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Depressing Quote of the Day

2010/08/14
Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

First-pitch balls turn every hitter into Shin-Soo Choo

Today’s depressing QotD is actually a twofer from Indians’ manager Manny Acta.

First, Acta had this to say about the Indians’ pitching approach:

It has a lot to do with strike one. There’s no magic to it: Every major-league hitter becomes a little weaker when he’s behind in the count. Get ahead, and you can get hitters to chase pitches outside of the zone.

He’s completely right: When Tribe pitchers get strike one, hitters bat .238/.282/.349, but after a 1-0 count, they hit .291/.414/.463.  Getting strike one effectively gives pitchers the luxury of facing Trevor Crowe instead of Shin-Soo Choo.

Trouble is, Indians pitchers aren’t very good at getting strike one. They are last in the major leagues in percentage of first-pitch strikes thrown. They aren’t very good at throwing strikes at any time, ranking last in the AL with 428 walks allowed.

But who can blame them?  When they do throw strikes, hitters make contact with 91 percent of their pitches, leaving matters in the unsteady hands of the Tribe defense. Want to guess what they aren’t very good at?

Which brings us to our second quote from Acta:

When you walk 400 guys and make 80 errors, a lot of runs are going to score.

The Indians have for years built their pitching staff around finesse pitchers, sinker/slider guys without great velocity whose strategy is to pitch to contact and get groundballs.

This may have been by coincidence, but I think it was by design; this type of pitcher is undervalued precisely because they lack the stuff to get swing-and-miss strikes.

And this strategy can be successful, provided that your pitchers throw strikes, avoid the walk and get solid defensive play behind them.

Acta is right: It’s not magic.

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