Sunday, October 14, 2012

Good hitting>>||Good Pitching

Because I leave the less important shit to other people, Bokolis spends as much time as practical trying to get people to stop mindlessly spouting the baseball adage good pitching stops good hitting.**  Because I don't have time to be individually explaining shit to every idiot that says it, I usually just replay with no, great pitching stops good hitting...and nothing stops great hitting.

With the playoffs just passing its most frenetic period, every pitchers duel elicits utterances.  Bokolis is going to set y'all straight.

Generally speaking, the teams hit at a lower average than during the regular season.  Someone might try explaining that away by saying that the hitters are facing better pitchers than they did during the regular season.  But, by that logic, the pitchers would also be facing better hitters (on average).  If that logic held, the pitchers would suffer like the hitters and wouldn't have better ERA and WHIP than the regular season.  Of course, the pitching and hitting stats can't both be worse.

Therefore, the conclusion is that it's not good hitting that's being stopped; at least, the hitting is not in as good a state as it was during the regular season.

There are quite a few things at play here.  The most important tangible thing is that the strike zone is bigger.  It's not bigger in the Eric Gregg-ring-'em-up if-it's-in-the-batting-circle-sense, but bigger in that the umpires give both the high and low strike- as opposed to either/or- and will call the inside pitch, which they don't do in the regular season so as not to encourage the pitchers to throw inside.  They are giving every nook of the strike zone, calling it almost as it's written; that zone they're showing on TBS is wider and lower than the written zone.  As the broads, once they've caught it, will finally attest, size- an extra inch here and there- does matter.  In this case, a bigger zone is making for almost 1960's-style anemic batting.

All of that confers an expectation of higher level of pitching than the regular season. It further and confers that erstwhile good hitting isn't good hitting when it can be consistently shut down.  Now, Bokolis will make it messy, by telling y'all it's the jitters as much as it is the pitching.

Of course, the battle isn't as pitched as it was back then, mainly because hitters have so many more resources at their disposal, and, on the whole, the hitters look more clueless than helpless.  But, why?  These pitchers are throwing the same crap they threw during the season.  Guys are still productive, but it is often not the top-class hitters leading the charge.  Derek Jeter- considered "clutch"- plays to his career average in the playoffs, but A-Rod sure as hell doesn't.  Reggie Jackson slightly bettered his career average (including strikeouts) but, on the strength of his world series performances, has the legendary status and nickname.

Consider the game that cemented Reggie's legend.  His first HR was off the same Burt Hooton who, in the middle of a quite productive seven-year stretch, shut down the Yankees four games earlier (Jackson went 0-4,with 2K and a GDP).  His second was off Elias Sosa, who was lights thefuck out in '77.  The black-seater was off Charlie Hough...hmmm - an average pitcher with a crap record in '77 who went on to win 216 games (and lose as many) with his knuckler.

Hooten was again bombed in '78 in the Bronx after a credible start in LA (where Reggie drove in all three runs, but famously struck out against Bob Welsh with two on to end it; even Reggie's failures were spectacular).  Hough again mopped up and, unlike the previous year, when Reggie was the only mark on an otherwise unremarkable outing, he also was roughed up.  Reggie had a relatively unremarkable night and had little involvement in this beating.

If that all looks like noise, it is meant to be.  Was Hooten a good pitcher when he handled Reggie and the rest of the Yankees, but not four days later when they handled him?  Was Reggie a good hitter when he put it in the black seats against a Hough who handled the rest of the batters he faced, but not a good batter when he didn't partake while his teammates ran train on Hough?

Sometimes you tame the lion and sometimes you get eaten by the lion, usually while you're scared.

So. what makes for good hitting?  Do the guys that perform rise to the occasion, like Reggie did?  Do they live for the big moment?  Do otherwise decent hitters simply have the disposition to remain calm in high-pressure match-ups where players considered to be much higher-caliber do not?

How about the not-so-decent hitters, like Bucky Dent, he of the .603 OPS in '78, only slightly lower than his career average?  Bucky Dent won the World Series MVP in '78 with a 10 for 24 showing.  Was he just playing harder?  Maybe that'll work for Robinson Cano, who, it seems, can't be bothered to exert himself at more than 75%.  After all, if the same effort that gets you 24 for your last 39 in the regular season only gets you 2-28 during the playoffs, you better step up your game, muthafucka.  If you do that, they'll tell you you're pressing, a surefire recipe for failure.

How about Nick Swisher, who seems like the poster boy for the argument?  If an average hitter with above average power qualifies as good hitting, hey, you've found one.

Maybe they need to better focus...because it's only the playoffs and they got better shit to do.  After all, the NFL season has started and setting up their fantasy teams may weighing on their preparation.  Wait, preparation?  As in, getting in the cage and taking so many swings that it ain't no thing to be at the plate.  As in, reading the boat loads of stats and scouting reports on opposition that you will be exclusively playing for the next 5 or 7 games?  Yes, so you know what they got and when they're going to bring it.

Preparation is so that you're not lost at the plate, so you don't give away at bats, you know the play to make.  That leads to being self-assured.  If you don't have that, you have nothing.  Was it the same Kenny Rogers that was standing on the mound in Atlanta in 1999, looking- before he'd thrown a pitch- like he wanted his mommy, as the one that pitched 23 innings of shutout ball in the 2006 postseason?  Granted, he was self-assured because he was cheating.  But, if he wasn't self-assured, the cheating wouldn't have helped.

If you are self-assured, you will make positive things happen.  That's all the fuck I've got.

** - Bokolis will concede that the a situation will occasionally present itself during the regular season that is consistent with the adage, but not nearly consistently enough to make the adage hold water.

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