Monday, November 21, 2005

Tracking Pineiro's mechanics

Jeff at Lookout Landing has done some fascinating work on the mechanics of pitchers using screenshots from television broadcast. Most recently, he has taken a look at Joel Pineiro. You'll need to read his blog entry, and probably the earlier one examining Felix Hernandez, in order to understand what I'm talking about here.

Jeff was comparing release points in a single game and seeing how consistent they were. Oddly, in one of Pineiro's worst games, he had the most consistent release point. As Jeff points out, consistency is only a benefit if you're consistenly good. Observers of that game thought Pineiro's release point was consistenly bad.

Still, wouldn't it be great to be able to compare one game to another? That way we could look at the range of release points in two games, and see how they differed. This would confirm an observation that a pitcher's release point was consitently bad for the game.

The trouble is that Jeff's work is based on screenshots from TV broadcasts, in different stadiums with different camera configurations. For example, here are (from his site), the three shots of Pineiro delivering a curveball from the three games Jeff analyzed:
(Click on the images for bigger ones)
If we try to superimpose these images on top of one another, we can see clearly (from the colored lines I've added to Jeff's release-point box) that in each game, the cameras are positioned and/or aimed differently):

The Magenta area is where Pineiro's back foot appears (having just pushed off the rubber), and is the reference point I used for aligning the three images. Pineiro's body is positioned very similarly in all pictuers (the slight differences in outlines could even be only because of slight differences in the timing of the screen shot). But, as the horizontal line indicates, home plate appears in a much different place for each picture.

Because of these discrepancies in camera angles, the release-point box appears in different places in each picture. That makes comparing game-to-game very difficult, if not impossible. That doesn't make Jeff's analysis less interesting or useful. I'm just showing why taking Jeff's already-difficult work further is problematic.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Vote early, vote often

Please, do your part to give Dave Neihaus his due. Nominate him as a finalist for the Baseball Hall of Fame Ford Frick Award.

The Post-season, in hindsight (Abridged)

The second annual curse-breaking award goes to the Chicago White Sox, who really did do a horrible thing when they threw the 1919 World Series, unlike the Red Sox "curse," which was really invented in the 1980s, and has little basis in fact.

The Pale Hose' history is much clearer and darker ("Say it ain't so, Joe!"), and I'm glad that franchise can be known for something other than the 1919 scandal, at least for the time being. Not being from Chicago, too, I don't really understand why the Cubs are so much more beloved than the Sox, and I'm happy to see the underdog in the city take home the big prize.

Even though the final series was a sweep, it was a great post-season: the Yankees eliminated early, the penant winners not being recent champions, Texas getting it's first world series (but not before Albert Pujols stunned them--that was an amazing moment).

Sometimes, it seems like there's nothing longer than a 4-hour baseball game in the middle of July, but that long season is what makes the post-season so exciting, every moment--you know you're really watching the best, and yet the game could turn on something as improbable as homer by the AL pitcher playing in the NL park.

The number of teams never to make it to the World Series just got reduced by one...we're due for a shot one of these years, it's a brand new season next year, and hope always springs eternal. On to the hot stove league...