September 14, 2003

The 100 Mile-per-hour fastball...: The year 2003 may go down as the year the stat geeks won over organized baseball, converting the evaluation of talent from art into science. But there are still some things about the game that don't yield so easily to cold calculus, and chief among them is the mystique of the fire-balling pitcher, the guy who pitches close to and can break the 100-mile-per-hour mark. According to Robert Adair, a physicist and professor emeritus at Yale University and the author of ''The Physics of Baseball,'' throwing a ball this hard transcends the ordinary parameters of the game. ''It's really at the edge of what human beings can do,'' Adair told me. N.Y. Times Link...

posted by vito90 to baseball at 09:26 PM - 7 comments

Very cool link, vito90. Even as a self-styled "stat geek", the sheer awesome splendor of the 100mph bullet still blows me away. We don't know what's the fastest a human being can pitch (or why a Pedro Martinez can reach the same velocity as a Randy Johnson), but it can't be much faster than that. Is there anything in sports quite as majestic as the blazing fastball or the towering homerun? Hey, they even had the obligatory Steve Dalkowski reference! That Bobby Jenks they describe, though- what is it about the elite of the fireballers that correlates with a certain dunderheadness? Whether Dalkowski or his fictional counterpart Nuke Laloosh, or any number of minor league wanna-be's long on velocity but short on wits (like the Mariners' own minor-league never-was, Ryan Anderson), there seems to be some unwritten law of genetics that nearly everyone blessed with an extra-special fastball, beyond even major-league standards, will in turn lack the smarts and good sense to make it as far as their talent suggests.

posted by hincandenza at 10:47 PM on September 14

The most interesting thing I got out of the article, and it sounds so common sense when you think about it, was the contention that a 100 MPH pitcher is no more likely to hurt his arm than a guy who throws 90 MPH as his top speed. Why? Because they are both throwing as hard as they can. Also the fact (?) that the arm is capable of throwing a ball HARDER after Tommy John surgery than before, which apparently has led to rumors of guys having surgery on healthy arms to increase velocity.

posted by vito90 at 08:07 AM on September 15

Amazing in the abstract, yes. But as young Billy Koch has so far proven - it's a nice talent to hang your hat on, but doesn't necessarily translate into mound success.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:46 AM on September 15

throwing a ball HARDER after Tommy John surgery I first heard this with Billy Koch: apparently the tendon they use is so much longer than the original they have to wrap it a couple of times, resulting in the greater speed.

posted by yerfatma at 08:55 AM on September 15

Sidd Finch, anyone?

posted by mbd1 at 09:52 AM on September 15

this is a great link. I'd like to see hard stats of pitchers over time...like roger clemens in 85 versus clemens in 90 versus clemens in 03. Just curious to see if his speed has increased, or decreased. I'm betting it has pretty much stayed the same and/or increased.

posted by meanie at 11:27 AM on September 15

Poor example meanie. You'd have to somehow adjust for that huge strech of time in the early '90s where he didn't give a shit. And "hard stats"? Careful what you wish for.

posted by yerfatma at 12:15 PM on September 15

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