Because Roy Halladay needed an additional pitch

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Ever read those stories about how some insanely rich guy made a business deal to make him even more insanely rich?  That’s how pitchers must feel when they hear how Roy Halladay picked up a new trick or two in the offseason:

In spring training, Halladay worked hard at developing his changeup, a
pitch that had always been a distant fourth option behind his
two-seamer, cutter and curveball. First, with some consultation from
pitching coach Rich Dubee, he changed his grip on the pitch. Instead of
nestling the ball in his palm, a technique that pitchers like Cole
Hamels and Jamie Moyer use to loosen their grip on the ball and lower
its velocity while maintaining arm speed, Halladay began using a
split-finger grip. Next, he spent much of the latter part of spring
training throwing it over and over and over again. Now, he is more
comfortable with the pitch than ever before.

Roy Halladay was already more talented and successful than just about every active pitcher in baseball, and if he didn’t change a thing in his approach we probably wouldn’t have really noticed. The fact that he spent his spring trying to get even better and did so — note the article’s analysis of his strikeout rates — is truly terrifying.

(Thanks to Jonny5 for the heads up) 

Replay review over base-keeping needs to go

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The Red Sox are off and running in the first inning of Game 1 of the World Series against the Dodgers. Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez each hit RBI singles off of Clayton Kershaw to give the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead.

Benintendi’s hit to right field ended with a replay review. Rather than throw to the cutoff man, right fielder Yasiel Puig fired home to try nabbing Mookie Betts, but his throw was poor. Catcher Austin Barnes caught the ball a few feet in front of and to the right of home plate, then whipped the ball to second base in an attempt to get Benintendi. Benintendi clearly beat the throw, but shortstop Manny Machado kept the tag applied. After Benintendi was ruled safe, the Dodgers challenged, arguing that Benintendi’s hand may have come off the second base bag for a microsecond while Machado’s glove was on him. The ruling on the field was upheld and the Red Sox continued to rally.

Replay review over base-keeping is not in the spirit of the rule and shouldn’t be permitted. Hopefully Major League Baseball considers changing the rule in the offseason. Besides the oftentimes uncontrollable minute infractions, these kinds of replay reviews slow the game down more than other types of reviews because they tend not to be as obvious as other situations.

Baseball has become so technical and rigid that it seems foolish to leave gray area in this regard. A runner is either off the base or he isn’t. However, the gradual result of enforcing these “runner’s hand came off the base for a fraction of a second” situations is runners running less aggressively and sliding less often so there’s no potential of them losing control of their body around the base. Base running, particularly the aggressive, sliding variety, is quietly one of the most fun aspects of the game. Policing the game to this degree, then, serves to make the game less fun and exciting.

Where does one draw the line then? To quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, describing obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio, “I know it when I see it.” This is one area where I am comfortable giving the umpires freedom to enforce the rule at their discretion and making these situations impermissible for replay review.