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Ambidexterity vs. ambidexterity
June 20, 2008 9:20 AM   Subscribe

In May 2006, we discussed switch pitcher Pat Venditte on MetaFilter. Many wondered: what kind of bizarre game-theoretic catastrophe would occur when the switch pitcher faced a switch hitter? Two years later, it has come to pass. (video)
posted by escabeche (78 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Twenty years from now, this will be much more common.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:26 AM on June 20, 2008


That was hilarious.
posted by cashman at 9:27 AM on June 20, 2008


Do you really want to get yourself that cold between at-bats? I feel like that would be a bigger detriment than pitching off-handed to the batter. Guess I shouldn't have flipped past the Cyclones game last night.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:29 AM on June 20, 2008


Did he get him out? What happened?
posted by Mister_A at 9:33 AM on June 20, 2008


I love baseball. I mean, I just REALLY love baseball. Like, as much as a member of my own family.
posted by ORthey at 9:33 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why didn't the pitcher just play? Wasn't he the one who was causing all the trouble by switching all the time? Yeah, don't know much about baseboll .
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:33 AM on June 20, 2008


That was fantastic, but I was disappointed the linked video ends before the resolution of the whole thing. The short ESPN video on the same page does show the end of the game, and here's a spoiler: Gurl svanyyl obgu raq hc tbvat evtugl, naq gur onggre vf fgehpx bhg fjvatvat gb raq gur tnzr.
posted by yhbc at 9:35 AM on June 20, 2008


Switch-hitting has just come into cricket, following Kevin Pietersen's two sixes against NZ (difference from a reverse sweep being that he played it left handed - i.e. the hand position moved). The technique was just approved.
posted by djgh at 9:36 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shit I have no sound at work. Was the issue whether the batter stepped into the box as a righty first and thus committed to batting right handed and then the pitcher switched? Or was the pitcher on the rubber as a righty and thus committed to throwing right handed and then the batter switched? What does the rule book say?
posted by spicynuts at 9:38 AM on June 20, 2008


This is what I love about baseball. Always new stuff to know--like how a pitcher pulls on his penis to switch from a left to right hander.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:39 AM on June 20, 2008 [13 favorites]


The live feed doesn't say conclusively but the consensus seemed to be there were no rules—batter and pitcher could switch whenever they wanted.
posted by chrominance at 9:41 AM on June 20, 2008


And this is why baseball is pretty much unwatchable these days.

A bunch of duffers treating it like a serious game of golf. It's stickball, you noobs. It's supposed to be an action sport, not a genteel game of billiards.

Fine. You want it that way? Baseball is now Calvinball. All other organized pro sports now play by the rules of Brockian Ultracricket. You'll sell lots of pointless gear.

If you're a city planner, please stop building baseball diamonds before looking at the research data. More kids (and adults) skateboard today than play baseball. Please build more skateparks and less baseball diamonds.
posted by loquacious at 9:41 AM on June 20, 2008


Foci: the pitcher wants either a L-L or R-R matchup, for his benefit. He did not care which.

The hitter wants a L-R or R-L mismatch, for his benefit.

The umpires could not decide whether either, neither or both players needed to "commit" to one side or the other, and it's a tough ruling since you're giving one player or the other an advantage (see above.)

Switch hitters are common in baseball, but there's no dancing like the video since there's one clear side to use.

I believe the major league rule is that a pitcher, once he initiates an at-bat by throwing the first pitch, must finish the at-bat with the same arm (no matter how many pitches that requires), while the batter may switch sides at will. In this case, of course, no first pitch was yet thrown... hence the confusing standoff.

I'm sure there will be textbook rulings on this soon, and long before this guy gets to the major leagues.
posted by rokusan at 9:42 AM on June 20, 2008


And this is why baseball is pretty much unwatchable these days.

Are you high? That was the coolest thing ever.
posted by rokusan at 9:42 AM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


They should have made a gentlemen's agreement to go lefty-righty, lefty-lefty, righty-lefty, righty-righty, and so on. That would make for some interesting 7-2 baseball.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:44 AM on June 20, 2008


Spicynuts: Yes, there are apparently no rules on "committing", or at least none that the umpiring crew knew.

I don't believe the pitcher ever took the rubber either way, but even if he did, he could step off. There was even a baserunner.

I kept waiting for the umpire to simply refuse to give the batter time out to change, but that did not happen. My gut says that if you let a batter keep doing that, a pitcher will eventually balk.
posted by rokusan at 9:44 AM on June 20, 2008


Fine. You want it that way? Baseball is now Calvinball.

I don't want pro sports, at all. But if there was a Calvinball league...
posted by Talanvor at 9:49 AM on June 20, 2008


This is awesome. Thank you!
posted by dersins at 9:54 AM on June 20, 2008


A bunch of duffers treating it like a serious game of golf. It's stickball, you noobs. It's supposed to be an action sport, not a genteel game of billiards.

I don't think you understand baseball.
posted by ORthey at 9:57 AM on June 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


It's supposed to be an action sport, not a genteel game of billiards.

No. Fail. It is not an action sport.
posted by spicynuts at 9:59 AM on June 20, 2008


It's wierd. I don't enjoy baseball in the least. But I find the tradition, arcana, strange rules and little insider stuff really interesting. It's quite the quandary. Great post.
posted by nevercalm at 9:59 AM on June 20, 2008


The pitcher doesn't need to commit. The batter does. It's fairly clear from the official rules. Nowhere in the section on pitchers, which is extensive, does it say anything about which hand they're pitching with. OTOH, in the section on batters, it does say that once in the batter's box they have to stay there unless the umpire calls time. This page, which was linked to on the 2006 FPP, confirms this interpretation.

The previous FPP does, however, have a link to this page in the comments, which says that there's an umpiring rule that contradicts this.

What I want to know is where the pitcher got a glove that can go on either hand.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:02 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


"What the hell happens when both the batter and the hitter can go both ways?"

They leave together after the game for dinner, drinks, dancing, and who knows.
posted by bwg at 10:03 AM on June 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


And thanks to yhbc for the rot13 intro. Can't believe I never encountered that....
posted by nevercalm at 10:05 AM on June 20, 2008


loquacious: "And this is why baseball is pretty much unwatchable these days. A bunch of duffers treating it like a serious game of golf. It's stickball, you noobs. It's supposed to be an action sport, not a genteel game of billiards."

Weird. Baseball, an action game? Billiards, a genteel game? "Duffer" used to describe a person not playing golf? Your entire comment seems to be purposely designed to be entirely wrong.
posted by Plutor at 10:10 AM on June 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


The video you linked is cut off. View the second down on the right (8:18), which shows the final out.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:14 AM on June 20, 2008


One of the features talk up for baseball that seems to hold true is that despite the nearly 150 years of history, at every game there's still a good chance of seeing something new or rare.

Just yesterday there was a game with an in the park home run and a pitcher who took a no hitter into the 8th. Then his team nearly lost despite their 7 run lead.

More switch pitchers would just add to the awesome.
posted by drezdn at 10:16 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was fantastic, but I was disappointed the linked video ends before the resolution of the whole thing.

Did he get him out? What happened?
"The umpired ruled in favor of the pitcher. Henriquez chose to hit from the right side, and Venditte struck him out to end the game."*
posted by ericb at 10:22 AM on June 20, 2008


nevercalm, you should read The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. , by Robert Coover.
posted by steambadger at 10:23 AM on June 20, 2008


Last night I was at a AA game drinking dollar Yuengling draft and scarfing hot dogs. I watched a 3-run homer get overturned by the third-base ump (who appeared to have been flirting with a blonde chick in a revealing sundress in the stands at the time the ball was hit). Manager ejected, two players ejected, rousing chorus of boos all around. Then today I find this clip on MetaFilter.

Man, I love baseball.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:23 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Switch pitcher Pat Venditte is just doing what he does.
posted by ericb at 10:24 AM on June 20, 2008


CBS Profile of Pat Vendite [video | 2:40] in which he talks about the prospect of meeting up with a switch hitter among other things.
posted by ericb at 10:28 AM on June 20, 2008


I couldn't care less about baseball, but the ruling really screws over the batter, because as a switch-hitter he surely isn't used to batting right against a right-handed pitcher. I wonder when the last time was that he even took pitches from a right-hander while batting right. Thought the lack of experience in that area was evident when he chased that curve ball all the way into the other batter's box.
posted by wabashbdw at 10:30 AM on June 20, 2008


That is seriously the best thing ever. I hope Venditte gets to the majors. Seeing him in action would be more than worth the price of admission.

There are so many more points of decision in this scenario than the standard one with a switch-hitter and a non-ambidextrous pitcher. Normally, it's easy: The conventional wisdom is to bat lefty against a right-hander, and bat righty against a left-hander.

But if you don't know which hand he's going to pitch with before you approach the plate, when do you decide which batter's box to go stand in? And if you're the pitcher, when do you decide which hand to throw with?

Obviously the answer in this case for both guys was "at the last possible second," leading to five minutes of hilarity. Neither one wanted to give the (perceived) edge to the other team.

(Of course, the conventional wisdom is generally pretty accurate; it's hard to find a player who doesn't do better against "same-handed" opposition. Chad Qualls is one, but I had to look pretty hard to find him. I'm sure that someone more versed in baseball history than I am would be able to name at least a couple guys like that off the top of their head.)

It appears it's against the rules for the batter to switch sides after the pitcher reaches the set position (i.e. standing with his "back foot," the foot farther from the batter, on the pitching rubber). And for the pitcher to reach the set position, he necessarily has to have picked which hand he's pitching with, since he'd be facing the wrong way for the other hand.

Still, being in the set position doesn't mean the pitcher has to throw a pitch. He could step back off the rubber or throw to a base if a runner is on. Say the pitcher sets up right-handed, for example. The batter gets in the box batting left-handed. Then the pitcher could just back off the rubber, quickly turn around, and get back in the set position from the other side. (If I were an ambidextrous pitcher, which I really wish were the case, that's what I'd try to do.)

The thing about baseball that makes this so interesting (and apparently paralyzing) is that it's not timed. You would never have this problem in basketball or football because you have to start or finish a given play within a certain amount of time. And those sports are a little bit less dependent on handedness than baseball is (I think most right-handed basketball players try to make sure they can shoot a left-handed layup, for example, and football players generally switch hands when they're carrying the ball based on where the defenders are).

On preview: Man, you guys had a conversation while I was writing this long-winded post.

@cerebus19: that question is answered in the link to the Sporting News ericb just posted.
posted by gohlkus at 10:33 AM on June 20, 2008


That was great!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:43 AM on June 20, 2008


The pitcher doesn't need to commit. The batter does. It's fairly clear from the official rules... it does say that once in the batter's box they have to stay there unless the umpire calls time.

That does make sense, if accurate, but in the clip the batter never actually enters either box... and the pitcher isn't obliged to take the rubber unless the batter is in the box... and so on.

The umpire, I suppose, should order the batter to get into (either) box, and then stay there.

So, yes, advantage pitcher. That's consistent with the pinch-hitter / relief pitcher ordering. You can't re-pinch hit once a batter has been announced, after all.... though the same batter is allowed to chance sides.

Hm.
posted by rokusan at 10:46 AM on June 20, 2008


This confirms what I have always suspected. Baseball is a game for lawyers. (no offense, phil)

"It's supposed to be an action sport"

This man has neither ever watched nor ever played baseball. Even Ozzie Smith had mind-crushing periods of downtime. I used to pine for my GameBoy, where I could play every position on the virtual diamond while I waited for my one or two fly balls in the outfield.
posted by Eideteker at 10:46 AM on June 20, 2008


I used to pine for my GameBoy, where I could play every position on the virtual diamond while I waited for my one or two fly balls in the outfield.

Right fielders fugue, a deadly syndrome. When I played in high school if I was at second base (my preferred position) I used to be totally absorbed in the game, the strategy, the minute to minute, if I got shifted into right and someone asked me if I played that day I would say "Well...Sorta."
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2008


This is why I love baseball.

Its Americas favorite past time because like America it flip flops a lot I guess.
posted by lilkeith07 at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2008


Of course, the conventional wisdom is generally pretty accurate; it's hard to find a player who doesn't do better against "same-handed" opposition.

Ichiro, 2005-07: .346/.390/.456 vs LHP, .318/.365/.417 vs. RHP.
posted by dw at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2008


I believe the major league rule is that a pitcher, once he initiates an at-bat by throwing the first pitch, must finish the at-bat with the same arm (no matter how many pitches that requires), while the batter may switch sides at will. In this case, of course, no first pitch was yet thrown... hence the confusing standoff.

If the pitcher is committed to one side after throwing his first pitch of the at-bat but the batter can switch for each pitch, wouldn't it make sense in this situation for the latter to recieve the first pitch as the pitcher chooses, then turn around for the rest of the at-bat?
posted by liam at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2008


liam, I think I was wrong with my first comment, and as others have since said, the pitcher may indeed change as often as he likes as long as he steps off and resets properly first. It sounds like the batter is the only one who must 'commit' by entering one of the batters boxes, and he can't leave that box without requesting and being granted a time out by the umpire.

(Of course, batters are so conditioned to receiving time whenever they grunt for it that this will be a difficult adjustment anyway.)

So as wabashbdw says, the rules seem to be: advantage pitcher.

But since this hasn't happened in ~100yrs, you can forgive the umps for being rusty on these fine points. :)
posted by rokusan at 11:16 AM on June 20, 2008


This is so great. This is like all of the things I love about baseball all rolled up into one at bat. Thanks so much for posting this, I'd never have heard about it otherwise.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 11:17 AM on June 20, 2008


...but once the batter does receive the very common timeout (this seems to happen 3-4 times for every at bat in most games, anyway, as batters step out and readjust all their... stuff) he may re-enter either batter's box.

(Obviously there's not usually any reason to change, though.)
posted by rokusan at 11:22 AM on June 20, 2008


Wonderful! Like gohlkus, I hope this guy gets to the majors. Baseball is the greatest game in the world. (Here's the full eight-minute clip, finishing with the strikeout.)

Personal to loquacious: Dude, stick to stuff you know/care about.
posted by languagehat at 11:28 AM on June 20, 2008


Baseball is a game for lawyers.

Any game played for millions of dollars is a game for lawyers.

Funny thing is, it's enough that the game has a million-dollar level of play for that to take effect, even if the particular match being played isn't at that level, in sort of a trickle-down effect. MLB has all sorts of rules covering all sorts of weird situations, so minor leagues and college get all the obscure rules, too. Even fairly casual golfers will play by USGA rules. Amateurs buy the Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary. The USCF's Rules of Chess are 370 pages, and only a very small part of that is "how the pieces move" and "what checkmate is." Yet it's used not only for high-level events, but also casual one-day tournaments where the prize might be little more than getting your $10 entry fee back.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:28 AM on June 20, 2008


liam, I think I was wrong with my first comment, and as others have since said, the pitcher may indeed change as often as he likes as long as he steps off and resets properly first.

No, pitcher is under the same rules. Once they throw that first pitch, they can switch arms, but they can't switch back if they do.

Although I seem to recall back in the mid-90s there was this worry about switch pitchers so AL president Bobby Brown put down some really draconian rules that said a pitcher had to indicate an arm and then that was the only arm they could use during that at-bat barring injury. I don't know if that actually made it into the rule book, tho.
posted by dw at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2008


bwg wrote: They leave together after the game for dinner, drinks, dancing, and who knows.

I was totally expecting this post to be about some form of bisexual topping from the bottom multi-gender strap-on porn, never having wondered about the possible origins of the slang term 'switch hitter'.

That it's actually about rounders baseball is pretty disappointing, really.
posted by jack_mo at 11:37 AM on June 20, 2008


Personal to loquacious: Dude, stick to stuff you know/care about.

That, and not posting before I'm awake.
posted by loquacious at 11:47 AM on June 20, 2008


Another big advantage for the switch-pitcher is longevity. In the modern game, managers keep a very close watch on a pitcher's pitch count, and the clock is ticking once they get to 100 pitches in a game. With a switch-pitcher, you could keep a separate count for each arm and be able to go deeper into games without either of your arms getting tired. I'm sure pitching takes a toll on other parts of your body besides your arm, but I'm sure that is the first thing to get tired.

As for one arm getting cold if you don't use it for a few batters, I bet that some conventional wisdom will prevail after some time. Perhaps if you've just faced 5 straight rightys in the same inning, perhaps its better to take the righty-lefty matchup on the 6 batter instead of switching. Opposing managers may eventually figure out how to best structure their lineup to get maximum effect against the switch-pitcher.

This is a very cool "inside baseball" type of event, and it will be something that fans, experts, and commentators will be talking about quite a bit as a switch-pitcher gets closer to the majors.
posted by mach at 11:49 AM on June 20, 2008


Given that pretty much every other part of loquacious' comment has been torn asunder, I'll jump on the small text:

...looking at the research data. More kids (and adults) skateboard today than play baseball.

Have you looked at the research data? Can I see the research data? I'm not immediately assuming that you're wrong, but if you're right, I'd be really, really interested in seeing the proof of this.
posted by SpiffyRob at 11:50 AM on June 20, 2008


I'm sure pitching takes a toll on other parts of your body besides your arm, but I'm sure that is the first thing to get tired.

Some (mostly power) pitchers get almost all their velocity from their legs/lower body. Roger Clemens was a prime example. (Yes, he got the legs via steroids, but the baseball went so fast b/c of the legs.) You can tell when their legs start to go.
posted by inigo2 at 12:03 PM on June 20, 2008


Some (mostly power) pitchers get almost all their velocity from their legs/lower body. Roger Clemens was a prime example. (Yes, he got the legs via steroids, but the baseball went so fast b/c of the legs.) You can tell when their legs start to go.

good point, but the switch-pitcher still has an advantage since they will be pushing off on their right leg when throwing right-handed, and left leg when throwing left-handed.
posted by mach at 12:54 PM on June 20, 2008


Some (mostly power) pitchers get almost all their velocity from their legs/lower body.

Not true. Yes, the lower body generates some power, but certainly not "almost all."

If that was true, how fast would a flatfooted fastball be? 10mph?
posted by rokusan at 1:55 PM on June 20, 2008


If that was true, how fast would a flatfooted fastball be? 10mph?

Actually, that might not be all that inaccurate. You ever try throwing a baseball 60' 6" completely flatfooted? It's probably going to bounce a couple times and the roll the rest of the way.
posted by dersins at 2:24 PM on June 20, 2008


Some (mostly power) pitchers get almost all their velocity from their legs/lower body.
rokusan: Not true. Yes, the lower body generates some power, but certainly not "almost all."

If that was true, how fast would a flatfooted fastball be? 10mph?
Actually, it IS true- you ever try throwing a ball without moving your legs- and therefore your hips? The power and velocity comes from that long stride, snapping the hips, and letting the upper body follow through.

Let's say a pitcher throws 60mph from a standstill, pure arm action (I don't know how fast a power pitcher could throw with pure arm and no legs/hips), but 90mph with a full windup. Given that the power to throw at a given velocity goes up as a square of the velocity, then throwing 1.5 times faster should require 2.25 times more power (supplied by the thick legs of power pitchers). Therefore, getting that last 30mph takes 125% more power than the first 60mph. The motion of the body and hips adds to the overall velocity and "whip" action of the pitch, which isn't possible if your body is still.

And FYI, steroids did not give Clemens his power; he was a workout freak from day one, and even if he did take PEDs he did so probably only later in his career to help with recovery from pitching and workouts. Clemens is arguably the greatest pitcher of all time, with only Johnson (more strikeouts) and Maddux (more wins, in very near future) as any kind of comparable pitchers over the last 40-50 years.

This situation isn't entirely unprecedented: Greg A. Harris was an ambidextrous major league pitcher who was finally allowed (by his manager) to throw with both arms in a major league game in 1995. I believe he's the only pitcher in the post-1900 era to do so in a major league game.
posted by hincandenza at 2:32 PM on June 20, 2008


That was awesome and hilarious. Yay baseball!
posted by rtha at 2:43 PM on June 20, 2008


"The rule governing both switch hitters and pitchers is once the player commits to hitting or pitching from one side, they are allowed to switch one time during the at-bat. The rule, however, doesn't specify whether the hitter or the pitcher is forced to declare first. Because of that, both Venditte and Henriquez began switching sides of the plate repeatedly, and the display eventually led to S.I. manager Pat McMahon and his Brooklyn counterpart, Edgar Alfonso, getting involved in discussions with home plate umpire Shaylor Smith and first base umpire Tim Eastman.

After a few minutes of discussion between all parties, the umpires ruled the hitter should declare first. Henriquez then chose to hit right-handed, so Venditte pitched right-handed..."*
posted by ericb at 3:09 PM on June 20, 2008


And then there was Tony Mullane -- baseball's first ambidextrous pitcher.
posted by ericb at 3:17 PM on June 20, 2008


"Clemens is arguably the greatest pitcher of all time, with only Johnson (more strikeouts) and Maddux (more wins, in very near future) as any kind of comparable pitchers over the last 40-50 years."

You forgot Nolan(d).
posted by Eideteker at 3:18 PM on June 20, 2008


Ha, thanks for the cricket link djgh. As with some things in cricket, there is an analog in baseball.

Switch hitters who have hit home runs from both sides of the plate in a single game.
posted by A dead Quaker at 3:56 PM on June 20, 2008


Eideteker: You forgot Nolan(d).
I can't even take that seriously. Nolan Ryan was an impressive and long-lived pitcher, but as a high-ERA barely above .500 career pitcher, he's simply nowhere near the class of Maddux, Clemens, and Randy Johnson. Nowhere near.
posted by hincandenza at 4:09 PM on June 20, 2008


DevilsAdvocate the idea of "rules", even detailed rules, is not an outgrowth of million dollar professional sports. Many many people prefer to know the rules when they play a game of scrabble or chess whether it be for a million or for a beer.
posted by Wood at 4:52 PM on June 20, 2008


Clemens will and should be shamed as a steroid cheater for the rest of his life. Steroids = strength and improved injury recovery, two of the three most important assets of a star pitcher (control is the other). He wouldn't have taken them if he didn't think they gave him an edge.

Himcandenza, you must be young. Otherwise, surely you wouldn't have forgotten Warren Spahn, Sandy Kolfax, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, Christy Mathewson and my personal favorite, Steve Carlton (329 career wins, 4,136 Ks, 242 complete games and possibly the greatest single season by any pitcher in the history of baseball).

But back to the OP, damn, wouldn't that have been something if Carlton's nickname was LeftyRighty?
posted by sixpack at 4:55 PM on June 20, 2008


Why should Clemens be "shamed" as a steroid "cheater"? His use at best was likely later in his career, and its impact is questionable overall; he was already a HoF player- like Bonds- and numerous other players were named in the Mitchell report, many of whom were shitty players even with the alleged "steroid" use. Clemens is by all accounts a very dumb guy, kind of hyper, but also probably the best pitcher of his generation, and possibly any generation.

This isn't some 1980's ABC afterschool special; these are professional athletes and adults, with access to some of the best medical technology around. I fail to see steroids as "cheating" any more than a scientifically precise diet with vitamin and enzyme supplements, or the use of computerized technology to analyze and fine tune every swing or throw, or video analysis of pitches and sabermetrics, as "cheating". It's not like steroids are some Marvel comix super-serum that turns the average scrawny Metafilter poster into a HR-mashing, base-stealing Hall of Fame player. At best, they allow players to heal faster- that's a boon to older players whose bodies don't bounce back as fast. I just think it's incredibly odd that there's such a stigma to using PEDs; even if Bonds was some PED junkie, he wasn't that way until maybe 2000, 2001; his career before then was first-ballot HoF caliber anyway.

Clemens, and Bonds, and others have accomplished what they accomplished in what is the most historically difficult period in the sport. The rise of international scouting and the sheer money has attracted a depth and diversity of talent unseen in any period prior. Babe Ruth and even Bob Feller got to pad their stats never facing a Josh Gibson, or even an Ichiro Suzuki (it wasn't until the waning years of his career that Feller would even see the first black players). Neither had to face Pedro Martinez in his prime, or compete with Bonds, Griffey, Sosa, Pujols, Ortiz, Ramirez, etc for a homerun title. When some 10% of the major league roster is comprised of players from the Dominican Republic- with 1/30th the population of the US- it just underscores that the competition in baseball today dwarfs that faced by previous generations.
posted by hincandenza at 5:37 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


The live feed doesn't say conclusively but the consensus seemed to be there were no rules—batter and pitcher could switch whenever they wanted.

That really, really bugged me. The rules for switch hitters meeting switch batters has been known for some time. The reason it has been known for some time is precisely because the notion is so much fun to fantasize about that every baseball fan at some point in their life will playfully pose the question--as sure as a Monopoly n00b will, at some point in the game, posit just how awesome it would be if all that money were real!.

I mean, it's like if Superman and Batman showed up to a comic book convention and started beating each other up, and you were to ask the geekiest attendee you could find who he thought would win, and getting the response, "Well, gee, I just don't know... I guess I just never imagined it would ever happen!"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:32 PM on June 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Why should Clemens be "shamed" as a steroid "cheater"?

Because he lied about it. Repeatedly. Under oath.
posted by rokusan at 4:24 AM on June 21, 2008


Some (mostly power) pitchers get almost all their velocity from their legs/lower body.
Not true. Yes, the lower body generates some power, but certainly not "almost all."
Actually, it IS true...

No, actually, it IS NOT true.

Even your example with made up numbers only attributes 33 percent to the legs. 33 percent is not "almost all." Changing the argument to how much EFFORT it takes is just silly.

I am not denying that legs contribute power. It's the "almost all" part that was ridiculous.
posted by rokusan at 4:27 AM on June 21, 2008


That really, really bugged me. The rules for switch hitters meeting switch batters has been known for some time.

Well, based on this thread or linked articles this far you'll see that "known" is pretty slippery. :)

Lots of folks here (including especially me) have now seen it about three different ways. And I still haven't seen any real rule cited from the MLB rulebook on this, just quotes from reporters that I don't particularly trust. (I looked through the rulebook at mlb.com and found nothing that applied, but it was a quick scan. Damn thing needs a search function.) I'm starting to suspect it's not in the rules at all, but only in the mystical umpiring casebook that mere mortals don't get to see.

The issues seem to settle around switching as much as they're about WHEN either pitcher or batter must "declare", and how they do so.
posted by rokusan at 4:31 AM on June 21, 2008


Hey, this "how much of a pitcher's power comes from his lower body" would have been a better Mythbusters item than some of the watery baseball ones they did. Of course it would be hard to get a major league quality pitcher who'd be willing to risk injury by giving max effort on a flat-footed (or seated?) pitch, but it'd sure be interesting. :)

Despite my bitching about semantics above, I think hincandenza's one third guess is probably about right, though I'd rather see him keep his research effort on field goals. No wonder he's a legs-are-everything fetishish! ;)

Anyone? Anyone? ASavage?
posted by rokusan at 4:37 AM on June 21, 2008


Why should Clemens be "shamed" as a steroid "cheater"?

To my eyes that sentence is just bizarre, right down to the square quotes.

To answer the question Why should Clemens be "shamed" as a steroid "cheater"? He cheated, which is something to be ashamed of.
posted by fullerine at 5:39 AM on June 21, 2008


Clemens' actions late in his career have no bearing on his past, though, unless you're selecting a hero for your 5 year old to aspire to. But if you're just asking the question "who was the best pitcher" then pre-2000s Roger Clemens definitely deserves to be in that conversation.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:38 AM on June 21, 2008


Clemens' actions late in his career have no bearing on his past, though.

Tell that to Pete Rose and/or the Chicago Eight.
posted by rokusan at 9:09 AM on June 21, 2008


For Christ's sake, do you not see the difference between taking anabolic steroids and betting on (or throwing) games? Fine, you hate Roger Clemens, we get it. Some of us are capable of holding in our heads simultaneously that 1) he was one of the greatest pitchers of our time and 2) he used steroids, like an undetermined but very large number of players at the tail end of the last century and the beginning of this. The latter fact is unfortunate but does not cancel out the first.

What's next, crying SHAME!! on anyone who used tobacco? IT'S A KILLER!
posted by languagehat at 9:56 AM on June 21, 2008


There's no crying in baseball!
posted by ericb at 10:48 AM on June 21, 2008


Dunno if that was addressed at me, but Clemens failure for me wasn't the steroids, it was the lying and attempting to bully his way out of it once caught that sunk him.

I would have a great deal of respect for the man if he'd owned up. He had a chance to do something great, and he repeatedly chose the lower road. He's still doing that.

Sure, he was a great pitcher. Probably would have been without steroids. We'll never really know, of course. But probably.
posted by rokusan at 12:00 PM on June 21, 2008


Man, that was great. Thanks for posting it.

This quote seems appropriate to the discussion:

"I ain't an athlete, lady, I'm a baseball player" --John Kruk
posted by sleepy pete at 1:44 PM on June 21, 2008


Sure, he was a great pitcher. Probably would have been without steroids. We'll never really know, of course. But probably.

You've got to be kidding me. So your position is that he may well have been on steroids since 1984, and without them he would have been just another .500 journeyman? Or did you only start paying attention to him once the steroid scandal broke?

lying and attempting to bully his way out of it ... repeatedly chose the lower road

Yeah, Clemens is a jerk. He's always been a jerk. If you want to say you don't respect him because of his character, I have no problem with that. But that has nothing to do with his quality as a baseball player. Ty Cobb was one of the biggest jerks who ever lived, and I wouldn't have wanted to spend five minutes in his company. But god, I'd love to have seen him play, and if I'd been a Tigers fan a century ago I'd have rooted for him wholeheartedly. Baseball and life are two different things.
posted by languagehat at 6:52 AM on June 22, 2008


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