Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mr. Mojo Rosin

The Mets may not have Ike Davis to smack that little rosin bag into the right-center cheap seats these days, but Jason Giambi took a hack at the little burlap sack while visiting Yankee Stadium over the weekend.

Writes the AP:
“I wasn’t touching the ground,” Giambi said. “There’s an incredible energy playing in this stadium with the fans that they have here, just being excited like old times to have that opportunity to play in front of them again. I think he could’ve thrown the rosin bag 2-0 and I would’ve swung no matter what.”

Swingin' at the rosin bag is the phrase given to overanxious hitters who will swing at just about anything near the plate.

But other reporters clustered around the Giambino heard things slightly differently.

"I think he could have thrown the resin bag at 2-0," wrote the Star Ledger.

"If (A.J. Burnett) would've thrown the resin bag up there at 2-and-0, I would've swung at it," wrote the Daily News.

I'm not sure what the "resin" bag is, but I'm pretty sure that, as with crying, there's no place for one in baseball. This Webster's definition truly does not help:

Any of a class of nonvolatile, solid or semisolid organic substances, as copal or mastic, that consist of amorphous mixtures of carboxylic acids and are obtained directly from certain plants as exudations or prepared by polymerization of simple molecules...
Yet there at the very end of the second definition for "resin" is the word "rosin," implying that the terms can at times be interchangeable.

Nonetheless, the proper baseball term is "rosin bag", which--for what it's worth--outnumbers its resin counterpart on Google by 3 to 1. Here's how Ron Darling defined it on SNY last year:

"It's an old baseball term. It doesn't matter what the pitcher is throwing up there--he's swinging."

Of course, Jason Giambi being a likeable lunkhead and all, and one who "clapped several reporters on the back," reports the NY Times, when he returned to Yankee Stadium, he very well may have said "resin bag," only to have some reporters quote him verbatim, and some scribes do JG a favor and correct his malapropism.

[image: NY Daily News]

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Javy Vazquez Prefers Living in a Tree to Living in New York

If I heard correctly--and I find myself saying that a lot when listening to Keith Hernandez during Mets games--I heard Keith say Marlins starter Javier Vazquez was "living in a tree" after giving up 10 hits--and, critically, zero runs--in 5 plus innings against the Anaheim Angels Tuesday night.

"I hope he doesn't fall out!" piped in partner Gary Cohen.

I hadn't heard that term in a baseball sense before, and googling "living in a tree" coughs up a YouTube music video from Priscilla Ahn and a clutch of companies that custom-build tree houses.

The thinking behind the idiom is, Vazquez is living dangerously, scattering those 10 hits without being touched for a run. Living in a tree is difficult. You can fall.

Hernandez and Cohen then discussed exactly how many hits you can "scatter" before there are too many to be considered scattered.

Elias Sports Bureau opted for another metaphor to describe Vazquez's historic performance:

Vazquez Bends But Doesn't Break

How historic was Vazquez's treehouse performance? Pretty historic, notes Elias:

Only two other pitchers since 1900 have allowed at least 10 hits in less than six innings pitched without allowing a run: Boston's Bill Lee on June 15, 1974 (10 hits and no runs in five innings against the Angels) and the Cubs' Chuck Rainey on August 3, 1983 (10 hits and no runs in five innings against the Cardinals).

Javy Vazquez tried living in a tree while playing for the Yankees--twice--but kept falling out.

[image: ESPN]

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gordon 'Clocks' First Win in Pinstripes

Time stood still for 32-year-old pitcher Brian Gordon as he made his Yankees debut on the mound yesterday. Gordon was good, not great--5 1/3 innings, two earned runs--and that's all the Yankees might've hoped for the guy who was previously pitching for the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs three days ago.

Gordon was an outfielder until five years ago, but didn't have Major League talent. So he tried his hand at pitching.

Bob Klapisch writes in the Bergen Record:

He asked the Astros to let him try pitching, reminding them he’d always had a strong arm, and used to feature an unorthodox curveball as a kid. Only, Gordon never tried to emulate the great, overhand 12-6 hooks of the game’s previous generation. Think of Doc Gooden’s vicious, late-breaking curveball, and you have an idea of what Gordon’s was absolutely, unconditionally not.

Yes, Gordon gets by without the classic, Barry Zito, "12-6" hook. That of course is a curveball that breaks top to bottom, as if from the 12 on the clock down to the six. (A curve that "drops off a table," as every announcer from 1975-1987 used to say.) It is similar to the "parachute changeup" wielded by the likes of Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana.

Gordon is probably more of a 12-8 guy, with a curve that breaks less dramatically toward the outside edge of the plate to righty hitters.
Yesterday, he took the place of Bartolo Colon on the hill. Colon, for his part, is more of a 7-11 pitcher--a body built on Big Bite hot dogs, corn dogs, and those delicious cream-filled Suzie-Qs.
[image: Bergen Record]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Some Extra-Special Diamond 'Cutters'

Sports Illustrated has a big story on the short but impactful history of the cut fastball or, in ultra-modern parlance, the cutter.

The term "cut fastball" came to be around 15 years ago, notes Albert Chen in SI.

No one knows who threw the first cutter. But though the term cut fastball only became part of the baseball vernacular within the last 15 years, a handful of players have been throwing the pitch for generations. (As referred to in the 2004 book The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, longtime major league outfielder and Yale coach Ethan Allen, in a 1953 instructional book, wrote, "[A pitcher] threw a fastball that was unique because it slid or broke like a curve. It was somewhat like a fastball, but he threw over the side of the index finger to a greater extent. This off-center pressure caused the break.")

More recently, the cut fastball became known as the cutter, just as the sinker has become the sink, and the splitter has become the split. (So it stands to reason that the cutter will further see its name truncated, and become the "cut." Give it a year.)

The cutter has become the money pitch not only for its most famous practicioner, Mariano Rivera, but starters who've redefined themselves, such as Dan Haren, Roy Halladay and Josh Beckett. (It's fitting that the cutter is a "money" pitch; in the bizarro Russo-Cockney language spoken in A Clockwork Orange, "cutter" was the word for money, as in "Could you spare some cutter, me brother?")

Speaking of nouveau baseball shorthand, Chen's SI story introduced another interesting term: velo, short for velocity, as in, the speed with which a pitcher hurls a ball toward the plate.

Chen writes:

"Guys like Haren that used to throw 94 but are now throwing 90, 91, they throw a cutter because it makes the 91-mph fastball seem like 94," says A's shortstop Cliff Pennington. "Haren's is just so hard to pick up and distinguish from his slider-it's got less break but the velo is harder, so you see fastball and you swing and it breaks enough to miss. If you see the spin on it and you think breaking ball, then you're late."

Velo is much better known as a cycling term; a velodrome is an indoor cycling course, Velo News covers competitive cycling, NYC is a place to buy expensive bikes, and Velo Gear is where you buy those funky bike shoes and the rubber shorts.
[Haren pic: SI]