Monday, October 8, 2012

Shadows will lurk again

US Presswire photo
Jayson Werth thinks the shadows actually helped him rob Daniel Descalso of a homer.
ST. LOUIS -- Nationals Park has its "Sun Monster," as Bryce Harper likes to call it. Busch Stadium has its "Shadow Monster," which reared its ugly head yesterday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series and is likely to make another appearance later today in Game 2.

The effect of the late-afternoon shadows caused by the various overhangs and light standards on the grandstand was obvious during the Nationals' 3-2 victory.

It made it difficult for batters to pick up the ball coming out of the pitcher's hand. It made it tough for infielders to make clean plays on what appeared to be routine grounders. And it left outfielders alternately trying to shade their eyes from the sun, then trying to regroup once flyballs returned to darkness.

Perhaps the only moment where the conditions actually aided the Nationals was on Jayson Werth's home-run-robbing catch of Daniel Descalso's sixth inning drive to the right-field wall.

"The visuals were tough in the outfield all day," Werth said. "And at the plate, too. This is a tough place to play as the day goes on. Luckily on the ball that I caught at the wall ... I was surprised actually that I caught it, because I was just having a hard time seeing it. When I went back and looked [on video] my last couple steps at the wall, I went in the shade. And that allowed me to get a good bead on it and time out the jump. But up until then, I was pretty much panicking 'cause it was a ball that I was pretty unsure on."

Werth's catch helped save the day for the Nationals and gave them a chance to rally late, which they did on Tyler Moore's eighth-inning single off Mark Rzepczynski. But that catch might not have carried as much significance had the Cardinals held a bigger lead at that point, something their players felt might have been possible had they been able to see the ball better at the plate.

When the game began at 2:08 p.m. local time, the shadows hadn't quite reached home plate. But by the third inning, the batter's box was in darkness while the pitcher's mound was in bright sunshine.

Over the next several innings, the dynamic changed over and over again, with various combinations of sunshine and shadows affecting batters from both sides.

"I think the toughest thing was, it was different every single at-bat," Ryan Zimmerman said. "So you go up there, the first at-bat was OK and then you could see it starting to creep in. Right before my second at-bat, it was almost right where the catcher was, so it wasn't quite there yet. And then my third at-bat and from there on, you go through different things where it's light in the back, dark at the plate, where it's light-dark-light."

"It's hard to square the ball up when you can't see it," Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday told reporters. "I don't know if you noticed, but both teams had a hard time squaring the ball up."

Major league players, creatures of habit if ever there were any, get used to playing games during the regular season at mostly regular times (usually the 1 p.m. hour for day games, the 7 p.m. hour for night games). Come October, though, odd starting times become the norm, with TV networks trying to stagger the starts of as many as four games a day to their national audiences.

"It's a shame, is what it is," Holliday said. "You play all year, get these opportunities, and this is the game. You play all year at 1:00 and 7:00, then you get to the most important part of the year and you're playing at weird times."

Look for more of the same today in Game 2, which is scheduled to begin at 3:37 p.m. CDT (4:37 p.m. EDT).

49 comments:

peric said...

Just means its time for the pitching to step up and get a lead before returning to Natspark and better hitting conditions.

JaneB said...

It really is a shame. It's true that it's a disadvantage to both sets of players, but that doesn't make it less of a shame. I hope they'll move the games to just nights, once we get farther along in the playoffs.

From a previous thread: We clinched the division just A WEEK ago! It's hard to believe.

I hope Jordan has worked himself out today and doesn't go to the mound untired, like Gio did.

blovy8 said...

Pretty sure it would be an afternoon game for Wednesday, no? They'd want the Yankees in prime time.

Doc said...

Revised and weird schedule times might be a shame for everybody, TV fans included, but we're all part of the programing money scheme.

Still it would be nice to have Nats go up to the plate and take an honest cut at the ball, and have the sun and shadows only interfere with the opposition.

Doc said...

Yeah JaneB, the Cards couldn't hit Gio's pitches(1 hit over 5 innings) even on those rare occasions when they were over the plate.

His stuff must have been dancin'!

You're probably right, more warm-up, less dancin' and more control.

peric said...

Espy as a switch hitter would be particularly affected. More bunting? They do have the speed?

NatsLady said...

Well, would rather my Nats playing with all the weird starting times than not have them playing, y'knowwhatImean?

Postseason, baby, postseason.

rogieshan said...

Biggest shame is those fans who are unable to watch the Nats because of the unfavorable playoff schedule. I feel for the kids who are in school and the regular 9-to-5 wage earners.

Section 222 said...

Tuned in to that Nats Classic game on MASN and who is pitching for the Braves in the 10th inning -- Kris Medlen!

ficta said...

If Bud Selig weren't such an unutterable tool, the post season prime time schedule would be fairly and evenly distributed to all the teams involved and the TV networks could just live with it because that's the way we do things in America's National Pastime, but until that cretin is gone the Yankees will *always* get prime time and baseball's share of the National consciousness will continue to decline as people see their local teams treated as second class citizens day after day and year after year.

greg said...

When are they going to announce the times for Weds/Thurs/Fri?

Kinda crappy treatment of ticketholders to force them to wait this long to announce times.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Great that Holliday is calling it "a shame." A defeatist attitude already. Great. Love it. He's already making excuses.

I'm sure it's less than ideal. But one other thing: it's absolutely fair. Both teams play under the same sun and the same shadows.

Good to see the Cards folding already.

Gotta do some chores and exercise and get ready for the 4 p.m. Charlie and Dave pre-game show.

GYFNG!!

Diz said...

Only chance Nats have at playing in Prime Time is if the Yankees clinch before them.

Oakland/Detroit series will all start at 10 pm, as all games remaining are on the West Coast.

Yankees/Os will be in Prime Time.

That leaves the other two series to battle for the two day game slots.

Would love at 4:30 pm start over a 1 pm start on Wednesday for sure.

Assuming both 2-0 series are finished by Wednesday, that leave only the Nats/Cards and Yanks/Os to battle for the 7 pm game on Thursday, with it going to the Yanks/Os.

Just my guess, but if both series are played the same day, I think the Nats play during the day.

greg said...

i don't think anyone's saying it's "unfair," SBCITPFM, just that it isn't giving the teams or the fans the best baseball. there's a reason they don't schedule a lot of 3-4pm games during the season. and the only reason they do in the playoffs is for the TV revenues.

CoverageisLacking said...

Meanwhile, Yankees fans routinely complain about how late the prime time games are and how they end after midnight, how their kids never get to watch playoff games, etc. It's always something, for everyone.

Section 222 said...

It's TV revenues, and also the desire to not schedule games at the same time. Yesterday, for example, there were four games. Someone had to play at 12 pm and 3 pm, or you would have had two games going at once and fans would really complain about that.

Games in Oakland could be scheduled for 5 pm (prime time in the East), but if the Yanks are playing, they won't.

The worst thing for kids is not daytime start times while they're in school, it's 8 or 9 pm start times which make the games so late that they have to go to bed before the 5th inning. Most kids are watching on TV, not going to the park. People have complained about this for years, and MLB doesn't care.

I'd be just as happy if we stopped moaning about the scheduling and the sun and just let it play out. All of this stuff is, like mother nature, impossible to control.

Section 222 said...

CoverageIsLacking's reappearance reminds me to note -- did everyone see that the Blog Father, Barry Svrluga, is live blogging the games along with Kilgore, Wagner, and Dan Steinberg. Their stuff yesterday was pretty good. I'm going to check that out again today.

CoverageisLacking said...

Thanks, 222, I agree they did a great job.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Actually considering the weather around these parts, I am sure each team would prefer to play during day when it is more humid than night times, in addition to no showers that cause delays. I think 4 PM start time is perfect for us.

mick said...

"Shadows will lurk again"

I just had to copy and paste the below link... if you were a fan of Dark Shadows like me, this is an awesome you tube created a few years ago by a fan. Of course Mark's blog title made me think of it, lol enjoy


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU-gLDm_q3s

greg said...

i'm sure both teams *wouldn't* want to do 4pm start times because of the shadows. it's not like it's snowing here weds/thurs. And the shadows play hell on hitters and OFs.

natsfan1a said...

I used to watch it after school, Mick. :-)

Faraz, re. our discussion some days ago, we saw "Trouble with the Curve" this weekend and liked it. They also had a preview for the Jackie Robinson movie that you'd mentioned, and it looked interesting.

natsfan1a said...

otoh, my parents used to listen to "The Shadow" on the radio. Eh, Mark's too young for both of those. :-)

I used to watch it after school, Mick. :-)

rabbit34 said...

Funny how shadows Lurk when the sun is out. Funny how hits are still made along with great catches. Even an error now and then. You know, sorta similar to playing at night. Yeah, funny.

natsfan1a said...

rabbit, at night the lights get in your eyes. :-)

Theophilus T. S. said...

Why would you prefer a 4:30 p.m. start Wednesday over a 1:30 start?

The "Sun Monster" is at its worst when the sun is going down, along and then over the left field foul line and finally in left field. Local sunset is a bit past 6:30, so you're talking about the middle to the end of a 4:30 start. Recognizing that it affects both teams, I'd much rather it didn't affect MY team -- there is no home-field advantage here. For those who are going to the game (playing hooky to one degree or another no matter which time it starts) 1:30 minimizes rush hour traffic and allows people to substitute a $9 burger at the park for an $11 burger for lunch in a downtown restaurant and save money.

Bigfish said...

I didn't bother to do an exhaustive analysis, but my impression is that the Nats got more lines in the Post this morning than the Skins did.

Feel Wood said...

The "Sun Monster" is at its worst when the sun is going down, along and then over the left field foul line and finally in left field.

No, the "Sun Monster" which caused Harper and Werth to miss fly balls is at its worst earlier in the afternoon when the sun is higher in the sky. The game that caused the "Sun Monster" to be named was a 1:05 start, and the fly balls were lost in the sun early in the game.

The shadows are what is worse later in the afternoon.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

The Nats coverage on the national sports programs have been good and more than the Yankees from what I saw.

Positively Half St. said...

I was surprised and pleased to see a post from Coverage is Lacking after all this time. Coverage finally isn't lacking, but we want all the old gang enjoying these good times together.

+1/2St.

Faraz Shaikh said...

1a, I can't get anyone to watch Clint Eastwood movie, even if it is about baseball. I don't know why. I will probably end up watching that one on TV. Excited for '42', but it is too far off.

I thought Sun Monster was the main issue at Nats park, not shadows.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Davy coming up on MLB Network in a few.

natsfan1a said...

I suppose I can guess why, Faraz, but this being a baseball blog I won't get into that. Just thought I'd share my review as we'd had the baseball movie discussion before.

natsfan1a said...

On a talking head note, Shane Victorino is supposed to be joining the TBS studio crew. Will be interested to see how he does as a commentator.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Nats and Cards will have the same lineups as yesterday.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Victorino may need a new career sooner than he hoped. His performance has fallen off the table, even in the field.

Section 222 said...

I'd much rather have the Shadow Monster problem than the Sun Monster. The Shadow Monster makes it tougher to hit, but the Sun Monster can decide the game depending on who has the misfortune to misplay a fly ball.

Eugene in Oregon said...

Faraz @ 12:51 p.m.: May I suggest you invite an empty chair to go with you?

natsfan1a said...

Speaking of game times, I saw where MLB was supposed to announce Wednesday's early this afternoon.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Very surprised Davey isn't dropping Espi to the 8 hole and moving Suzuki to 7.

The postseason usually exposes a teams weaknesses and often magnifies it.

Pappy said...

I'll tell you what else weekday afternoon games do....they wreak havoc with parking. Since all the commercial lots are full of their regular business parkers, there is no room left for gamers. Took me an hour to find a spot at the home closing game.

JD said...


I dunno ghost,

I don't think Davie is gonna mess with the lineup which he used exclusively in August and September.

It's not a huge advantage in having someone bat 7th over 8th.

natsfan1a said...

Nice off-the-record quote from Drake LaRoche* in the Bos chat today.

*Just kidding. :-)

Bos: Most people in baseball assume that any young rising team is going to hit pressure spots and tighten up. The Nats actually played tight here in St. Louis in the Detwiler loss about 10 days ago. "I know they felt a little tight because I felt a little tight. It just gets on your nerves waiting to clich, day after day," said one person with the Nats, not a player.

Dave said...

I recall the Sun Monster being a monster at just about 3:00 straight up on that double-drop day. I believe both Werth and Harper commented on how hard it was that day.

And part of it, of course, is that it's an autumn sky, with the sun traveling a lower path across the sky all day long. In fact, it'll be in a different spot at 3:00 this week than it was 2-3 weeks ago.

As to the start time on Wednesday, it's a real problem, but it's always a real problem for somebody's team. We're not following the Yankees, after all. Our team is the upstart Nationals, with limited mass-market media appeal.

I think the real reason it's driving us all crazy, and that we might not know the start time until midnight on Tuesday, is this ridiculous 2-3 "home-field-advantage" schedule.

If they had the division series on the normal 2-2-1 schedule, there would be an additional travel day in each series, so there would be fewer days with the potential of bunching four games on one day.

I'll be there Wednesday, whenever it is.

Dave said...

Pappy, I hadn't thought about the parking problem. I usually park in HH, beneath the freeway. But I usually arrive when the Capitol Hill workers are going home. Could be a huge problem Wednesday.

Feel Wood said...

HH is unavailable for day games since it doubles as a commuter parking lot. I was able to buy parking for the NLDS, but since there is the possibility of day games they are not selling lot HH. My rep said there is a possibility it will be opened up for the NLCS and WS when most if not all games will be night/weekend.

Moral of the story: If it's a day game, take Metro.

natsfan1a said...

But what if they stop running? Oh, never mind. :-)

Moral of the story: If it's a day game, take Metro.

Dave said...

Thanks for the tip, Feel Wood. Metro it is--unless it's an evening game.

And if Detroit and Cincinnati sweep tomorrow, it may well be an evening game.

natsfan1a said...

Just announced a 1 p.m. start time for Wednesday.

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