I get it. Today the game is asking for home runs. The temptation is too great, analytics support it, and coaches coach it.
Small parks, maple bats, a new ball and shifting defenses have given hitters the green light to let it fly. Hitting into the shift is flat-out dumb.
I didn’t hit against a shift, or in a small park, or with a new ball every pitch. I faced Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard and that Houston crew, but I didn’t hit every day against a 6-foot-5 pitcher throwing 98 mph.
OK, so why can’t I just accept that now the game is all about power?
It’s the Year of the Home Run. Pete Alonso broke the rookie record with 53. The Twins had five guys with 30-plus dingers. Half the teams set franchise marks.
Why hit a groundball when 1 for 4 with three Ks and a home run is a great game?
To me, it’s crazy.
Has baseball’s charm given way to all-or-nothing entertainment, trading its subtlety – what made it special – for home runs and their partner, strikeouts?
What happened to the sac bunt, the hit-and-run, the squeeze, the A-B-C stuff that won games? My generation knew that understanding and executing fundamentals was essential to winning. These days, many of those have been eliminated.
Seems the only people who notice are us old folks.
We don’t like the game to be given over to statistics and probability. Analytics provides managers the exact information they need on just about everything. Boggles my mind – how did they make decisions 20 years ago?
For hitters, there isn’t much of a choice. Everyone loves the long ball. The lure of the home run is so hard to avoid.
Whoa … not so fast, Michael Jack!
Maybe there’s a good reason for this. Maybe numbers tell a different story.
Personal experience told me not swinging to put the ball in the air gave me the best chance at maximizing performance. More hits, more walks and fewer strikeouts was the path to great hitting.
It happened to me in 1986 and `87 when I trusted this theory. I wasn’t going to become the next Tim Raines or Tony Gwynn, but over those two years I cut my Ks in half and averaged 36 homers and 115 RBIs. Also hit .290 in both seasons, my highest averages for a full year.
Wasn’t I known for power, not finesse?
Sure, but I became a really good all-around hitter, just by trying to keep the ball out of the air. I tried to line the ball into the seats at the Vet, not fly it.
Funny thing is when A-B-C baseball – advancing runners and scoring one run at a time happens, like the Astros did a couple times with smart baserunning – the dugout goes nuts, the announcers heap praise, and the hitting coach is giving everyone knuckles.
So why don’t they use it and make that part of the day-to-day approach? Simple, because swapping an out for a base isn’t supported by the numbers. The Yankees, the Twins, the Dodgers and more, they didn’t make it to October by going station to station.
Look at the Nationals. Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Ryan Zimmerman – tough to fan, use all three outs and the big inning is more likely. Then add Howie Kendrick and boom, you’re going to the World Series.
There was a manager who started a half-century ago who was way ahead of his time. His teams in Baltimore post five 100-win seasons, he went to the Hall of Fame.
While everybody else played A-B-C ball, Earl Weaver built his clubs around the three-run homer.
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt hit 548 home runs and was a three-time NL MVP. He was the 1980 World Series MVP when the Phillies won their first championship.
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