A Baseball Sacred Cow Finally Starts to Fall

Ron Sachs/CNP, Prensa Internacional via ZUMA


I’m getting answers to all sorts of nagging sports questions this month. Earlier I learned that, as I’ve long suspected, intentional fouling virtually never works in the final seconds of a basketball game. Today, Jared Diamond writes about the windup used by baseball pitchers, which has always puzzled me:

This spring, Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg asked a simple question that threatens to upend more than a century of baseball tradition: Why should he pitch one way with nobody on base, and another way with runners aboard? After all, he threw just as hard from the stretch as he did from the full windup, but with improved precision.

Strasburg did some research and embarked on an experiment. He ditched the windup and plans to work exclusively from the stretch this season, beginning his delivery facing third base instead of home plate. Pitchers usually deploy the stretch—a quicker, more compact delivery than the full windup—with runners on base to prevent base-stealers.

I’m not a pitcher, obviously, but I’ve never understood the weird, arms-over-the-head windup. In most sports, it’s a given that a simple, smooth motion is the best way to engage the kinetic chain, improve consistency, and throw/shoot/serve/etc. with maximum accuracy. Among quarterbacks or tennis players, for example, even small hitches in the delivery motion are mercilessly trained away by good coaches. But in baseball, an enormous hitch is not only not trained away, it’s encouraged.

I guess I always figured there must be a reason that I just didn’t understand. But maybe not. Maybe it’s just the way things have always been done. In any case, I applaud Strasburg. Pitching from the stretch should work fine, and it should improve performance with runners on base too since no delivery change is required. I wish him a great season except when he’s pitching against the Dodgers.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate