Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Al Hrabosky

Please Send Bats

Credit where due

How I long for the days when we were (complaining?) talking about how the Cardinals were hitting too many home runs. Those were good good days. This has been a very unkind road trip for our boys in red, and the men in blue (aka umps) haven’t helped, to be sure, but the biggest issue? Far and away – the Cardinals bats have been lost. I’m not sure if they didn’t make the plane out of St. Louis for the east coast or if the boys are holding them at the wrong end, but it’s been tough to watch some of these at bats lately. In fact, I’m fairly certain some of the boys in my 8th grade class had better at bats in PE last week than I saw last night.

I’ve come to the conclusion (not that this is a new one by any means) that the Cardinals are indeed playing the role of guess hitters. I went out in search of the article that started this thought process in my head a few days ago. My search was exhausting, and took me to so many random and varying sites that I got a little lost in the history of the game, as well as wrapped up in the current oddities of the internet. Here are some of the examples:

  • tweets that were just a few minutes old (that are appearing on google now… and I saw twitter names I knew… sometimes google is scary)
  • Bleed Cubbie Blue game threads
  • Milwaukee Sentinel articles from 1954 about the Milwaukee Braves (pictured at right)
  • Baseball Digest articles from 1959 and 1961 (I’ll get back to these)
  • Joe Strauss Live transcripts
  • a simulation to see if you can react fast enough to hit a fastball (entertaining for the first 5 seconds or so… and I recommend turning down the sound)
  • and this article from Bernie Miklasz, which (along with the Mark McGwire/Al Hrabosky conversation mentioned therein) is what started this whole thought process to begin with for me

That’s right, I am admitting for the second post in a row that something Al Hrabosky said got me thinking. I’m scared too.

However, hearing that our batting coach thinks that our guys are going out there guessing, and are far too reliant on watching video scares me much more. Videos like this speak to the issue as well.

I’m not saying this problem is localized to the Cardinals by any means. One article I found (and lost – there were too many) stated that there were more guess hitters in the league now than ever before, which didn’t surprise me in the least. Players from Garrett Anderson and Pat Burrell to Dustin Pedroia were being nominated as being guess hitters.

It sounds scary doesn’t it? Guessing. You and I couldn’t go into our daily jobs and just guess. I know I don’t get paid millions of dollars to guess all day (I also don’t get paid millions of dollars). That said, here are some names of guys that ‘just guessed’ through their whole careers and came out juuuuust fine:
Johnny Bench
Ted Williams
Tony Gywnn

That’s just the short list. I would also venture my own guess here and say that these guys knew a little bit more than some of the current free swingers running around MLB clubhouses. Just a guess though.

Speaking of history, ThisBaseball Digest article (I miss having a subscription to this mag) from May of 1959 had a nice quote from Rogers Hornsby, AKA the second-last NL player to hit .400 in a season. He stated,

Don’t be a guess hitter. Too many hitters are guess hitters. They should wait until they get a ball in the strike zone. It only takes one to hit. Instead they guess. They swing when they think they’ve outguessed the pitcher. But that isn’t a good percentage. Every pitcher has four pitches in his repertoire, fastball, curve, change-up and one other, possibly a knuckler. If the batter guesses right once out of four he’ll only hit .250.

A coach says swing, (players) swing, even if the pitch is a foot from the plate. They’re not supposed to. That’s not required. A batter doesn’t even have to protect a base runner if the hit-and-run signal is on. The main thing is don’t do anything silly.

Leave it to the Rajah to tell it like it is. I believe if someone pulled out this quote and showed it to Mark McGwire right now, he would look at you and say, ‘Exactly.’

I will leave you with one more thought for today (I know, I’m wordy for a Sunday). This gem is another Baseball Digest find, from 1961. Legendary Cleveland skipper Jimmie Dykes had this to say on guess hitters:

There are two kinds of ‘guess’ hitters in baseball. A batter of one kind ‘guesses,’ if you would call it that; that he will get some certain pitch while at bat and looks for this particular pitch; in fact, waits for it and lets other pitches go until he has two strikes and must hit at anything. A better name would be ‘waiting for your pitch,’ and most of the great hitters do it. The other kind ‘guesses’ on each pitch. Batters of this type will ‘guess’ that the next pitch is to be a curve or fast ball, and if wrong, as they frequently are, try again, probably changing the guess. They are continually getting crossed up, in part because they don’t stick to the original guess, but keep switching, thus can be wrong on every pitch. This is a bad hitting habit to get into and a hard one to break.

Let’s all hope the Cardinals are more like the first type, but the past few games don’t do much to reassure me in that regard. We need to see a beat-down of the Pirates today so the boys can at least go home on a higher note!

Where is Chris Carpenter’s fastball?

After four starts, Chris Carpenter is 2-0 with 27 strikeouts and a 3.60 ERA. He’s also allowed 22 hits in 25 innings, walked seven, given up five homeruns and had back-to-back games of striking out 10 each time. Very good numbers (the strikeout total is tied for second in the National League) but none of his games so far have really seemed “Carp-like” – that dominant Cy Young winner we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

The last two games in particular, he’s relied on his breaking pitches a lot and not used his fastball much. Nothing wrong with that – I even rewound the DVR in the first inning last night just to watch again the curveball he threw to strike out Justin Upton. And obviously Carp’s been successful, since he’s never before had double-digit strikeouts in consecutive games. But what’s wrong with his fastball? Why can’t he throw it consistently?

It’s rare that I appreciate anything Al Hrabosky says, but he made a great point in last Friday’s game (which I’m paraphrasing here): our expectations for him are so high that we wonder what’s wrong with him, even though he was then in the midst of striking out 10 and allowing no earned runs in seven innings pitched. We think there must be something wrong because he’s not throwing his fastball well. (Of course, Hrabosky also said at the beginning of last night’s game that Carp’s 3.50 ERA was a little high. Do you think any Cubs pitchers would love to trade ERAs with Carp?)

But about that fastball – where has it gone? How can he now not throw well something that’s the backbone for every pitcher from the time he first stands on the mound in Little League? Those questions are part of the reason pitching, and pitchers, fascinate me. There’s so much involved with what they do, both physically and mentally. Will he have his “stuff” when he goes out there today? And, as Chris Carpenter has shown these past two games, sometimes having just some of your stuff working is all it takes to be successful (even if it’s not typical Carp dominant). With the work ethic and high expectations he has for himself, it’s easy to assume his fastball will soon return and continue to be one of the National League’s top pitchers.

Fastball or no, there is one thing I learned from watching him last night. After seeing those glares at Edwin Jackson, and hearing/reading his lips at what he was saying, I would never want Chris Carpenter mad at me.

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