Monday, February 21, 2011

The Chakra Pitch

Pitching the Chakras
If you ever wanted to understand anything about pitching in baseball, like what the different types of pitches are, who throws what, and how those pitches can be thrown (as I divulge my own pitching grips) then read on!! Otherwise, if you want to see what kind of insanity I've put through the Chakra model just to shake your head at my maddening genius, that's cool too.

First Chakra = The Four-Seam Fastball:

The fundamental pitch thrown by all pitchers and non-pitchers alike. Not only is this your basic "grip it and rip it" fastball, it's also the grip position players are taught to throw the ball with. This pitch has the highest maximum velocity of any pitch and generally features the least amount of movement as it reaches the hitter. The top flamethrowers pitch at velocities higher than the batspeed of almost every hitter. The four seamer is thrown as either a tailing fastball or a riding fastball at speeds of 90 mph or better. Once you get above 90 mph, the rapid symmetrical backspin of the riding fastball's evenly spaced seams produces an optical illusion that the ball is rising as it approaches the hitter. The tailing four seam is thrown equally as hard and slightly off-center so that just before it crosses the plate it suddenly moves an inch or so to pitcher's throwing arm side of the plate (RH moves right, LH moves left)

Justin Verlander
Billy Wagner
From the right side we have the Detroit Tigers' starter Justin Verlander and from the left side, the New York Mets veteran closer Billy Wagner. Verlander is a young guy who is just coming into his own as a starter but this 6'5" behemoth throws hard all game. Consistently clocked at 97-98 mph, his fastball was clocked at 99 mph during the 8th inning of one of his starts this year. As a closer, Wagner's job is to come in to the game in the 8th or 9th inning while his team maintains a slight lead (3 or less) and completely shut the other team down. He's done so, some 300 plus times in his career, by launching fastballs with his 5'11" frame that can reach 100 mph and still have movement . OUCH.

Second Chakra = The Two-Seam Fastball:

Of course, not all pitchers can throw the ball that hard. They, therefore, replace the velocity with late movement. The two seam fastbal uses a nearly identical grip to the four seam but on another part of the ball where it is held just off center. The result is asymmetrical rotation on a tilted axis where gravity and air pressure ultimately force the ball to veer, or suddenly drop, as it crosses the plate. A sharp two seamer causes hitters to pound the ball into the ground for an easy out or ground-ball double play. For a select few who throw that sharp two seamer especially hard, the resuts are even better.

Derek Lowe *Retired*

Kevin Brown
Brandon Webb
Two guys who happen to throw that hard-hard two seamer are the Los Angeles Dodgers' openning day starter Derek Lowe and the Arizona Diamondbacks' staff ace Brandon Webb. Both are capable of throwing their sharp-breaking 2 seamers in the low 90's where hitter's can struggle just to make contact. Even worse, the contact that is made is rarely solid and sometimes so poor that the pitches "saw off" or shatter the bats. Toothpick?* Retired pitcher Kevin Brown deserves his own catergory when discussing the 2-seam or sinking fastball since he is the power sinker master prototype. At his peak his hard-bighting bat shattering power sinker gave him a groundball -outs to fly-ball outs ratio of better than 4-1 (it's hard to hit homeruns on the ground) while still allowing him to strike out more than 200 hitters!

Third Chakra = The Cut-Fastball / Sinker

The sinker and the cut-fastball (or cutter) are the middle ground between the true fastball and the breakingball (a pitch that suddenly "breaks" or changes directions as it approaches the hitter). The sinker is an pitch that expands upon 2 - seamer by exaggerating the off-center finger placement, which further imbalances the pitch in flight and increases air pressure on one side of the ball. Therefore, not only does the slightly slower sinker take a nose dive, it also breaks horizontally to the same side of the plate as the pitcher's throwing arm. The cut-fastball, on the other hand, has movement somwhere between a slider and a fastball. Thrown off center with a four-seam type grip or a 2 seam style grip. Thrown with less velocity but greater movement than the other fastballs, it not only dips down under bats but also breaks to the side of the plate that is the pitcher's glove side.

Andy Pettite
Roy Halladay
New York Yankees left-handed pitcher Andy Pettite is tied for most career post season wins largely because he excels at inducing the groundball out from hitters. Using sinker and change-up to attack the outside corner against right-handers, and his knuckle busting cutter inside, he sets hitters up for a filthy curve and watches as time and time again they pound it into the ground. The Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay is a power pitcher protege' of Roger Clemens and a master of the sinker and cut fastball. Instead of relying on his 95 mph four-seam, Halladay forces the hitter to guess between his 92 mph cutter and 90 mph sinker while trying to layoff his wicked knuckle-curve. As a result, the Cy Young winner gets mostly groundballs, infield pop-flies and broken bats.

Mariano Rivera
It would be wrong to mention the cut-fastball without mentioning the soon to be undisputed greatest all-time closer; the Yankees Mariano Rivera. Why? Rivera throws the same pitch ninety percent of the time - his signature 94-96 mph late breaking cut fastball. The greatest reliever in post season history generally relies on only one pitch.

Fourth Chakra = The Change-Up

This is where we depart from the fastball, which occupies three chakras in it's various forms because it is the primary weapon in disrupting a hitter's timing. The change of pace, or change up, is the great immitator, the fastball's bestfriend, and the nightmare in the back of every hitter's head. It is a pitch designed to resemble the fastball in everyway except that it travels about 12-15 mph slower so the hitter swings at the fastball only to find the pitch has yet to reach home plate. To accomplish this, only the way the ball is gripped is changed to create more friction and less rotation. Everything else is the same; throwing motion, arm speed, and release point.

Pedro Martinez
Johan Santana
There is no question as to who throws the most dominant change-up from either the left-side or the right. The Mets Pedro Martinez has the best winning percentage of any pitcher with 200 decisions or more and is the only player under 6 feet tall to strike out 300 batters in a season twice. His primary strike-out pitch continues to be one nasty circle-change which has near breaking-ball like movement to his pitching hand side. The American League leader in both Earned Run Average (ERA = runs allowed per nine innings) and strikeouts over the past 2 1/2 years is Minnesota Twins Cy Young winning lefty Johan Santana. Santana has been baseball's most dominant pitcher while primarily relying on only 2 pitches - his precision point fastball and his unhittable circle change-up.

Fifth Chakra = The Splitter

The pitch originally touted as a "super change-up" is a variant of the forkball and is not truly a fastball. Thus, it's title is a misnomer. A hybrid of the fastball that drops like a breaking ball is classified as a change-up but travels faster. In fact, those who throw it hardest throw it 7-9 mph slower than their fastball which it looks identical too as it approaches the hitter. Then, just a couple feet from the plate, the proverbial bottom falls out and the pitch dives down. As it looks virtually identical to the 2 seam fastball, most hitters cannot distinguish one from the other and are forced to guess on any given pitch as to which one is being thrown.

Roger Clemens
Curt Schilling
The winner of an unprecidented 7 Cy Young Awards, Houston Astros icon Roger Clemens is second all-time in career strike-outs and the definitive master of the split-fingered fastball. A steadfast proponent of the splitter Clemens has identified it as the pitch that revived his career and allowed him to prosper with such longevity. Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling has won the World Series MVP as a National League player and an American Leaguer player. The ultimate iron-horse warrior, Schilling battles relentlessly with his fastball setting up hitter after hitter for his signature go-to pitch - the split fingered fastball.

Sixth Chakra = The Slider

The slider, or side-ways curve, is a breaking ball historically refered to as the great equalizer. A breaking ball is an offspeed pitch that has a sudden change of direction, or "break" as it moves through the hitting zone. First seen in the 1930's the slider gained popularity in the 50's when pitchers, desperate to end a decade of dominance by the hitters, sought out a new weapon. Perfected by the 1960's the slider is thrown just as hard as the fastball and generally travels only 5-7 mph slower making it very deceptive to the hitter. In terms of the pitcher's arsenal, it became the pitch that allowed pitchers to regain the advantage over hitters.

Randy Johnson
Brad Lidge
Diamondbacks left-hander Randy Johnson is the most prolific strike-out pitcher in baseball history. No pitcher with half as many strike-outs averages as many as his career average of 11-plus per 9 innings. Amazingly he has done so primarily through the use of two pitches; his upper 90's fastball and his signature slider. Johnson's leathal weapon is concealed by his low angle of delivery which produces a side-ways slicing snap action slider that often can't be touched. Right-handed Brad Lidge is the Houston Astros 'lights out' closer who's slider is like a ghost. Thrown in combination with a 97+ mph fastball, his slider comes in a mere 8 mph slower on the same plane as the fastball and then breaks practically straight down-almost like a splitter. Now you see it; now you don't. As a result, what was meant to be a baseball swing by the hitter turns into an ugly golf swing as they try in vain to adjust.

Seventh Chakra = The Curveball

Many people, including myself and most pitchers, consider pitching to be an art form. If this is true, then, without a doubt, the curveball is its master stroke. The devastating power and elegant form that is the curveball in its purest form is truly something to behold. As a breaking ball it moves almost entirely on a vertical axis and is capable of moving from the top of the strike zone to the bottom as it moves through the hitting zone it is literally the opposite of a fastball in rotation and velocity. Intended to build friction and resistance as it heads towards the hitter it is thrown at least 15 mph slower than the fastball making it highly disruptive to a hitter's timing. Also the mechanics of hitting any pitch dictate that the bat be swung on a primarily horizontal plane. This makes the vertically moving curveball very difficult to hit because the hitter must time the break of the ball and guess location of the pitch all at once.

Barry Zito
Josh Beckett
There is no question who has the best left-handed curve in baseball since it is largely considered the best curveball in all of baseball today and among the all-time greats. The Giants' Barry Zito is the man who wields this magnificent weapon. This Cy Young winner's slow bender travels 15mph slower than his fastball and has been known to begin above the strikezone and end at the knees for a strike. When armed with his best curveball, he could tell the hitter it was coming and they'd still swing straight threw it hitting nothing but air. Boston Red Sox hard throwing right-hander Josh Beckett continues an outstanding tradition of big flamethrowing Texans with blazing hot fastballs and knee bending curves that includes Nolan Ryan and Kerry Wood. Beckett can snap off his late-breaking dive bombing curve in the upper 70's. Dropping nearly straight down just before it crosses the plate, Beckett's over-hand curve is a devastating complement to his 96 mph fastball. Armed with his wicked curve and a bat-shattering fastball, Beckett twice defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series to help lead his Florida Marlins to their second world championship. In doing so, he became World Series MVP at age 22.

by The Lucid Drive

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