The Pinetar Rag

September 28, 2010

Storen from above

Filed under: Uncategorized — mcgonnigle @ 10:25 am

I was down in DC this weekend and took in the Sunday game. The Braves lost and that man there, Drew Storen, saved it with a 1-2-3 save. He’ll get many more. I have been a fan of his dad’s –for several years listening to his various radio shows. I was on the way out of the game in the 8th because I like to get over that bridge to Prince George’s County before the crush. When I realized that Big Chair’s son was warming, I swung by there and took a look.

This guy throws HARD. I was watching one or two pitches and thought, “that didn’t look all that hard, I thought this guy threw high 90’s?”. Then, as if he heard me thinking, he unloaded a 4 seamer and it just exploded late. Serious power pitching. I was impressed by the accuracy. He was hitting the glove in the pen like it was nothing. I know, I know, these are major leaguers and that’s what they do. It is just that until you sit there and really take it in, you don’t truly appreciate the ungodly speed and accuracy of a major league arm.

I emailed a quick report to the Big Chair and asked him at what age his son was when he knew he couldn’t catch him anymore for the pain and/or danger. He said at about age 17, a combo of the boy’s stuff and his declining eyesight, made it the stepping off point. Again, until you are up close, I don’t think you can appreciate the violence of that 5 and a half ounce sphere, coming in from 56 feet away at 96 mph. I wouldn’t want to catch it. Heck, I “girl-out” when my 11 year old nephew bounces a changeup under me! But of course, at 44, my knees hurt just looking at a guy crouch down.

All in all, it was fun. I don’t think people realize what a treat these new parks are with the pens available for all to see! In the old days at Shea Stadium, you couldn’t get close to the pens to see this. It’s one of the things that MLB has gotten right over the recent past. Steinbrenner’s ratcheting up of prices so that I can’t afford to take my kids to a game anymore? That’s something they have gotten wrong.

Here’s a view around release. Look at the stress and loads apparent from the angles in the photo.

Here is a shot of his motion. I was struck by how little load up he puts into his torso. He lifts his leg and then comes to the plate. There isn’t a lot of loading torque or twisting. It’s a very simple, repeatable motion and the stride is longer than you think.

When I work with kids, I always think no matter what you have in mind for them, if the boy can’t repeat it consistently and easily, it’s not any good. Kids’ coaches tend to get grandiose plans going with kids and they don’t realize that repeatability is the name of the game. Pitching control is about repeatability. They also don’t realize that not all kids are the same! And that some kids can handle more twist and loading and others need to come straight to the target.

Here’s the link to the video. It was either an off-speed pitch or a less-than-max-effort pitch. What we used to call a “get me over” pitch.

It was interesting to see the closer getting ready to come in. Normally, you are watching the game, but this time, I was interested in the pen and it was a neat perspective.

He was throwing but also not trying to throw too much. He would throw a couple and then crouch down and murmur to the pitching coach or vice versa. He would watch the game and try to anticipate the timing of when the inning would end. Then he’d throw another one and repeat the process.

You got the distinct impression that it’s nerve-wracking. The aspect of not knowing just exactly WHEN you will go in there but knowing that you have to be ready at that moment. He wandered around a bit. Had a glass or water. Crouched and watched the game some more. Threw a few pitches. Waited. Murmured. It was fascinating. It was also interesting that the mood in the pen was ALL business at that point. The legendary looseness of the pen is gone in the 8th and 9th. It’s as serious as a funeral at that moment, as you would expect.

Hey, next time you go to a game and it’s not exactly riveting, stroll down to the pen and watch the cadence. Interesting.

And yes, I got snarled in traffic and ended up crossing the Navy Yard bridge over the Anacosta on my way back to the Gaylord at National Harbor. I hate driving in DC and this is from someone who lives in Northern NJ, works in NYC and went to school in Boston. –Fog


  1. Great post on Storen. He has been fun to watch pitch this season and hopefully will be the Nats closer for years to come. Glad you enjoyed your time at Nats Park as well.

    Comment by Cheryl — September 28, 2010 @ 2:44 pm | Reply

  2. I was at that game too yelling from behind Storen’s back that he needed to throw 3 K’s while Lett glared up at me

    Comment by TJL — September 29, 2010 @ 10:50 am | Reply

  3. I didn’t notice but I didn’t get there until he was mostly warmed up. My thinking is that just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you go ahead and hassle these guys. Have some decorum. Would you want a guy hunched over your cubicle at work and screaming at you? Me neither. Besides, he darn near had Ankiel struck out and that would have been 3K’s. Impressive young man there, dontchathink?

    Enjoy the game.

    Comment by mcgonnigle — September 29, 2010 @ 11:36 am | Reply

  4. Fog – Have you been watching Ken Burn’s, “Tenth Inning” on PBS? Watched the episode last night while in Indianapolis on business. Hit on Bonds, then on McGuire and Soza in that episode. Baseball is addicting when you’re a kid, but, gosh the “story” of baseball becomes more and more intoxicating as you get older, dontchathink? Whatever you think of Burns, when he gets the right story-tellers, it’s sooo good.

    Comment by John Walker — September 30, 2010 @ 1:41 am | Reply

  5. Geez, I had heard about it but haven’t seen it. His documentaries are a little sappy, but they are great, as you point out, no question.

    Over the past decade or so, my thinking towards baseball has changed. I no longer root for the team I did growing up. It just seems silly to me now that I’m older and realize the business aspects of it. Rooting for a team is really just rooting for a rich guy’s checkbook mostly. So now I tend to see baseball as a 7 month long soap opera that just has a million little subplots going on. I cherry pick the stuff I want to pay attention to and my level of interest, and WHAT I’m interested in, varies heavily over time, but the constant is that I am interested in it over time in whatever form.

    I have read well over 100 books on baseball and I enjoy the history of it. There is a TON of really interesting stories over the years and they’re not all just baseball–they are business and marketing and social and on and on. I feel sorry for this generation of kids coming up the last 10 years because to them, baseball is the Yankees checkbook vs the Red Sox smaller, but still prodigious checkbook, and teams and cities with rich traditions and histories just get thrown aside! I hear Yankee fans railing that Pittsburgh should be delisted as an MLB team and so on. That’s sad.

    I think things that definitely shaped my “new” way of thinking were:

    Things like Burns’ documentary and the 100’s of books I’ve read.
    Going to all the parks around the country and realizing that there’s a whole country of really nice people out there and NY isn’t the center of the universe (thank God).
    Believe it or not: Fantasy. I will probably retire this year because it takes too much time, but this has gotten me into detail with players all across the league and nation that I would otherwise not have known or cared about.
    Growing up completely and realizing that big market teams win most of the time because they have the money to win, and to cry about it or wish it was some other way is a waste of time. I just wish more people would understand this. Every day I run into Yankee fans who believe all the nonsense they’ve been “taught” by the Steinbrenners about “tradition” and “excellence”, Bah! EVERY team has tradition: to have excellence takes CASH!

    Thanks Johnny

    Comment by mcgonnigle — September 30, 2010 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

  6. Fog,

    I hear ya on the $$$ thing. I’m still a Yankees fan, but hopefully not one of the annoying ones you deal with. And when I watch a game I’m interested in the game – both teams. Every game is an interesting thing to watch with all of the dynamics. And I don’t just watch “my team’s” games. I think I could watch any game that’s on and find it fascinating. Getting old with all of the realizations of the economics behind the game sucks. But a kid growing up in St. Louis will always be a Cards fan regardless of the economics. They’ll love their team the same. My Uncle grew up in Chicago and until his death a few years ago he loved his team no matter what. Not saying it’s fair or right, but I think for most just the hope of winning the title is the never-ending hope and dream.

    Hard to say, but I honestly think that my appreciation for the game has not grown as a result of my team winning, but more so a result of getting older and the appreciation of what’s truly going on on the field and the talent required to function in that environment. Just a beautiful game.

    Comment by John Walker — October 1, 2010 @ 1:16 am | Reply

    • I hear you. And over all, well said. If you are a Yankee fan and you realize that going to war every night with an AVERAGE payroll advantage of $114,500,000 means that you can’t just GUSH like Sterling and Kay about how flippin GREAT the Yankees are, then I feel for you. Your childhood team has essentially been hijacked by Steinbrenner’s money. If you are smart and discerning, then you know that your team is a sledgehammer and there’s NOTHING remarkable about it winning all the time. So, to the extent that you realize that, then you’ve been gypped out of something you used to maybe enjoy. They’ve taken something away from you in that sense and there isn’t a whole lot you can DO about it!

      And the Yankees’ business model of spend 2 and 3 and 4 times as much as the other teams and just beat the snot out of the other teams every relentless year, just WORKS! Yup! It’s a great plan because the Steinbrenner’s business keeps increasing in value every year and people will pay more and more and more to watch what is, essentially, a rigged game. People are basically front-runners, in this case. The Yankees are the objective proof lab test case that proves that people will pay a lot to watch something that is not really in doubt! They WANT the security; the SEEK the security of the lead-pipe cinch in sports. This makes them feel good apparently and they are willing to plunk down just gobs of cash to associate themselves with it. They decal their cars–they wear the shirts; some of them will get into bar fights over it!

      To me, its rather pointless. If you plunk down $114,500,000 MORE than your opponents every night and you somehow DON’T win? Then you have spent that money poorly. And we have seen that it is possible to spend money poorly in baseball. And the fact that you can WASTE big money in baseball is what Yankee fans mistake for parity and to excuse their own embarrassing, profligate spending, but really, just because you can waste money, doesn’t diminish the value of a dollar! So to me, if you are spending $114.5 million more than your opponents every night on average, then what in the world am I going to watch that for? Is it exciting? To some, I guess it is. To me, it’s a waste of time. Just a waste of time.

      So you have been hijacked–or rather your team has, because the spending has rendered the joy you might derive from their winning, just moot. A lot of folks don’t realize that or don’t WANT to realize it, I understand that, and that is why nothing will change the value of the Yankees will go up and up and up. I feel the same way about the Mets to some degree. The owners are just such Rubes and they have spent so much relative to the competition in the National League, that even if they won, what fun would it be? The 1986 team had so much personality but really this last group for the last 5 years has been so unlikeable; so much like a rotisserie team, that I don’t care what they do and actually root against them most times.

      The game is a really great game because like you hinted at, there are just 50,000 ways to appreciate it and yes, when you understand more of how good these guys are, you can get into it just on that level and more and more, that’s all they’re leaving the “thinking man’s fan” with!

      Good stuff, Johnny.

      Comment by mcgonnigle — October 1, 2010 @ 11:28 am | Reply

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