Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 1, 2009
BASEBALL: Disco Hayes

Joe Posnanski, the best baseball beat writer in the business, is now at Sports Illustrated and liberated from the Kansas City dungeon. His last column in KC, on a minor league sidearmer named Disco Hayes, is vintage Posnanski. A sample, but really you should read the whole thing:

"You know what I would like to do?" Disco says. "I would love it if they would take all the relievers who throw 95 mph and put them in one group. And then take all the relievers who throw submarine style like I do and put them in another. And then compare their ERAs. I wonder what that would show."

Well, I don't know what it would show overall, but it's worth noting that the Royals do have a bullpen filled with guys who throw extremely hard. Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz, Robinson Tejeda and Roman Colon all have mid-to-high 90s fastballs. They have a combined ERA of 5.56.

The funny thing about baseball is that people will believe what they want to believe. Nobody in the game will watch Kyle Farnsworth give up runs and conclude: "Well, apparently guys who throw 100 mph can't get people out in the big leagues." But it's that way with the submarine pitchers.

I've always had a thing for sidearmers/submariners, even before I started reading Posnanski, or Michael Lewis, or even Bill James; Terry Leach may still be my all-time favorite ballplayer.

So get down tonight, Disco Hayes.

UPDATE: Also, go read Posnanski on this year's Royals, with a bonus discussion of the 1993 Mets.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:47 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Ted Abernathy with the Indians in the sixties.

Posted by: stan at September 1, 2009 10:47 PM

"Disco Hayes" is clearly a name too good to never make the majors.

Posted by: Jerry at September 1, 2009 11:07 PM

Joe PO is a classic and will be greatly missed at the pathetic KC Star. Can someone find a spot for Jason Whitlock? That would be addition by subtraction.

Posted by: maddirishman at September 1, 2009 11:27 PM

Sidearmers drive me nuts. Since the ball's trajectory is more east-west than north-south, it stands a greater chance of geting the bat surface. JMHO

Posted by: tsmonk at September 2, 2009 11:13 AM

tsmonk,

Without the backspin provided by an overhand fastball, a sidearm (or lower) delivery is more affected by gravity and moves down quicker (see e.g. forkball or spitball). More importantly, the ball simply doesn't behave the way the batter's brain has become accustomed to processing a pitch's movement.

Posted by: stan at September 2, 2009 11:35 AM

You generally don't see side-armers who stink in the bigs while there are plenty of guys with normal deliveries who are absolutely awful. Most of the side-armed guys I can think of were very good (Eck, Quiz, Ziegler) or at least okay (Bradford, Myers). Kim was the only guy I could think of that sort of stank and he had 2 or 3 good years. Think it was more a case of what was upstairs that got him sidetracked.

Posted by: jim at September 2, 2009 2:25 PM

other decent sidearmers:

Kent Tekulve
Mark Eichhorn

Posted by: Chris Graham at September 2, 2009 2:46 PM

Walter Johnson was also a sidearmer of some success.

Posted by: Jerry at September 2, 2009 2:55 PM

Hey! "Disco" Hayes doesn't advertise!

Posted by: Mark D at September 2, 2009 4:41 PM

Another general feature of sidearmers noted if I recall correctly in an old Bill James Abstract is that they tend to have more extreme platoon splits (and as a result also tend to be righties). To a certain extent, I think sidearmers are a lot like knuckleballers - they get an edge by being different, but if hitters see too much of them they get hammered. So you can afford one in the bullpen, but probably not 2, and only a truely exceptional pitcher could start.

Random related thought - I'm a big fan of building a bullpen around a broad range of pitching styles, not just L/R, both for the situational utility and the general value of continually showing hitters different looks. Doesn't hurt with in your rotation either, although it can be harder to arrange.

Posted by: phwest at September 3, 2009 10:54 AM

Thanks for the Posnanski link about the 2009 Royals, Crank. It has been painful to listen to them on the radio. Holy crap................

Posted by: feeblemind at September 3, 2009 1:16 PM

I always wondered why organizations didn't make a systemic attempt to turn their 27-32 year old minor league filler arms (and every organization has a ton of them) into submarine/side-armers. If you're a GM you identify five or so pitchers who have healthy arms but zero chance of ever making it to the show. You offer them a reasonable three year minor league contract so they'll have little to lose if they get injured, and then have them devote a season to changing their delivery from vertical to horizontal, or underarm. What's to lose, by either side?

Posted by: ShoelesJoe at September 3, 2009 6:25 PM

It probably takes a lot of years to master comand from a sidearm delivery.

Posted by: Jerry at September 3, 2009 9:37 PM

Or furthermore, why not a knuckler. MLB's history is studded with supremely effective knucklers (Niekros, Wood, Wakefield, etc.). No, it is not an easy craft to learn and master and it certainly is not very sexy. However, I have wondered why the marginal minor league guys don't try to learn it. If you aren't going to the show with your regular stuff why not give the flutterball a run? There's a potential 20 year career in it if you can master the discipline. BTW, I believe Tim Wakefield's number should and will be retired by the Red Sox some day.

Posted by: jim at September 3, 2009 9:41 PM
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