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.
It’s probably not a big shocker that a pitcher is not a big fan of the strike zone being made smaller, but Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and he tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he is not a fan of the proposed changes to the strike zone we wrote about recently, calling the proposal “a horrible, horrible idea.”
Horrible, he acknowledges, because he’s a pitcher with a vested interest so, yes, let’s give Wainwright credit for self-awareness and for disclosing his self-interest. But he thinks it’s a bad idea for another reason too: more hits will lead to more balls in the gap and thus longer games.
I get the intuitive nature of that — the longer it takes to retire a side the longer games go — but it doesn’t necessarily follow that offense and game times are related in the way Wainwright implies. There was a lot more scoring in the 1990s and early 2000s and games were actually shorter then than now. Partially because of other factors (i.e. there were not quite as many pitching changes and because guys played at a faster clip). Partially, I suspect, because there were fewer strikeouts and strikeouts take a longer time than guys grounding out or having some of those balls in the gap caught on the run by a fast outfielder.
As I said last week, I suspect that we’ll see fewer balls in the gap than Wainwright implies and, rather, a lot more walks as pitchers test umpires to see if they’re really taking away that low strike. In the short term that’ll actually make games longer, though not for the reason Wainwright thinks.
SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo hears from a source that former major leaguer Jonny Gomes has decided to retire from baseball. The 35-year-old spent the 2016 season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japan Pacific League, but he struggled at the plate, batting .169/.280/.246 in 75 plate appearances. Gomes left the Eagles by mutual consent back on May 11.
Gomes won a championship with the Red Sox in 2013 and the Royals last year. He ends a 13-year major league career having hit .242/333/.436 with 162 home runs in 4,009 trips to the plate.
Gomes was known as a clubhouse leader during his playing career, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up coaching or managing in some capacity in the future.
The pitching match-ups aren’t at all exciting, sadly, but there are a few streaks to pay attention to tonight. Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. is on a 28-game hitting streak, tying him with Wade Boggs for eighth-most in Red Sox history. Teammate Xander Bogaerts is on a 17-game hitting streak as well.
Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna has reached base in 31 consecutive games. And to think that owner Jeffrey Loria would have traded him during the offseason if not for manager Don Mattingly and hitting coach Barry Bonds speaking up in favor of keeping Ozuna.
Frisco RoughRiders manager Joe Mikulik got his money’s worth last night. He was ejected after arguing an automatic double play on an enforcement of the slide rule, and he didn’t go gently into that goodnight.
Rather, he threw things, kicked things, threw things and then subsequently kicked those same things, gave overly-demonstrative slides and safe signs and basically went all Earl Weaver/Lou Piniella on everyone.
Double-A baseball is the best minor league because you tend to see more prospects there than you do at Triple-A. But it’s also the best because, when you’re a manager who is not quite a heartbeat away from getting your shot at the big leagues, you’re a little less uptight about things. Or at least Mikulik was. Or maybe he was more uptight. I don’t know. He just went with it, and going with it has its charms.