Must-click link: “The Unfair One” — tracking the demise of the Big Overhand Curve

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Pat Jordan wrote something fantastic. I know, shocking. I mean, he only writes something fantastic every single time he writes something and if you don’t read Pat Jordan stuff you’re basically living your life improperly. But know that he wrote something fantastic again.

It’s about the Big Overhand Curve. Or “The Unfair One,” as his minor league manager called way back in the late 50s. The crazy, nearly-unhittable pitch that made Sandy Koufax Sandy Koufax and which, for some reason, hardly anyone throws anymore. Adam Wainwright does. Clayton Kershaw does. Some others do. But it’s just not in most pitchers’ repertoire these days.

Jordan wanted to know why, so he talked to several pitching coaches, scouts, etc., down in spring training this year, asking them why no one throws it. The answers varied — it’s to hard to teach, the small strike zones make it hard to get over, the mound got lowered making the windup for it harder, the harder breaking things like sliders are preferred now — but the answers don’t matter nearly as much as the telling of the story. It’s fantastic prose but it’s even better education about pitching. How the pitch is thrown compared to sliders and cutters. Why it’s better, but why it can be worse if you do it wrong. He also add in several fantastic war stories. But they’re not the run-of-the-mill war stories. They are colorful and illustrative at the same time.

Just amazing baseball writing. I could read and re-read this article all day. Do yourself a favor and at least read it once.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.