Wednesday, May 22, 2013

First Pitches

Last night, in the eighth inning of a close game, David Ortiz bounced into a key double play. Instantly my twitter timeline was flooded with reactions. It went a little something like this:

“First pitch!”
“Take a friggin’ pitch!”
“First pitch! Seriously?”
“Can’t swing at the first pitch there!”

And on. And on. And on. Which led me to one specific question.

“On which pitch is it OK to ground into a double play?”

Nobody was complaining about the fact that he hit a ground ball. There were no shouts about going the other way with the pitch, or getting it into the air for a sac fly. The only complaint was that it was on the first pitch. So, how many pitches need to go by before he can ground into a double play? Does he have to let one meatball go by for a called strike first? Two?

It’s not just Ortiz, and it’s not just last night. I remember people ragging on Nomar when he would pop up on the first pitch. Implying that there’s a proper pitch to pop up on as well. People have been getting on Ellsbury lately for swinging at the first pitch. Why?

At least with Ellsbury I understand where they’re coming from. He’s struggling. There’s a feeling that when he’s swinging at the first pitch, it’s because he’s pressing. Swinging at the first thing that looks good trying desperately for that hit. I don’t think that’s what’s happening…but at least I can see the argument. But, that’s not what’s happening with Ortiz, is it? Hasn’t he been hitting pretty well lately? So, do we want him to wait, just for the sake of waiting? Again, how many pitches should he wait on before swinging?

I remember when Francona first came here from Oakland. Someone asked him what the difference was between the patient Red Sox, and the patient A’s. He responded that when the Sox got their pitch, they went for it. I think that was a great answer. It’s one thing to take pitches. Jorge Posada was always credited with being patient at the plate. But, in reality, he just didn’t swing. That’s not patience. Being patient is waiting until you get a pitch you can try and do something with. Sometimes that pitch happens to be the first one. Sometimes it’s the fifth one. Whenever it is, though, you jump at it.

So, why would anyone complain about grounding into a double play on the first pitch? If Ortiz thought it was a pitch he could do something with, I’m glad he swung at it.

It just didn’t work out this time.

1 comment:

  1. I think that there are some good reasons not to swing at the first pitch. One reason is that it drives up the pitch count for the pitcher. An at-bat that goes ten pitches likely just ate up 10% of the pitcher's total for that start. If several batters do that, the pitcher will not get past the sixth inning. Another is that the other batters get to see more of the pitcher's stuff in that particular game. With that said, Ortiz probably normally sees a lot of pitches so I agree that the complaints are overreacting.


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