Let’s give Wade Davis some credit for being smart; everybody talks about his stuff, but he’s has got some brains behind all those fastballs, cutters and curves.
Here’s what I mean: Wade once told me that if a pitcher could find a way to throw strike one on the first pitch, a lot of at bats were practically over.
Hitters do not want to strike out and the best way to not strike out is to avoid a two-strike count.
So if the pitcher can throw a well-located fastball or get-me-over curve or slider for strike one, a lot of hitters will expand the zone and chase marginal pitches in an effort to avoid that two-strike count.
Once they get into a two-strike count, hitters have to be aggressive. A borderline pitch they might spit on with no strikes is a pitch they will swing at with two. So a lot of hitters start being more aggressive with just one strike. They want to avoid the “put-away” pitch, the “out” pitch, or the “chase” pitch that they’ll see once they get to two strikes.
Like Eskimos and snow, hitters have a lot of names for the nasty pitches the see once they get into a two-strike count.
(I actually don’t know if Eskimos have a lot of names for snow because I don’t know any Eskimos; look on the internet you’ll find conflicting opinions about this claim. It was just a nice simile and I used it, so if it’s a load of malarkey — a word close to the one I actually wanted to use — I apologize in advance.)
OK, before I wandered into that minefield of political incorrectness, where were we?
Oh, yeah: hitters avoiding two-strike counts.
The idea that hitters can just stand there and take pitches is only promoted by people who have never stood in a big league batter’s box.
If a pitcher is “dealing” if he’s “hitting the mitt” if he’s “banging strikes” (we’re now wandering dangerously close to that whole Eskimo/snow thing) hitters have to be aggressive. They’ll find themselves down 0-2 right away and that’s not good.
Selective early; aggressive late
Early in the count, hitters should be selective. They’ve got three strikes to work, with so chasing a pitcher’s pitch early in the count is bad hitting ... most of the time.
But it really depends on the pitcher; if the guy on the mound throws a lot of mediocre pitches, you’re a dope for swinging at one of his good ones before you have to. But if the guy on the mound is really good, you might have to swing at a less than totally hittable pitch early in the at bat; good pitchers won’t make too many mistakes. Pass up something fairly hittable early and you might find yourself in an even worse spot later in the at bat.
Getting overly picky with two strikes is just as big a sin as swinging at a bad pitch early in the count. Umpires want to ring up batters (it moves the game along) so with two strikes you shouldn’t watch a borderline pitch go by — unless you’re Jose Bautista.
Umpires are also reluctant to ring up star players on borderline pitches in the star’s home park.
The Royals do not take many called strike twos
Let’s try to get back to whatever point I thought I was making when I started this thing: the Royals do not strike out much because once they get one strike on them, they start hacking and they might have a point.
Here’s the lineup that Ned Yost has been running out there:
1.) Alcides Escobar
2.) Ben Zobrist
3.) Lorenzo Cain
4.) Eric Hosmer
5.) Kendrys Morales
6.) Mike Moustakas
7.) Salvador Perez
8.) Alex Gordon
9.) Alex Rios
Look at the starting nine’s batting averages for the 2015 regular season and then look at what those nine players hit once they get to two strikes and you’ll see those batting averages drop.
Assuming I transcribed the numbers correctly—a very big assumption—those batting averages drop from 26 to 101 points.
Get good pitchers early
You hear that a lot and it means that you don’t want to let a really good pitcher settle in and get comfortable; put some runs up in the first few innings. But it can also mean get the good pitcher early in the count; do not let him get you to two-strikes and then throw his “out” pitch.
It’s the dilemma hitters have to deal with when facing a really good pitcher; you want to run his pitch count up to get him out of the game, but if you take pitches you’re constantly hitting with two strikes.
David Price and the fourth and seventh innings
Assuming animals stop going by two-by-two and the Royals and Blue Jays get Friday night’s game in, watch Toronto’s starter David Price closely in the fourth and seventh innings: his batting average against spikes up in those two frames.
Probably because that’s when opposition hitters are seeing him for the second and third times. The last time the Royals faced Price he had their number for six innings, but after a misplay by Jose Bautista and Ryan Goins, they began to hit Price on their third trip through the order.
OK, that’s it.
Enjoy tonight’s game and the fact that there are three teams left standing and the Kansas City Royals are one of them. The Royals are one win away from another American League Championship and another trip to the World Series and however tonight’s game turns out, that’s still pretty cool.