Games » Seattle MarinersApr26
Want to know what ballplayers are referring to when they talk about “situational hitting”? Here’s an example from last night’s game:
In the first inning, Jose Guillen comes to the plate with Scott Podsednik on third, Billy Butler on first and one down. The Mariners need Guillen to pop up on the infield, strike out or hit into a double play. Any of these would prevent the run on third from scoring.
Guillen needs to get the ball into the outfield. He doesn’t need a hit. A sacrifice fly gets the run in from third, but he’s got to stay out of the double play, and he and Butler are slower than a time clock at 4:59.
The Mariners pitcher, Felix Hernandez, can go after Guillen in a couple of ways: Knowing Guillen wants the ball up, so he can hit it in the air, Hernandez can throw him a pitch a little too up, hoping Guillen gets underneath it and pops it up on the infield.
But Guillen’s red hot and, if Hernandez misses his spot, he knows Guillen can turn that ball into a souvenir.
So he goes the other way, down. If he can get Guillen to hit a hard grounder at an infielder, the Mariners can turn a double play and get out of the inning with no damage. (By the way, pitchers…at least the good ones…aren’t always trying to strike hitters out. Sometimes they’re just trying to control where they hit the ball.)
So Hernandez throws two sinkers (two-seam fastballs that drop when entering the zone), but they’re too low to tempt Guillen. On the third pitch, he gets one up just a bit more and Guillen does just what Hernandez wanted him to. He hits a ground ball…but he hits it harder than a hooker’s heart and it goes between third and short for a single and an RBI.
That’s the game within the game that’s being played out there. And if you pay attention, you can watch it.
Learning to back off…
Frank White and Ryan Lefebvre said that Kyle Davies was learning that if he DIDN’T try to throw everything as hard as he could, he got better results. Backing off takes away some velocity, but it gives the ball more movement.
Baseball was designed to be played at 90 percent, and in a world that’s always talking about giving 110 percent (which if you believe is possible proves you didn’t pay attention in school), that’s counterintuitive.
Or as we say in my family, #@%*-up.
You have two sets of muscles in your arms: one to extend and one to contract.
When you try really, really hard, you manage to employ both sets of muscles, thus the feeling of tightness. It actually makes you slower. That’s why athletes are always trying to stay loose. Watch Jason Kendall’s fingers on the bat.
Ballplayers need to try, but not too hard.
Russ Morman once told me I needed to learn to play the game like I’d had a couple of beers. I pointed out the nearby snack bar and said, “It’s an adult league, why should I pretend?”
So I still struggle to play baseball, but I’ve got the looseness down.