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A thousand cuts
July 2, 2010 3:25 PM   Subscribe

We've talked about Mariano Rivera's cutter before. Now you can see why batters find this pitch is so devastating through the magic of a video based on Pitch f/x data.
posted by maxwelton (35 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very cool
posted by Windopaene at 3:28 PM on July 2, 2010


I saw a report about him on ESPN's E:60 a few weeks. Real humble dude for all the fame fortune he's amassed.
posted by reenum at 3:31 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, that video is fucking nuts.
posted by mrnutty at 3:32 PM on July 2, 2010


It's details like this that make me a baseball fan. Cool video! Thanks!
posted by Thorzdad at 3:34 PM on July 2, 2010


I can't wait to talk to my sister-in-law about this. (Warning: Geeky baseball art).
posted by The Bellman at 3:53 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


That video would be cool even if you aren't a baseball fan, too bad a lot of people will skip over the post because they aren't interested in the sport.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:08 PM on July 2, 2010


The science is almost as exciting as the sport. Nice post.
posted by winks007 at 4:51 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The part where they freeze-frame the location of his 1,300 pitches in 2009 and they're all in a clump is pretty amazing. And when they show the heat map of where the pitches go through the strike zone it's solid red on the corners and almost transparent in the middle of the plate.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:11 PM on July 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Stuff like this, and I can very easily see how people become lifetime students of the game.
posted by jquinby at 5:14 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


That video would be cool even if you aren't a baseball fan, too bad a lot of people will skip over the post because they aren't interested in the sport.

I find the sport excruciatingly boring, and have to concur that it is an awesome video, as well as some great analysis. Personally I find the technical details of baseball analysis more interesting than the actual games.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:25 PM on July 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


How can his pitch have the same spin as a fastball but do something different? Is he magic?
posted by jewzilla at 6:28 PM on July 2, 2010


The science is almost as exciting as the sport. Nice post.

That's really not much of a complement. If you hadn't said 'Nice post' I would have thought your comment was snark. Baseball is one of the most boring things to watch. I'd rather watch bowling or shuffleboard than watch baseball. But the science and statistics that go into baseball are fascinating.
posted by Simon Barclay at 7:01 PM on July 2, 2010


Technical details of baseball are a but one gateway to the game BrotherCaine.

I played until I was 14 where there is a lot of size difference in that cohort, some are man sized and shave (these are usually pitchers) and some are smaller and produce an accidental falsetto when excited. I was somewhere in the middle but I got pretty good, especially at hitting. Baseballs can be made to do weird things in flight that are counter-intuitive to the idea of a projectile and really hard to explain to someone, especially if they haven't spent much time up to bat.
So I'm glad for the data available now when I read for one example, "A pitch from Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez left his hand at 104.3 mph but crossed the plate at only 82."* because now I have numbers which my older self can use to prove to my younger self that my decision to quit being serious about baseball was the right one. No way could I have ever become skillful enough to hit shit like that.

*A deceleration of 22 miles an hour for a weighty roundish projectile over the course of 60'6" is just wrong.
posted by vapidave at 7:06 PM on July 2, 2010


I have heard about how impressive Rivera's cutter is and being a Sox fan have all too often seen what it can do to a lineup. Even knowing what a cutter does and that Rivera's is the best that baseball has ever seen did not prepare me for that video. That was truly awesome. It was a great use of science to explain the poetry of the sport.
posted by jaybeans at 7:33 PM on July 2, 2010


How can his pitch have the same spin as a fastball but do something different? Is he magic?
posted by jewzilla


The spins are not the same, but they're similar enough that a hitter can't tell the difference.
posted by justgary at 7:34 PM on July 2, 2010


This is amazing. Watching Rivera wind up to pitch it like watching a snake coil up before it devours its prey. The guy is totally amazing. And yeah, I hate the Yankees, but he seems like a nice enough guy.
posted by elder18 at 7:50 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great post, really enjoyed the video explanation of it all. I'm an older guy, sortof wonder what Bruce Sutter would look like on a video like this, the way the ball just falls off the table as it reaches the plate. Or worst maybe, the Niekro brothers with their dang knuckleball pitches fluttering around...
posted by dancestoblue at 8:08 PM on July 2, 2010


I don't care for baseball, but that was one of the most interesting things I've watched on the internet. I had no idea they tracked every pitch with such detail.
posted by Huck500 at 8:24 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was almost one of those people furiousxgeorge spoke of, but I am glad I didn't skip it. Great link.
posted by DougFromDover at 9:33 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The older I get, the more I find baseball interesting, probably because I'm seeing more and more of the rich complexity for the game. I too used to think it was a boring game.

After two weeks of gorging on World Cup, I've started to wonder if there's similar complexity that I'm missing in soccer. Yes, I'm sure it's more complex than I currently understand (and I only a couple days ago finally understood how to read offside violations) but I'm wondering if it can even approach the complexity of baseball. Without the more rigid structure of the field (i.e. bases) forcing multitudes of specific player set pieces, I just don't see how soccer is ultimately any more than just a chaotic blob that quivers all over a 50mx100m area for 90 minutes and produces a few random goals at the end.

Also, preemptively,

MetaFilter: a chaotic blob that quivers all over a 50mx100m area for 90 minutes and produces a few random goals at the end
posted by intermod at 10:11 PM on July 2, 2010


I like baseball when I can see every pitch a pitcher throws in a season all at once.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:45 PM on July 2, 2010 [3 favorites]



How can his pitch have the same spin as a fastball but do something different? Is he magic?


It isn't the same spin, it just looks the same in the fractions of a second the hitter has to evaluate it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:22 PM on July 2, 2010


Watching any baseball game is 9 billion times more exciting than watching the best game of the World Cup. So, raspberries to all you people who say baseball is boring.
posted by King Bee at 5:17 AM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow! I always wondered how he held the cutter. Rivera == greatest closer of all time, full stop.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:03 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering if [futbol] can even approach the complexity of baseball.

Oh, trust me, it can. I only started watching in earnest at the last World Cup (I played as a kid) and I'm still just getting started. Take a look at Zonal Marking's summaries or previews to see just a bit of what goes on when those runs happen.
posted by yerfatma at 7:01 AM on July 3, 2010


We (Dodger fans) had Drysdale and Koufax. So that's what it's like to be a Yankee fan having Rivera, only every night.

*sigh*
posted by Danf at 7:45 AM on July 3, 2010


The spins are not the same, but they're similar enough that a hitter can't tell the difference.

Yeah, that.

You know the way that a car or bicycle wheel in fast motion produces a false 'pattern' that you can see? You're not seeing the actual revolutions of the wheel (too fast) but you're seeing a pattern made by the spokes/hubcaps blurring together.

That's what batters see, patterns made by the blurred spinning of stark red seams on a bright white ball. More spin means more uniformly blurry pink and less flickering red/white. A four seam fastball is sort of uniformly pink, because the stitch patterns are pretty symmetrical with that grip and spin. A traditionally-held slider has more "pink" on one side (and above) than the other.

It's impressive pattern recognition, clever humans, but it's not as if the hitters are seeing individual revolutions.

It's hard to see this on any film, because on old tv footage the refresh is way too slow and everything is blurry, and on modern super-slo-mo it's too digital and clean and you *can* see individual frames where the ball looks frozen in the air. Human eyes are something in between.

If you ever get a chance to stand in a batter's box against a pro (or college) pitcher who has a few different pitches, this is *really easy* to demonstrate, is very cool, and you will never forget it. If you're like me, it's also pretty much impossible to hit, but that's not the exercise.
posted by rokusan at 10:32 AM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


One tiny point, though; his success is also in part because he's a closer. Granted, he's the best closer in the game, probably the best of all time, but if he was a starter with just two pitches he'd be hammered. When he has one inning to get through, the hitters can't just sit on the cutter or the fastball alone and eventually stitch together a few hits and runs in a breakthrough inning.

That's not to take away from his success, his obviously excellent control, and his mastery of the cutter. This was an interesting link, and I'm sure other pitchers trying to master the cutter will be working on their fingertip dexterity in applying pressure. Although, I'd really like to see this same video report done, but for Tim Wakefield...

Pitch F/X is an absolute delight and joy for fans, and one of the best things to happen to the game in some time. On the sonsofsamhorn.net site during Red Sox game threads, people will generate images on the fly of how the ump is calling the game in terms of balls and strikes, how effective a pitcher is, how his location and movement are, etc. It makes watching and understanding the game that much more rich and enjoyable. Certainly more so than boring old soccer... :)
posted by hincandenza at 11:54 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the reasons the 2001 World Series was great because the Diamondbacks had to come from behind against Riviera in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 to win, and they did. Nobody came back against Riviera. (Another reason was when Randy Johnson came into Game 7 to relieve Curt Schilling after having thrown 104 pitches as the previous day's starting pitcher. One of the greatest badass, we're-going-to-win-this moment in sports history. Also, the Yankees hit two-out, two-run, game-tying home runs in the bottom of the ninth in two games in the Series.)
posted by kirkaracha at 1:30 PM on July 3, 2010


Wow, fantastic post. Thanks.
posted by ORthey at 2:15 PM on July 3, 2010


It would be fun to see the same kind of analysis for a good knuckleballer - oops! Yeah, what hincandenza said.
posted by newdaddy at 7:41 PM on July 3, 2010


About the 2001 World Series, which included a very rare comeback win by an opponent against Rivera:
The victory parade that would have taken the Yankees up New York City's Canyon of Heroes for the fifth time in six years was canceled, so Enrique Wilson, the team's utility infielder, decided to change his flight home. He was supposed to return to the Dominican Republic on Nov. 12, eight days after the end of the World Series, but moved up his departure a few days. He was at home when he heard that American Airlines Flight 587 – the plane he was supposed to be on – had crashed in Belle Harbor, a neighborhood in Queens. Two hundred and sixty-five people were killed in an accident that shook a city still reeling from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


When Wilson saw Mariano Rivera in spring training the next year, the reliever expressed great relief that Wilson was still alive. If Rivera had held the lead against Arizona, Wilson would likely have been on Flight 587. "I am glad we lost the World Series," Rivera told Wilson, "because it means that I still have a friend."
link
posted by edverb at 6:23 AM on July 4, 2010


Whoa. That's a hell of story...
posted by hincandenza at 1:31 PM on July 4, 2010


I've always wondered what batters meant when they claimed to be able to "see the spin." Kind of makes sense now.
posted by robstercraw at 8:19 AM on July 5, 2010


Doesn't matter. All I will ever remember about Rivera is that he parked in a handicap spot while he ran into McDonalds. That's just not cool.
posted by Eideteker at 9:00 AM on July 6, 2010


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