In the last few days, we’ve been concentrating on the art of pitching along with the benefits that come from making the batter hit your pitch and being able to economize spent energy as well as wear and tear on the arm (Location, Location, Location….).
But because pitchers are only one half of the equation that comprises the best one on one contest in all of sports, it might be even more revealing if we take look today at the perspective of the “other guy” – namely – the hitter.
And if the pitcher’s job is to economize and get 27 outs any which way he can…….then it follows that the hitter’s job is to negate that by forcing the pitcher to throw him as many pitches as he can each at bat.
The first thing to be noted when you look at the stats provided by Sporting Charts is that like pitchers, the bulk of major league hitters do not seem to be buying into what obviously appears to be a sound road to success at this level.
And any time I see something like this……I want to know why………
As with any job, there’s almost always more than one way to accomplish the task. So, let’s acknowledge that the man sitting at the very bottom of the chart I cited is maybe the best pure hitter in the game today……. And that’s Jose Altuve who sees on average only three pitches per at bat. True enough, but then look at his company towards the bottom and it becomes clear that those at the top of the chart are (overall) the most successful and highest paid hitters in the game today.
Consider that the top of the chart (those taking the most pitches) would compose a lineup that would include Mike Trout, Paul Goldsmidt, Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Matt Carpenter, Joey Votto, and Carlos Santana – and the argument becomes clearer. Each of these players receives (again on average) 4 or more pitches each at bat.
Now, you might say, “What’s the big deal, it’s only a difference of one pitch?” True enough, but remember that gets spread out over the course of a game. So (assuming) if every hitter saw one extra pitch, that would translate into the pitcher’s having to throw an additional 27 pitches to earn a complete game win……and that’s if he threw a perfect game! So, more than likely we’re talking 35-40 extra pitches.
Nearly all pitchers today do not have the stamina to throw that many additional pitches, and even if they did management would summon the bullpen before it could ever come about. Which leads us to the role of the manager and hitting coach who should be providing “suggestions ” ( because apparently you can’t tell most big league hitters anything) about that day’s starting pitcher. If it’s Bartolo Colon or Clayton Kershaw, you go up there hacking because they’re going to be throwing strikes as the way to get their job done.
On the other hand, if you are facing Ubaldo Jimenez, David Phelps, or John Lackey – you might want to adapt a wait and see approach. The best hitters, of course, figure this out for themselves and go on to have long and lucrative careers. It’s the ones who don’t that make for conversation…..
As we all know from life experience, habits (and especially old ones) are hard to break. Whether you’re talking about hitters or pitchers, these are athletes who have achieved a high level of success dating back to Little League and on through the date of their signing and beyond. In most cases, they have never experienced the element of failure……..
So when someone like a pitching or hitting coach comes along and says something like, “You know what, if you really want to succeed at this level, you’ve got to do this (or that)”, there’s bound to be resistance.
But somewhere along the line, one has to listen in order to learn. Again, that is true of all of us. We succeed when we adapt ourselves to a new way of doing things differently than we did before because we have observed the success rate of others who have the same task as us.
And this the reason why “Billy Ball” became (and still is) a hot commodity in baseball. The successful Oakland teams constructed by Billy Beane were crafted with an eye towards attracting players who think and who are also open to change.
Trevor Story, the Colorado Rockies phenom, has seven home runs. Whoopie. He also has 23 strikeouts in 53 at bats ( a 40% rate) and just three walks. Projected out over a season of 500 at bats, he’ll hit 66 home runs (not likely), strike out 216 times (very likely), with a mere 27 walks (that’s up to Trevor).
How long do you think it’ll be before pitchers adapt to him………not long…….. And then the bigger question……how long will it take Trevor Story to adapt himself to those changes and the changes that come after that?
Guess we’ll see………… And I guess too that’s what makes this game so interesting…….