Games » Boston Red SoxMay30
With two left-handed pitchers starting this game (Bruce Chen and Jon Lester), I thought it might be interesting to explain why left-handed hitters can have such a hard time against left-handed pitchers. A much harder time than right-handed hitters do against right-handed pitchers.
(The following is a generalization that, while true most of the time, has exceptions.)
Short version: right-handers have more experience at having pitches thrown at their heads.
A right-handed pitcher’s arm slot has the release of the ball generally in-line with a right-handed hitter’s head. The speed and trajectory of objects coming directly at you are harder to judge than objects you see from the side. So right-handers have to make quicker decisions (they’re all quick, but these are quicker) when facing a right-handed pitcher than left-handed hitters do when facing a right-handed pitcher. Lefties have the luxury of a better angle and better look at the ball. (One of the reasons a lot of batting champions are left-handed.)
Swings have two motions in the lower half: weight-shift (back-to-front movement) and rotation (spinning). Right-handers often have swings that emphasize rotation. That way, they can turn on the ball in a tighter arc when making those micro-second decisions. This makes their swings short and quick.
Left-handers can afford to emphasize more weight-shift, so they often have those prettier, longer, back-to-front, golf-type swings. They’re often excellent opposite-field hitters. That’s why pitchers try to pound them up around their hands and avoid down and in, where the golf swing is more efficient.
When a left-handed hitter sees a left-handed pitcher, his longer weight-shift swing becomes a liability. (Remember, the decisions get quicker.) That’s why you see a lot of left-handed pitchers drop down and create an even tougher angle for the like-handed hitter. Suddenly, the left-hander is having a ball thrown at him and it takes some adjusting to hang in there.
(OK…I was wrong, it wasn’t that interesting.)
Outstanding defensive play…
Mitch Maier got points for being in the right spot. Bloomquist had a ball go off the Monster and Mitch did his job, hustling a long way over to be in position when it got past Willie. Not all outstanding plays are physical. Being smart and playing hard also deserves recognition.
Not so outstanding defensive play…
Cameron’s on third, Scutaro’s on second and Ortiz hits a sacrifice fly to Bloomquist in left. Callaspo wanders out that way, stops and then sets up as if he were going to be the relay man, even though he’s too close to Bloomquist to be of any help.
This move sets off a chain of events: Betancourt fails to recognize third’s uncovered until it’s too late, which allows Scutaro to tag and advance from second.
Butler fails to recognize that Callaspo was not coming to the middle of the infield to be the cutoff man and never arrives at all. Maybe there’s some other defensive alignment the Royals use and I’m blaming the wrong people (I’ll ask next chance I get), but third was uncovered and there was no cutoff man in the infield.
It was an 8-1 loss and Scutaro didn’t go on to score, but it’s the kind of mistake that, if not corrected, can hurt you badly in the future.
Dude, you screwed up my at-bat…
Guillen in the 4th and Betancourt in the 5th made outs on the first pitch they saw. This puts the on-deck hitter in a bind. If the second hitter of the inning also swings at the first pitch and makes an out (the most likely thing to happen when you swing the bat), the pitcher is two-thirds of the way through the inning on two pitches.
So the on-deck hitter has to take one or maybe even two pitches for strikes, just to make sure his team stays in the dugout a little longer. The opposition pitcher knows this and generally starts burying fastballs in the zone to jump ahead. The poor hitter just has to watch them go by, a starving man that can’t touch a T-bone steak right in front of him.
He then has to start battling with a couple strikes and often has a lousy plate appearance through no fault of his own. If the second hitter doesn’t see enough pitches, the pressure to take can switch to the third hitter of the inning. So, one swing too early and three bad at-bats and an inning wasted.
(For the record: Betancourt flied out to right on a 1-2 pitch after Guillen’s lead off one pitch at-bat and Maier struck out on a 2-2 pitch after Betancourt’s lead off one pitch at-bat. Lester got through both innings on a total of 17 pitches, which probably bought him one more inning on the mound.)
A one-pitch at-bat is a different story if you’re trying to drive in a run or move a runner, but I’ve heard some pretty good hitting instructors say one-pitch lead off at-bats are selfish baseball and I can see why.