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Team logo aside, would YOU buy this cap???

 

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Well, MLB thinks someone will.

Catching fly balls is a science (not an art)

Turns out their is a science to catching fly balls.  And researchers at Brown University have the data to prove it. 

For the poindexters out there, here is the compilation of their study.  For the rest of us, Futurity.org parses it out for us. 

The essence of the study is that fielders need to track an optical variable called optical acceleration cancellation which will help them reach the ball. 

“All the fielders need to do is track this optical variable and it will lead them to a successful catch,” says William Warren, professor of cognitive and linguistic sciences at Brown and the paper’s senior author. “They don’t have to do a lot of heavy computation in their heads to predict the landing point.”

Eight varsity college baseball players and four softball players took part in the research by fielding virtual fly balls.  Each wore a virtual reality-type display headset. 

“Catching is clearly a perceptual motor skill that you have to learn,” Warren says, “but it does raise interesting questions about why some people are so much better at it than others.”

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Catching fly balls is a science (not an art)

Turns out their is a science to catching fly balls.  And researchers at Brown University have the data to prove it. 

For the poindexters out there, here is the compilation of their study.  For the rest of us, Futurity.org parses it out for us. 

The essence of the study is that fielders need to track an optical variable called optical acceleration cancellation which will help them reach the ball. 

“All the fielders need to do is track this optical variable and it will lead them to a successful catch,” says William Warren, professor of cognitive and linguistic sciences at Brown and the paper’s senior author. “They don’t have to do a lot of heavy computation in their heads to predict the landing point.”

Eight varsity college baseball players and four softball players took part in the research by fielding virtual fly balls.  Each wore a virtual reality-type display headset. 

“Catching is clearly a perceptual motor skill that you have to learn,” Warren says, “but it does raise interesting questions about why some people are so much better at it than others.”

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Selig’s on-field committee: Where are the players and the umps?

Bud Selig has announced the formation of a 14-person committee that will discuss all “on-field” matters.  Selig claims there are no “sacred cows” and top of his list is “pace of game”. 

What is interesting is the composition or perhaps what is lacking from from the committee.  Here is list:

Current Managers

  • Tony La Russa
  • Jim Leyland
  • Mike Scioscia
  • Joe Torre

Current or Former GMs

  • John Schuerholz
  • Andy MacPhail
  • Terry Ryan
  • Mark Shapiro)
  • Chuck Armstrong
  • Paul Beeston
  • Bill DeWitt
  • Dave Montgomery 

special advisor

Frank Robinson 

media observer

George Will

The good news is that have some current managers on the committee.  Though as the as the article points out, there will be no current players or umpires submitting their feedback.  In my opinion, if you’re going to be talking about issues that relate to on-the-field or gameplay issues (for example, oh I don’t know… pace of game), it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some input from players. 

And to not include any umpires is beyond me.  After all, they will be the ones who will be enforcing any rule changes, if any.

And mark my words, there will be some.  Because if Selig says “pace of game” will be among the first topics discussed, those aren’t just idle words.  He’s making a definitive statement that something will be done about pitchers like Jonathan Papelbon

…and really, George Will?  I respect his knowledge of baseball but whenever I hear his name in the context of the sport, I can’t help but think of this SNL video.

2009 MLB Rule V Draft

jamie hoffmannThe World Champion New York Yankees got Jamie Hoffmann out of the LA Dodgers organization via the Washington Nationals, who selected him with the 1st pick in the Rule V Draft.  The Rule V draft was designed to help teams at the bottom to select minor leaguers who might be log-jammed with their current.  Reliever Brian Bruney was traded from the Nats to the Yanks in exchange for Hoffmann.  Washington paid $50,000 for the Los Angeles outfielder.  Jamie must stay in the majors this year or be offered back to his original ballclub for $25,000.  The 25 year old righthanded hitting outfielder had a cup of coffee in the majors with the Dodgers this past season.

Interestingly the Pirates, with the 2nd pick, selected a guy by the name of John Raynor from the Florida Marlins, if you put a T at the beginning of his last name you get Traynor, as in Pie Traynor.  Raynor is a leftfielder with very little power, who strikes out alot, not much to like.

Ben Snyder a lefthander out of Ball State was taken by the Baltimore Orioles out of the San Francisco Giants organization.  The O’s dealt him, along with reliever Chris Ray, to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Kevin Millwood.  I’m not suggesting that Ray + Snyder = Millwood, but this trade allowed Texas to sign Rich Harden, and have some money left over to improve their bullpen.  Ben might be able to step right into the Rangers pen as a lefthanded specialist, he was 16-5 with a 2.09 ERA & 145 K’s in 151 IP in A ball in 2007, and in AA in 2009 he had a 2.88 ERA with 86 K’s in 97 IP.

Kansas City then selected Edgar Osuna out of the Atlanta Braves organization.  The Royals must’ve been impressed with Osuna’s work in Mazatlan this winter.  The 22 year old lefty has looked good out of the pen, crafting a 1.40 ERA in 19′ IP with 14 strikeouts.

Jorge Jimenez might shine in the Florida sunshine, drafted out of the Red Sox organization by the Astros, the thirdbaseman was dealt to the Florida Marlins.  The Marlins traded reliever Matt Lindstrom (the team’s closer at the start of last season), so they must be serious about this Puerto Rican kid.  The 25 year old batted .289 with decent power & a good eye at AA.

Milwaukee drafted a 23 year old lefthanded starter out of the Indians organization named Chuck Lofgren, who has struggled as a starter, perhaps they’re thinking of moving him to the bullpen, he has some pretty impressive strikeout numbers in the minors.

One of the steals of the draft might be lefthanded reliever Armando Zerpa, selected by Tampa Bay from the Red Sox.  The 22 year old sparkled in AA where he posted a 1.20 ERA striking out 51 batters in 45 innings allowing only 19 hits.

Perhaps this should have been the lead story, Yankees lose Texeira to the Mariners in the Rule V.  Actually it’s sinkerball righthander Kanekoa Texeira, not slugging firstbaseman Mark Teixeira.  Still the Yankees might regret not protecting this kid, whom they got from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher trade.

The Baltimore Orioles lost, native son, Steven Johnson, son of former Orioles star secondbaseman & announcer Dave Johnson, to the San Francisco Giants.  The 22 year old righthander recently came to the O’s in the George Sherrill trade.  Steven struckout 102 batters in 96″ innings in A+ in 2009.

27 year old 6’5″ lefthander Ben Jukich was drafted by the Cardinals from the Reds, he has good control, and has posted some impressive numbers in winter ball.

This is my coverage of the major league phase of the Rule V Draft.  Some recent players who were selected in this draft, who have gone on to have some pretty good success are Johan Santana, Dan Uggla, & Josh Hamilton, to name a few.

Where Have All the Nicknames Gone?

mudcat grantRecently Hideki Matsui, known as Godzilla in Japan, appeared on the cover of a national magazine with the caption, Shemp, along with a picture of his counterpart from The Three Stooges.  The funny thing is that his manager DonS in the Illowa APBA League has been calling him that for years.  It got me thinking about nicknames and I found myself  wondering, where have all the nicknames gone?

Of course a few players today are known by their nicknames, like ARod & JRoll, but those are more abbreviations than true nicknames.  Then there’s B.J. Upton, an abbreviation again, but this time it’s for Bossman Junior, his dad was known as Bossman, that’s a little better, but still not quite there.

Back in the day, players were known as Ernie “The Schnoz” Lombardi and Ken “Hawk” Harrelson for the size of their beaks.  Then there were players with nicknames Jim “Mudcat” Grant, John “Blue Moon” Odom, and Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd.  One of the best nicknames was Jim “Catfish” Hunter, made up by the colorful Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley.  Hawk Harrelson dubbed Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas and Carlos Lee as El Caballo.  Dennis Martinez was a Nicaraguan, known as El Presidente.  Of course Roger Clemens was often times referred to as The Rocket.  The Freak seems to have stuck with NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

But it seems today, for the most part, good nicknames are a thing of the past.  I’d like to hear from you, with your favorite nicknames of yesterday and today, and maybe even some nicknames for current players that might be appropriate.

Streator Stache Shines for Sidewinders

clay-zavadaThe remarkable lefthander out of Streator, IL started out his major league career with the Diamondbacks by throwing eighteen straight shutout innings spread out over 19 games in which he appeared.  But that’s not the remarkable thing about this young handlebar mustached (the result of a Class-A contest) lefthander.  Clay was drafted by Arizona out Southern Illinois Edwardsville in the 30th round of the 2006 draft.  As a 22 year old, he struckout 51 batters in 49′ innings pitched with a respectable 3.47 ERA in Rookie Ball.

But then his career took a detour, his father died unexpectedly of a heart attack while working at a YMCA, leaving nobody to take over the house & the family farm in Streator, Clay’s brother was in the Navy, and their mother died when Clay was just three years old.  So Clay rolled up his sleeves and took over the store, temporarily abandoning his pitching career.  Clay said, “My dad worked and died for the place I’m at right now, so I felt like I had more important things to attend to than baseball.”  One of those things was return to college to complete his education.  “I had promised to my dad that I’d get my degree, so that was something I had to do, both for myself and for him,” said Zavada. “There are a lot of idiots like me out there who go to Division II schools and don’t get a signing bonus. And a lot of ’em are out of the sport by age 26 or 27, with no degree and no idea what to do. Playing baseball is great, but you’ve got to have a backup plan.”

The 2007 season may have been a “year off” when it came to baseball, but considering the circumstances, it was anything but relaxing.  “I wasn’t Cadillac-ing, believe me,” said Zavada. “I was driving 200 miles in order to go to school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then delivering furniture the rest of the week and giving pitching lessons on Sunday. It was real stressful, but I got my best GPA ever. It’s amazing how well you can do in college when you don’t have 30 guys to hang around with every night.”

Once everything was back in order one of Clay’s college buddies talked him into pitching for the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League, there he posted a nifty 1.72 ERA, and he also caught the eye once again of the Diamondbacks, who worked out a deal to reacquire Zavada.  The Miners worked out a deal with Arizona whereby Clay could resign with the D-Backs without charging the club a purchase price, Arizona released struggling firstbaseman Brad Miller, who signed with the Miners, and it was a done deal.  Clay was on his way.

But then there was another bump in the road, but this kid wasn’t about to be denied.  He gave up a walkoff home run in Dayton on Thirsty Thursday, there were 10,000 fans going crazy, smoke was shooting from the nose of a giant dragon, and a 16-foot bullhorn was going off.  Zavada says, “part of the fun of this game is getting your butt smacked, but then getting the chance to go out there and redeem yourself.”

Redeem himself, he did.  He won the MiLBY for Class A Reliever of the Year, and for good reason. Despite the fact that he didn’t make his 2008 affiliated debut until June 21, the 24-year-old southpaw still put up numbers that could reasonably be called “otherworldly.” Over 24 appearances with the South Bend Silver Hawks, Zavada went 3-1 with eight saves and an 0.51 ERA.  Opponents hit just .056 against him and he ended the season by hurling 30 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

Over the winter the D-backs added him to the 40-man roster, and when they needed a reliever in May they called him up from Double-A Mobile.  Zavada picked up the win in his first big league game and did not allow an earned run in his first 18 innings.  “Sometimes you ask people how they are doing and they tell you they are living the dream,” Zavada said. “They’re not really living the dream. There’s really only one percent that is really living the dream. I’m living the dream, my dream. Not many people get to do that in their lifetime. Life’s not fair. Life’s not easy. So I’m just thankful. It’s a blessing from God that I’m in this situation. There’s only 750 or so of us. That’s pretty unique. So you had better have fun, you had better enjoy it and you’d better give it all you’ve got. Otherwise you’ll regret it. And I don’t want to regret it.”  It’s that attitude and approach to the game that has made Zavada so popular among his veteran teammates.  “Clay definitely is one of those guys that lightens everyone up,” veteran left-hander Doug Davis said. “Seeing him wide-eyed every day, ready to pitch, ready to do whatever we ask him to do, he’s just always very humble even though he went 18 innings without giving up a run. It’s fun to have a guy like that in the clubhouse.”  Said closer Chad Qualls, “He recognizes that it’s very special to be a big leaguer and he’s had a lot taken away from him, so to have this opportunity given to him, he just relishes it.”  Nothing encapsulates Zavada’s journey better than the day he got to meet Ken Griffey Jr. prior to a game against the Mariners at Safeco Field. It was a big thrill and he clearly reveled in it. Later in the day, though, he was all business on the mound as he got Griffey to fly out.  “He’s a cool guy,” Zavada said, an autographed Griffey jersey hanging in his locker behind him. “That’s good because sometimes you look forward to meeting someone and you can be disappointed.”  Zavada does not expect his appreciation for his big leagues life to change. After all, when just over a year ago you were delivering furniture and struggling to make ends meet, the experiences you have in the Major Leagues are a non-stop high.  “It’s amazing here. You play for two weeks and you’re like, this is sweet, this is awesome. And then you get a check and you’re like, holy cow. It’s pretty cool. It’s the best job in the world.”

So today I’m watching the Cubs game against the Diamondbacks, Arizona jumped out to a 10-0 wind, with the aid of a 10 MPH wind blowing out, unusual on a brisk, damp, fall day.  There were legions of fans from Streator, IL wearing handlebar mustaches, hoping to see their very own, in action.  They got their wish when a fair ball was rocketed toward the Diamondback bullpen, Clay fielded it, egg on his face.  But his fandom got their wish, as Zavada came on to close out the game, pitching the 9th inning, without allowing a run, preserving an 12-3 win.

Rockies & Roll

spilborghsRyan Spilborghs put an exclamation mark on last night’s Rockies come from behind victory over the Giants in 14 innings, with a walkoff grand slam!  The teams were down to bare bones as evidenced by the fact that Colorado manager Jim Tracy told pitcher to take three strikes right down the middle for a strikeout, rather than risk hitting into a game ending doubleplay, he wanted to see Spilborghs hit with the bases loaded, Justin Miller issued a bases loaded walk to Eaton, then Miller was replaced by Merken Valdez, who let up the bags juiced jack.

The Rockies have played 51-22, 20-32 before that, and have closed to three games of the front running Dodgers, after once being 15 1/2 games out.  Los Angeles is preparing to face Colorado in a three game series, so far the Dodgers are 10-2 versus the Rocks, 5-1 at both places, but this is a different Rockies ballclub, playing inspired baseball under Tracy, who replaced manager Clint Hurdle the end of May after a three game Dodger sweep at Coors Field.

Spilborghs certainly redeemed himself after grounding into an inning ending doubleplay in the 10th with the potential winning run on 3rd.  The Giants had taken the lead on a Eugenio Velez triple in the top of the 14th, but it wasn’t to be, as it was Ryan’s day, as he sprinted around the bases to meet up with his waiting teammates at homeplate.

Electric Violin Hits a Home Run

Glenn Donnellan, 39, a violinist for the National Symphany Orchestra, combined his two loves, music & baseball, and made an electric violin out of a baseball bat, Derek Jeter model, would it have sounded as good if it were a Brent Lillibridge model?  Glenn delighted the fans at a recent game between the Nationals & the Diamondbacks in DC, by playing the National Anthem on his unique instrument.  Yeah but could he hit a home run with his fiddle?

Update to Upper Deck story

Upper Deck has released a statement in response to Topps’ exclusive agreement with MLB re baseball cards.  They have re-affirmed their agreement with the MLBPA which is at least half the battle.

The statement is difficult to parse out what with all the positive talk.  Phrases like:  “looking ahead”, “building the highest quality and most innovative baseball cards” and “looking forward to continuing the partnership”

The upshot of it all is that while Topps can use club logos (including logos on baseball caps), on their baseball cards,  Upper Deck cannot.