Dubuque: How to attack baseball’s weakest hitters

From Patrick Dubuque at Baseball Prospectus on April 19, 2017:

The game of baseball moves like ivy, spreading upwards and outwards toward opportunity, consistent and chaotic. There are times in this growth where it tangles with itself, spins into contradictions. For years it drove managers to madness when their pitchers walked batters, and yet the batters themselves were encouraged by the same coaches to put the ball in play, show enough courage to take the bat off the shoulder. That seeming inequality grew as a consequence of a different priority, the valor of the productive out, available to the hitter and not his opponent.

As the culture of the game slowly grew to accept the walk and its benefits, another bias lingered: the idea that ground balls were beneficial to pitchers, while opposing hitters were often taught to swing downward on the ball and achieve that exact same result. The same cultural preference, of the ball in play (especially that vaunted achievement, the grounder to the right side with the runner on second), also promoted this strangely inconsistent set of philosophies. But batted-ball data and research has proven the benefits of not only swinging for line drives, but even putting the ball in the air compared to the grounder so long thought superior.

So now we seem to have reached a new equilibrium: pitchers trying to live as low in the zone as they can, coercing the hitters to top the ball into the ground, while batters are attempting to swing under pitches and drive them skyward. It would seem a fine equilibrium, except that these two philosophies find themselves in conflict with a third: that of Willie Mays Hayes.

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=31639

Originally published: April 19, 2017. Last Updated: April 19, 2017.