This article is part of our Mound Musings series.
This is a column I have contemplated writing for several weeks, and so I really hope readers find it helpful. In this day of extreme analytics, I think we can lose sight of the human side of playing baseball – specifically the art of pitching in the game. Quite correctly we evaluate pitchers based on stuff – a combination of repertoire, velocity and movement – and command of that stuff. Most of that can be converted into numbers, albeit with things like fielding and even good or bad luck impacting those numbers. So how do we explain good scores in those categories not always resulting in superior performance? I think the best explanation is something called "rhythm."
For the purposes of defining some of this thing called "rhythm," I will focus on a handful of elite or near elite pitchers, including one specifically who has all the requisite components, but – having never achieved optimal rhythm – has yet to climb into the elite ranking. We want to identify the road ahead for Shohei Ohtani.
The Elite: This is a short list. Elite is just that, a combination of skills that makes the pitcher better than the rest, or at least capable of being better than the rest. To be considered, the pitcher must have exceptional command – not just control – of a minimum of three, but typically at least four, pitches. Further, he needs mid/upper 90s or higher velocity and superior movement on that full arsenal of