Games » Los Angeles AngelsJun2
Kyle Davies had the first batter of the game, Maicer Izturis, 0-2 and lost him. Izturis walked, later scored and things didn’t get a whole lot better after that. So how does a pitcher have a hitter down 0-2 and let him off the hook?
Fortunately, sports psychologists have studied this, so the rest of us can understand it.
The pitcher who’s on top with two strikes is often compelled to throw a “waste pitch” or “set-up” pitch. Teams often have fines (small ones, but enough to make pitchers remember) for giving up 0-2 hits. The idea is to waste a pitch (give the batter a chance to get himself out on a pitch out of the zone) or throw a set-up pitch (a pitch that sets up the next one…if you want to get the batter out low and away, you might go up and in to set up the next pitch).
I don’t know what the current policy is, but I’ve been told that in the past, the official 0-2 pitch on the Royals was a low and away fastball. The idea being that the fastball is the easiest pitch to command and low and away is the safest place to throw a pitch.
I doubt that low and away heaters are still the policy, because Kyle threw an 0-2 curve that missed.
Anything that affects concentration is bad for a pitcher, so a waste pitch can be dangerous. If the pitcher doesn’t focus fully on a pitch that he’s intentionally throwing out of the zone, it can wind up in the zone (leading to those 0-2 hits). Or so far out of the zone that it didn’t tempt anybody to do anything (unless Yuniesky Betancourt’s at the plate, but that’s a different story).
OK, so let’s say the pitcher is now 1-2 and ready to throw his out pitch, the bastard slider or running fastball or yellow hammer he saves for just this situation. He lets it rip…and misses.
He’s now 2-2 and (according to those nosy psychologists) thinking, “Damn, one more ball and I’m 3-2 on this guy I had buried two pitches ago.”
Now the pitcher might become less aggressive, feeling his way into the zone, just hoping not to walk the batter. Bad things start to happen: aiming, overthrowing, you name it…any of the faults that haunt a pitcher can come out at this point.
Former Royal Danny Jackson, who taught me a lot about pitching, told me he didn’t like the concept of waste or set-up pitches. He said he intended to go after the hitter 0-2 just like he would on the first two pitches. He might be a little finer, but the pitch would be intended to get the batter out.
I’ve got no clue what was actually going through Kyle’s head. I’m not really sure what’s going through mine, but when I read that explanation of the 0-2 dilemma, I thought it was interesting and worth thinking about…apparently, I lead a boring life.
Repetition, repetition, repetition…
I watched Mike Aviles one morning, working on turning the double play from second base. We went over the specific things he was practicing, but he said the main thing was getting repetitions.
He said he felt totally comfortable at short, but wasn’t there yet at second. He looked out of rhythm several times in this game. It’s weird, but you have to practice, practice, practice and then forget everything you worked on once the game starts. Baseball is just too fast to think your way through, and smart guys sometimes have a hard time letting go of that conscious control.
Hey, that must be it…I’m just too damn smart to be a good ballplayer!
Cleats vs. turf shoes…
I once heard Frank White say that Alberto Callaspo needed to dive into the bag to tag out a runner, particularly because that runner was wearing turf shoes. I later asked Frank if, during his playing days, he was really aware of which runners had metal cleats and which runners wore hard rubber turf shoes. He said yes. He wanted to know when he could hang around the bag a little longer and when he had to avoid getting cut.
OK, I take back the stuff about being smart, because this would never have occurred to me until I was getting stitched up.