Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What Great Hitters Do

It's two things, really: one heroic, and one unheroic.

Great hitters pick a team up by the scruff of its neck, and haul it along on a winning streak.

That's the heroic.

They also do something very unheroic.

They are merciless with bad pitchers.  They bully them, they destroy them, they play with them like a cat with a broken-winged bird.

You can almost see them licking their chops when they get hold of pitchers like the sort that the Orioles trot out on an almost daily basis—young pitchers, old pitchers, weak pitchers.

Think of Sheffield's bat twitching relentlessly, over and over again.  Think of Reggie looking like some kind of gigantic, alien insect, as I think Roger Angell once described him.  They are raring to go.

They are not...Judge and Stanton, who once again did their disappearing act last night, 1-8 with an entire single and three more strikeouts.  We can forget the M & M Boys race to set the home run record that was forecast for them  At their current pace, they will actually set the all-time, single-season strikeout record, though it will be close.

I'm not sure why this is.  The Yankees' ridiculous hitting manual?  Dare to take the called third strike!  The fact that, maybe, they're pure guess hitters?

They sure as hell don't seem to be up there with a plan.  Oh, I know that New Baseball dictates that they are supposed to bat as high as possible in the lineup, but when's the last time that worked out?  I've never seen so many scoreless, runner-less first innings in my life.

Don't get me wrong.  They're perfectly nice ballplayers, better than most.  Almost too nice, really.

They're the right sort of lug nuts to have.  But while they may be on a Yankees championship team sometime, it is never going to be they who carry the team across the line.


JJ in MA said...

No, it's going to be versatile hitters like Didi, or, hopefully, Gleyber, who have to lug their giant streaky carcasses through the World Series. You're 100 percent on point.

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...

I watched the pre-game show on MASN b4 last night's game. Included: A conversation between Ken Singleton (NYY broadcaster) and Jim Palmer (BO broadcaster) -- former teammates.

Point made by Palmer: Singleton did a lot of hitting, and didn't strike out all that much, relative to today's hitters.

I looked up the stats: Kenny struck out 1,243 times, walked 1,246 times. Lifetime OBP: .388 (wow!).

Palmer asked him WTF was going on, why there were so many strikeouts now.

Singleton's answer (relevant I think to Hoss's post above): After 2 strikes, batters used to abandon their swings for the fences and just try to hit the ball somewhere. The worst thing in my era, Singleton said, was to strike out.

Singleton's numbers came in more than 2000 games....hit 246 HRs in those. Maybe he'd be swinging for the fences if playing now, considering how these guys are compensated (?).

Delicious additional fact I had forgotten, which I noticed in accessing his lifetime records: Singy started out with the Mets!!!

IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL NOTE: Judge's 2018 OBP is .398, Stanton's is .340. These numbers seem to deflate Singleton's point, don't they?

The difference, then, between them and Singleton: Singleton made a bunch of outs, perhaps some of them productive; there might have been a few fielding errors by the other team in there.

When you strike out, unless the catcher misses the ball, you walk leisurely back to the dugout. You don't move the runner along; you don't give the third-baseman a chance to botch a hot grounder.

KD said...

has anyone ever been injured during a leisurely home run trot or a walk back to the dugout? I mean, these guys are valuable and fragile. if they did something stupid like chocking up, protecting the plate, or adjusting their swing, they might put the ball in play. My sense (although I have no advanced metrics to back up my contention) is that almost all injuries occur after a batted ball ends up in fair territory. You never know what might happen! Too dangerous!

JM said...

KD has a valid point. I think from now on, our players should not take the field due to possible injury. Certainly, no pitcher should ever run the bases. The idea that a professional athlete should be able to run 90 feet...insanity.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Right you are, Joe FOB, about Singleton's origins—though in fairness, it was NOT one of the Mets' true Disaster Deals of the era. They trades him to the late, unlamented Expos along with Tim Foli and Mike Jorgensen, in exchange for Rusty Staub, who they got some choice years from. (Of course, they then traded Staub for a very old Mickey Lolich, but never mind!)

Yes, Judge's OBP was higher than Singleton's, which speaks to Judge's prowess but also the fact that, being the size of the Chrysler Building, guys are going to shy away from pitching to him as much.

(For the record, Singleton was 6-4, 210 pounds; not exactly a shrimp, but not of Judgian dimensions.)

But getting back to your main point, yes, all hitting should be situational. If they're giving you half the field—particularly in the first inning!—drive the ball there, and put guys on base. When they adjust, you can adjust.

HoraceClarke66 said...

The ultimate case study was, I think, Reggie Jackson, who struck out more than, well, any man who ever lived.

Nonetheless! In the 1978 World Series, Game Two, ninth inning, Yanks down by a run, Jax is facing fireballer Bob Welch, who he thinks he can beat. In an epic at-bat, he finds he just can't quite do it. Reggie strikes out, Yanks lose.

Game Four, tied in extra innings, Roy White (I think) on first. Welch on again. Reggie shortens up, stays cool, punches the ball through the infield for a hit that sends White to third. Piniella then singles him in for the winner.

Game Six, back in LA, Reggie feels he has Welch figured out now, and with the score 5-2 Yanks in the seventh, he thinks he can take a flyer. With White on first again, he drives the ball to somewhere around San Luis Obispo, clinching the World Series.

That's all that people like me are asking. Study the pitchers. Pay attention to what they're throwing, where the fielders are, what the situation is. Stop pretending that every at-bat is like every other at-bat, and you're out there alone against a pitching machine.

No can do, apparently.

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...

I hate to keep agreeing with Hoss, but how the heck could you argue with "that's all that people like me are asking" . . .

Anonymous said...

HC66 loves to pull endless strings of invention out of his tuchis, with no evidence to support a single one of his assertions. I can assure you that his post is a work of fiction, a self-indulgent exercise in creative writing. Look at the lifetime "clutch" situational stats for all the hitters he mentions--they do not diverge much from their overall stats. So his whole "thesis" is nonsense. But he LOVES TO TYPE. Typing is his hobby. Content is not important, as long as he just gets to KEEP TYPING ALL DAY.

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