Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Freak

As MLB Trade Rumors and Neyer have both noted, the Tim Lincecum article in SI is really good. My only somewhat cool observation about it is that if everything in the article were exactly the same except, rather than being a Major Leaguer, Lincecum was a high school prospect, wouldn't everyone be accusing Lincecum's dad of being one of those psycho-Marinovich parents? Wouldn't we all be fearing for Lincecum's future? If Lincecum suffers a severe arm injury in September, won't we all be saying that anyway? Just askin'.

That aside, my favorite part of the article has nothing to do with Lincecum:
Throwing a baseball is an act of violence that has been graphically defined by Dr. James Andrews, Dr. Glenn Fleisig and the other doctors and clinicians at the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) in Birmingham. From the loaded position, the shoulder, at its peak speed, rotates forward at 7,000 degrees per second. "That," Fleisig says, "is the fastest measured human motion of any human
activity."

While in the loaded position, the shoulder and elbow bear the equivalent of about 40 pounds of force pushing down. When the ASMI biomechanists wanted to know how much more force an arm could take, they brought cadavers into the lab and pulled and pushed upon the elbow joint to find the breaking point. The cadavers's ligaments blew apart just after 40 pounds of force. "So a pitcher is just about at the maximum," Fleisig says.
For some reason I find it insanely cool that Dr. Andrews and his colleagues are busting cadavers' elbows in order to keep hurlers' arms healthy. I've given passing thought to donating my body to science after I'm gone (mostly after reading this book). If I decide to do it, I think I want it to go towards baseball-related research. Like, they can bean me in the name of batting helmet testing or something.

5 comments:

Daniel said...

Actually, Craig, the Angels would like to sign your cadaver to DH and hit 5th in the lineup.

Can't be worse than what they're running out there now...

Alex said...

Yeah, great article. I've been a fan of Lincecum and his wild delivery since I first saw it, and this piece makes me appreciate it more. But there's something interesting I'm wondering about. In the article Timmah talks about his "ankle kick", where his back foot comes way off the rubber during delivery. Is this against the rules? It's not clear to me. The official rules state the pitcher "shall not raise either foot from the
ground, except that in his actual delivery of the ball to the batter, he may take one step backward, and one step forward with his free foot." It doesn't say so explicitly, but I always thought the pitcher was required to keep one foot on the rubber until he releases the ball. Also, Lincecum doesn't say if his back foot actually does come off the ground during his ankle kick (if it did his motion would definitely be illegal, right?). Now I just watched some video of Lincecum, and it looks more like his foot slides instead of lifting, but this is all still hazy to me. Thoughts, anyone?

Craig Calcaterra said...

I'm not anywhere where I can watch video of Lincecum, but if he's even arguably sliding -- instead of actually hopping forward as the article implies -- my guess is that it will never be called. A lot of pitchers come way forward off the rubber, but usually do in a slow "walk" more than anything.

Picture it this way: a righthander has his right foot (or, really, his toe or heel) on the rubber. He steps back with his left foot to start the windup. Technically, the right should stay put, but often it hovers or slids a bit with that backward movement, then goes forward slightly to plant as the left leg goes into the kick. Usually, that plant occurs quite a bit in front of the rubber. Try it yourself and notice how easy it is to gain 6-8 inches just from a subtle glide.

Then picture Lincecum, all violence and kinetic enegery, doing the same thing. I bet he gets a foot.

Again, I have to go see him pitch again to see what he's really doing, but my guess is that if it's all one motion like the article implies (and like most pitchers use) no one is ever going to say anything.

Kind of like the second baseman touching the bag on the double play. Phantom tags are OK, most of the time.

Alex said...

I had another thought (two in a day! must be a record): if Lincecum is as durable as he and his dad believe, the Giants absolutely must sign him to as many years as they can. But, aside from making that obvious move, will they ever get some good front office management? It would be a real shame if Timmah spent most of his career dominating for a team that couldn't go anywhere.

Re: his motion: sure, a little slide is passable, but it sounds (and looks almost) like he's leaping off the rubber, which would definitely be illegal. But what if he is leaping while managing to just barely drag his back toe along the ground? I'm not talking about what he can get away with, but how his motion fits into the actual rules.

And Craig, can you not get onto YouTube at work? Sounds like it's definitely time to start blogging full-time.

Craig Calcaterra said...

I can get YouTube at work (I can do almost anything at work). I'm not at my office right now, though. I'm offsite at a client's (thus the slow posting today), using their network, with a weak-ass wireless signal that is moving painfully slow. It's my fear that if I try to stream video I'll lose everything or, at the very least, cause trouble, so I'm sticking to text-based web apps.