There is a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about the great pitching talent that will be on display starting this weekend. Yes indeed we have Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, and Roy Halladay combined with Mariano Rivera, Roy Oswalt and a large second tier of starters and relievers.
To hear everyone go on you might think that everyone just loves to see 1-0 and 2-1 games. Well despite the fact that my Grandfather Gordon “Dusty” Rhodes was a pitcher from 1929-36, I never pitched and in fact don’t care for them much!
You see I love the sound of the crack of the bat on the sweet spot as a line shot jumps off the bat, and I would venture to guess quite a few of you do too. Don’t get me wrong I love a great pitchers duel now and then but I am hoping to see some high scoring games in the next week or so. The question is will it happen? The cards are stacked against the hitters these days with speciality relief guys, pitchers hitting 100 on the radar and parks like Safeco built for pitchers.
So it’s only logical that everyone is just talking about the pitchers who will be competing rather than wondering which team will score more runs and actually beat another team by putting runs across the plate.
As I was thinking about all this it occurred to me that there really are only a small group of players at any give time who are great hitters. This has been true throughout baseball history. Most batters have good bat-speed, hand-eye coordination and the ability to watch endless films and graphs on opposing pitchers to try and get ready, yet still will look bad against modern pitching. There are a few players that have the ability to read a ball coming out of the pitchers hand and adjust their approach instantly and make contact, Ichiro is one of these fortunate few. There also is a small group like Vladimir Guerrero who seem to be able to hit any ball pitched anywhere using some bizarre combination of luck and daring, but again these guys are few and far between.
Sadly most of the rest are just up there guessing and in that case are totally at the mercy of guys like Lee and Lincecum and will look dumb trying.
But alas there is one other group of hitters some of who are involved in the postseason ie A-Rod, Michael Young, Derick Jeter and a few others, who possess the rarest skill amongst hitters known as:” Anticipation”. Anticipation is not guessing or adapting to a pitch as it comes in. Anticipation is more of a feeling or sense that great hitters have bases on their ability to calculate everything that has happened prior to the incoming pitch, a look on the pitchers face, and basically just instinct. Anticipation is also used on defense, for example like Willie Mays would often begin moving towards where the ball is going to be hit even before the swing!
As a player I can remember being “in the zone” so to speak from time to time and being able to anticipate both at the plate and on defense. It is one of those things that you either have or you don’t. Barry Bonds had it, Ruth had it and maybe 1,000 guys who have passed through the majors over the years “had It” to some degree or the other. The rest were mostly just guessing and batting .250 or less.
This years Mariners featured practically a whole lineup of guys guessing and missing night after night. I believe Mike Sweeney was in the “Zone” off and on this year and it showed with his OPS. Hopefully Sweeney will get a chance to come off the bench for the Phillies this year in a clutch situation and connect for some paydirt using his gut intinct to let him know what is coming. You see if you are up at the plate and your full of fear and your mind is racing trying to outguess a guy like
Now I know the sabermetrics crowd probably considers this sort of talk heresy. But the reality is that great players end up with great stats offensively when they can anticipate the next pitch and be ready to slam it when it comes in. There may be no logical explanation for this unique gift or skill but it exists and is what seperates good hitter from Great Hitters.
So I have a feeling, maybe a hunch or perhaps anticipation that the bats are going to come alive in the next few weeks along with the great pitching and we may be in for some great high scoring games! http://jeffsmariners.com