Looking at what makes a baseball move alvin November 29, 2018 - 7:33am

Back in my day, aerospace engineering undergrad students had very little time to work in the wind tunnels at Texas A&M, but in the limited time I had I tried to look at what makes a knuckleball move erratically. Barton Smith at Utah State University did the same thing (presumably with much more wind tunnel time) looking at a baseball’s spin rate, spin axis, and orientation of the ball.

Pitching in high school

This is a picture of me as a pitcher in high school. I don’t want to say that we were poor growing up, but I wore a large outfielder’s glove while pitching because I was afraid to ask my dad for a new glove, and the shoe on my right foot — the one way up in the air — was cracked in the middle.

(Many thanks to Dwayne Heidtbrink for the photo way back when.)

Interactions with Cubs players in my youth alvin November 5, 2016 - 4:16pm

I had two interactions with Chicago Cubs players in my youth.

When I was about 10 years old, Randy Hundley was the Cubs catcher and he came to speak to all of our little league players and parents at a large gathering. After he gave a speech we were allowed to ask questions. Even then I was interested in pitching, so I asked, “What do you talk about when you go out to the pitchers’ mound?” He answered something like, “Son, I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to use those words here.” (All the adults thought that was funny, but I was serious and thought, “Geez, why don’t adults ever take kids’ questions seriously?”)

Then when I was a senior in high school, Ron Santo came to one of my games, wearing his trademark leather jacket. Technically he went to his son’s game, but since I was pitching and we won, it was my game. ;)

Baseball’s ERA+ stat

I like baseball’s ERA+ stat. It gives you a way to compare completely different eras in a logical way. In technology it’s like saying which feat is better, creating a huge website like Facebook, or creating the first versions of Unix or Mac OS? All of them are great feats of engineering, but the tools available in each generation are so different that there’s no way to compare them, but in baseball the ERA+ stats lets you do exactly that.

Cole Hamels pitch selection, 2016 alvin May 1, 2016 - 6:24pm

I’m a big fan of good pitchers. Not the hard-throwing guys, but guys who really have control of their stuff and know how to pitch. Cole Hamels is one of those guys, and espn.com has this story on his changing pitch selection.

Jon Lester on tunneling pitches

This fangraphs article also mentions the pitching concept of “tunneling.” I’m sure it’s as old as baseball itself, but it’s a good name for the concept. When Fernando Valenzuela first came up he was brilliant at this. He would throw his fastball and screwball to the low, outside corner of the plate, and presumably the spin on the ball looked the same, so right-handed batters could only guess which pitch was coming (which made him incredibly successful).

In high school I did the same thing the best I could: I threw fastballs high, and then a curveball off of that, with the curve starting on the same trajectory, or with this terminology, “in the same tunnel.”