Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Joe Nathan and the "90 mph changeup"

The Twins fans without TV access to last night's game wound up missing a pretty good conclusion – a four-run eighth against Rafael Soriano to tie the game, a 10th-inning run to put the Twins ahead, and (perhaps most encouraging of all) a clean inning from Joe Nathan to wrap it up.

Joe Nathan said after Wednesday's game
that it was so cold and dry in
Yankee Stadium "it was like
throwing ice cubes."
I was among those without a view of the game, but I did have something (perhaps) a bit more descriptive of the action than Gordo and Gladden —'s "At Bat 11" app on my iPad. It provides pitch-by-pitch details of the game, including pitch speeds, type and location. (There are readers here who think I'm overly harsh on the Twins' main radio guys, but even John Gordon's most loyal followers cannot believe they're getting every pitch from him.)

I assume the pitch data that shows up on my iPad comes from the "Pitch f/x" system, a computerized, multi-camera system that purports to chart in detail every major league pitch — not just velocity and location but movement and release point and a truly bewildering mass of information.

Anyway, something odd kept popping up on my feed in the 10th inning: Nathan was throwing fastballs consistently clocked at 90 to 91 mph. He was also mixing in what the feed called changeups clocked at the same velocity.


Inasmuch as the point of the changeup is that it's a slower pitch, that's nonsensical. Stephen Strasburg, before his injury last summer, was showing a 90-mph change, but he also was touching 100 mph with the fastball.

One glitch, OK; multiple readings with the same error suggest something's faulty in the system. Perhaps the system is categorizing the pitch as a changeup based not on velocity but movement, in which case it may be that Nathan has a fastball that sinks and moves in on a right-handed hitter. Maybe the velocity readings were flawed for reasons I don't understand.

And maybe the only thing that really matters is that on a chilly night in Yankee Stadium, Nathan was much, much sharper than he was two nights earlier in Toronto.


  1. Being a victim of the insane Twins/MLB blackout rules, I watched the first half of the game at a bar and then went home to follow the rest on my laptop. I noticed the same pitch data following on GameDay at Obviously, the technology isn't perfected yet, but it does seem to be making improvements every year.

  2. What the heck happened to the game last night? The TV listings showed it was supposed to be on, but all I got was soccer!

    I didn't have access to an iPod or my daughter's laptop; I had to try and keep up via my cell phone (I just wasn't up to listening to it on the radio) and either MLB or Fox Sports, (whichever was functioning properly at the time) which left a lot to be desired, as I had to constantly scroll down every time it updated. Not a good way to watch a ball game, but I "saw" it when the Twins pulled it out!