Games » St. Louis CardinalsJun25
When a pitcher has great stuff, hitters will sometimes try swinging early in the count. The reasoning goes this way: This pitcher isn’t going to walk you unless he wants to, and if he gets ahead you’re done, so swing at the first hittable pitch you see. It looked like the Cardinals tried this against Greinke and it didn’t work. (Last Wednesday, it looked like the Royals tried it against Strasburg and it did.)
My personal strategy against a great pitcher is pretending to be sick and letting someone else take the 0-fer.
Fastball, slider, fastball, slider…
Greinke threw 106 pitches, nine were curves, five were change-ups and the rest were fastballs and sliders. If you can throw a 100-mph four-seam fastball (and he did) and a 97-mph two-seam fastball with movement (and he did) and a slider that drops off the table (and he did) you don’t need to trick hitters. Zack could stand on the mound with a bullhorn, announce the next pitch and the hitters would STILL be in trouble…plus, it would be pretty cool to watch.
Having a three-run lead also helps. Until the pitcher faces the tying run, he can be as aggressive as he likes, knowing the batter can hit it over the Hall of Fame and the pitcher will still have the lead. Pitchers who don’t take advantage of that situation and aren’t aggressive with a lead make managers want to come to the mound and choke them.
(OK, that’s an exaggeration…they want to send the pitching coach to the mound and have HIM choke them.)
A smart cookie…
Brian Bannister talked about his success in the last game against the Nationals and said slowing his pitches down was one of the keys. He’d lost a couple miles an hour off his fastball for some reason (bad Chinese food, global warming, the recession…who knows?) and had been trying to get it back.
Then, instead, he decided to slow his other pitches down. The key in changing speeds is separation. It’s nice to throw faster than a speeding bullet, but if you can’t, throw your off-speed stuff even slower and you maintain separation in speeds. That’s why Tim Wakefield can blow a 42-mph fastball past hitters after they see his Bugs Bunny knuckleball. (I’m just guessing about his fastball…it may be slower.)
The change in speeds also changed the release point on his curveball, which is why Bannister was bouncing them and testing Jason Kendall’s blocking skills.
Other system points…
Willie Bloomquist got points for heads-up base running for going first to third on a ball hit to right (it’s the right time to try it because of the long throw from right to third), Kendall hustled down to break up a double play, Alberto Callaspo didn’t (I think this system needs negative points for ‘losing interest’) and Yuniesky Betancourt made two outstanding plays on balls deflected off of various pitchers.
All I can figure is Yuniesky has multiple personality disorder and one of them can field and one of them can’t. The good fielder played last night.
Albert Pujols has great balance. It’s one of the reasons he’s a great hitter. He spreads out wide, keeps his weight between his feet and won’t chase pitches that cause him to lose balance. Good hitters can read their body in the middle of a pitch. If your rear end’s headed for the third base dugout and your hands are going to first, that’s your body telling you that this is not a good pitch to hit.
Yuniesky Betancourt doesn’t read his body well. His rear end is pretty much screaming at the rest of him, but the rest of him is deaf. He takes a lot of off-balance swings, even falling across the plate at times…OK, most of the time…Aw to hell with it, pretty much all the time.
The problem is, he can sometimes makes this work (According to the morning paper, 26 percent of the time). The guy can hit a home run while falling over. (I’ve perfected the falling over part, but I’m still a bit short in the home run department.)
Strangely enough, these might be the key hitters in this series, so pay attention to how they do. If Pujols goes to the plate often enough, he’s going to get his hits and you probably can’t stop him. The key is getting the people in front of him so his hits don’t hurt you. If you don’t get the 8-hole, 9-hole and lead off hitter, you’ve got to pitch to Holliday, Pujols and Ludwick and then those hits will hurt you.
It’s no accident that two of the three jams that Greinke got into started with a hit at the bottom of the order.