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baseball between the ears

Time for a little baseball pick-me-up?

Regret that we can't do that on a diamond now, but, since, as Yogi said, baseball is 90 percent mental, we can think and read about the game, which
can take us pretty close to home.

I'm now enjoying Tyler Kepner's 2019 book, "K/ A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches." Kepner is The New York Times baseball writer.

Kepner spins tales about ten pitches, from the fastball to the spitball, and winds players' stories around each, interviewing a fair number of the practitioners.

For the change-up, he writes about the work several well-known throwers, like Tom Glavine and Trevor Hoffman. One of the more interesting stories
he spins involves a pitcher better known for his electric fastball: Pedro Martinez.

Pitching for Boston in 1999, Pedro had a marvelous year: 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts. He used his change, which he'd been throwing
since 1990, as a complement to his fastball.

But one time, he didn't have his hummer.

That was a playoff game in 1999 between the 94-68 Red Sox and the 97-65 Cleveland Indians. Cleveland had some pretty fair hitters: Manny Ramirez,
Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, Richie Sexson, David Justice, Sandy Alomar Jr. and future Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Jim Thome and Harold Baines.

The Indians were looking for heat. Pedro brought something else.

"[Pedro] had strained a lat muscle against Cleveland in the first game of the playoffs that October," Kepner writes. "When the decisive fifth game began in a blizzard
of offense at Jacobs Field it was 8-8 in the middle of the fourth Martinez arrived from the bullpen to spin six no-hit innings. His performance
gave the Red Sox their first post-season series victory since 1986, and he did it without throwing a fastball. The Indians feared it, but it never came.
Martinez unplugged a thunderous lineup with finesse.

"That's where I used everything I learned from [Greg] Maddux, from [Tom] Glavine, from my brother [Ramon], from Roger Clemens, from Nolan Ryan,
all the people I used to see pitch, that's when I came out to display everything," Martinez says.

"Because up to that point, I was a power pitcher. I was someone that would rely on 80 percent fastballs and blow it by you. And that day I didn't have
it, so I had to run to different sources. I had to run to the changeup, I had to run to the little cutter, I had to run to the curveball, I had to rely on
location, and that's when everything came together. For me, pitching at 87 and pitching at 97 was pretty much the same, except that I knew how
to do it on either side: power, or just, you know, outsmarting you."

In 2000, Pedro had an even better year: He won his third Cy Young award with a 1.74 ERA and a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of
0.737, the best in baseball history for a pitcher who qualified for the ERA title.

Kepner later notes: "Two plaques in the Hall of Fame credit pitchers specifically for their success with the "change-of-pace" Tim Keefe, a 342-game
winner in the 1800s, and Smokey Joe Williams, a Negro Leagues star from 1910 to 1932, (who posted a 89-55 record, striking out 769 batters in 1,268 innings).
But Martinez's was the first to include "change-up" in the text, and likely not the last."

There you go. A little baseball for you. Hope you liked it, and hope it helped you get back to the game, at least in the 90 percent area.



-- Edited by mikehart on Saturday 9th of May 2020 12:27:35 AM

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