Friday, February 12, 2010

Hot Stove League in the 8th Dimension

Hi everyone,

This is my first "web log" posting, so I thought I would start with something easy. Since I have some free time here in the 8th Dimension, my thoughts have recently turned to baseball history.

My goal was to decide the greatest practitioner for each of baseball's pitches. I have two lists: personally seen in my life-time (1969 onwards) and prior to that.

My Era

Fastball - Nolan Ryan
Curve – Bert Blyleven
Sinker – Tommy John
Screwball – Fernando Valenzuela
Change – Frank Viola
Slider – Steve Carlton
Splitter – Mike Scott
Knuckleball – Phil Niekro
Cut fastball – Mariano Rivera
Spitter – Gaylord Perry
Beanball -- Pedro Martinez
Eephus Pitch -- Dave LaRoche
Submariner -- Dan Quisenberry


Fastball - Walter Johnson
Curve – Sandy Koufax
Screwball – Carl Hubbell
Change – Eddie Lopat
Slider (Nickel Change) – Chief Bender
Splitter (Forkball) – Elroy Face
Knuckleball – Hoyt Wilhelm
Spitter – Burleigh Grimes
Beanball -- Bob Gibson
Eephus Pitch -- Rip Sewell
Submariner -- Eddie Feigner

Not sure if anyone in the "old days" threw a sinker or cutter. I'm sure I'm overlooking lots of good choices for all categories.



M. Rondin de Fromage said...

I can't really argue with your modern-era picks, though I do have some pitchers who I just personally liked more. To this end, I shall define "practitioner" as "the best, in terms of total package: skill, attitude, look, gestalt, and weltanschauung." Or consider these some nominations for runner-up if you'd like:

Fastball: J.R. Richard
Change: Pedro Martinez
Splitter: Jack Morris
Eephus: Bill Lee
Submariner: Kent Tekulve

I wondered too about why Clemens didn't make your list: no signature pitch or because of the steroids or...?

Lord John Whorfin said...

All good!

Pedro arguably was just as good as Frankie V when it comes to the change. However, with Pedro batters had to also watch out for the fastball, curveball and beanball, all of which were excellent. It was really amazing what Viola did with basically only a circle change -- everyone knew it was coming, everyone was sitting on it, but they still couldn't hit it.

Besides Pedro is already on the list, and I thought you and Cthulhu would appreciate a Twin.

Nothing personal against Clemens -- he was right up there with both the hard cheese and the old Mr. Splitty. If I took this personally, I would have left Ryan off, as I think he was a big whiner. JR Richard obviously is worth of conversation, though I remember him also having a wicked slider. Guidry was my number two for the slider, by the way.

Jack Morris was also way up there with the splitter - but I don't remember it being just unhittable the way Mike Scott was in that brief interval when he learned the pitch and when he got hurt. I remember Morris mixing it up a lot and keeping batters off balance with his other good pitches.

In the meantime, hard to believe pitchers and catchers are about to report. It's freezing here with lots of snow on the ground.

Lord John Whorfin said...

Also, Tekulve was great and his cap phenomenal but I can't believe you would even consider putting him above the Quiz!

Let's just hope all your Kansas relatives don't hear about that.

M. Rondin de Fromage said...

Well Quiz's heyday was during my high-school years, when I was all moody and insolent, and Dan was just too goody-two-shoes for me. Tekulve was some rough trade, with the tinted glasses, the greasy hair, and of course the pancake hat, which just fascinated me.

Plus by 1981 we had moved to West Des Moines, Iowa, which was Cubs and Twins country even though KC was closer than either Minneapolis or Chicago (the Cubs AAA team, the Iowa Oaks -- since stupidly renamed the Iowa Cubs -- played in Des Moines at the routinely-flooded Sec Taylor Stadium).

As you know, I am somewhat promiscuous when it comes to rooting interests, tending to fall in with whatever the local scene offers, so my Royals fanhood had waned mightily by the time they won it all, with that first-base umpire's help, in 1985.

At that time, like most of my fellow Corn Staters, I was totally and 100% committed to the Iowa Hawkeyes football and basketball teams. The summers were really kind of a sports dead zone in Iowa, except for the odd Harry-Caray-announced Cubs game on WGN in a cool basement during a sultry August afternoon.

And what about the Spaceman? His Eephus to Tony Peña in the 1975 World Series, which promptly resulted in a home run over the Monster, is probably one of the Top 10 most famous pitches 'round these parts.

TS said...

How about Randy Johnson's slider. I'm a bit young to remember Steve Carlton, but I find it difficult to imagine a more devastating pitch than Johnson's. His beanball / brushback wasn't bad either.

Lord John Whorfin said...

Hey, thanks for commenting on my post! I mean it's one thing for Senor Queso to do it -- he's trying to trick me into writing more by fawning attention on me.

Yes, the Big Unit's slider was awesome indeed. No doubt, that was a tough call. At the end of the day though I put Carlton and Guidry ahead of him (though just barely) because Johnson really couldn't control it for a good part of his career, and also he had the excellent fastball and beanball (as you said) that hitters had to watch out for. Carlton and Guidry were nothing special in that department so the fact that no one could hit their sliders was even more amazing.

As for how awesome Carlton was, here's a good example: one year the Phillies only won 59 games and Carlton won 27 of them.

ts said...

Happy to comment, looking to do it more.

No doubt Carlton was dominant. Earning 27 of the team's 59 wins is stunning. I took a quick look at because it got me wondering if it was a factor of the rest of the pitching staff being horrible or if the offense was to blame. It turns out that it was really both. Aside from Carlton, that was just an atrocious team.

The thing that I was really struck by was how dramatically different the stats were in 1972. Carlton threw 30 complete games that year. In 2009 only one pitcher (Justin Verlander) managed even 35 games games started. The '72 Philies posted a collective .302 On Base Percentage, and the entire National League had a .315 OBP. In 2009, the NL league average OBP was .331 - better than the the best team (the Reds at .330) in the NL in 1972.

I knew a fair bit about the differences between eras but that stark a change was a surprise to me. Not what I thought I was going to write about, but certainly a surprise.

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