Do Baseball People Understand What They're Saying?
After reading about the recent amateur baseball draft and the reports given to various players, I seriously doubt that the scouts and general managers are talking the same language or even looking at the real abilities of the players. It is somehow assumed that everyone understands what is being said but it appears no one bothers to check to see if this is true. There are never any questions to ask what something means.
Scouts, coaches, general managers and players also appear to be more impressed with physical abilities and the hype surrounding the players. For example, ”We think we got the best left-handed pitcher in the draft. He is a loose, athletic kid who throws downhill. His delivery and actions are superb.” Continue Reading...
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But what is a loose, athletic kid? Is looseness an attribute that pitchers should possess? And do they really want a pitcher who can throw downhill? If he truly threw downhill he would be hitting the dirt well in front of home plate. Knowledge of a little science would tell them that all pitchers release the ball on an upward pathway. Gravity brings the ball down so that it crosses the plate while still in the air. This only goes to indicate that the baseball people do not truly understand what is involved in pitching. They appear to be afraid to ask questions and appear stupid.
This conclusion is brought out even more vividly with the comments made on some of the draft choices. For example, “We wanted upside, impact guys. We didn't want to draft vanilla. … Eflin a big, strong guy with a clean delivery…” But no one asks what is meant by an upside impact guy. What is a clean delivery? Ask a dozen coaches and I'm sure you will get at least six different answers.
Some of the scouting reports stated the following: “Fried has a fluid delivery and advanced feel for three pitches that all have a chance to be plus or better… He has solid-average velocity… His best pitch is a tight downer curveball. This report raises more questions rather than describing the player's abilities. For example, what is advanced feel? Since when does average velocity equate to a high-level pitcher? Best yet is his best pitch - a tight downer curveball.
I don't think many coaches or general managers will be able to tell us exactly what this is or what pathway the ball takes. Nor will they be able to back it up with film. Even more startling is the fact that you cannot even find a unified definition of a curveball. There is no consensus among coaches, players and scouts as to exactly what a curveball is or what pathway it takes. The two most predominant theories are that the ball breaks downward or that the ball breaks away from the player.
To compound matters it was also stated that “Eflin complements his fastball with one of the best changeups in the prep ranks and an inconsistent, slurvy curveball that nonetheless has decent shape and flashed average.” If you Google slurvy you will not find a definition of this term but you will see how it has been used by various sports reporters. It is just another example of how reporters and coaches make up words to fit their idea of what is occurring.
Why they do this is beyond comprehension since the English language has more than enough terms to describe just about everything that occurs in baseball. This is especially true when it comes to the mechanics of throwing. But when you don't know exactly what the ball does or what it should do on a particular pitch, it's relatively easy to come up with terms that nobody understands but that sound impressive.
Coaches, writers, reporters and players, should be held accountable for what they say and more importantly, for what they mean by what they say. It is time for scouts, reporters, coaches, players and general managers to not make things up as they go along but to question the statements and demand proper explanations and substantiation of what they say. When we get a good understanding not only of how the different skills are executed, but how they can be improved and how we can prevent injury at the same time, we will see great progress in player and game performance. If not, we will continue to see the misconceptions that are presently being disseminated in the papers and on TV. Is this what we call state of the art?