fastball as major league average.

He didn't add the cutter until the mid-90s and by then he clearly has lost the ability to touch the 90s.

Tom Seaver in 1995 said he threw 70% fastballs that were mostly in the 82 to 86 range (slow gun though). What made it work was movement and that his delivery provided no clue as to target. He also noted that his strikeout pitch was his circle change.
   16. McCoy Posted: August 01, 2022 at 09:31 AM (#6089163)
They have scouting reports for Maddux in high school. One of them gave him a 6 with a potential for a 7 on his velocity.

I think the scout said he consistently threw in the 86-89 mph range.

Maddux talked about his high school years when he was with the Braves. He said he threw harder than he did in high school and that virtually everyone does. He also said that in high school he was throwing 4 seam fastballs but that at some point after high school he realized he wasn't going to be a flame thrower and he switched to the 2 seam and relied on location, movement, and differing speeds.

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