April 2, 2017


Opening Day always comes at perfect time : Statcast adding new dimension as 2017 season begins (Joe Posnanski, 4/02/17, MLB.com)

But baseball's Opening Day comes at the perfect time, as the days stretch out, as coats and scarves get buried in the backs of closets, as the dreams of graduations and summer vacations and days at the swimming pool begin to feel real. Only a handful of people walk through the Baseball Hall of Fame in the winter. Now, more and more, they begin to come.

"Are you ready for Opening Day?" the greeter asks each of them. Of course they are.

They come for many things, of course: to see the plaques of the all-time greats, to get goosebumps watching the video of George Brett charging the umpire after the pine-tar home run, to see Wonderboy, the bat Roy Hobbs used in "The Natural," or the hear Abbott and Costello do their "Who's on First?" routine one more time.

People come to Cooperstown to be immersed in the language of baseball again, after a long winter without the game. We barely realize that so many of the things that we say in baseball make no literal sense now. We say that ballplayers dress in a clubhouse, not a locker room. Why? Because baseball began with actual clubs, amateur players who got together in a clubhouse, smoked cigars, talked about business or the weather or their feelings about Ulysses S. Grant, and then went out and played baseball.

We talk about a ball getting hit "through the box." There is no box on the pitcher's mound ... but there used to be, long ago, back when the rules demanded that pitchers throw underhand.

And for that matter, that's why they're still called "pitchers." They used to pitch the ball, the way we still pitch horseshoes. The idea was to let the hitter hit, like in slow-pitch softball. A few mid-19th-century pitchers, like Jim Creighton and Asa Brainard (some believe the term for a pitching "ace" comes from Asa), bent the rule, started trying to mix in a few spins, some extra speed in order make it harder for the hitter. Pitchers kept bending the rule, then breaking it, adding pitch types, curveballs, spitballs, and the game developed into something else. The pitcher title remained.

At the same time, the language of baseball changes constantly. Relief pitchers become firemen become closers. Newer advanced statistics like FIP and WAR and OPS and BABIP begin to capture the imagination. This Opening Day is particularly exciting, because this year we baseball fans will start hearing more and more about barrels and five-star catches and pop time.
These words are part of the language of Statcastâ„¢, a whole new way to measure and look at the game. The technology of Statcastâ„¢ -- which uses cameras and radar technology to track everything that moves on a baseball field -- is pretty baffling. But the insights are incredible. There are now ways to see the game and to tell stories about the game that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.

Posted by at April 2, 2017 8:40 AM