Interactions with Cubs players in my youth

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.

Jon Lester - 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.”

Zach Greinke’s changeup grip

This is a nice photo of Zach Greinke’s changeup grip. I never did master the changeup before I hurt my arm. In retrospect I wish I had learned how to throw it when I learned how to throw a curve. My ERA my junior season (before the injuries started) was 1.00, and I’m sure it would have been lower if I had known how to throw one. (I don’t remember where I got this image, but it was probably espn.com.)