7 for 7: Pitching 101

Pitching 101, How a Rookie Pitcher would Re-Write the Book on Pitching with a Beercone.

Through the first two and a half seasons of Tapey Beercone, just eight persons had ever played the game. Of those eight, a core of six, the Regents minus Ryan, constituted the vast majority of player appearances. Within this tight core of players, the characteristics of play became fairly uniform. Sure, every player had their tendencies, and their unique idiosyncrasies, but on the whole the game would look very similar regardless of who was as bat, and who was on the mound. However, as Season 3 turned over to its second half at the start of 2014, the sport entered a phase of rapid player expansion.

Over the course of just two short months, the player pool would expand from eight, to nineteen! With the growth of the player base would come a divergence in playing style, as no longer were the players all rooted in a common tradition dating back to the Piney Pinecone days. This tail is about one of those players; a pitcher. A pitcher who had his own unique style and delivery, a pitcher who would ride that uniqueness all the way to being named season 3’s Pitcher of the Season.

Kevin at the bat.

Kevin didn’t become a pitcher out of obvious ability, he became a pitcher out of necessity, as has often been the case. He was called upon to pitch every game of what may be called the Great Basin Series in the late winter of 2014. The first game of the series took place in the national forest outside Reno at Panorama Promontory Park. The game featured Regents Kelly, Eric, and Ryan along with Buckettes Kasey and Lee Ann as well as new players Derek and Kevin. Given the experience of the group, Eric and Kelly would be needed primarily to man the outfield, leaving Ryan as the only obvious pitching candidate. Ryan was the first pick taken by Eric, this left Kelly without an easy choice. He could play himself in the pitcher’s spot, and leave a potential hole in the outfield, or trust the pitcher’s roles to one of the other participants, all of whom has zero experience on the mound. Kevin said he might be up to the task, and with that he was thrust into the role, having never seen a beercone before in his life.

Kevin takes the mound and holds a beercone for the first time.

The sport of Tapey Beercone places a singular restriction on pitchers, that pitches be delivered underhand. Within this space of allowable motion there had been some differences among pitching deliveries. Some players having a very deliberate arm swing motion, while other pitchers seeking to gain their pitching momentum through body movement towards the plate, but up until this point in the sport’s annals all fit within a fairly defined motion. Having never seen any of these motions before, while fidgeting with the beercone in his hands taking practice pitches before the game, Kevin discovered his own method.

A sample of some of the variety in pitching deliveries.

Like other pitchers he would pull his pitching hand back in a bowling motion. As he would be amped to explain, this process stores energy in the form of gravitational potential, based on the height at which the beercone, and arm, are lifted. The standard pitching motion from this point is to swing the pitching arm toward the plate. “The Professor” would describe this process as exchanging the previously stored potential energy for kinetic energy, while at the same time adding additional kinetic energy to the beercone through the arm muscles in a complex transfer from stored chemical energy, chemical energy which can be replenished through beer consumption. The result being a process where significant momentum can be gradually applied to the beercone, without sacrificing control and accuracy. Kevin would start this forward swinging process, but then, if only for the briefest of moments, he’d stop. He would seemingly halt his arm, freezing the forward motion. And after that freeze, he’d abruptly flick his elbow and wrist releasing a pitch with velocity that this motion wouldn’t seem capable of achieving. Kevin, “The Professor”, had discovered how to bend physics, how to pitch his own way.

An example of Kevin’s no-follow-through delivery.

One might guess that having such an abrupt flick at delivery would lead to a loss of the ability to control where the pitcher would end up. And sure enough, Kevin began his career with a walk. But owing to the awkwardness of the flick, batters had a very difficult time picking up the beercone, and timing their swings. Kevin has found a method to induce a considerable number of swings and misses. And it worked: through his first four innings as a pitcher just two runs crossed the plate. Batters struggled to get the timing of his pitch down, and even when they did expecting a slower pitch they often swung under his pitch expecting something slower. He compiled eight strikeouts over those four innings, including making all three outs by strike out in the fourth.

Kevin’s hitchy delivery throws off Eric’s timing leading to a swing way out in front.

Kevin’s command left him in the fifth. Flustered after a miss play in the outfield, he allowed three runners to cross home. He was swapped for a reliever, but his team held on and he took the win. Next, the series moved to the first game at Cave Lake. The teams were the same, sides the absence of the Buckettes, and the results were the same, Kevin started the first inning with two more strike outs. In addition to the strike outs Kevin’s motion helped to achieve an abnormal number of weak fly balls, some of the easiest fielding outs by Tapey Beercone standards. In addition to the weak contact, batters just couldn’t seem to square Kevin’s pitches up, often fouling balls up and back over the pickup truck used as a backstop. The truck was pelted with balls, most of Kevin’s were hitting the back stop straight on, leave it to the other pitcher to shatter one of the side mirrors…

Kevin freezes Derek with a pin point strike of the outside corner.

In his second game, Kevin helped hold the opposing team to just six runs over the first five innings. Yet, again at the end of the game, his fielders faltered. This time it cost him the win, as Kelly, in the middle of a 4.000 chugging percentage bender, reached the breaking point, and the team’s defense collapsed in the last inning allowing 6 runs against no outs. This led to game three of the series, which saw Kevin with a new teammate, and at this point it was obvious he’d be pitching.

Ryan whiffs over the top of one of Kevin’s offerings.

Not quite as sharp as in the previous game, he still held his opponents to 9 runs over 5 standard innings. This time, he would get his chance to pitch the last inning, and in the most critical of moments, his team clinging to a two run lead. He generated a soft grounder from the first batter, but couldn’t convert the out, allowing a single. Next up was Ryan who battled Kevin, fouling off pitch after pitch, but eventually scoring a hit. Kevin struck out the next batter, but a walk then loaded the bases. Which brought up Ryan again, with nowhere to put him. Their battle from the previous at bat would continue, Kevin would throw a few balls, but also sneak a few strikes by Ryan, as well and induce a number of fouls. This all culminated in a 3-2-3, full-full count with the based loaded, one out, up by one run. This would be the last pitch of the at bat.

Can Kevin get one more swing and miss from Ryan?

So is this a tale of triumph or tragedy? Well in the end it’s both. The last pitch Kevin would throw in that at bat would be the last pitch of the game, as well as the last pitch for him that season. The pitch wouldn’t pound its way into the backstop above a flaying bat as others had done before it, it wouldn’t shatter another mirror, or even get fouled off. Instead Ryan “The Mechanic” squared it up, sending it careening into left field, and far enough into left that it would score two runners and end the game on a walk off double. These would be the only three games Kevin would pitch in season 3, and thus he would end which a 1-2 win-loss record. But he’d also carry an ERA of under 2.00, a strike out per six inning rate of over 8.0, and a batting average against of under .550. Coupled with excellent avoidance of hard hits, the ability to generate weak fly balls, and nearly scratch fielding and “The Professor” graded as the worthiest recipient for the Pitcher of the Season award, hitchy delivery and all.

Author: The Coach

#8 The Coach, founding Regent of Tapey Beercone.

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