Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has an interesting article about the questionable accuracy of the radar gun readings used on various ballpark scoreboards, which is something I’ve noted in the past regarding people citing velocity figures well beyond a pitcher’s usual range.
It turns out not all of the inaccurate scoreboard readings are on the high side, as current Diamondbacks general manager and former Padres general manager Kevin Towers told Piecoro:
We used to dial it down. I know for a fact that every time Brad Penny pitched for the Dodgers in San Diego it was probably the lowest velocities he ever had. He liked velocity. He’d stare at the board. He was throwing 95-96, but we’d have it at 91 and he’d get pissed off and throw harder and harder and start elevating.
Sure enough, I checked the numbers and Brad Penny is 1-5 with a 6.47 ERA in 10 career games pitched in San Diego. Towers also admitted that the Padres “would bump it up on a couple of our pitchers” because “we felt it gave us an edge.”
Towers is no longer able to mess with the radar gun readings in Arizona because Chase Field utilizes MLB’s pitch-fx technology for scoreboard readings rather than relying on people to record and relay the data. Some teams still rely on those mischievous humans, though, which is why I always trust technology when it comes to miles per hour.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.
Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.
There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.
That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.
The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.
One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.
Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.