Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: General — Rick Moran @ 10:07 am


There was a time when playing catch with one’s father was part of growing up, as natural and common place as running water.

I’m not sure the same holds true today. Families are different. Many families are without fathers and those that are so blessed either aren’t that interested in baseball or are limited by other factors such as work or alternative activities.

But most of the fathers I knew when I was growing up played catch or “Running Bases” with both their kids and other children in the neighborhood. And what I can recall about playing catch with my own father is that the man had what in baseball parlance is known as “a live arm.”

Even as a six or seven year old kid I knew my dad could pitch. A rather rotund figure, his delivery was effortless and the ball would steam into my mitt stinging my hand. It gave me a wonderful “grown up” feeling that he would throw the hard one to me. He had a curve ball that had a beautiful dip to it and his slider would shoot by my glove more often than not. The guy even threw a knuckle ball that was no fun to try and catch I can assure you.

I was probably ten years old when I realized with a shock that my dad had what baseball insiders call “good stuff.” This is something that a pitcher is born with. Either one has a live arm that leads to having good stuff or one doesn’t. While it is true that much of the art of pitching is learned including the mechanics of throwing the ball, the gift of a live arm is bestowed on precious few. It is something in the way the ball is released from a pitcher’s hand, or the snap of his wrist, or the way his shoulder rotates, or any one of a number of other mysterious reasons why some pitchers can make the ball move like a Mexican jumping bean.

Some pitchers with live arms never make it to the big leagues. Many pitchers blessed with good stuff have a devil of a time trying to throw strikes. The ball moves so precipitously and in so many ways that it sometimes takes years of hard work to learn how to control the flight of the ball. A good example would be Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.

Koufax could throw the ball 100 MPH but it was his curve ball and slider that were devastating to hitters. Sandy’s problem was that he could not control how much those particular pitches would break. Major League hitters figured out early on to be very patient with the young southpaw because Koufax more often than not would walk a hitter due to this chronic wildness.

After about 5 years, Sandy figured it out and was unhittable for the last few years of his career. The same exact thing could be said of Yankee hurler Randy Johnson who, once he conquered his wildness, was a reliable 20 game winner.

White Sox pitcher John Garland is such a pitcher. His smooth, effortless delivery masks the travail that hitters much go through to bat successfully against him. Last night, Garland’s pitching was so deceptive that the LA Angels broke their bats with regularity swinging at the moving, darting, hopping ball.

When a pitcher throws 95 MPH, the batter doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot of time to decide whether or not to swing. And when the ball has “late movement” - it darts inward or outward from the plate - the batsman doesn’t have a chance.

American League hitters have known this for years about Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. The chucker has such a live arm that hitters are swinging at pitches that almost hit them in the shoulder. Rivera’s pitchers start off right over the heart of the plate. But by the time the batter has committed to his swing, if he’s a right handed hitter the ball is digging toward his wrists. And by the time he makes contact (if he can catch up with the 93 MPH pitch) the ball is taking off his fingernails as the hitter’s bat meets the ball down near the handle of the bat.

Garland uses his “cut fastball” to get this effect. A cut fastball is thrown across the seams with the ball a little farther back in the hand (rather than gripped on the seams and thrown with the forefinger and index finger). While this means the ball is thrown with less vel0city, it also means the ball has a nasty, late break that can continuously fool hitters. This is what the Angels ran into last night; a man with a live arm and tremendous stuff so that it became almost impossible for them to “center” the ball on the bat and make good contact.

John Garland has finally lived up to his potential and on the national stage of the playoffs, proved he is one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball. At age 25, the sky is the limit for the righthander.

White Sox starters in general continue to impress. Through three games - 27 innings - Sox starters have pitched an incredible 26 1/3 innings with the last two starts complete game victories. Such an accomplishment has not been seen in the playoffs since 1997.

And the flummoxed Angles hitters are starting to press. They are swinging at bad pitches and are not patient at all as evidenced by the fact that those same Sox starters have pitched all those innings and allowed only one walk.

White Sox hitters on the other hand looked much more relaxed last night as they executed much better at the plate and on the bases. Jermaine Dye got caught when Aaron Rowand pumped a vicious line drive that looked ticketed for left field but was snared by Angles shortstop Orlando Cabrera who made an easy toss to second to double off Dye. Cabrera also hit a two-run homer for the Angels only runs.

That blemish on Garland’s game was not the result of a mistake but rather Cabrera’s excellent at bat in the sixth inning. Garland had been pitching the diminutive shortstop inside, crowding him successfully until the kid guessed right on a Garland fastball and sent a screaming line drive into the left field seats.

But that was all Garland allowed. He set down the Angels in order in the 9th to earn the 5-2 victory. Taking the loss was John Lackey whose performance was disappointing to say the least. Back in July when Lackey throttled the White Sox on 4 hits, his lively fastball was finding its target and his curve dropped like a stone. But last night, his curve ball hung like ripe fruit over the middle of the plate and Sox players took immediate advantage. Konerko’s two-run homer in the first started the Pale Hose off on the right foot while Sox bats banged out 11 hits.

Lackey just didn’t have it last night. He wasn’t spotting his fastball well and his breaking balls were rolling up to the plate with the words “hit me” written all over them. And while the Angels bullpen has been spectacular, getting them the lead has been a problem lately.

Tonight, a kid with one of the livest arms imaginable goes for the Halos. Ervin Sanatana may be a rookie but he already has a shutout of the White Sox in July and gets the nod over the ailing Bartolo Colon.

It should be interesting to see if White Sox hitters are patient with this kid and make him throw strikes. This will be the key tonight. I predict If the Sox hitters get more than 4 walks, they win the ballgame.

For the Angles, they almost have to win this game or face elimination on Monday. That said, it looks like October baseball will continue in Chicago for at least one more game.


  1. I was watching the game too! I am an ASTROS fan and I hope that the ASTROS and the White Sox will get to play eachother in the World Series!…The White Sox are an awesome team! The ASTROS are too! GO ASTROS!…And White Sox!

    Comment by Zsa Zsa — 10/15/2005 @ 9:10 pm

  2. Freddy Garcia makes it 3 complete games in a row, a feat not accomplished since the days of Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. The way Contreras is pitching, it wouldn’t be too surprising if he made it 4 in a row. Santana didn’t look anything like he did against the Yanks, he was wild as hell. If only the catcher interference non-call had been made, the game would have ended differently, not.

    Comment by JimBobElrod — 10/16/2005 @ 7:53 am

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