A Few Answers
Willkan writes: “On last night’s broadcast (4/28 vs Dodgers) the Giants’ announcers were commenting on Sanchez having a change-up but never throwing it. He uses his splitter as a change-up, they said. Isn’t a change-up easier to throw?”
Different pitches are easier for different pitchers. Whatever the pitcher has thrown for a long time is the easiest pitch to throw. If he’s been throwing a knuckleball for 20 years, and you want him to throw a curveball — which is easier for most people – that pitcher would say the knuckleball is easier because that’s what he’s most comfortable with. Sanchez is more accustomed to throwing a splitter for strikes. The change-up is not as comfortable for him because he’s not as used to it.
Here’s the second part of Wilkan’s question: “I don’t understand these fireballers who throw mid to upper nineties with a hard slider to go with it, but they don’t throw a change-up. It seems to me that someone throwing 95 would benefit greatly by having a 75 mph change up. Could you comment on this in a future post?”
You’re generally not going to see anyone who throws 100 mph throw a 75 mph change-up. You can’t slow your body down enough to take 25 mph off your pitch without the batter noticing the change in your motion. A pitcher’s change-up is usually between 10 and 15 mph slower than his fastball – that’s as much as he can reduce the velocity without tipping off the batter.
That leads me to the answer to your question. The speed of a change-up for a pitcher who throws a 100 mph fastball is going to be about 90 mph. Well, the average velocity of a ML fastball is 90 mph. That’s what batters see every day. So if the fireballer throws a 90-mph change-up, the batter has a very good chance of hitting it because he sees it all the time. Therefore, the fireballer has a better chance of fooling the batter by throwing a hard slider that goes out of the strike zone.
This is from firstname.lastname@example.org on April 29: “I just wanted to mention that I really see your influence on Sandoval. The other night, the second game vs. the Dodgers in this series, Sandoval was jumping up and down yelling and throwing his water bottle around with such excitement, and when someone got on first, he was SOO happy! He looked back at you as if to be like “BENGIE!! DID YOU SEE THAT??” and you nodded your head with a sense of calmness. I know how much you like Sandoval, and I just wanted to commend you on all of the time and effort you spend with him.”
As I’ve said before, I love Pablo’s spirit and heart. He has brought so much joy to the game for me last year and this year. Maybe I enjoy him so much because he’s so different from me. I don’t like showing emotion. I keep as even as I can. But sometimes I try to make him calm down a little. I tell him we’ve still got a game to play and there will be time to celebrate when the game is over.
From email@example.com: “I saw you having a tough time catching wild pitches but you managed to hold on. I think I only saw one get by you. I just voted for you and all the other giants for the all star game! It’s good to see the giants doing great again, and I’m making sure everyone knows because I’m posting it up on my status on myspace everyday! Keep up the winning and the hot hands!”
One thing to understand is the difference between a wild pitch that’s a fastball and a wild pitch that’s a breaking ball. Fastballs are coming in too fast to move your body. You can’t block them with your body. You have to throw your glove at it. That’s your only chance. A breaking ball is different. You were expecting the pitch to come one place and it comes in a different place. You should be able to block it with your legs and chest.
I was happy to see a note from a fan in England: “Hey Bengie. Great blog – thanks for giving us UK baseball nuts a chance to read what it’s really like playing in the majors. I stay up every night to catch the giants on mlb.tv as we are like 7 hours ahead of west coast (don’t think my employers are happy but its worth it!) Mark (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Mark, while you’re in England watching baseball in your free time, I’m in the U.S. watching soccer in my free time. I’m a huge soccer fan, as you probably are, too, living in England. Not sure what team you follow but mine is Manchester United. I watch as much soccer as I can. Every day, I flip through ESPN2 and the Spanish stations to find whatever game is on.
And finally a note from Jingles: “Hey Benjie, you forgot to mention the FANATICAL bus driver, Jingles (aka: Rally Pumpkin) and the way he decorates the bus when he drives the team in So Cal. LOL! Hope to see you again when you’re back in LA May 8-10. All the BEST to you and the rest of the Giants. Take Care, Jingles.”
I read this post and then, sure enough, when we got off our plane in Los Angeles last Thursday night, Jingles was right outside the gate. He wasn’t our bus driver this time but he showed up anyway. He was there all by himself with an orange jersey, his big San Francisco Giants hat, and a trumpet or something in his hand. He’s a cool, great guy. He made me smile when I saw him there – a one-man welcome party.