Monday, August 31, 2015

Keep Your Eyes on the Ball!!!

Yes people are getting injured at the ballgame. They have been getting injured since the game decided they could make money charging "fans" admission to the daily contest.

You knew right from the start, that to avoid injury you had to pay attention to what is going on in THE GAME!!!! Keep your eye on the ball was something the fans had to do as well as those in uniform on the field.

If you choose to feast on whatever delicacies the venue has to offer you may not be in position to make a play on a foul ball headed in your direction. It was originally thought that if you brought a glove you would have the protection you needed (provided you were "watching the game!").

I hear all this "netting" and other protective devices to protect those who just are in no position to protect themselves from an orb flying at the speed of sound. A sound that becomes a hush, the instant it smacks someone.

Heck, at AT&T, there is an area, next to the Big Glove, where a slide is in constant use by children. These people are probably out of range of one of those flying orbs but against the Washington Nationals, Ian Desmond, smacked one that landed in the vicinity. Close enough to let those "sliders" and their guardians know that you are at a place where things can happen that have little or nothing to do with what you are doing. I mean, come on, you go to AT&T to play on the slides? If you're the guardian of that little boy or girl, shouldn't you be paying attention to the immediate surroundings at all times? So when you hear the "crack of the bat" you had better know where the ball is?

If you're reaching over to catch a ball being tossed to you by a player or ball person, hadn't you be paying attention to the possibility of falling if the throw causes you to lean out over the railing? How badly do you need that ball if your life is at stake?

I can see a mesh type of netting going from foul pole to foul pole but that totally eliminates the chances of capturing a foul ball or going to the game early enough to see batting practice so your odds of getting a foul ball increase dramatically.

Sure, leave nothing to chance. Be all about safety. But also know that for those who ARE paying attention and did bring their glove, this is a sad day in baseball. The lifer, "old school" fan who took pride in doing everything the right way now has to take a back seat to fans who are at the game like it's some sort of amusement park. A place where they eat expensive foods and drink and have little regard for those around them.

Haven't we already experienced this sort of thing with the people who choose not to speak in the native tongue English/Spanish when they visit the United States of America? (Hint: What language is the print of the signs you see?)

Now we lifers must move over for Daddy and Mommy Warbucks. People with the money to spend on all the exorbitant food prices and souvenirs a ballpark has to offer. I understand that not everyone disrupts the flow of how things run but enough of these Joanie/Johnny come lately's and an uproar is bound to happen.

Since we're on the topic of fan safety, how about the broken bat issue? Think maybe the makers of these bats might want to go to Phineas J. Whoopee, the man at the chalkboard, one more time to see if their product can hold up to a 95 mph fastball?


Kevin J. Marquez

Monday, August 17, 2015

Leads the League in "Getting Runners Thrown Out or Holding 'em When they Should've Been Sent" or How Much Do We Miss Tim Flannery?

Baseball is a sport in which followers of the game are fascinated by statistics.

We know the leader in home runs (HR), runs batted in (RBI), runs scored (R), and the batting leader (AVG). But do we have a statistic for a third base coach? As in, how many runners has he held up that did not score? Or how many runners has he gotten thrown out at home plate?

Roberto Kelly began this season replacing one of the better third base coaches in major league baseball (Tim Flannery). Manager Bruce Bochy knows there will be growing pains. But what can be seen by the young/old man in the 22nd row is whether or not Mr. Kelly can utilize his knowledge of the situation (strength of outfielder's arm, speed of the player running the bases, ability of runner to run bases properly- use as little area to get from one base to the next- and the arms of those receiving the cutoff throw) to make an accurate decision in holding-up or sending the runner at any given time.

Is Roberto Kelly guessing? Rolling the dice on enough situations may possibly create a distance between the runner and their coach because of the "too frequent negative outcomes." Some runner (s) may have a tendency not to trust his decision making process and be thinking versus reacting to what the coach is demanding of the runner. And in the worst case scenarios these players may choose to ignore the coach and make their own decision by stopping when the coach is "waving them in" or running through the coach's stop signal.

Bochy and his braintrust need to figure out something soon or it'll be another odd-year season they come up short.


Kevin J. Marquez

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Is Cain Able?

Seeing balls leave the ballpark is becoming more and more commonplace with Matt Cain. He has an okay game and then he serves up the tasty meatball for the batter to dig into. Makes me wonder if the teams he does okay against are closer to minor league level (due to the dilution of talent because there are so many teams in the major leagues) than if he is effective.

Listening to ballgames with Cain on the mound can really test one's patience. How he usually jumps ahead in the count, say no balls and two strikes and then the batter fouls one, two, three pitches off because Cain cannot get the ball past the hitter. Then he misses the strike zone (of the home plate umpire for that particular game) on the next two pitches and now the count is two balls and two strikes.

Again, Cain tries to slip one past the batter but the batter fouls yet another pitch off. The next pitch is too close to take and the batter manages to get a piece of the ball keeping the count at 2-balls and 2-strikes. This is getting to be the theme of Matt Cain on the mound, as the usual continuum of batters battle him until they get a pitch they can handle and the ball goes such a long way that it inspires the announcer to say something like, "... And you can tell it GOODBYE!"

All too often Cain struggles to get his pitch past the batter. So much so I'm beginning to think the batter is more adjusting to the umpire's strike zone than anything Cain is doing. He battles with each hitter and by the fifth or sixth inning he puts himself in a precarious position that makes him highly susceptible to throwing a gopher ball. (Definition of gopher ball: a pitch that is hit for a home run.)

This may be the Matt Cain we may come to expect until his contract expires.


Kevin J. Marquez

Saturday, July 4, 2015

"Nip It!"

Once again the strike zone cost a team a chance at winning the game. In the nation's capital, the Giants saw a pitch called "Ball four," put a runner on base before the next batter hit one out of the park.

"Ball four" for a pitch across the belt. Nowadays, with a good number of major league umpires, ACROSS THE BELT is "high". Whatever happend to the "letters or armpits" being the limit to high strike? (the home plate umpire was John Hirschbeck)


In the following day game, Will Little, again opted for the low strike zone. How low? Across the ankles was deemed hittable by the aptly named Little, as in ye of little strike zone!

Home plate umpires take the wind out of the game's sails when they have no clue of where the pitch is going. They're not good enough to be calling balls and strikes in the major leagues if the zone is changed frequently and one pitcher is seen better than another. It's all about CONSISTENCY!!!

The installation of umpires was to see that fair play would take place in the game. But it isn't fair when one pitcher is getting the low strike while his opposing hurler is being squeezed into getting very few calls.

I don't know exactly what the grading system is for the umpires and how diligently the powers that be, doing the grading, are sticking to rewarding consistency and penalizing inconsistency.
Let's face it, some umps are consistently inconsistent. Much the same way a switch-hitter decides he ought not bat from both sides due to the dramatic decrease in productivity umpires who are consistently inconsistent behind the catcher, behind the plate, should simply umpire third - second - and first base. If that isn't fair for his fellow umpires then he should be demoted to Triple A and someone should be called up from Triple A.

In the words of Bernard "Barney" Fife, we have to "Nip It" before it costs too many teams games and their chance of making the post-season.


Kevin J. Marquez

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Work in Progress

(Video technology to track pitches started to be installed in every major league ballpark in 2007.
The system is called PITCHf/x5
. The fabulous thing for you and your students is that the data is
provided at no cost by Major League Baseball (although it is copy righted). Alan Nathan has a
good web site (webusers.npl.uiuc.edu/~a-nathan/pob/tracking.htm) to describe how to download
the data and what the quantities actually mean6
. The easiest way to get the data is from Dan
Brooks’s web site PITCHf/x Tool7 (http://www.laserpablo.com/baseball/Physics_PITCHfx.pdf)

They are already coming up with equipment to call balls and strikes. Because I believe the consensus is the powers that be and most fans don't appreciate that the umpires in major league baseball all have their own interpretation of what a strike is and consistency is lost in the shuffle.

It is known that Roger Clemens took notes and studied the umpires. I would like to think all pitchers did this, since their livelihood depends very much on the way an umpire calls balls and strikes. You would have to know the umpire's preferences just as you would have to know a hitter's tendencies.

I recall recently listening to a ballgame in which the announcer suggested that Tim Hudson may have a long day ahead because Hudson is a low-ball, sinker pitcher, while that day's umpire was a "high strike" balls and strikes guy. This is exactly the sort of thing in which those capable of devising methods/machinery could come up with/discover a method of accurately and more consistently determining balls and strikes, if queued up precisely.

There are scientists and engineers out there who love the game of baseball and they have the acumen and intelligence to pool their ideas together to come up with a way to make the game better by assuring consistency to a game that needs its human elements but not where interpretations of the rules are concerned.

We're already talking to automated voices when paying bills or needing further assistance on matters that companies have no trouble passing off to the robotic voices asking us to enter whichever number or asking us to speak clearly into the phone. Not taking into account that accents or misinterpretations may get lost in the translation and this could dramatically remove their effectiveness.


(I will leave references for those interested in pursuing this subject. It's where I got the idea for this piece.)


Kevin J. Marquez

Footnotes to the aforementioned highlighted site at laserpablo.com


1
The author makes no apology for the use of English units throughout this paper. After all, they
are the traditional units of the National Pastime!
2
An amazingly sharp 30-frames/second video of Bonds hitting the ball can be found at
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/graphics/bonds-756/flash.htm. Video of the entire at bat as well
as just the last pitch can be found by searching Major League Baseball’s site mlb.com.
3
www.sportvision.com is their home page
4
www.mlb.com is their home page. You may want to check out their Gameday feature that uses
this data at http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/.
5
Sportvision’s description is at http://www.sportvision.com/main_frames/products/pitchfx.htm.
6
webusers.npl.uiuc.edu/~a-nathan/pob/tracking.htm
7
www.brooksbaseball.net/pfx/
8
Ironically, just before this fateful pitch, the pitcher requested a new baseball. He tossed home
to the catcher and this event fooled the software into thinking it was an actual pitch. The data
from this toss is what you will get if you use PITCHf/x Tool. MLB has put the corrected data on
its server and that is where the author collected it.
9
The author has made little effort to track significant figures because the data from PITCHf/x
has little regard for them. Just keep in mind that trajectory data is good to about one-to-two
inches.
10
See Nathan’s web site, webusers.npl.uiuc.edu/~a-nathan/pob/tracking.htm, for an explanation.
11
several physics of pitching references
12
webusers.npl.uiuc.edu/~a-nathan/pob/index.html

Can We Talk?

On May 31,1968, the San Francisco Giants were in Los Angeles to resume their rivalry with the Dodgers from their days of playing in the boroughs of New York. With the Giants in Coogan's Bluff, Upper Manhattan and the Dodgers in Brooklyn.

On this night Don Drysdale was embarking on setting the new major league record for consecutive innings without allowing a run as the shadow of Walter "Big Train" Johnson hovered as history might be re-written.

As the game entered the ninth inning, Drysdale was three outs away from accumulating enough innings to surpass Johnson's 56 consecutive scoreless innings. Hall of Famer Willie McCovey led off with a base on balls. Jimmy Ray Hart then singled him over to second base. Next to bat was Dave Marshall and he too walked to load the bases. Three runners on and nobody out. It would take a fortuitous act now to save Drysdale's bid to set the major league mark. (Note: Marshall would later be traded with Ray Sadecki to the New York Mets for Jim Gosger and Bobby Heise. Sadecki was the player the Giants acquired for Orlando Cepeda. Ouch, that trade still stings.)

Up came Dick Dietz. With a two ball and two strike count on him, Drysdale (who made a living of taking as much of the plate as he could feeling it was his and not the batter's)came inside to Dietz and the Giant's catcher was flummoxed as the ball plunked him. As he made his way to first base home plate umpire, Harry Wendelstedt told Dietz to get back in the batter's box. Dietz and the Giants argued but this was Wendelstedt's fifteen minutes of fame moment. No way Wendelstedt was missing this opportunity. He explained that Dietz made no attempt to get out of the way, as stated in rule 6.08 (b). (The rule 'if the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.'

Wendelstedt may have gotten the call right but much like an official scorer cannot assume how a play was made and rule an error due to degree of difficulty, Wendelstedt ruled on Dietz's intent not allowing for the fact that perhaps "the Mule" was fooled by the movement of the pitched ball.

Now, had Dietz leaned into the pitch then Wendelstedt would have had every right to order the batter back into the batter's box.

(Fast-forward forty-seven years)
Unfortunately, on June 20,2015, home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski failed to do as much and Jose Tabada was allowed to take a base (first base) he most certainly did not deserve. Ending Max Scherzer's attempt at pitching a perfect game.



Kevin J. Marquez

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dagnabbit !!!


The year is 2015, umpires are not automatons, they are human so you cannot expect Umpire Davis to have the same strike each and every fifth game it is his turn to be behind (the catcher) home plate. (The rotation is counter-clockwise: home to third to second to first.)

Every day major league baseball has a game you have the potential of a Gerry Davis strike zone. On May 27, 2015, with the Giants in Milwaukee ( according to Giants’ announcer Jon Miller) he had a strike zone that used how the catcher framed his pitches as opposed to whether the ball entered the rulebook strike zone or not.

The strike zone was adjusted a few seasons back when it amended an interpretation to read that a pitched ball can be no more than the width of two (2) baseballs above the belt (of the batter).

There are thirty (30) major leagues teams so there can be as much as fifteen (15) umpires at the helm of distinguishing balls from strikes, or vice versa, on a fully scheduled day of baseball. ‘They’ say you always see something new at a ballgame, well, I wonder if all 15 umpires calling balls and strikes have their own interpretation? You better believe they do and if you had the capability of watching each and every one of them bungle the strike zone I’d bet you would be outraged by the inconsistencies of each umpire. The standard of umpiring has fallen off over the years and I believe it is due to the allowance of umpires to have their “own” interpretation of what a strike is versus the rulebook definition of what a strike is… It’s there in print for all to read and yet they choose to ad lib this portion of the rulebook.

In the Memorial Day game, also at Milwaukee, Khris Davis of the Brewers hit a home run off of Tim Lincecum but failed to touch home plate. Someone on the Giants alerted Manager Bruce Bochy and before Lincecum made his next pitch he stepped off the rubber and appealed that the batter-runner had missed home plate. The home plate umpire ruled the batter-runner OUT!!

Feeling like he must have been in a dream, Milwaukee manager, Craig Counsell wanted to challenge the call. The umpires went to the area where the headphones are plugged into New York’s Replay Central (for all disputed calls) and awaited the verdict. A couple of minutes later the umpire-in-charge gave the safe signal showing that the home plate umpire of the game, the person with the best view of any camera angle was over-ruled.

This is all conjectural because decisions from New York’s Replay Central come without explanation.

Why the secrecy? Let the fans know what determined the decision, dagnabbit!
There is no need for confidentiality here. These aren’t someone’s medical records it’s a game people paid good money to see. They have a right to know, as does everyone watching the game, what the deciding factor was in over-ruling the original call or why the call was not changed.

It’s the mysterious handling of arriving at the decision that makes both Major League Baseball and the National Football League suspicious in their appalling actions.



Kevin J. Marquez