Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Three by Nine, 05.11.04

We're only gonna talk about three things today, because there are a couple of issues of larger interest and I want to give them some room. Also, actual employment calls.

1. No one is saying this, but they are being hasty with Byung-Hyun Kim. It's not right to rush a guy back from the disabled list, skip one rehab start that is meant to get his velocity up, and then, after two bad performances, send him to the bullpen. Because his velocity isn't good enough! He had two bad starts, big deal. He did have one good one. Bronson Golden Boy Arroyo has had two bad ones and two good ones, and we're tripping over the ottoman to get him back into the rotation? Unless the Red Sox know something they aren't telling us, it's impossible to evaluate where Kim exactly is at at this point. There are bad signs: velocity, control, attitude, attention -- ok, that's a lot of things. But they've allowed him 11 innings. Is that a real chance? He's coming back from a shoulder injury, and his mechanics are obviously off. The pause The Ninth noted he added to his windup in his second start was gone last night, so he's trying some stuff out. But not, the Red Sox have said, on our watch. We've gotta win games, and we don't have time to mess around. That's understandable, and in certain instances, it's the way to go. But sometimes you have to make a present investment on future gains, and a 100% BK Kim is much more valuable than an optimized Arroyo. It just is. If this is wake-up call for Kim, then so be it, but if Boston just doesn't think he has it, then they're not really giving him a chance.

2. And while we're being wildly controversial, what about Manny? Ortiz claimed that the hardest thing about obtaining your citizenship is getting the appointment, and that when it's granted you better show up. If that's true, then giddy-up and go, Manny. Becoming a U.S. citizen is a very important thing for people and a day off is ok if absolutely necessary. Accent on the abs nes. The Ninth can't help but wonder however whether Manny couldn't have done this, say, over the All-Star break? Or in the offseason? Maybe he couldn't, and then, such is life. I don't really know. But my instinct says a little "I'm a professional baseball player and I hit home run far" phone call could've gotten this puppy pushed back.

3. In Yesterday's 9x9, we talked about swinging on 3-0. Check it out if you haven't already. Interestingly though, last night's game had some great examples of good and, well, mostly bad 3-0 approach. The Ninth estimates that about 50% of major leaguers never swing with three balls, no strikes. For Sox fans, probably most famous for this was Wade Boggs. He just wouldn't do it, and was quite proud of it (as he was of most things). It's not a bad idea, but once you put on that on your tomsbstone, pitchers know they can get away with a lot of nonsense. Throw the guy a batting practice fastball right down the chute, and he won't touch it. The reason you're at the plate in the first place is to find a ball to drive, so it's a little silly to just let one pass because of the count. But it made Wade uncomfortable, or he thought it was bad baseball, so he refused. Or, perhaps most likely, Boggs knew it was a slippery slope.

The key on swinging 3-0 is to do it only on a pitch you know you can hammer. As we said yesterday, because you're very close to getting a free walk to first, you need to feel like swinging will get you to second to make it worth the risk. That can be a reasonable assertion on certain pitches for certain hitters. But what Boggs and many other hitters understood is that once you open the door to a "perfect" hitter's pitch, it's a lot of easier to go after a "good" hitter's pitch. You see something nice, and yeah, it's a little up, and maybe its movement is a shade odd, but you can probably nail it, so why not give it a go? Then all of a sudden you've popped it up, you're out, and you've talked yourself out of a great hitter's count. If you're not very disciplined it's easy to convince yourself to swing away, and for some players it's better to just remove the option.

This is what we saw last night. Red Sox hitters, especially those with power have had the green light on 3-0 all season, and have done some damage. Both Mirabelli and Ramirez have homered on said count, and several others have gone for extra bases. Last night Brian Daubach had runners on second and third, one out, and a 3-0 count. Jeff D'Amico was still pitching, and Dauber had good reason to hope for something tasty. For him, that would likely be low and in, or right down broadway, and it would be reasonable for him to swing at either of those pitches. But he didn't. Daubach got a fastball away, perhaps even outside, and rifled it off the monster for two runs. Good result, bad idea. Sure, he was successful this time around, but he will not drive that pitch more often that not, and going for it shows he was too anxious in the count. Over the long haul, this approach will not suit him. Even worse, because he doubled now, he'll be even more eager in the future. Not good. Dave McCarty, in the same inning, displayed this exact problem. He took a hack 3-0 on a ball that wasn't even in the strike zone. McCarty shouldn't be swinging in the first place, he's just not that caliber of player, and to do it on a bad pitch exacerbates the problem. Some guys are just better off playing for the walk, Dave McCarty has "some guys" written all over him. The Red Sox have knocked the ball around this year on 3-0, and it's something they should keep after, but Francona needs to pick his spots. Manny, Nomar, Nixon, Ortiz, ok -- everyone else, prove you can handle it before you go slugging. Even though he was one looney tune, Wade Boggs knew his hitting.
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