Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Widening the Net

People have long speculated whether cricket bowlers would make good pitchers. The Pirates are about to find out:
Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh, cricket players who had not picked up a baseball until April, on Monday became the first athletes from India to sign professional baseball contracts, agreeing to deals with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"This is very intriguing for us," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "We are trying to broaden our horizons internationally and to get into some non-traditional markets. I've always been curious about India, knowing they have a cultural passion for cricket, which involves throwing, hitting and running. We want to see how that translates to baseball.
They were found by a promoter of a contest called "Million Dollar Arm." For the Pirates' sake, I hope the signing bonus was well south of that. Of course, according to the article, these dudes have fastballs in the low 90s, so hey, maybe this will work.

(thanks to reader Blaze -- ShysterBall's Asian Subcontinent Bureau Chief -- for the heads up)

15 comments:

mooseinohio said...

This makes me wonder what other sports may have some potential cross-over with baseball. Could a hockey player with a great slap shot become a decent hitter? How about a golfer that can really shape his shots as the mechanics of the golf swing and baseball swing have many overlaps? Are there any sports that have activities that would indicate if someone could be a good infielder or outfielder?

Alex K said...

Just off the top of my head it seems that a saftey in football has some of the same skill set as a center fielder (reading where the ball is going and reacting, covering ground, etc). It also seems a hockey goalie has sort of the same responsibility as a catcher. The only problem with the comparison is they don't take into account arm strength or accuracy, which is needed for a catcher.

Craig Calcaterra said...

I have long suspected that just about every safety -- right down to the third string -- in major college football could be a great outfielder. When people talk about attracting more young kids to baseball from the other sports, these are the guys I always dream about in baseball uniforms.

Alex K said...

I don't know if I dream about those kids in baseball uniforms, but I sure would like to see more Matt Kemps (I'm convinced he would be a great football player). The only problem is they could also be Joey Gathright.

matt said...

Further investigation reveals that these players displayed power similar to Ryan Howard's and line drive skills similar to Chipper Jones's, but the Pirates insist on making them pitchers.

Of course, these two finished third and fourth in the golden arm competitions, but the top two finishers wanted above what the Pirates had slotted for Indian Pitchers who Have Never Played Baseball.

mooseinohio said...

Agree with the sentiment re: safeties and could actually see how a hockey goalie could translate to being good at first as their ability to catch pucks would probably make digging out throws easier.

The abilities necessary (e.g. good reaction time, ability to move laterally) to be a good soccer goalie may make for good third baseman and given that many knock balls away as opposed to catching them would be as good as A-Rod already.

mgflolox said...

I've always thought that tennis players would make good baseball players. Uncorking a 140mph serve seems like it would translate into about a 90+ fastball, and returning said serve looks about as difficult as hitting a baseball. Plus the best of these guys have tremendous speed and quickness.

mooseinohio said...

Trying to imagine John McEnroe getting called out in strikes. That would be worth price of admission.

Yannick Noah would be fun to watch and I suspect his athleticism would translate well to several positions.

I could imagine Bjorn Borg as a Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn type hitter.

Daniel said...

The Royals, not wanting to be outdone, quickly went out and signed a couple of South African lacrosse players.

Alex said...

I'm skeptical of cricket bowlers as pitchers. I saw a video once of a bowler who could hit 100mph, but that was with a huge running start and he didn't need or have any control at all (at least to my uneducated eyes). I hope we get to hear how these guys are doing.

Loren said...

It seems like there is pretty much no chance that these guys will make it as pitchers. But with a billion people in India (including many, many cricket players)someday one of them will. I see this as a shrewd move by the Pirates (and maybe even moreso by the players' agent, Jeff Borris) to get some experience with what kind of transition is necessary to go from cricket to baseball, what the cultural hurdels are, etc. I think this is one of the bigger stories of the offseason even though the players aren't significant.

mooseinohio said...

Should we expect to see Pirate gear walking the streets of Delhi or Calcutta?

Craig Calcaterra said...

I'm guessing it won't be Indians gear.

. . . oh, wait

Preston said...

The ESPN article actually says that they are not cricket players but javelin throwers, and that in the initial workout for scouts, one hit 90 MPH and the other topped out at 84. Honestly, I almost wonder if they have an advantage in that they're going to be working with top-notch pitching coaches (well, ignoring that it's the Pirates organization) from day one - there are no bad habits to learn from your Little League or HS coach.

Loztralia said...

Alex: Believe me, fast bowlers have control - they are aiming at a corridor that's probably about six inches wide at best, and also have to get the ball to bounce at exactly the right place. They have more variety in terms of where to aim but if they get it wrong the outcome is pretty similar.

The pace of cricket balls is also reduced by the fact that they bounce, so saying they get a run up doesn't give the full picture.