Pipe Shots

I watched the whole All Star Game, which I haven’t actually done in many years. I have lots of overwrought analysis. Note:

***NL starting pitcher, Cardinal’s Adam Wainright, is being castigated for saying he was of a charitable mind to give Derek Jeter some ‘pipe shots’. IE, hittable fastballs down the middle when Jeter was at bat. This year’s game evolved mostly into a venue to contemplate Jeter’s greatness as his retirement approaches. So ‘pipe shots’ to hit are ostensibly a magnanimous gesture that Jeter could turn into melodrama as he exits the stage.

Magnanimousity(?) of this sort is traceable to at least 1968, when Denny McClain grooved fastballs to Mickey Mantle in late September games. Mantle was way over the hill in his last year, leaving on a low note with bad knees, and was lamented in something of a pitiable way. But he was also gamely seeking to advance his place on the all-time home run list. In this game Mantle hit a home run off McClain, adding to his total, and in the soft focus of lore the McClain anecdote has come to be regarded with universal affection.

So you figure warm fuzzies would translate to this Wainright / Jeter situation, right? No, the reaction was just about opposite, with Wainright being called out as a clod for, I think, appearing to be patronizing of Jeter. Jeter is not pathetic, and at age 40 he can get a mere base hit without anyone’s help. Wainright also would seem to have violated some sort of unwritten rule about what pros say about playing hard all the time.

So Wainright was out of line, definetly, for his original comments. But this was obviously just a breezy train of thought being aired as he stood in front of a couple reporters. In reality, I’m not sure Wainright ‘grooved’ to Jeter with to with any quality of execution. The pitch Jeter hit for a double was a knee high 89 mph fastball tailing in. Sometimes that’s a meatball, sometimes that’s a good sinker. You figure out what to call it after the batter does his thing and you have a result. So really the heat Wainright is taking is a consequence of his breezy interview, and not what actually happened on the field. That will learn ya.

***‘Pipe shots’ doesn’t have much elegance as a euphemism. We didn’t use this term in my day.

***Fair to say I’m something of a Yankee hater, but I always knew Jeter for what he was: exceptional.

Still, they were doing a doing a dugout interview with him during one of the late half innings. They barely cut to the action on the field, and I found this tiresome.

***Joe Mauer, Pat Neshek, and Glen Perkins are Twin Cities fellas of the same age, who have basically been playing in the same leagues since they were early teenagers. Neshek and Perkins played in last night’s game. Would have been nice if Joe Mauer was healthy and playing well, so that he could have been in there. I do think the presence of these three in the big leagues speaks to a certain quality achieved in Minnesota amateur baseball at a certain point in the last 20 years.

***In amateur ball I regularly encountered pitchers who threw say 80 to 85 miles per hour. And this is really pretty fast as an athletic proposition and as a practical reality on the baseball field. This speed can only be achieved by a subset of athletes who are youngish and in pretty decent physical condition. When I was youngish and in pretty decent condition I topped out at 75 mph.

Throwing a baseball 90 miles per is an enormously elite physical capability. You have to have the musculature to do it and then you have to execute the pitching motion in a certain way. The right way is not the way most people think it is, and this is actually kind of a barrier to entry as far as being able to do it.

Neshek can throw 90 and does. At 6 ‘3, he no doubt has the musculature. I’m bewildered to explain how he gets 90 out of that motion. He flips it sidearm kinda abruptly. Inasmuch as you’re supposed to discern energy build up before release, I don’t see any.

Perkins is not quite 6 ft tall and sits at 95. There’s an everyman’s joy to watching short pitchers who throw hard, but we do see this type with some regularity. He’s explainable. He may not superficially look like a great athlete, but he is. And he’s got great mechanics.

Aroldis Chapman of the Reds pitched in last night’s game, and he may be the hardest thrower the game has ever encountered. In electronic pitch timing there’s the slow gun and the fast gun, which is reflective of an engineering difference between the brands vis a vis what Doppler wave the device reads, the one coming back from near the pitchers hand or the one mid pitch. I understand Target Field to use the slow gun. Chapman was at 99, 100, and 102 last night.

***I think you can break down the legendery hard throwers into trebuchets and slingers.

Feller, Koufax, and Ryan were modestly tall. They were trebuchets.

Randy Johnson and Aroldis Chapman are borderline freakishly tall, if not actually freakishly tall. They’re slingers.


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