Off Speed

Off Speed

Baseball, Pitching, and the Art of Deception

Book - 2017
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Longlisted for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing

The lively and fascinating story of baseball's 150-year hunt for the perfect pitch

In August 2012, Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners pitched a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays in what Terry McDermott calls "one of the greatest exhibitions of off-speed pitches ever put on." For McDermott, a lifelong fan and student of baseball, the extraordinary events of that afternoon inspired this incisive meditation on the art of pitching.

Within the framework of Hernandez's historic achievement, Off Speed provides a vibrant narrative of the history and evolution of pitching, combining baseball's rich tradition of folklore with the wealth of new metrics from a growing legion of statisticians who are transforming the way we think about the game. Off Speed is also the personal story of a fan's steadfast devotion, first kindled in McDermott by his father at the local diamond in small-town Iowa and now carried forward with the same passion by his own daughters.

Approaching his subject with the love every fan brings to the park and the expertise of a probing journalist, McDermott explores with irrepressible curiosity the science and the romance of baseball.
Publisher: New York :, Pantheon Books,, 2017, ©2017.
ISBN: 9780307379429
Branch Call Number: 796. 35722 MCD
Characteristics: xxvi, 191 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm

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PimaLib_NormS Dec 20, 2017

As I write this, it has been weeks since the World Series, and spring training seems so far away, so it seemed to me that it is a good time to read about baseball. Terry McDermott skillfully weaves multiple baseball stories through his new book, “Off Speed: Baseball, Pitching, and the Art of Deception”. In particular, as a framework, McDermott uses a 2012 game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays, in which Seattle ace “King Felix” Hernandez pitched a perfect game (no runs, no hits, no errors, 27 up and 27 down). In each of the nine chapters, McDermott analyzes an inning of the game as pitched by Hernandez. There is more than just the story of the perfect game, however. Each chapter is titled with the name of a particular baseball pitch, as in, The Fastball, The Curve, The Slider, etc., and in those chapters, he informs the reader as to how to throw the pitch and what the batter sees as the ball approaches home plate. Also, he gives a detailed history of the pitch. And, if that is not enough, sprinkled throughout the text are anecdotes from his youth as a baseball fan and son of a ballplayer/groundskeeper for the hometown team in Cascade, Iowa. McDermott packs a lot into such a small book (less than 200 pages, including notes), but somehow he makes it work.

d
dethmourne
Jul 07, 2017

A delightfully rambling narrative about a perfect game thrown in 2012, about the different types of pitches thrown in baseball, and about so much more, McDermott's informal tone reminds me quite pleasantly of sitting down to listen to my father or grandfather relate a memory, entertaining while pulling the reader into the nostalgia he has for Cascade and America's greatest pastime.

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