Posts Tagged ‘Tom Glavine’

There are 108 stitches on a baseball. A pitcher manipulates those stitches to make the ball do certain things, he will use 4 seams to make a ball go fast and straight (ish). He will use two seams to cut the ball a bit. He will use torque to make it curve. Pitching is the most unnatural athletic feat in all of sports. It’s hell on your arm, it destroys ligaments in your elbow, it shreds your rotator cuff, it gives you pain like no other the morning after, but when you are able to master the artistry of pitching, I argue that nothing is more rewarding.

Jake Peavy mastered the art, but his body has betrayed him. It has led to an identity crisis that derailed a once promising career. Peavy was a great pitcher at the height of his powers. He was overwhelming at one point. Plus movement on all his pitches, command of the strike zone and a mentality that screamed “Ace.”

It’s a funny word, “Ace.” It’s a heavy word that sounds ultimately silly. How often would you take a man named Ace seriously? Almost never. In the baseball lexicon, home of the silly moniker, Ace is the ultimate compliment a pitcher can be paid. It means so many things because it has no set parameters. An Ace can be like Greg Maddux or Roger Clemens. He can be Pedro Martinez or Tom Glavine. To be an Ace is to be both a competitor and a sublime talent.

Jake was either an Ace, or on his way to being an Ace. He was simply outstanding from 2005-2007. He was a 20-something year old phenom with the mentality of a pitbull. He increased his repertoire in 2005, mixing in a cutter to go along with his standard power pitcher’s array of fastball, slider, curve and changeup.

As you can see, he experimented with the pitch in 2004 and threw it with increased volume from there. Peavy’s health has always stood in his way to continuing to build on the success that he established in 2005. In this chart you’ll note that since joining the White Sox he is throwing his fastball less and less, bottoming out at 49% in 2011. This can be due to a couple of factors. Peavy has moved to a more difficult league that employs a DH. Pitchers usually get a steady diet of fastballs. Perhaps the more important reason is that he’s lost confidence in his fastball, which is an issue. Peavy’s fastball used to sit in the 94-96 range. However:

vFA and vFT are his fastball velocity values. That’s a fairly precipitous drop. He’s becoming more of a junkballer and less of a fireballer. Reputation is a hard thing to overcome, and Peavy’s was that of a gamer. It still is. He famously volunteered to throw a 4 inning relief stint when his team desperately needed it last year, but after that outing he was hardly effective. More alarming is the in-between area he occupies as a pitcher. Consider the following:

He gets hit the first time around, which kind of puts a damper on the whole theory that you could put him in the pen, and he gets pounded after pitch #75. If he could somehow exist as a 2-3 inning reliever every 2-3 games, I feel that his effectiveness would be high. It’s clear that arm fatigue take miles away from his fastball, and that he has lost confidence in the pitch. What isn’t clear is what the Sox plan to do to fix it, if anything. Peavy is penciled in as a starter on this squad entering the 2012 season. He’ll need to perform in order for the Sox to have a chance at competing this year. I don’t see him gaining a few MPH’s on his fastball, so that cutter/change combination he’s grown fond of will have to be his bread and butter when he navigates through the improved lineups of the AL Central. If’s are big with Peavy, and it’s no guarantee that if he stays healthy he’ll be effective. Detroit is no joke and the Royals will have a solid lineup this year. Peavy has a long road ahead of him if he wants to stay relevant in the Sox rotation this year.

In 1992, when Nolan Ryan’s Baseball was released on the Super Nintendo, there were several other options available for a simulated baseball experience. Extra Innings, Super Bases Loaded, and Super Baseball Simulator 1000 were the top of the heap. Super Bases Loaded is, in my opinion, one of the best baseball video games ever released. So why did I buy Nolan Ryan’s Baseball? Because I was a ten year old with birthday money and I liked Nolan Ryan.

Can you imagine, or perhaps even remember, what being a ten year old baseball fan in that situation was like? I mean, the dude’s picture is on the box! None of the other games had any real players in them. Shit, this one had one of my favorite players! It’s like he’s endorsing it personally right? It can’t be bad. It just can’t.  I had yet to learn the reality of professional sports. That would come two years later when there was no world series and my favorite player at the time, Mr. Tom Glavine, ended up being the media’s scapegoat/players’ union figurehead during the strike against the collective of team ownership. At this time in my life, it was unthinkable that a high caliber player like Nolan Ryan would slap his name on a crappy game.

Kids are stupid.

Nolan Ryan’s Baseball is probably one of the worst pieces of bad game licensing in history. Maybe next to Shaq Fu or Micheal Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City this game stands tall, but at least those weren’t trying to be sports games. Maybe if it had been Nolan Ryan’s Carnival Dunk Tank where you play as the Ryan Express soaking hillbillies with flaming 104 mph fastballs it would have been worth some respect and a few chuckles, but it wasn’t. It tries to be real baseball and that’s why it fails.

You cannot throw from third base to first, without the pitcher cutting off the throw. You cannot throw from center field to the plate without the second baseman AND the pitcher cutting off the throw. The infield doesn’t move and will just allow grounders to roll into the outfield. There is no bunting. There are no pitch types, you just hold up to throw slow and down to throw fast, moving the direction pad around to curve the ball. This can be exploited to an amazing degree. There are no team names. The teams are just letters. If you pick the “T” team, you will have a pitcher with the name “Ryan,” but since all of the players just have single syllable first names, it’s more than likely just some scrub named Ryan and not the guy who’s name is on the fucking box. There is a season mode, but since there is only one league, there are no playoffs and no world series. The team with the best record at the end of the season wins. The list of stupid things about the game is arguably endless.

I hear you saying, “It can’t be that bad. There has to be something good about Nolan Ryan’s Baseball.” You are somewhat correct. If you can get past the glaring problems and exploitable game-play idiosyncrasies, it has a nice editing system that is pretty well featured for a game of its time as well as very good stat tracking. Players never retire so if you like the idea of breaking real major league records in a video game, it’s very very possible here. It was one of the first cartridge game to have actual voices for sound effects, though they are limited to the standard umpire calls. It also has the absolute coolest pixel art picture of Nolan Ryan for a splash screen. If I could get it as a poster I would frame it and display it proudly, although my girlfriend would probably disagree on that matter.

Isn't it beautiful?

Nolan Ryan’s Baseball is going to ruin my life one day. I’ve tried to play it from several points of view.  I’ve tried playing it seriously, ironically, and in the throes of wistful nostalgia. I’ve tried playing it with a friend. I’ve tried playing it drunk and dead tired. In the end, I’m done trying. It’s a terrible piece of sports gaming that would have ruined Nolan Ryan’s reputation if video games had been more mainstream in 1992 and I refuse to grade it. There is no number rating or letter I can give it to really describe how disappointing an experience it is, was, and forever will be. I’ll just leave it at that.

$20 Question:

Why would Nolan Ryan, a player who for all intents and purposes, is well respected and taken utterly seriously as one of baseball’s greatest of all time put his name on such a mediocre title?  My guess is probably for another paycheck. Back in 1992, video games weren’t as mainstream as they are now. It was sort of like American actors doing commercials for television in other countries but not in America. No one is going to see it right? Well I did, and while I’m not mad at Nolan Ryan, I’m very disappointed in him.