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Chapman is awesome and everything, but are the radar guns juiced?

Sep 3, 2010, 1:58 PM EDT

We’ve all been impressed with the Aroldis Chapman show recently. That 103.9 reading the other night was boffo, and it actually made that 105 reading from Louisville — which I had doubted but am maybe coming around to believe — seem more plausible. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein has a great point, though: we should be skeptical of the guns:

Radar guns are sensitive
pieces of equipment that need to be consistently calibrated, and that could be
the extent of the issue, but at the same time, there’s been so much good press
generated by Chapman’s velocity since the 105-mph reading, that conspiracy
theorists are starting to ask questions. Now that MLB doesn’t have juiced balls
or players anymore, are the radar guns juiced?

Goldstein’s comments aren’t mere contrarianism, mind you. His skepticism comes from the fact that a handful of other fireballers — including Neftali Feliz and Chris Sale — have recently had unprecedentedly hot readings as well and maybe — just maybe — some funny business is afoot.

Good catch by Kevin. For what it’s worth, I would have no trouble whatsoever featuring the people behind the ballpark radar guns putting their thumb on the scale, so to speak, in order to spark a few more oohs and ahhs from the crowd. And maybe — just maybe — a few extra ticket sales.

  1. Jonny5 - Sep 3, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    Well when you have such things calibrated there are calibration reports provided with such equipment. It’s standard. They could provide the calibration chart and shut everyone up. Or not.

  2. scatterbrian - Sep 3, 2010 at 3:19 PM

    Here’s Keith Law from his chat yesterday, FWIW:
    I believe he can touch 102, at least. 105 is beyond credibility. Here’s the problem with these reported readings, even beyond the TV/scoreboard gun silliness: If you line up ten scouts behind the plate with ten guns, you will not get the same reading on all guns on one pitch. Say the pitch is actually 95 mph. One or two will come up blank, or read “113” or something. Someone will get 97. Someone will get 92 or 93. Maybe five will get 95. We all look around at each others’ guns to verify what we got, just to make sure we’re not running “hot” or “cold.” But if someone sees that 97, that will be repeated much more than the 95, because it’s more interesting.

  3. Nick C - Sep 3, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    God knows they could use more ticket sales in CIN where their wonderful fans have gotten behind a first place team at a clip of less than 25K per night. They recently had a crowd of about 16K. Way to show your support CIN fans.

  4. pwt3d - Sep 3, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    Every home team juices the gun for their pitchers.

  5. zac - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    Keith Hernandez has said multiple times on Mets broadcasts that he unequivocally think just about every stadium gun in the majors is juiced, for whatever his opinion is worth. This was highlighted some time ago in Houston when Bobby Parnell, who has great life on his fastball, yes, was clocked at 102 repeatedly. I don’t suppose the human eye is really capable of telling the difference between a few MPH, especially on TV, but he really looked like he was throwing closer to 98 or 99 to me.

  6. The Rabbit - Sep 3, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    Pitch f/x doesn’t use a radar gun and I’ve watched pitchers exceed 100. Broxton was doing it regularly last year before he suffered his toe injury.
    My kid is right – I have way too much free time.

  7. JBerardi - Sep 3, 2010 at 10:18 PM

    This. Trust the Pitch F/X readings. Ballpark guns are frequently juiced.

  8. Cougar Hunter - Sep 4, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    As a Reds fan and a Cincy native, I wish I had something to say about this, but I don’t. The lack of attendance is pretty embarrassing.

  9. willmose - Sep 4, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    Perhaps, the new radar guns are just most accurate. And could somebody explain to me what the advantage is of the home team juicing the radar gun. Does it make the pitch harder to hit if the radar gun shows a reading of 102 instead of the actual 98?

  10. Todd Boss - Sep 5, 2010 at 9:11 PM

    Trust the pitch f/x data? Well, check out the 103.9 pitch f/x data from his 2nd appearance

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