Judging the Royals

How avoiding strikeouts can be a bad thing

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Wade Davis.
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Wade Davis. The Kansas City Star

Wade Davis might be the best relief pitcher on the planet right now and not so long ago he said an interesting thing: get strike one on some guys and the at-bat is over.

Here’s why:

A lot of big league hitters have no two-strike approach. A two-strike approach usually means choking up, waiting longer on the ball and hitting it the other way. If a hitter continues to keep his bottom hand down on the knob and continues to pull the ball, he’s vulnerable to the strike out — he’s got a hard time checking a swing and he’ll be easy to fool with a breaking pitch.

Hitters don’t like to strike out so they start to expand their zone once they have one strike — that’s what Wade was talking about. Lots of hitters look first-pitch fastball so if a smart pitcher throws a slider for a strike, those hitters will take it. Then the smart pitcher throws a fastball on the corner — or even off the corner — and a hitter that doesn’t like to hit with two strikes will chase that pitch. He can’t do much with it; but at least he didn’t strike out.

Pay attention to hitters who expand their strike zone with one strike and you’re probably watching a hitter who’s afraid to hit with two.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com.