Sabtu, 10 September 2016

‘Fastball’ Review: Experts Throw Some Heat by Sheri Linden

“Fastball,” a fascinating and downright lovable documentary feature by Jonathan Hock, starts with an eternal question. No, not whether Batman or Superman would win in a fight—this week’s failed blockbuster should put that one to rest—but who in the history of major league baseball has thrown the fastest fastball. To provide an answer (and yes, a definitive answer is provided) the film starts with a group of charmingly garrulous hall-of-famers, including Johnny Bench, Al Kaline, Tony Gwynn and Joe Morgan; adds individual interviews with fellow luminaries like Hank Aaron and Derek Jeter, and with such legendary pitchers as Goose Gossage (“I loved being a power pitcher—if I could change one thing in my whole career I wouldn’t change a single thing”) and the singular, inexplicable, near-indestructible Nolan Ryan.
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In what has become a data-driven game, no data about pitching speeds were available until 1912, when investigators using a primitive but ingenious machine clocked Walter “Big Train” Johnson at 122 feet per second (or 83.2 miles per hour, a unit of speed that wasn’t used at the time) and declared him the fastest pitcher ever. Bob Feller threw a ball faster than a cop on a motorcycle in 1939; his speed was judged, approximately, to be over 100 mph; a later test with more accurate equipment put it at 98.6 mph. With the advent of radar guns in the 1970s, established speeds climbed steadily toward 100 mph and slightly beyond. Given that a 100 mph pitch reaches the plate in 396 milliseconds, faster than the blink of an eye, it’s remarkable that a batter can hit one, but “Fastball” abounds with vivid descriptions of what it’s like to try. (According to Ty Cobb, Johnson’s fastball hissed as it came by like a big train.)

As if all of that isn’t interesting enough to baseball fans, “Fastball” enlists the services of a physicist to illuminate what happens in the course of a pitch, and exactly how fast it happened in the past. This leads to upward adjustments of earlier stats that represented the speed of the ball at or near home plate, rather than at what has become the standard measurement of 50 feet from the plate. Thus Bob Feller’s 98.6 mph becomes 107.6 mph. And the fastest speed ever? In 1974 an infrared device that was a precursor to the radar gun measured one of Mr. Ryan’s pitches at a record-breaking 100.8 mph. Adjusted thusly, that becomes 108.5 mph, a speed as unthinkable as it is unhittable.

“Fastball” is narrated by Kevin Costner, and it’s hard to separate his voice here from what he said and how he sounded as the catcher Crash Davis in “Bull Durham,” the best baseball movie ever. Why try, though?

Jumat, 09 September 2016

Blink and you’ll miss it: Fastball will change the way you watch the game

They say baseball is a game of inches, but it’s also measured in milliseconds — the 450 it takes for a 90-mile-an-hour fastball to cover the distance from pitcher to plate, vs. the 396 for a hundred-miler. For the batter, that’s the difference between barely hittable and didn’t-even-see-it.

Just in time for baseball season — the Jays’ first game is April 3 in Tampa — Jonathan Hock’s gripping documentary drills deep into the lore, legend and science behind the fastball. Perhaps the most startling statistic: in a century that has seen athletes break records in speed, endurance and distance, the fastest pitch hasn’t changed much.

Archival footage mixed with modern interviews, and narrated by (who else?) Kevin Costner, takes viewers from Walter Johnson’s 122 feet-per-second pitches — the first to be scientifically measured, in 1912 — through Bob Feller (in the 1940s he threw pitches opposite a speeding police motorcycle) to Nolan Ryan, whose 27 seasons broke all kinds of records, including speed. The very last professional fastball he threw, at the age of 46, was clocked at 98 mph.

Along the way are interviews with such phenoms as Bob “Hoot” Gibson, whose earned-run-average in 1968 was a record-setting 1.12; Cuba’s Aroldis Chapman, who once registered 105 on the radar gun; and Steve Dalkowski, whose bullet pitches were hampered by a lack of accuracy.

The film also examines the physics and neurology behind the great match-ups. PhD Gregg Franklin tackles the belief among ballplayers that a fastball will actually rise on its way to the plate. Not true, he says; it’s an optical illusion created because the ball’s great speed, plus some lift from backspin, causes it to drop less than our brains expect.

Whether you believe that or not – many players swear by what they perceive, physics be damned – Fastball will change the way you watch the game, without ever diminishing the sport’s mystery and grandeur. 3.5 stars

Fastball opens March 25 at the Carlton in Toronto, and on demand.
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Kamis, 08 September 2016

Film Review: Fastball by Frank Lovece

Specialty Releases - If a curve ball, a knuckleball or a slider are show horses, the fastball is a thoroughbred. It's the epitome of beautiful simplicity, and of simple beauty, as it races 60 feet and six inches from the pitcher's mound to home plate—at its best, too fast for the brain to fully comprehend, where a batter's instinct and muscle memory alone must suffice.

That's not baseball lore between aficionados on a sultry summer's day. That's science. There's a 50-millisecond difference, explains Carnegie Mellon University cognition scientist Dr. Timothy Verstynen, between a 92-miles-per-hour fastball and a 100-miles-per-hour fastball, "an eternity in this kind of [brain] process." Each takes less than half a second to reach the plate, but at the slower speed your brain gets 25 times the amount of information needed to make a decision of when and where to swing the bat. "It's getting close to that range of where it's physiologically impossible," says Verstynen, "to actually plan a voluntary action…"

And with Fastball, produced in association with Major League Baseball, your brain may well get 25 times the amount of information as in many other documentaries. Narrated by Field of Dreams and Bull Durham star Kevin Costner and divided into more than a dozen fascinating chapters, it chases down one of baseball's primal questions: Who is the faster thrower, alive or dead? The filmmakers examine that question with the help of both Hall of Famers and modern-day stars, from Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench to Brandon Phillips and Justin Verlander, plus the legendarily tragic Steve Dalkowski, a smattering of scientists, and NBC Sports columnist Joe Posnanski, author of The Soul of Baseball. The result is a lively solemnity—don't you love how baseball can give you things like that?—that doesn't disappoint and even gives an answer using that thing baseball lovers love best: numbers.

The quest for the number attached to the fastest fastball began with the celebrated 1907-27 Washington Senators hurler Walter Johnson—nicknamed “The Big Train,” it is said, because Ty Cobb compared the sound of his fastball to that of a train whizzing by. Posnanski believes Johnson, the dominant pitcher of his era, changed the game by making the fastball larger than life. And fittingly, he was the first to have his fastball's speed measured scientifically, with Remington Arms, experienced in calculating munitions speed, clocking Johnson at 122 feet per second, or 83.2 mph. That doesn't sound massively impressive until physicist Dr. Gregg Franklin explains that the speed was measured at a spot that would be behind home plate, and not 50 feet in front of home, where such measurements are taken today. Since a ball slows down as it travels, Franklin computes Johnson's fastball as 93.8 mph by today's standard.

We see newsreel clips of 1930s-to-1950s legend Bob Feller, “The Heater from Van Meter,” throwing a pitch faster than a cop racing full-speed on a motorcycle—what measurements today would calculate as a blazingly hot, almost impossible to comprehend 107.6 mph, probably the second-fastest throw in the history of the human race except for... well, no spoilers.

Segments also are devoted to Aroldis Chapman, Bob Gibson, Goose Gossage, Craig Kimbrel, Nolan Ryan, the late Sandy Koufax and, most heartbreakingly, Steve Dalkowski, in the chapter "The Fastest That Never Was." A minor-league legend who threw so hard he once split a catcher's shin guard, he partly inspired both Bull Durham's Nuke LaLoosh and writer George Plimpton's Sidd Finch.

"He was a legend and you'd hear all these stories about him," Ryan recalls. Dalkowski unfortunately had as little vertical control over the ball as he had abundance of heat, but he persevered—and in 1962 remarkably struck out 104 batters while walking only 11. When word came out he was being called to the majors, the baseball-card company Topps included him on a 1962 rookie all-stars card. But on March 23, 1963, in a pre-season exhibition game for the Baltimore Orioles, with two out in the third inning, Dalkowski came off the mound to field a bunt and felt a pop in his elbow. That was it. He was sent back to the minors to recuperate, but the injury—and longstanding alcoholism the documentary whitewashes—would end his career. Interviewed here, in his mid-70s, Dalkowski can barely say a word, can perhaps barely comprehend. But it is poignant, not exploitative, and for everything he lost, he seems gratified to be remembered.

Jesse Owens' track records are now the stuff of high-school runners. The human body's capacity for athleticism improves over generations. Yet the record for the fastest fastball has remained for decades, and it's tempting to imagine it might never be topped. To which any diehard can only reply, "Wait'll next year.”

Click here for cast and crew information.

Review Fastball (10/10) by Tony Medley

Runtime 84 minutes. OK for children. This is a fascinating movie, especially for someone who played baseball at some time in their lifetime. I was a pitcher outfielder in high school. We had a lousy team. In my senior year, I got the start against Mater Dei, a longtime established school, who was led by the player who was the CIF player the year that year, pitcher Tony Ankerson.

Ankerson had a fastball between 85 and 90 miles an hour and pitched no-hitters virtually every time out. I batted second in the lineup. Our first hitter popped out. I came up and worked the count to 3-2. I didn’t know if Ankerson had a curveball (I, myself, didn’t have a fastball and threw nothing but curves and knucklers which nobody in high school at that time had ever seen so I was effective), but I hadn’t seen one yet and I figured he was coming with yet another fastball. I was right and I swung. Even though the guy was lightning fast, I was a little early but I really hit it solidly, over the left fielder’s head for home run, the only home run Ankerson allowed that year.

The result of this was that I really thought that anybody can hit a fastball (I got a single later in the game), no matter how fast. But this film changed my mind because great players, like George Brett, tell what it’s like to go up against a 100 mph fastball. They say that it’s a lot different than going up against a 92 mph fastball.

The film goes into a lot of fascinating science, pointing out that the difference between a 92 mile-per-hour fastball and a 100 mph fastball is 4 feet or 50 milliseconds and that is a huge difference when the ball is only traveling less than 60 feet.

But there’s really more to this movie than that. Lots of players are interviewed. One, New York Yankee fire-balling  reliever Goose Gossage said he was never more scared than in the 1978 playoff game against the Red Sox. He said he was shaking as he trotted onto the field (he got Hall of Fame Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastremski to pop out to end the game and send the Yankees to the World Series). But he then showed his supreme confidence in himself, saying, “If I could change one thing in my career, I wouldn’t change a single thing, even the balls that went for home runs.”

Ty Cobb said about Walter Johnson, “He threw the ball so hard it hissed as it came by.”

The film tries to determine who is the fastest pitcher of all time, narrowing it down to Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Nolan Ryan, and present day Cincinnati Reds Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman. It also tells the fascinating story of Steve Dalkowski, whom everyone agrees was the faster pitcher of all time. Steve couldn't get the ball over the plate so never pitched in the big leagues, but there's more to his story than that.

They were all clocked, even Johnson, and the film analyses the clocking and comes up with the fastest. Far be it from me to be a spoiler!

I’ve seen lots of baseball clips but there are clips in this film I’ve never seen, including some fine clips of the legendary Johnson.

This is a film that no baseball fan should miss. (Available on Amazon Video).

Rabu, 07 September 2016

Film Review: ‘Fastball’

free full movie downloads “Fastball” conveys its canny mathematical analysis with clean, clever graphical flourishes that smoothly align with Hock’s Ken Burns-ish nonfiction aesthetics. The result is a film that captures the underlying essence of baseball at the beginning of the 21st century: both humbly wistful and progressively cutting-edge. Jonathan Hock's doc features an all-star lineup of hall-of-famers waxing nostalgic and poetic about their time on the diamond.

A baseball documentary for old-timers and young analytics acolytes alike, “Fastball” sets out, as its nominal goal, to deduce who threw history’s all-time fastest pitch. That intention, however, is merely the pretext for an alternately mythologizing and scientific inquiry into the art of pitching — a seemingly simple act that, over the course of baseball’s century-plus lifespan, has taken on legendary status. That’s especially true of those blessed with velocity at which to marvel — not always easy an easy task, at least for those ensconced in the batter’s box. With an all-star lineup of hall-of-famers waxing nostalgic and poetic about their time on the diamond, writer-director Jonathan Hock’s documentary has a thrilling pop that should help it strike a competitive chord with anyone even remotely enchanted by our national pastime.

Narrated by Kevin Costner in a reverent “Field of Dreams”-style tone, Hock’s film divides itself into chapters, each of them focused on a famed fastballer, beginning with Rich “Goose” Gossage, the handlebar-mustached flamethrower whose enormous size and nasty attitude enhanced his ability to intimidate batters. Throughout “Fastball,” a pitcher’s physicality and demeanor are presented as equally key components of his fearsomeness, as was also true of St. Louis Cardinals great Bob Gibson. A towering African-American, Gibson derived his power from anger born from a lifetime of enduring racism, and scared opponents silly simply by squinting intensely at his catcher — a move that, he admits, was actually necessitated by his poor eyesight.

Hock’s quest to locate the game’s mightiest throw begins with Walter Johnson, the early-20th-century Washington Senators pitcher who, during his heyday, was widely considered to have the fastest pitch in the world. His unofficial crown would be reconfirmed by a speed test executed via military equipment, and would last until the 1936 arrival in the big leagues of Bob Feller. With the Cleveland Indians, Feller (aka “the Heater From Van Meter”) not only became the gold standard for blazing four-seamers, but actively sought to evaluate his arm’s absolute athletic limits — culminating with another rudimentary speed-monitoring assessment that placed his pitch at a then-record 98.6 mph.

Amid these history lessons, “Fastball” also profiles some of today’s most formidable starters and closers, including the Atlanta Braves’ Craig Kimbrel — the first man to ever lead the league in saves in each of his first four seasons — and the Cincinnati Reds’ Aroldis Chapman, who in 2010 notched the fastest verified MLB pitch, at a whopping 105.1 mph. Chapman’s achievement is, in and of itself, eye-opening. However, just as fascinating is the film’s suggestion (via a historian’s comments) that humanity has nearly reached its evolutionary ceiling with regards to throwing fast — how else to explain that, while Jesse Owens’ once-unbreakable track-and-field benchmarks are now routinely bested by high schoolers, MLBers are only, at their peak, equaling their famed predecessors?

In a roundtable chat between Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, George Brett, Al Kaline and the late Tony Gwynn, as well as in interviews with Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter, Wade Boggs, Bryce Harper and others, illustrious hitters make their picks for the fastest-throwing pitcher they ever encountered (no surprise that Sandy Koufax figures prominently in those discussions), and their anecdotes help steep the film in a lived-in sense of tradition. At the same time, however, Hock bolsters those legends’ accounts through scientific scrutiny, with physicists explaining the neuromechanical process required to hit a ball travelling at literal blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speeds, dispelling players’ commonly held belief that the greatest fastballs “rise” as they approach the plate — an effect born from the way batters visually perceive the ball — and synchronizing speed tests from different eras in order to identify the sport’s greatest flamethrower.

That investigation inevitably leads to Nolan Ryan, whose 27-year career with the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers was marked by an astonishing seven no-hitters and 5,714 strikeouts. Ryan’s hard-throwing style is rightfully celebrated as being all the more remarkable because of his durability, with the pitcher only finally calling it quits when his elbow gave out, mid-game, at the age of 46. His amazing longevity stands in stark contrast to that of Steve Dalkowski, a ‘50s-‘60s minor leaguer (reportedly the inspiration for Tim Robbins’ “Bull Durham” character) whose fastball’s fabled speed was only matched by its wildness. A lack of control, along with an injury suffered just as he was gaining mastery over his gift, would halt Dalkowski’s career before it really began, and his story provides the film with a melancholy note about the terrible fragility of athletic skill.

Selasa, 06 September 2016

'Fastball': The documentary could win over audiences who aren't baseball fans

“Fastball” is a documentary for people who like nothing better than watching a pitcher whiff a batter with a high hard one. It might even interest audiences who don’t know a curveball from a medicine ball. Director Jonathan Hock makes the case that nothing is quite as satisfying in a ballgame as watching a pitcher unloose lightning. Discussion of steroid usage, among other topics, is left out, but watching it can be as pleasurable as an afternoon at the ballpark.

Director Jonathan Hock, a specialist in sports documentaries, makes the case that nothing is quite as satisfying in a ballgame as watching a pitcher unloose lightning. You could equally make the case that home-run sluggers are the real stars of the show, or great fielders. There are plenty of Hall of Fame pitchers who had great stuff without having great heat. But this is all a matter of taste. I was OK, at least for the duration of the film, with Hock’s premise.

He focuses on a gallery of the most celebrated names in fastballdom, starting with Walter Johnson, the “Big Train” of the Washington Senators, so named because batters claimed the whoosh of his fastball sounded like an express train. Johnson, who spent his entire career (1907-27) with the Senators, played in the so-called dead ball era when batters didn’t routinely aim for the bleachers and the game was much more ground level. Even Ty Cobb, the most feared hitter of this era, was intimidated by Johnson. The clips of Johnson hurling look pretty intimidating indeed. As Kevin Costner, who narrates the film, says: “He made the fastball larger than life.”
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But how large was it? Baseball being a game of, among many things, statistics, there is always (and will always be) a debate as to who the fastest pitcher of all time is. In Johnson’s day, precise measurements were lacking. The next pitcher from the past that Hock focuses on is Bob Feller, known as “Bullet Bob,” who played for the Cleveland Indians from 1936 to 1956. Feller’s fastball was actually timed, in crude fashion.
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In an old newsreel clip, we see Feller, in the 1930s, throw at a target while a policeman on the fastest motorcycle of the day speeds toward the same target at full throttle. The ball gets there first, at somewhere around 86 miles per hour. Later, more scientific calibrations rated his heat much higher.

Other celebrated names are showcased, including, of course, Sandy Koufax, whose delivery, fastball or no, was a thing of beauty. I wish Hock had been able to procure the press-shy Koufax for an interview. He did, however, interview Bob Gibson, who played 17 seasons (1959-75) with the St. Louis Cardinals. Gibson had what is perhaps the greatest pitching year in history, in 1968, when he posted an unearthly 1.12 earned run average and struck out 17 Detroit Tigers in the first game of the World Series, still a series record.

Frank and funny in person, Gibson disparages his reputation for fearsomeness on the mound – he deliberately brushed back batters with close pitches and bean balls – but when the likes of Hank Aaron tells you that he was afraid of him, you sit up and take notice.

Hock also makes room for the legendary Steve Dalkowski, who pitched in the Baltimore Orioles farm system in the 1950s and ’60s but, although he was eventually brought up to the majors, never pitched a game in the big leagues.

Dalkowski was perhaps the fastest of all time – his fastball could split a plank – but he was also one of the wildest throwers. His control problems might have been corrected, but injuries curtailed his career. He was the inspiration for Tim Robbins’s “Nuke” LaLoosh in Ron Shelton’s “Bull Durham.”

Hock brings in a cadre of Hall of Fame batters, including Johnny Bench, Al Kaline, and George Brett, to jawbone about the best pitchers they faced, and he includes a few of the up-and-coming fastballers, like Justin Verlander and Aroldis Chapman (clocked at 100-plus m.p.h.), to round out the mix. He also interviews physicists and cognition experts. (Apparently it is scientifically impossible for a fastball to rise on its way to the plate, contrary to what Gibson and others think.)

Perhaps because his film was made with the cooperation of Major League Baseball, Hock conspicuously avoids any discussion of steroid usage in the modern era, or how that might have affected pitching. You hear nothing about, say, Roger Clemens. The sunniness of “Fastball” leaves out a lot, but watching it can be as pleasurable as an afternoon at the ballpark. Grade: B+ (This film is not rated.)

Critic Reviews for Fastball : Tribeca 2015

"A few pitchers in the majors have thrived without a real fastball – junk men like Eddie Lopat and Mike Cuellar, superior control artists like Bobby Shantz and Randy Jones, knuckleballers like Hoyt Wilhelm and Charlie Hough – but almost everyone else has had to hump up and throw at least an occasional no-nonsense hard one, which crosses the plate at eighty-fie miles per hour or better, and thus causes the batter to – well, to think a little." - Roger Angell, "On the Ball," The New Yorker, 1976

Jonathan Hock's exhilarating documentary, "Fastball," wants to make us "think a little" too, about the history of the fastball, the mentality that goes into creating a successful major league pitcher (either a starter or a closer), the experience of the batters having to face pitchers like that, what it is like to try to swing at a ball whizzing by at 98 mph (Derek Jeter says that a fastball "sounds like trouble"), and the whole statistical and data-driven obsession that surrounds the sport of baseball. If you are not familiar with this level of baseball nerdiness, then "Fastball" will be a revelation, and hopefully an entertaining one. If you are familiar (dinner-table conversations throughout my own childhood, for example, involved leading questions such as: "Who threw the fastest ever?" "Who has the most unbeatable record?" "Who was the best pitcher ever?"), then "Fastball" will satisfy on a deep and extremely specific level. "Fastball" is informative, even for those well-versed in the topic.

Great baseball players often cannot explain how they do what they do (they speak about being in a "zone," or getting into a "flow"), but they are almost incapable of being un-interesting about the game. Hock has filled his documentary with baseball players talking, reminiscing, analyzing, commiserating. There is not one dull moment. Questions like "who threw the fastest?" take on huge importance to those who play the game, especially since the radar gun didn't come along until 1974. "Fastball" starts with Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander wondering how he would "stack up" against the legends from the past, guys like Walter Johnson and Bob Feller (Ty Cobb said that Johnson's fastball "hissed like a train" as it went by; Ted Williams said that Bob Feller's pitch was "the hardest pitch" he had ever seen). Both Johnson and Feller were known as the fastest pitchers of their day, and much was done, using the technology of the day, to figure out just how fast those baseballs went.

Hock (who has directed a number of ESPN's "30 for 30" episodes) organizes his material in a fresh and fun way, mixing grainy newsreel footage of 1920s baseball games, with current ESPN footage, slowed down to a crawl in order to perceive every millisecond of every fastball's trajectory. Hock has gathered together a murderer's row of Hall of Famers (the late Tony Gwynn, Al Kaline, George Brett, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench) sitting around reminiscing, talking about the scariest pitchers they ever faced, who they thought was the best/fastest/hardest. Joe Morgan talks about his first time against Sandy Koufax, saying, "It took me two at-bats before I even fouled the ball." There are interviews with Derek Jeter, Aroldis Chapman (already a legend), David Price, Eddie Murray, Hank Aaron.

Hock also calls in experts from the fields of physics, neurobiology, and visual cognition to speak about air movement around flying objects, how the human eye perceives things (and at what speed that becomes impossible), how the mind can make a decision in a millisecond based on the information given to a batter by the pitcher's wind-up. It's all quite comprehensible, and enthusiastically presented. A physicist draws helpful diagrams for us on a blackboard. Numbers and equations proliferate. The screen is split in two, showing the difference between a 90 mph fastball and a 100 mph fastball. Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips says that at 90 mph, he can see the logo on the baseball as it comes at him, but at 100 mph, "it looks like a golf ball."

"Fastball" is broken up into different sections, using compellingly-titled chapter markers: "The Big Train." "Hoot." "The Closer." Along with the legends of the past, a couple of famous pitchers still with us are profiled and interviewed: Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, and Rich "The Goose" Gossage. Bob Gibson, who played 17 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, was one of the most intimidating guys to ever play the game (he jokes that he had bad eyesight, so his "glare", interpreted by the batters as predatory was actually Gibson trying to see the catcher making the signs). Other players still speak of Gibson with a lingering mix of awe and respect. Nobody liked to face him. Hank Aaron says, of Gibson, "He believed he owned part of that plate and he was gonna get it." Gibson elaborates on that, saying, "Half of that plate is mine. Now you gotta figure out which part I'm coming after." If Gibson had to hit a batter to claim "his" part of the plate, then so be it. Watching clips of Bob Gibson pitch, one is stunned by the ferocity of the movement: once he lets the ball loose, Gibson ends up in a nearly horizontal position across the mound. Roger Angell wrote a huge profile of Bob Gibson for The New Yorker after Gibson retired; Angell interviewed Pete Rose who said of Gibson, "I sure as hell don’t miss batting against him, but I miss him in the game.”

Nolan Ryan's stunning career is one of those stories that continues to elude rational explanation, and Hock has put together a compilation of footage showing that journey, where it started, where it ended up. The numbers are still so staggering. Ryan says that at the height of his powers, he knew that if he "hit [his] spot, [the batters] weren't gonna hit it." Wade Boggs admits, "It was always a tough at-bat" against Ryan. If you've ever been to a baseball game where a pitcher dominates, then you know how things slow practically to a standstill. The pitcher does not allow anything to happen, and that kind of game is almost more thrilling than a game featuring lots of action. The fastball is one of the most effective ways for a pitcher to dominate (and it is also, as the baseball coaches confess in the documentary, the hardest thing to scout for since high school pitchers often haven't grown into their arms yet.)

The excitement of the topic is captured in Hock's filming-style, Kevin Costner's stately narration, as well as the portentous thrilling original score by Tony Morales. One of the things that "Fastball" really captures is that baseball, even with all its complexity, even with the fact that it is a team sport, comes down to a one-on-one competition, a Clash-of-the-Titans showdown between the guy on the mound and the guy at the plate. Baseball is mythical and emotional to those who love it. "Fastball" not only gets that, but Hock has found a form to express that in ways that carry.

Senin, 05 September 2016

Fastball From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For the American band, see Fastball (band). For the game also known as fast-pitch softball, see Softball.
During pregame bullpen warmup Chris Young warms up with a four-seam fastball. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (October 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The fastball is the most common type of pitch thrown by pitchers in baseball. Some "power pitchers," such as Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, have thrown fastballs at speeds of 95–105 mph (152.9–169.14 km/h) (officially) and up to 108.1 mph (174 km/h) (unofficially),[1] relying purely on speed to prevent the ball from being hit. Others throw more slowly but put movement on the ball or throw it on the outside of the plate where the batter cannot easily reach it. The appearance of a faster pitch to the batter can sometimes be achieved by minimizing the batter's vision of the ball before its release. The result is known as an "exploding fastball": a pitch that seems to arrive at the plate quickly despite its low velocity. Fastballs are usually thrown with backspin, so that the Magnus effect creates an upward force on the ball, causing it to fall less rapidly than might be expected. A pitch on which this effect is most marked is often called a "rising fastball." Although it is impossible for a human to throw the pitch fast enough with enough backspin for the ball to actually rise, it does create the illusion of a riser to the batter due to the unexpected lack of natural drop on the pitch. Colloquially, use of the fastball is called 'throwing heat' or 'putting steam on it', among many other variants.

Gripping the ball with the fingers across the wide part of the seam ("four-seam fastball") so both the index and middle fingers are touching two seams perpendicularly produces a straight pitch, gripping it across the narrow part ("two-seam fastball") so that both the index and middle fingers are along a seam produces a sinking fastball, holding a four-seam fastball off-center ("cut fastball") imparts lateral movement to the fastball, and splitting the fingers along the seams ("split-finger fastball") produces a sinking action with a lateral break.

Contents

    1 Pitches
        1.1 Four-seam fastball
        1.2 Two-seam fastball
        1.3 Rising fastball
        1.4 Cutter
        1.5 Split-finger fastball
        1.6 Incurve
        1.7 Side-arm fastball
    2 References

Pitches
An animated diagram of a four-seam fastball
Four-seam fastball
Main article: Four-seam fastball

The four-seam fastball is the most common variant of the fastball. The pitch is used often by the pitcher to get ahead in the count or when he needs to throw a strike. This type of fastball is intended to have minimal lateral movement, relying more on its velocity. It is often perceived as the fastest pitch a pitcher throws, with recorded top speeds above 100 mph. The fastest pitch recognized by MLB was on September 25, 2010, at Petco Park in San Diego by then Cincinnati Reds left-handed relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman. It was clocked at 105.1 miles per hour. [2] April 19, 2011 Chapman lit up the stadium radar gun at 106 MPH (the TV-reading had his pitch at 105 MPH, and the pitchF/X reading was actually 102.4 MPH). [3] Two general methods are used to throw a four-seam fastball. The first and most traditional way is to find the horseshoe seam area, or the area where the seams are the farthest apart. Keeping those seams parallel to the body, the pitcher places his index and middle fingers perpendicular to them with the pads on the farthest seam from him. The thumb then rests underneath the ball about in the middle of the two fingers. With this grip, the thumb will generally have no seam on which to rest.
Two-seam fastball
Main articles: Two-seam fastball and Sinker (baseball)

A two-seam fastball, sometimes called a two-seamer, tailing fastball, running fastball, or sinker is another variant of the straight fastball. It is designed to have more movement than a four-seam fastball, so the batter cannot hit it hard, but it can be more difficult to master and control. Because of the deviation from the straight trajectory, the two-seam fastball is sometimes called a moving fastball.

The pitcher grabs a baseball and finds the area on it where the seams are the closest together, and puts his index and middle fingers on each of those seams. A sinker is a similar pitch thrown with almost the same grip, but with the thumb directly underneath the ball. Sinkers are also thrown slightly slower than two-seamers.[4]

Each finger should be touching the seam from the pads or tips to almost the ball of each finger. The thumb should rest underneath the ball in the middle of those two fingers, finding the apex of the horseshoe part of the seam. The thumb needs to rest on that seam from the side to the middle of its pad. If the middle finger is used, more whipping action occurs, making the pitch go around 10 mph faster. This ball tends to move for the pitcher a little bit depending on velocity, arm slot angle, and pressure points of the fingers. Retired pitchers Greg Maddux and Pedro Martínez were known for their effective two-seamers.

Depending on the grip and pressure applied with the fingers, sometimes the two-seam fastball features more sink than lateral movement. Sinkerballers tend to induce a lot of ground ball outs because hitters tend to swing over the ball due to the late downward movement, thus often end up beating the ball into the ground. Roberto Hernández of the Philadelphia Phillies, Justin Masterson of the St. Louis Cardinals, Derek Lowe of the New York Yankees, Tim Hudson of the San Francisco Giants, Aaron Cook of the Colorado Rockies, Clay Buchholz of the Boston Red Sox, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies, Chris Volstad of the Chicago White Sox, Trevor Cahill of the Chicago Cubs, and Bronson Arroyo of the Arizona Diamondbacks are well known for their sinkers, consistently ranking high in the league in ground ball-to-fly ball ratio.
Rising fastball

The rising fastball is an effect perceived by some batters, but is a baseball myth. Some batters are under the impression that they have seen a "rising" fastball, which starts with the trajectory of a normal fastball, but which as it approaches the plate rises several inches and gains a burst of speed. Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Sandy Koufax, Dwight Gooden, and Chan Ho Park were often described as the paramount pitchers with this kind of ball action.

Such a pitch is known to be beyond the physical capabilities of pitchers, due to the very high backspin required to overcome gravity with the Magnus effect. While not physically impossible (conservation of momentum is maintained through imparting the required opposing momentum to air, as an airplane does at takeoff), the amount of spin required is beyond the capabilities of a human arm. It has been explained as an optical illusion.

What is likely happening is that the pitcher first throws a fastball at one speed, and then, using an identical arm motion, throws another fastball at a higher speed. The higher-speed fastball arrives faster and sinks less due to its high speed. The added back-spin from the higher speed further decreases the amount of sink. When the pitch is thrown, the batter expects a fastball at the same speed, yet it arrives more quickly and at a higher level. The batter perceives it as a fastball which has risen and increased in speed. A switch from a two-seam to a fastball can enhance this effect.

This perception may also be created by a tall, hard-throwing pitcher who throws the ball from a higher release point on an elevated mound (the pitcher's rubber is 10 inches above the field level). Factoring in the element of depth perception when the hitter watches the pitcher from 60 ft 6 in away from the pitcher's mound, and the hitter perceives the pitcher's size and positioning on the mound to be less elevated than it actually is. Hence, to the hitter, an overhand pitch will appear to be thrown at a hitter's shoulder level (or even belt level), as opposed to several inches above the hitter's head, from where the pitch is actually released from the pitcher's hand. This perception enhances the apparent "rising" motion of the fastball when the pitch passes the hitter at a higher level than where the hitter perceived the pitch to have left the pitcher's hand.

It is possible for a rising fastball to be thrown by a submarine pitcher because of the technique with which they throw the ball. Because they throw almost underhanded with their knuckles near the field surface, the batter perceives the sensation of the ball going upward because of its low starting point and flight trajectory. This is not the traditional rising fastball batters believe they see. This type of movement is similar to a rising fastball in fast-pitch softball. Left-hander Sid Fernandez was known for throwing a rising fastball from a slightly "submarine" motion.
An animated diagram of a cutter
Cutter
Main article: Cutter (baseball)

A cut fastball, or "cutter", is similar to a slider, but the pitcher tends to use a four-seam grip. The pitcher shifts the grip on a four-seamer (often by slightly rotating the thumb inwards and the two top fingers to the outside) to create more spin. This usually causes the pitch to shift inwards or outwards by a few inches, less than a typical slider, and often late. A cutter is effective for pitchers with a strong four-seamer since the grip and delivery look virtually identical. The unexpected motion will often fool batters into hitting the ball off-center, or missing it altogether.

Mariano Rivera, a relief pitcher for the New York Yankees, is known for throwing a cutter. In his prime, Rivera could deliver late motion while throwing the ball around 95 mph. Brian Wilson of the Dodgers also throws a cutter. Al Leiter rode his cutter to 162 career wins and a no-hitter. Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies also throws a cut fastball, but claims that overusing it has given him forearm trouble,[citation needed] which may have prematurely ended Halladay's 2006 season due to forearm stiffness,[citation needed] since the grip causes more stress than a standard four-seamer. Yankee Andy Pettitte is another pitcher who throws the cutter. On a June 3, 2007, game against the Red Sox, announcer Joe Morgan estimated that of Pettitte's 87 pitches, 83 of them were cutters. Jamie Moyer used a cutter that became an important pitch due to his relatively low velocity late in his career. Many other major league pitchers have added the cut fastball, as well.
Split-finger fastball
Main article: Split-finger fastball

The split-finger fastball, or "splitter", is truly an off-speed pitch rather than a type of fastball. Like the changeup, to which it is a close relative, it is thrown with the same arm motion as a normal fastball, but the adjusted grip causes it to behave quite differently. The ball does not have the characteristically tight spin of a fastball. The ball appears to tumble in a knuckleball-like fashion; but it is much faster than a knuckleball. The ball is gripped tightly with the index and middle fingers "split" along the outside of the horseshoe seam. It is important that at least one finger is touching the seam, as the ability to control the release of the ball is derived from this contact. The release is the same as a fastball. A splitter usually drops as it approaches the plate, and breaks to either the right or left. The forkball is a similar pitch, though it is slower and gripped with a more exaggerated split of the fingers. A pitcher generally needs long, flexible fingers to effectively throw this pitch. Due to similarities in speed and movement, some pitchers' split-finger fastballs are misidentified as changeups.

It helps to have larger hands to throw this pitch. Because the fingers are spread wider than normal on the baseball, this pitch produces more stress from the hand up through the arm. While the mechanics are the same as a normal fastball, the stress it places on the hand and arm is different. Over time it is possible to damage the arm. It is therefore not recommended for younger pitchers to learn this pitch. Older pitchers should feel comfortable deploying this pitch, but to use it in moderation. The splitter is an effective pitch because the hitter generally picks up the movement later and either swings over the ball or produces a weakly hit ground ball.

The split-finger is used currently by pitchers such as Dan Haren, Jonathan Papelbon, and Masahiro Tanaka. Former players noted for use of the split-finger fastball include Bruce Sutter, Mike Scott, John Smoltz, Jack Morris, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Bryan Harvey, Roger Clemens, and Fred Breining.
Incurve

The incurve was a term used until about 1930 used to describe a simple fastball. As a curveball was often called an "outcurve", one might assume that an incurve is the opposite of a curveball, in other words, the modern screwball. However, this does not appear to be so, as cited by John McGraw.

All balls that are twisted out of their natural course are called curves. The outcurve, the drop, down shoot, and so on, are simply a curve ball to the professional player. To us there is no such thing as an incurve. That is what we call a fastball. Of course, I am assuming the pitcher is right-handed. A so-called incurve is nothing more than a ball thrown in a natural way with great force. A ball thus thrown will naturally curve inward, to a certain extent.[5]

Side-arm fastball
A side-arm fast ball is thrown from an angle different from the normal one. It is at a lower angle and is thrown from the side, hence the name "side"-arm. It will have a sinking motion to the right if the pitcher is right-handed, or to the left if the pitcher is left-handed. It is usually slower than a normal four-seam fastball.ax

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FastballBSF : 2011 Goals

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  • ASA Areas of Interest (or already participating)
–Sacramento, CA
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