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“It’s basically science,” MLB Network analyst and 2015 Hall of Fame inductee John Smoltz said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I know we’ve been inundated with all kinds of analytics and abbreviations people don’t understand, but this is basically going to be a unique way to explain why certain things happen that we take for granted. (We’ll) get to see a measurable distance, a measurable spin on a baseball – why certain things (happen), why certain pitchers have success and some have less success.
“Look, there’s natural ability that’s hard to test or measure,” Smoltz continued. “But this would be able to give the viewer some actual data (and) science (to explain things). How fast did a guy run? How much ground did he cover. At which angle did he go after it? You’ll be able to show examples of who, in essence – regardless of (what) the naked eye shows – has a better innate ability to run the best route.”
Think of what happens when a pitcher throws a baseball.
“You see a radar gun and you see an MPH,” Smoltz said. “But the reality is, as a pitcher – depending on where you release the ball and how much RPMs or spin you put on the ball – that gives a different perception to the hitter. So he has less time to see the ball, which, therefore, is going to make the ball seem faster. Those numbers will be (available). It’ll take awhile to really digest, but I think there’s going to be some really cool and valuable measurements . . . that the hitters are going to be able to display and the fielders are going to be able to display. The pitching may take a little while for people to understand.”
Say, for example, that Gio Gonzalez has a high spin rate on his curveball. That’s why it breaks so much. He has success with that pitch because he’s able to replicate the spin and placement time and time again.
“Some say it may help revolutionize the game and what they’re looking for and how they look for it,” Smoltz said. “I don’t know that it’s ultimately going to be teachable to people. Either you have it or you don’t. In other words, one guy spins the ball at a certain rate; I don’t know if you can actually teach someone to spin it more. But those things are going to be measurable. It’s not made-up numbers. It’s actually physics and science that will allow this unique camera to track a ball when a pitcher releases it, when an outfielder releases it, when an infielder releases it.”
Speaking of Gonzalez, he and the Washington Nationals – seemingly everyone’s preseason World Series – have struggled out of the gate and are 6-7 entering a three-game series against St. Louis (8-3). Gonzalez will take the hill against Lance Lynn on Tuesday night.
Aside from Max Scherzer (1-1, 0.83 ERA) and Doug Fister (1-0, 0.69 ERA), the rest of the Nationals’ pitching staff has struggled, including Gonzalez (1-1, 5.11 ERA), Stephen Strasburg (1-1, 4.50 ERA) and Jordan Zimmermann (1-2, 6.14 ERA).
What’s the deal in D.C.?
“Well, it takes time,” Smoltz said. “I know it’s easier said than done. You put together a great staff on paper, and sometimes personalities – and sometimes just the expectations – take a little while for everybody to settle in. When you’re used to a certain atmosphere and it changes, everybody’s got to adapt a little bit. If you were the No. 1, and you go to No. 2 and vice versa – all the way down – I know it’s not a big deal to the average fan; it just takes a little while to (get) accustomed. Once you get accustomed to that, I would say the cream rises to the top – and it certainly will with that scenario.
“Putting it simply, this is a team that’s built for 162 games,” Smoltz continued. “And when you have that play out, it’s something that takes time. They’re going to win and they’re going to be in the playoffs. That’s just based on the health being relative and everything being the same. I love what they’ve done. They got to get healthy, they got to get some hitters back, and once they do that, it’ll be a matter of time before everyone else has to go in there and face these pitchers and go, ‘Oh, shoot.’ That’s really the edge they have. They have that edge – and to keep it as long as possible is the goal of every team.”