Saturday, February 13, 2010

Talking Baseball

Tim Lincecum was signed to a 2-year contract, the pitchers and catchers are getting closer to reporting to Spring Training, at their top flight Scottsdale facility so I figure it's time to talk a little baseball.

Occasionally I'll read a survey or see an article on a player and an interesting tidbit is found within its contents. In the January 18th Sporting News was a survey on the newly retired, sure-to-be Hall-of-Famer, Randy Johnson.

Toughest thing about Johnson: His stuff, size or demeanor?
"His stuff, because you-and he- didn't know where it was going to go sometimes." -Mark Whiten

Which current pitcher compares to Johnson in his heyday?
"Not many 6-10 ugly lefties out there."

A February 1st article was a question and answer and the question was, What does it matter if you strike out, fly out or ground out? An out is an out. Am I out of my mind?

Answer: You can actually tax a pitcher more by making him throw more pitches to strike a batter out instead of rolling over the first fastball down and away at the knees.

It used to be the pitcher who started the game finished the game. And the thinking was to make your opponent earn their outs. It was an embarrasment to most players when they approached or surpassed 100 whiffs in a season. That is no more. Nowadays an out is an out because of the almighty pitch count.

Everything revolves around the pitch count. When teams are at-bat they are schooled to not be so aggressive and swing at the first pitch. Even if the pitcher has a history of getting the first pitch strike? One might ask. YES, even if it's likely to be the best pitch you are likely to see. That's absurd.

Don't give a hitter instructions to do something that might be exactly what the pitcher is hoping he'll do. Let the batter utilize his strengths against what he has ascertained to be the pitcher's weaknesses and see who wins the batter.

A strikeout is an out, like any other. But don't you think the more a batter strikes out the more that game within the game starts to get inside his head. And he begins to guess wrong and a good catcher will detect this in the batter's body language and instruct his pitcher to do whatever it takes to thoroughly confuse the hitter to where he's not going to be a factor. If the pitcher and catcher do a good enough job it could put the hitter in a slump.

Good hitters don't let the game within the game get to them. But as Yogi Berra once said, 'Ninety percent of the game is half mental.' A lot of what happens is between the ears of the player.

Kevin Marquez