FanDuel - WFBC

August 15, 2006

Telling Signs Can Tip Scales on Mound: It seems to be "Let's look at pitching" week in the Boston Globe. Is it really an advantage to know what the pitcher is about to throw? Some say it is, others say not. The David Ortiz approach seems to me to be the most valid, ``I just see the ball and hit it. Don't bother me with that other stuff."

posted by Howard_T to baseball at 08:14 AM - 12 comments

When you're in the prime of your career (like Ortiz) and hitting practically everything thrown anyways, you probably don't really care what pitches are coming. But I don't really believe he doesn't want to know (or try to figure) what's coming. Every hitter does this. Tell me it wouldn't be great for hitters to know when the changeup is coming rather than look as foolish as they often do. I think not really needing to know, as some good hitters may claim, has as much to do with the mediocre pitchers that make up the majority of major league rosters. With many of them, it probably isn't that big a thing. But with the real tough pitchers, knowing what's probably coming can make all the difference in the world.

posted by dyams at 10:20 AM on August 15

Why does my wife always say "no" as soon as I get into bed? Am I tipping?

posted by Bill Lumbergh at 12:34 PM on August 15

I think some do some don't. Larry Walker was another guy who wasn't concerned with pitchers tipping their stuff. Some guys (typically they are naturally very good it seems) are more of a 'see ball, hit ball' strategy and don't want to overcomplicate the matter. Some guys keep detailed charts and video of opponents to see if the pitchers tip. Delgado on the Mets is said to be one of the best at this. Personally, I always looked for something to give me a heads up. But knowing the fastball was coming was just about the case for every 2 out of 3 pitches anyway.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:44 PM on August 15

To some it matters to some it dosent http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/cheaters/ballplayers.html

posted by lightman at 01:21 PM on August 15

(sort of off-topic) I think "see ball, hit ball" is an oversimplification of what's going on in their heads. I don't think that hitters are consciously trying to pick up pitches and adjust to them in mid-pitch. There's no "oh, that's a curveball, so I gotta do this"—obviously there's no time for that in the half-second it takes for the ball to hit the catcher's mitt. But what we have to remember is the sheer number of live pitches these guys see. Baseball is all about repetition: in 162 games, a player who gets 3.8 plate appearances with an average of 4.5 pitches per (sounds reasonable?) will see over 2,700 pitches that season. And that's just one major league season, not including spring training or winter ball or even batting practice. You don't see that many pitches without getting used to what they do and what they look like while they're doing it. It's muscle memory and trained instinct, just the same as learning to field a ground ball: your body's done it so many times that it reacts to it before you have to think about it. It'll vary from pitcher to pitcher, of course, but there are still universal laws of physics which govern what the ball will do, and all pro ball players have a very heightened awareness of that, which makes a hitter's pitch selection more complex than we tend to think. (back on topic) As for individual pitchers tipping, it's all contextual. If it's the 1992 ALCS and I'm Cito Gaston, I'm going to say to my coaching staff, "We're going to see Dennis Eckersley in this series, and we're going to have to beat him. I want him and his delivery picked apart like the last wing at a Sabres Stanley Cup party." Same thing if I'm John Gibbons and I know I'm going to face Curt Schilling at least five times this year. Certain pitchers will be studied more than others at more critical times.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 02:10 PM on August 15

4.5 pitches per (sounds reasonable?) I believe that is a high estimate, but your reasoning is sound, your opinions are interesting and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:33 PM on August 15

I don't think that hitters are consciously trying to pick up pitches and adjust to them in mid-pitch. There's no "oh, that's a curveball, so I gotta do this"—obviously there's no time for that in the half-second it takes for the ball to hit the catcher's mitt. I disagree. If this were the case you would never be able to hit a curveball. There's usually the moment of recognition somewhere between the mound and the plate where you realize it's a curve and you either decide you can hit it or that it won't make the strike zone. Even if your late in recognizing the pitch there is the moment of, "oh #$%@" where you know your screwed. Anyway, my point is that pitch recognition is a concious thought and I don't think it's automatic or muscle memory. The good pitchers either hide their offspeed pitches or they throw the fastball so hard that you have to decide what to do very early. I really don't understand guys that don't want to know what the pitch will be.

posted by tron7 at 04:02 PM on August 15

I always thought Jim Abbott was at a real disadvantage in that regard. No glove hand and he had the ball just in the other hand, but I don't know that for sure. From an article discussing reasons for his decline: "Exposed grip. Unlike two-handed pitchers, Abbott cannot hide grip inside his glove during his windup. His grip is exposed to a first base coach or third, base coach. Pitches he might throw to tail away from righthanded hitters--split-finger fastball, knuckle curve, screwball, sinker--require conspicuous grips. Coaches may tip off Abbott's pitches to hitters." I am sure however that I have not heard the name of Roy Lee Jackson in quite some time.

posted by chris2sy at 04:28 PM on August 15

There's usually the moment of recognition somewhere between the mound and the plate where you realize it's a curve and you either decide you can hit it or that it won't make the strike zone. tron, I agree, but I just don't think that this moment of recognition is always a fully conscious one. Maybe the ball might move slowly enough for your mind to quickly scream "CURVEBALL", but everything else is a trained reaction. Your swing and timing is all reacting to the ball; you shouldn't be thinking about it very much at all. (I think I'm relating a lot to my own decision-making activity while playing my sport: I'll be involved in the fast-paced play, and make decisions almost automatically, based entirely on recognizing the game situation and applying my training experience to it. After the play I'll analyze what I did and put conscious thought into it, but at the time it's largely instinct.) I guess I'm saying that it's just tough for any of us to start making assumptions about pitch tipping because pitch recognition is such a specialized activity with which players in the bigs have so much experience. And Weedy, after a spot of research, 4.5 P/PA is way too high. Something like 3.7ish would be better.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 06:48 PM on August 15

When I play ball, the only thing I like to know is what pitches the guy has, and his arm angles with each different pitch. Everything else seems to come naturally. When you overanaylze everything (at least in my case), I just think of a mush of things, and normally dont get hits. Of course, when your as good as Ortiz, it dosent really matter what comes your way.

posted by Kendall at 07:35 PM on August 15

One high and tight, followed by three breaking away usually had me headed back to the dugout (in disgust, ha ha). If you threw me two or three fastballs in a row, I had a chance, and I think many good hitters would like to know when the heater is coming. As a hitter, if you guess right, you can usually take a good cut, as a pitcher, if you tip it off, you won't last long in the majors, I don't think.

posted by mjkredliner at 09:26 PM on August 15

Good points DJE, it seems like a decision but in retrospect. So I don't know if it's a conscious decision but when I play it back in my head it feels like one... sometimes. I might be wrong but I bet most hitters sit fastball and react to any offspeed a majority of the time. If you can sit on a curveball because the pitcher is tipping that has to make your at bats go so much better. At the very least you don't get fooled.

posted by tron7 at 11:35 AM on August 17

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