Inside the batter’s brain

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Future scouting report: “Great upper body strength. Good batting eye. Fluid swing. Well-developed , V5 region of his visual cortex. Good looking girlfriend, so he clearly has self confidence …”

In a study published today in the journal Neuron, UC Berkeley researchers used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to pinpoint the prediction mechanisms in the brain that enable hitters to track pitches … They found that the brain is capable of effectively “pushing” forward objects along in their trajectory from the moment it first sees them, simulating their path based on their direction and speed and allowing us to unconsciously project where they’ll be a moment later.

And, it follows, that hitters whose v-5 region of their visual cortex — the part of the brain that handles this stuff — are better at adjusting to and thus mashing pitches. Pitches which move over 12 feet in the 100 millisecond between when the batter’s eye sees the ball and when the nerve impulse which makes the batter start his swing can get moving.

Well, it’s either that or they have more grit and WtW and stuff.

(thanks to Mike Lewis for the heads up)

Jon Gray will start Opening Day for the Rockies

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Manager Bud Black has tabbed Jon Gray to start on Opening Day for the Rockies. That will be Monday, April 3 in Milwaukee against the Brewers in an afternoon contest.

Gray, 25, is starting Opening Day for the first time in his career. He’ll be the sixth different Rockies pitcher to start Opening Day in as many years.

The Rockies and Gray had a bit of a scare on Friday as he left his spring training start with discomfort in his left foot, but everything came up clean in an MRI. He pitched again on Wednesday with no issue.

Last season, Gray went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA and a 185/59 K/BB ratio in 168 innings. A consensus top prospect entering each of the previous three seasons, Gray surprisingly put up better numbers at Coors Field — the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — than away.

Blake Treinen named Nationals closer

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Today Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker named Blake Treinen as his closer. Treinen has saved exactly one big league game.

There wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice, however. Last year Washington had Mark Melancon, but with him gone and GM Mike Rizzo’s failure to land a high-profile closer in the offseason, it became a contest between Treinen Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.

Treinen posted a 2.28 ERA with 31 walks and 63 Ks in 67 innings in 2016. His big improvement last year came against lefties, who had tattooed him in the past. He pitched well this spring as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Nats are our favorites to win the NL East, but we do have some questions about the pen. Blake Treinen will take the first crack at answering them.