Life’s a Pitch

Today’s lesson is about different kinds of pitches.  Why?  Because after a pitch, the broadcaster will usually say which type of pitch it was, and I have no idea what they are talking about.  I hate feeling like a baseball outsider, and I’m sure you do, too, so let’s get educated!

Why do pitchers use more than one type of pitch?  Why don’t they try to pitch as fast as they can right over the plate to get a strike every time?  The goal of pitching is to confuse the batter by both varying velocity and trajectory of pitches.  If a pitcher keeps pitching the same way, a batter can pick up on this and will know where to hit to connect.  On the contrary, if a pitcher has several pitches that he has developed, the batter will never know ahead of time where the ball will end up or how fast it is coming.  And I would imagine one of the most rewarding things for a pitcher is watching a batter swing and almost fall over when they swing at something they weren’t expecting.

I’m going to discuss the types of pitches that I’ve actually heard mentioned on TV and the radio.  If you want info on any others, just let me know.  Here is a link to a very helpful site I used for the majority of this info.  There are four basic pitches.  The first is a fastball.  As you can guess, this pitch is thrown primarily for its speed.  The faster a pitch is coming at you, the less time you have to react and see it.  Some pitcher’s fastballs can go over 100 mph – I find it amazing that anyone can hit something coming at them this quickly.  Next comes the curveball.  This is a pitch that starts out at one level and then usually curves downward (also called a breaking ball), confusing the batter into swinging high.  It usually has less speed, and thus is sometimes called an off-speed breaking ball.  Then we have the slider.  The slider is like a curveball but faster.  It can move from top to bottom or side to side.  It’s not as fast as a fastball but pretty close.  Then there is the change-up.  This is a slower pitch thrown to confuse the batter into swinging sooner.  It is most effective if delivered with the same motion as a fastball so that it cannot be detected.

Then we get into examples of subsets of the above pitches.  There are two-seamer and four-seamer fastballs.  The two-seamer has a little more movement than a four-seamer.  The difference is in the way you grip the ball for delivery – for the two-seamer, you hold the ball along the seams, and for the four-seamer, you hold the ball across the seams.  Mike Krukow actually demonstrated this the other night during the game broadcast.  Here’s a link that shows the difference in grip for these two pitches.  Next is the sinker.  A sinker is a two-seamer fast ball that is thrown either low and in or low and out of the strike zone.  A split-finger fast ball is like a sinker but it has more downward movement.  Then there is the trick pitch called a knuckleball.  It is slow so batters like to swing at it, but it can move anywhere.  It’s a hard pitch to control, but when delivered properly it is extremely hard to hit.

I had a pitching epiphany recently that I’d like to share.  I used to think that the goal of a pitcher was to strike someone out.  But I’ve learned that a pitcher can be just as successful if they cause a batter to ground out or fly out.  Strikeouts are great but not always possible if you are coming up against a powerful, accurate batter.  Sometimes its better to give them something they will connect with that doesn’t go very far or that is easy to catch.

And now, on to the latest spit count.  Here are the results from Tuesday night’s game:

August 2nd

Giants:

–         Lincecum 9

–         Sandoval 6

–         Beltran 4

–         Stewart 3

–         Keppinger 3

–         Schierholtz 2

–         Ramirez 2

–         Huff 2

–         Cabrera 1

–         Ross 1

–         Wotus 1 (Bench coach)

Diamondbacks:

–         Hudson 2

–         Montero 2

–         Unidentified Coach 1

Game Spit Master General = Lincecum at 9 spits

That’s a total of 39 spits during a 2 hour and 25 minute game for an average of more than 1 spit every 4 minutes.

Thus we have the first game where the winning pitcher spat less than the losing pitcher.  And the Diamondbacks had the lowest spit counts for a team to date.  I tip my hat to them (this is much easier for me to do since we kicked their butt yesterday).

There are two new scoring abbreviations that I’ve noticed and would like to decode for you.  U means unassisted.  A ball was grounded to 1st base and the 1st baseman picked it up and tagged the base, and this was scored as 3U.  L means line drive.  This is when a ball is hit parallel to the ground (as opposed to a fly ball which is hit in the air and comes down).  A line drive was caught by the left fielder, and this was scored as 7L.  Here’s a link to a baseball scorecard glossary that I’ve discovered that might be helpful to you.

I also wanted to give kudos to Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez for an observation I’ve made.  On several occasions, you will see pitchers leaving the field shouting expletives that you don’t have to be an expert lip reader to figure out.  I’ve seen these guys lift their mitt to their face as they leave the field to hide what they are saying.  I’m sure there are a lot of kids watching, looking to these two as their examples, and I think it’s great that they try to cover this up.  Good job, boys.

I actually got to attend the Giants vs. Diamondbacks game yesterday thanks to my cousin, Manny.  It was a fantastic day.  I had free pre-game BBQ, went to the game where the Giants trampled the Diamondbacks and took back the NL West lead, and then went to Comcast SportsNet Studios down the street afterwards for their Authentic Fan BBQ.

If you get a chance to go to this BBQ next year, I would highly recommend it.  I got to eat fabulous Kinder’s food for free, and got to meet Ashkon (if you don’t know who he is, check this out), Lou Seal, and a bunch of the Comcast SportsNet anchors that I watch during the post-game shows (Mychael Urban, Dave Benz, Scott Reiss, and Bip Roberts).  The anchors were all so gracious and friendly, and I took the opportunity to ask one if he would read my blog, and he said yes!  So we’ll see if I get any comments from these guys (I think I would fall over dead if I did).  I also got to watch the live telecast of an interview with Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt from about 30 feet in front of them.  SWEET!  Pablo is really looking good – he looks much thinner in person than on TV.  And Brandon Belt is a cutie.

One negative comment about the Giants game, though.  I mentioned in an earlier blog the fact that if the Giants pitch 13 or more strikeouts, everyone gets free sausages.  This policy has apparently changed.  They had more than 13 strikeouts yesterday (we were even chanting “We want brats” in the 8th inning when it was getting close, and got a bunch of other people to chant with us), but only one level got the free sausages, and guess which level that was?  THE CLUB LEVEL!! This is one of the most expensive levels in the park.  Those guys don’t need free sausage!  Just had to rant about that (promised Manny I would put that in my blog).

Hope the boys do well against the Phillies this week.  After yesterday, it seems like they are finally working together well and the hits are coming.  Keep it up.  GO GIANTS!!

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2 comments

  1. jasejall

    I thought the same thing as you about the pitcher position. I thought every time he faces a batter, he should strike him out. But you learn a lot fo sitautional instances. For example, if there is only one runner and the runner is on second base (let us say he got there by hitting a double), the pitcher might want to walk a batter to make getting one out or two easier since now they can do a force out on first and/or second. Also, if there is a runner on first base and the hitting team has 0 or 1 outs for the inning, a pitcher will want to induce a ground ball so there is a possibility to get two outs rather than strike out the batter and only get one. I don’t know if I am right but it makes sense to try to get a play that gets two outs, double play, rather than just a strike out a batter. : )

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