Saturday, April 12, 2008

What Game Is He Watching?

I know it's hard to watch the TV when you're actually swinging the bat, but...
Is third baseman Ryan Zimmerman struggling at the plate, or merely the victim of bad luck and tough pitching? Acta believes it is the former. "He's chasing a lot of bad pitches," Acta said.

"He's falling into the other team's pitching plans, which is taking his power away. He's struggling right now."

However, Zimmerman disagreed, saying, "I feel fine. I'm hitting a couple of balls hard each night. . . . I'm not up there swinging at balls and striking out a lot. I'm having good at-bats and battling, and we've just run into some tough pitching."

Strikeouts are the devil!!!! Not quite. That he thinks that strikeouts in and of themselves are the thing to avoid above all else, tells you that there's something wrong with the philosophy. The point isn't to make contact. The point is to get a pitch you SHOULD hit, not any pitch you CAN hit. Yes, he's swinging at strikes, but he's swinging at pitcher's pitches and tapping them weakly to the infielders or hitting harmless flyballs. (He's doing a lot more of the latter than he has in the past, too)

Really, that's been the biggest problem with the team over the last however many days. (It's been 40 days, right?) They're not especially patient, and making contact with too many 'bad' strikes, instead of waiting for the pitcher to make a mistake they can hammer. Sure, that's a bit easier said than done, and it won't happen on every AB, but you can't tell me that we've run into a buzz saw of pitching each and every single game. What's the lawyer-talk term? Contributory negligence?

I wonder how much of this is Lenny Harris. Harris was a pinch-hitter extraordinarie who thrived because he knew how to make contact, to hit those strikes, put them in play, and get that runner in, or move him up. Half his job was about making 'good' outs, not necessarily stroking the ball into the gap for the bases-clearing double. While I'm not sure that he's teaching that 'hit the first strike you see' philosophy (and I have no idea how he is on the mechanics of swings, which is really where the hitting coach can have an impact -- though the jury is still out there, considering some of the slumps some have had over the last year and a half), it certainly seems that he's not doing a whole lot to discredit this philosophy.

I'm glad that Manny recognizes that the approach is wrong. It's too bad his players... his star players don't realize it.

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