Usually you hear old ballplayers talking about how good they were. It’s quite odd, then, to hear someone as good as Mike Schmidt talking about how flawed he was:
I hated striking out, all 2,000 times I did it. I guess my problem was
I felt the opposing pitcher saw me as a dangerous hitter, not a good
hitter. There is a difference. Most of my career I was that hitter …
“dangerous.” Make good pitches – fastballs up, sliders away – and I’d
get myself out, especially in pressure at-bats where contact was a
must. I wanted to be a “good” hitter, good in my eyes and the opposing
pitcher’s, not just a guy who whaled and occasionally hit a bomb.
I suppose Schmidt was that guy for the first couple years of his career, but if he was merely a dangerous mistake-ball hitter from 1974 to 1987, he was doing it in another dimension. The guy won three MVPs and probably deserved two or three more. He’s the best third baseman in the history of the game. He was the best hitter
in baseball between the end of WIllie Mays’ career and the beginning of Barry Bonds’. Really, if you’re defining eras by their best players, the progression arguably goes Wagner/Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Williams/DiMaggio, Mantle/Mays, Schmidt, Bonds, Pujols. Rare frickin’ company.
So what is Schmidt up to? In this article, it’s criticizing Mark Reynolds, and offering him some advice:
Mark Reynolds and any other high K guy could choke up, spread out and
just center the ball, and they’d hit 50 home runs and around .300 in
today’s game . . . When hitters understand that a shorter, less violent, level swing
increases contact, when they realize that more contact means more
production, more consistency, and more wins, they’ll change . . . It took me 13 years to see the light, make those changes and become
“dangerous” and “good.” Why should they wait that long? Take it from me
and my buddies: Sometimes a single is harder to hit than a home run!
Wow. As noted above, it decidedly did not take Mike Schmidt 13 yeas to become a “good” hitter. Indeed, his eighth through twelfth seasons are clearly his statistical peak (though he remained elite for about four more years). Mike Schmidt was the seventh most strikin’-out hitter in the history of
the game. And that’s OK, because that was just part of the deal to get
those 548 home runs. If Schmidt had taken his own advice when he was at the point in his career that Reynolds is in his own — if he had shortened up his swing and sought contact — he wouldn’t have all of that hardware, may not have made the Hall of Fame, and certainly wouldn’t have rated a column in the Sporting News.
Mark Reynolds strikes out more than Schmidt ever did and he could probably stand to make an adjustment or two if he ever wants to be a truly elite player. Having an inner-circle Hall of Famer telling him not to do as he had done, however, is probably not the best way to go about it.
(link via BTF)