Monday, June 9, 2008

It's Hot Outside And That's A Truth-A-Tute

When I woke up this morning, I turned on the TV as I usually do, to check the weather and traffic reports for the day. Morning – 86 degrees, Day – 94 degrees, Evening – 99 degrees. My first thought was “man, that is really frakking hot.” (That was exactly it. While somewhat sad, I have taken to sometimes using “frak” when talking to myself. Stupid jerk writers.) Then my mind drifted to vague ideas about 99 being a very high speed for a fastball.

That is indeed true, as a guy who can even just touch 99 mph on occasion has a very special arm. But much like the heat, there is so much more to it than that. Summer weather is actually a very good parallel to a pitcher’s scouting report.

How’s the heat?

First thing to look at is the easily quantifiable: how hard does he throw and what’s the temperature?

A 92 mph fastball is about average, and a temp of 92 degrees (Fahrenheit) is what I would think of as about average for the summertime. If it’s down at 88-90, then that pitch still has some giddy-up (and it’s still pretty warm out); if it’s 85-87 then that’s not that great (mildly warm); and if it’s all the way down at 82-84 then it’s batting practice (easy to handle). In the other direction, 94-96 is a guy that can really bring it (officially hot out) and 97-100+ is some serious heat (yup). (The fastball speeds are more "player X throws up to Y" as opposed to average speed. Dustin McGowan leads the majors in average FB velocity at 95.0 mph this year.)

Fastball movement is also important. We’ll go with clouds / shade for this one. A lot of movement is like a lot of direct sunlight – it makes the temperature feel so much worse. A day with high temperature readings is a lot easier to deal with if you’re in the shade. Being out on the blacktop in the sun on a 97 degree day is like trying to hit a fastball that’s dropping a foot – very unpleasant. This is more about situation than the actual weather report but… eh.

It’s not just about velocity (temperature) and movement (shade), it’s also about command (wind). A guy that can really command his stuff (there’s no wind at all – let’s say you would have no trouble controlling a deck of cards if playing out by the beach) will make things a lot harder for the opposition. On the other hand, if the pitcher can’t find the zone (you can’t keep the cards from flying away) then he (the heat) won’t be able to hold you down. This can be taken too far however, as a guy that is really all over the place can make things uncomfortable for you, even if he isn’t succeeding himself. A really windy day can keep things from getting too hot, but you may not want to stay out there anyway. Hey, that wasn’t so bad.

Then there is one more thing to consider: the off-speed stuff / humidity. This (like high school) is what “separates the least from the beast”.

[So, in my first couple years of college, one of my roommates had a habit of saying things that were… well, I don’t really know how to describe them. In any case, we would keep track of them. Now these things fell into several categories, from dumb to silly to confusing. Luckily, Ian really isn’t any of those things (well, occasionally confusing). I’d say he is generally a pretty smart, upstanding individual who just didn’t get nearly enough sleep for a year and a half - he's also a great graphic designer with a nice website of his own. He has given me permission to post some of these things here. I read through them about once every six months and laugh so hard I cry. Here you go:
"High school separates the least from the beast."

"I'm from idiot Congo, where monkeys walk upside-down."

"And the glass shatters in our glass heart... together."

"I keep on building a hole."

"We have an exuberant amount of food."

"I was ridin' along in neutral, and you guys want to go into four-wheel drive, and honk the horn, and spit on people in other cars. It's like a biscuit with a touch of honey."

"That's a sad willy of a wonka."

"Should and could are adjectives of the same barn."

"I'm surprised by my own lack of discompetence."

"In doth cherry childrens crile."

"I don't want to put myself up on a ladder."

"I woke up on my own virgilante."

"First there was the big bang, and then the bald-headed guy on the ship was like, "I know physics." And then some guy got hit on the head with an apple, and was like, "There's gravity." And then Hume said "I hearth pigs... art thou?" And that's philosophy."

"Sean, is that a truth-a-tute?"

"Bob, you're a gregarious error."

"Machine man... he plays keyboard Rubik's cubes in his pants."
Alright, back to the dumb, silly, and confusing things that I say and put online myself.]

I think this is what makes the analogy work OK. A guy with a really great change-up can get by with a mediocre fastball – he makes 91 look like 96. Likewise, humidity can turn a mild temperature into a horrible day to be outside. Some young kid throwing a straight 98 mph fastball that is the only pitch he has, isn’t going to be that hard to handle for quality hitters with experience, though the really young (who haven’t seen many guys who can throw 98) and the old (who can’t catch-up to it anymore) may have some trouble.

I think it would be “cool” (no pun intended there, I just put it in quotes because I think it highly likely that I am the only one who would actually think it’s cool) if summer days were referenced by a pitcher that represents the weather.

So Daniel Cabrera would be a 96 degree day with (finally just) a mild breeze but not a lot of humidity. That doesn’t sound too bad, but the sun is beating down on you. Now it may not be so easy to handle.

Brian Burres: 88 degrees, nice tree to lounge under, mild breeze, not much humidity. No wonder he’s been getting rocked lately. He really needs to cut down on that wind to give him a chance to make hitters even a little uncomfortable.

Jeremy Guthrie: 95 degrees, some cloud-cover, not much wind, OK humidity. Guthrie’s results make you think the batters aren’t getting enough water, but he hasn’t been all that great.

Steve Trachsel: 85 degrees, some cloud-cover, nice breeze, not much humidity. Not something you sweat over.

Brandon Webb: 89 degrees, no shade within miles and miles, very slight breeze, mildly humid. Most of it isn’t that bad, but there is just nowhere to hide from the sun – that’s what gets you.

Greg Maddux: 85 degrees, no clouds, no breeze (negative breeze?), quite humid. I guess it would be like if it was nice and breezy all week without any humidity, and then this guy showed up the day you were supposed to have a picnic. It just knew that it would be your day out, and decided to ruin it while not even giving you a warning – you checked the weather report earlier in the week and thought “Hey, 85. That should be nice.”

Jamie Moyer: 80 degrees, a cloud here and there, very little wind, tons of humidity. You’re miserable, but you don’t know why.

Randy Johnson (in his prime): 98 degrees, no clouds, small breeze, very humid. I wouldn’t go out there left-handed either. Jeff Reboulet is strutting around like “why is everyone inside? It’s beautiful out!”

Today it’s 93, partly cloudy, mild breeze, kind of humid, which is 93 mph, some movement, fine control, pretty solid off-speed stuff. Sounds like a slightly above-average starter to me. Gil Meche, maybe?

I’ll try to do this every once in a while, and if anyone has further comps, feel free to leave them in the comments.

1 comment:

Mark said...

This post has it all. Baseball, extremely tortured analogies and the wit and wisdom of the Iancyclopedia. Bravo, sir.