Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where have you gone, Harry Caray?

I've been watching baseball on television and listening on the radio since I was knee high to a fungo bat, and I've always loved the game broadcasts a lot.  In fact, I prefer it to going to the ball park, not because I am cheap, but because every time I go to the ballgame in person, we always wind up sitting between the beer guy and his best customer, and right behind a guy who is out on his first date with a woman whom he wishes to impress by trotting out his deep and wide knowledge of everything about the game.

"Uh yeah...that's called the hit-and-run...the pitcher hit the batter with the ball so the batter gets to run to first base..."

"This guy's gonna bunt right down the first base line."  (Need I tell you where the home run he hits winds up?)

Anyway...that was a great game on Monday night, when the Tampa Bay Rays pulled ahead of the Red Sox, the Red Sox tied it up in the top of the ninth, and the Rays won it with a two-out walkoff homer off Sox closer Koji Uehara in the bottom of the ninth.   That's why baseball will always be a game for the heart and the mind.

So, in the morning, I was flipping around with the remote and saw a statistic on the crawl on the bottom of the ESPN screen:


How to hit a splitter
How to hold
a splitter
Uehara, a Japanese national who came to the Orioles in 2009 after nine years with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan (and who was traded to the Rangers in exchange for pitcher Tommy Hunter and home run champion Chris Davis in 2011), is a relief pitcher whose best pitch is the split-fingered fastball.  That's a pitch made with the ball tucked between the index and middle finger.  When thrown well, the pitch tends suddenly to drop down a few inches, as the batter swings at where the ball would have gone if not for the drop, and hits nothing but ozone. When thrown not so well, the ball winds up in the bleachers for a home run, and that's what happened the other night.  But some Figure Filbert plowed through the last four years of box scores and game reports to tell us that ol' Koji had not lost a game under these circumstances since the early days of H1N1 flu.

I suppose it's because the age of the computer has taken over baseball broadcasting - all sports broadcasting - because back in the day, the announcers did not have access to such arcane data, either during or after the game.  The most insight you would hear would be something such as "Old Lefty usually throws a curve on a 2-0 count" or "Wilmer has three mules on his farm back in Morrisville, MO."

I think I liked hearing about Wilmer's mules better.  The devil is in the details.

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