Sunday 17 March 2013

Just One Silly Question

This all started with a question about the player pictured on the right. A player who I could not identify if I were to run into him on the street. He is Tim Collins. He plays baseball for the Kansas City Royals.
I became aware of the existence of Tim Collins a couple of years ago, when he was a minor leaguer in the Toronto Blue Jays system. I learned only two things about Tim while he was property of the Blue Jays. 1: He's short. 2: He throws baseballs very hard.
Since he left the Blue Jays system via a trade to the Braves, then a trade to the Royals, I've retained those two facts in my head. And nothing else about him.
The other night, in the World Baseball Classic, Tim Collins made a relief appearance for team U.S.A., just after Dan Brooks (who I follow @brooksbaseball on Twitter) had confirmed a winner in a pitch f/x trivia quiz.
Now, I will digress here to explain what Pitch f/x is, and what it has to do with a trivia quiz. Dan and Harry Pavlidis run, which is a free, online database of information gathered by Major League Baseball's Pitch f/x system. The database contains information on the characteristics of every pitch thrown in MLB since 2008. Pitch speed/spin and movement is tracked by a specialised camera system set up in each ballpark. Dan will, when he's in the mood, dig into the database, and ask questions from the gathered data. An example might be: Which pitcher has the largest difference between his fastball and changeup? Or what pitcher is most willing to throw a curveball in a 3-2 count? Odd facts, but things that make me think about the game on a different level. I enjoy these little side trips away from the action in a dull game, and I like to see other follower's guesses.
So, during 'Tiny' Tim Collins appearance, I put the only two things I knew about Tim Collins together and asked the following question.

So Dan liked the question, and he put it out to his followers.

Which I thought was excellent. Tim Collins, though only 5'7", only managed to get second on the list. It took very little time to find the correct answer.

 Which led to the following response from the person with the correct answer.

At this point, I assume that @rsaggiadi was so quick to guess because he was assuming the Mr. Brooks had posted the question, only after having seen the two players already appear in the game. In fact, Dan only noticed after it was pointed out to him.

So, that is the end of the trivia quiz. Kelvin Hererra is 5'9", and throw 97.4 mph on average. But Dan is still looking at his list of pitchers who bring the heat from their below average height, and there's a funny thing about the list.

And so it came to pass that Craig Kimbrel, pitcher number four in velocity/height entered the game. He gave up two runs, setting up a save situation for the Dominican team. Off of the bullpen mound steps Fernando Rodney. Rodney is 5'11" and throws 96.2 mph. He is the third faster pitcher by height in the majors right now.

Now, is this significant? No. It was sure fun for me though! I picked a question to ask based on the following "There's that short guy who throws hard. I wonder if that's really that different." I was rewarded with an incredibly odd coincidence, as the top four pitchers, from a pool of almost 500 who appeared in the big leagues in 2012, also appeared in the game, like a Bleacher Report slideshow.
It also makes me speculate: Do the guys who have less physical tools, or have been told they are below average, have a bigger reason to say yes to the WBC when it comes calling? Are some of them willing to go, just to prove that they are worth being representatives of their country?

The final topper for all of this came a little bit later, when I got this tweet from Dan Brooks.

 I was, once again, very pleased that one silly question had such a good run.

 Now, to all of you who say that statistics make the game less fun, I must disagree. Without the numbers to tell the tale, I never get to enjoy the magic of discovering any of this weirdness. We don't have to learn anything earth shattering to find that we love the game in a different way, we just have to ask the right questions at the right time, no matter how silly they are.