26 June 2011

Cup of jO's: Eye Color and Circadian Rhythm

Backbone Mountain
Garrett County's Backbone Mountain has the highest point of altitude in the Great State of Maryland.  The point, Hoye Crest, 3,360 feet high.  Last night in the Orioles' 10-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, the nine home runs added up to 3,633 feet.  I'm not sure that helps you appreciate the way runs were scored last night, but it certainly was an impressive hitting feat.  Unfortunately, the Reds had the better end of it.  The Reds had one more home run and more instances of having men on base.  Also it is unfortunate that the Reds offensive explosion came against Brian Matusz.  On average he is giving up almost three home runs per nine innings, which will not get it done.

I also found it a concern how Matusz' fastball changed as the night went on.  He peaked in the first inning with an 89.3 mph fastball.  The pitches hung around 88.3 during that inning.  In the second inning, it dropped to 87.5 mph.  In the third, 87 mph.  In the fourth, 86 mph.  In the fifth, a shade under 86.  That difference of a little over 3 mph is something you do not see in a starting pitcher.  That is serious fatiguing.  I imagine the 26 pitch third inning was tiring, but the trend was in place before that inning.  I do not think this bodes well for him.  You could tell that him and Wieters knew it was not good as they steadily shifted over to throwing his change up almost exclusively toward the end of the outing.  The final home run he gave up was a four pitch at bat and each pitch was a change up.  Showalter and Matusz both claim there is no injury, but I am at a loss to explain how a starter is not showing any ability to maintain velocity over the course of a couple innings.


In light of me not posting a Science of Baseball tonight, I thought I would write a few things about Josh Hamilton's assertion that blue eyes are bad for hitting.  I figure if we wait another week or two we will wind up finding someone posting on eye color and hitting based on ESPN profiles.  I hope I don't have to do it.  Other studies that might be similar are ones where pitching performance was compared between sunny and cloudy days.  Hitters did better on cloudy days.  As well as this recent preliminary one where player specific circadian rhythms appear to dictate how well a player performs.  In other words, night owls do better when playing at night because they are capable of staying alert.

I think it makes sense that lighter eye colors would relate to light sensitivity and this could affect the ability of a player to recognize pitches and speed.  A player basically decides when and where to swing by the time the ball has traveled about ten feet from the pitchers hand.  (side-note: I think it was the other day when an announcer or journalist wrote how pitchers had the advantage in a Reds-Giants game because the stadium shadow had moved from behind the catcher to right in front of the plate.  That makes no sense.  You can blindfold a batter for the majority of the ball's flight path because hitting it has nothing to do with last moment reactions.  Your eyes, brain, and muscles just cannot process and respond to a projectile that quickly.  So, the shadow would have had to have been about 50 feet in front of home plate to make any difference).  Anyway, Hamilton may be suffering from two things: light sensitivity and having a circadian rhythm that helps him more at night.  It should be noted that blue eyes are not blue eyes are not blue eyes.  Not every blue eyed person shows light sensitivity.  Even using baseball statistics, I am pretty sure J.J. Hardy has blue eyes and his hitting is the same day or night.

Understanding light sensitivity and circadian rhythms might prove to be beneficial for a team.  If you are looking for a time to sit a batter or how to utilize a platoon.  It might be a good idea to look at a players day/night splits and probably normalize it with dome play data.  The dome is basically your light controlled data set while non-dome is affected by light and time.  For instance, Luke Scott hits 775 OPS in the day and 875 OPS at night with an 829 OPS in a dome.  What this may tell us is that Luke is not particularly affected by light, but he does appear to have better focus for night games.  It may be that if Buck wants to give Luke a day off, he should target games in the afternoon.  When looking at MLB in general, there typically not much of a difference between OPS in day and night games.  This might be a real effect and it might be an area in which a manager could exploit.


The Oriole Way said...

The many times I have heard the shadow explanation for difficulty hitting I've always interpreted the point made as one where the batter is standing in one set of light conditions but looking at the ball in another. Regardless of whether or not the ball must cross the boundary, I think it is plausible that the shift in light conditions makes something as subtle as minor changes in velocity difficult to perceive.

Jon Shepherd said...

If a batter is staring out at the pitcher, their eyes will be accustomed to the light levels at that point. All effects of a ball are percieved by the batter within the first 10-15 feet the ball travels. Light differences at the plate will not affect anything.