With the Super Bowl in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to get ready for baseball season, and what better way to do that than to peruse some of the best baseball articles from the past year, as identified by the Society for American Baseball Research, which has chosen fifteen (non-ALDLAND) finalists for awards in the areas of contemporary and historical baseball analysis and commentary?
My latest post at Banished to the Pen highlights each finalist and includes a link to cast your vote to help determine the winners.
As a preview, here’s my summary of my favorite article of the bunch:
Jason Turbow, “The Essence of Velocity: The Pitching Theory That Could Revolutionize Baseball, If Only The Sport Would Embrace It,” SB Nation, June 18, 2014. Turbow profiled Perry Husband, a former player who reinvented himself as a pitching coach. Really, Husband is a pitching theorist, and he labeled his theory “Effective Velocity.” The basic notion is that what matters in terms of pitch speed variation is not the actual difference between the speed of pitches but the difference in speed as perceived by the batter. This is significant, because Husband determined that actual speed and batter-perceived speed diverge for pitches thrown in certain locations. In short, pitches up and in gain effective velocity, while pitches down and away lose effective velocity. For both situations, the difference between actual and effective velocity can be between one and five miles per hour. Husband also had a revelation about the hitting process: luck is a more prevalent factor in a batter making contact than generally assumed, and hitting success depended more on pitcher mistakes. According to Husband, success in hitting, to the extent it is subject to the batter’s control, is dependent upon the batter’s ability to adjust to pitch-speed variances, and most batters cannot handle an effective velocity spread of more than five miles per hour. The very best hitters, Husband said, might be able to handle an eight mile per hour effective velocity spread. Pitchers know they need to mix speeds, but when they throw pitches to the areas where they disadvantageously gain or lose effective velocity, they neutralize the effect of their speed mixing. The one problem for Husband? He couldn’t find any Major League teams to buy into his theory. Turbow’s article tracked Husband’s search for acceptance in engaging fashion.
Read about the other fourteen nominees, see my ballot, and cast your vote here.