11 August 2013

Cabrera vs Rivera -- AGAIN!

Just two days after the great Mariano Rivera blew his fourth save of the year when he challenged Miguel Cabrera and lost, it happened again.  Rivera was called on in the 9th inning of today's Tigers at Yankees game with a 4-2 lead.  Cabrera led off the 9th inning and sent Rivera's fourth offering 395 ft (120 m) away into the right-field seats.  With a 1-2 count, Cabrera showed why he is the game's best hitter.  Look at the image below, which shows Cabrera's dinger just leaving his bat (click on the image for a larger view).
Cabrera led with his hands, extended his arms out over the plate, and met the ball on the outside corner.  He didn't try to pull the ball, but instead went with the pitch.  Note how his hips have rotated almost completely toward the mound.  His powerful torso generated an enormous amount of torque as he moved his bat through the zone.  His head is down, his eyes are mostly on the ball, and his legs are in perfect balance.  As a physicist, I could watch Miguel Cabrera hit all day long!

So, could Mariano Rivera pick up the save with a 4-3 lead?  He got Prince Fielder to line out to third.  Victor Martinez then strode to the batter's box.  Martinez hit Rivera's second pitch 376 ft (115 m) down the right-field line for a game-tying homer.  Check out the image of Martinez connecting with Rivera's second gopher ball of the inning (click on the image for a larger view).
Note that Martinez also has his hips rotated forward.  A baseball player rotates his torso using powerful muscles in his core and upper legs.  Muscular arms won't be enough if a player's core isn't strong.  Martinez did exactly what he should have done.  The pitch was inside, and Martinez jumped on it and pulled it.  His eyes are in the right place and his front foot is a dead giveaway that he's trying to pull the ball.  Like Cabrera, Martinez took what Rivera offered and didn't try to do anything fancy.

Rivera got the next two Tigers batters out, but left the inning with his fifth blown save.  The two runs he gave up in his one inning of work took his ERA (earned run average) from 2.08 to 2.44, a more than 17% increase.

The Yankees still had the bottom of the 9th inning.  After Jose Veras retired the first two Bronx Bomers, Brett Gardner came to the plate.  On the second pitch he saw, Gardner deposited Veras's offering 393 ft (120 m) away from home plate into the second deck in right field.  Veras's walk-off homer saved the Yankees, which was reminiscent of Friday's game in which Cabrera hit one off Rivera in the 9th, only to see his Tigers lose in the 10th inning.  Take a look at Gardner's winning swing in the photo below (click on the image for a larger view).
A lead-off hitter at 5' 10" (1.78 m) tall and 185 lbs (83.9 kg mass), Gardner is not regarded as a home-run hitter.  Though just his 8th homer of the year, it was a monster!  Gardner really jumped on Veras's pitch.  His front foot shows the pull, which was the thing to do for a pitch slightly inside of center.  As with the two previous homers I discussed, Gardner's hips have rotated forward.  He may not have huge arms, but rotating his powerful core generated the necessary torque for a walk-off celebration.

Despite getting credited with his fifth blown save of the year, Mariano Rivera was given the "win" because the Yankees won the game while he was the pitcher of record in the top of the inning.  This is yet one more example of how silly the "win" stat is for a pitcher.  A "win" is a team stat, and the only thing Mariano Rivera did to help his team "win" was not give up a third run in the 9th inning.  Over the past generation, sabermetrics have given us many new stats and better ways to view the game of baseball.  As someone nearing 43 years of age, I still look at a pitcher's wins and losses because that's what I saw on the backs of the baseball cards I collected in the 1970s.  Now, I take a pitcher's win/loss record with a grain of salt.  I think Rivera would have preferred the save to the win in his stat column, though he has always impressed me as a classy gentleman who wants nothing more than to see his team win.  He may not have been happy with his performance today, but he loved seeing Gardner's ball fly over the right-field fence!

10 August 2013

Cabrera vs Rivera

My family is currently on holiday in Michigan.  We are staying at a family cottage on Lake Huron.  Being in Michigan gives me the chance to watch Tigers baseball.  Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball right now, and when he comes to bat, I stop what I'm doing and watch.

In last night's game in Yankee Stadium, the greatest closer ever, Mariano Rivera, came to the mound in the 9th inning with a 3-1 lead.  The Tigers had no chance, right?  Don Kelly pinch hit for Jose Iglesias, and hit the ball to center for out number one.  Austin Jackson doubled, and then Torii Hunter gounded out to Rivera.  That set the stage for Miguel Cabrera to face Mariano Rivera with two outs in the top of the 9th inning.  Luckily for sports fans, Rivera put the idea of an intentional walk out of his head and challenged Cabrera.

Cabrera fouled off the first pitch down the first-base line.  Yankee first baseman Lyle Overbay didn't exactly go all out to make the play, and the ball landed just out of his reach.  Had he made the catch, the game would have ended and Rivera would have had his 36th save.  Cabrera then fouled off the next pitch off his knee.  After walking around in pain, he stepped back in the box, took a ball, and then fouled a pitch off his shin.  He was pounding his own left leg!

With a 2-2 count, Yankee catcher Chris Stewart set up for a low and inside pitch.  Rivera made a serious mistake and put the ball over the plate in Cabrera's wheelhouse.  Cabrera sent the ball over the center field fence to tie the game at 3-3 and give Rivera his 4th blown save of the year.

According to ESPN's home run tracker (click here to access the site), Cabrera's home run left his bat at 105.5 mph (169.8 kph) at 24.3 degrees above the horizontal.  Reaching a maximum height of 87.0 ft (26.5 m), the ball's horizontal range was 427 ft (130 m).  Using that information, I modeled the home run.  The trajectory appears below (click on the image for a larger view).
The ball's time of flight was about 5.4 s and landed with a speed of 55.1 mph (88.7 kph).  Drag and lift are both needed to make the above plot.  Yankee Stadium is at sea level, so there was no need to correct air density for elevation.  

The Tigers lost in the 10th inning when the Yankees loaded the bases and Brett Gardner hit a two-out single past Cabrera at third.  What intrigues me is why Cabrera was playing so far in while there were two outs.  Had he been playing at normal depth, he could have fielded the ball and thrown to first to end the inning.

At least fans got to see Rivera battle Cabrera.  While writing this post, Cabrera hit another home run in today's afternoon game against the Yankees.  The guy is amazing!

02 August 2013

Aerodynamics Review Article

I was flattered to be invited by the editorial board at Sports Engineering to write a review article on aerodynamics in sport.  The article covers various ways to research aerodynamics in the sports world, and highlights recent advances made in 18 different sports.  The article may be accessed here.

Despite numerous times reading my own words, having several people read drafts of the article, having a couple of reviewers and a copy editor go through the paper, a couple of typos slipped through the cracks.  Those typos are, of course, solely my responsibility.  I hate seeing little errors slip into a publication.  Springer allowed me to publish an erratum for a misplaced decimal point.  That erratum may be accessed here.

A second typo was found by Louis Poirier, but Springer would not allow a second erratum.  The typo Louis found may be summarized as follows:  At the end of the third paragraph in Section 4.10, the distance 2.63 m was incorrectly converted to 0.802 ft.  Please replace 0.802 ft with 8.63 ft.  I thank Louis for pointing that error out to me.

If anyone notices other typos or errors, please let me know.  The paper was a lot of fun to put together, and I want it to be as accurate as possible.