Stephen Baker

The Numerati
Home - Viewing one post

Saturday notes: The Frick and curve balls

February 12, 2010General

Vermeer's "Officer and Laughing Girl"

Yesterday, after lunch in Midtown, I walked up to the Frick Collection. It's a spectacular collection of European art--like a highly condensed version of the Louvre. The Web site lets you explore and zoom in on the paintings. Check out, for example, the sleeve on this Rembrandt self portrait.

The collection comes from Henry Clay Frick. He was a coal (coke) baron in Western Pennsylvania and made his money from the steel industry. It was Frick who ordered the deadly crackdown at the Carnegie mill at Homestead, in 1892 (while Carnegie was vacationing in his native Scotland). This piqued my interest in the Goya that Frick bought (below), which features steelworkers.

Speaking of steel, I'm heading out to Pittsburgh next week for a reporting trip, following a Lunch forum Monday at Penn State.

Goya's "The Forge"


In my baseball geeky way, I'm enjoying this statistical study on the effectiveness of fastballs. The conclusion, based on the crunching of millions of pitches and the weighing of hundreds of variables, is that pitchers rely too much on the fastball.

A common example. Let's say a pitcher is behind in the count, 3-1, to a good hitter. One more ball and the batter walks. So the batter is expecting a fastball, which is easier for the pitcher to control. He's "sitting" on the pitch, in baseball parlance. And his chance of getting a hit are higher. Cagey pitchers with great control, like Greg Maddux and Jamie Moyer, built careers from throwing change-ups and curves in hitter's counts.

Statistics indicate that others should do the same. The danger of walking the batter by throwing a bad curve, it appears, is less than the risk that comes from throwing a fastball he's ready for. This is the way pitchers throw to great hitters like Albert Pujols. Now it seems they should treat every batter like a superstar. (For those eager to dive deeper into baseball math, here's a post on how outfielders calculate the trajectory of fly balls.)

add comment share:

©2022 Stephen Baker Media, All rights reserved.     Site by Infinet Design

Kirkus Reviews -

LibraryJournal - Library Journal

Booklist Reviews - David Pitt

Locus - Paul di Filippo

read more reviews

Prequel to The Boost: Dark Site
- December 3, 2014

The Boost: an excerpt
- April 15, 2014

My horrible Superbowl weekend, in perspective
- February 3, 2014

My coming novel: Boosting human cognition
- May 30, 2013

Why Nate Silver is never wrong
- November 8, 2012

The psychology behind bankers' hatred for Obama
- September 10, 2012

"Corporations are People": an op-ed
- August 16, 2011

Wall Street Journal excerpt: Final Jeopardy
- February 4, 2011

Why IBM's Watson is Smarter than Google
- January 9, 2011

Rethinking books
- October 3, 2010

The coming privacy boom
- August 17, 2010

The appeal of virtual
- May 18, 2010