Turbow: The essence of velocity

From Jason Turbow at SB Nation on June 18, 2014:

It had been a good meeting as far as Perry Husband was concerned. The 15 minutes he had been promised to convince the Houston Astros’ team brass to fundamentally revamp their organizational approach to pitching had turned into close to an hour. Husband was worried that his message, radical as it was, would be met with skepticism, but to judge by the parade of questions he was asked, people in the room — particularly manager Phil Garner and pitching coach Jim Hickey — were suitably intrigued. It was spring training, 2005, in Kissimmee, Fla.

The name Husband chose for his theory, Effective Velocity, hints at its details. His interest lies not in how fast a given pitch travels, but how fast it appears to a hitter — a factor that hinges upon not just its speed, but its placement in the strike zone and the spot in the sequence in which it is thrown — and how many milliseconds it can shave off the time a hitter has to react to it. That spring in Florida, Husband told the Astros’ assemblage that pitchers who followed even the most basic tenets of his recommendations would see immediate improvement. Pitchers who bought in fully would become as close to unhittable as their skill levels would allow.

Not every pitcher can be Sandy Koufax, of course, but Effective Velocity, known in shorthand as EV, would push them in that direction. Husband told the Astros about the abundance of studies he had done to back his ideas up.

It turned out that Garner was an ideal target for this kind of presentation, a man who, compared to most other major league managers at the time, delighted in pushing the vanguard of baseball thought. The team’s first-year GM, Tim Purpura, remained skeptical, but Garner was riding high, having taken over the team in the middle of the previous season with spectacular results — a 48-26 record and second-place finish. The manager, who six months later would lead Houston to the World Series, was sufficiently intrigued to invite Husband back later that day for another talk. And again for another prior to the following day’s game, this time with the team’s catcher, Brad Ausmus. Garner was so thoroughly engaged in that discussion that he was startled into leaving abruptly in order to run the lineup card out to the umpire. They had bumped right up against first pitch.

Husband had been introduced to the team by a representative at Inside Edge — a next-level stat company that, impressed by Husband’s work, gave him access to its ridiculously complex database. And Garner’s low expectations, set by a lifetime tolerating monologues from self-proclaimed pitching gurus, were trumped by Husband’s combination of understanding and innovation.

“This is intuitive,” Garner told him before they parted. “You’ve presented pitching the way pitching ought to be.”

Read the full article here: http://www.sbnation.com/longform/2014/6/18/5818380/effective-velocity-pitching-theory-profile-perry-husband

Originally published: June 19, 2014. Last Updated: June 19, 2014.