Hank Aaron: everyone should stop trying to hit home runs all the time

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Hank Aaron AP.jpgHank Aaron, as almost all former players of a certain age do, shakes his head at the kids today:

Hank Aaron watches games these days and is perplexed as batter after
batter tries to jack pitches out of the ballpark, obsessed with the long
ball that made Hammerin’ Hank famous.

“I don’t think they understand the role of what they need to be doing,”
Aaron said Thursday during a visit to The Associated Press. “I’m not
saying all of them, but I think some players need to understand that
they’re never going to hit 50 home runs or 45 home runs (a year).
They’ve got to learn how to hit the ball to the opposite field and do
the little things to help their ballclub win championships.”

Cheap “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-did” irony aside, his point is a good one, inasmuch as some guys simply don’t have a lot of power and should always be trying to pull the ball out of the yard.  I think, however, that he sets the bar too high for would-be power hitters.

If I’m running a team I want almost everyone to try and hit more home runs, at least as long as they’re not messing up their natural swing and approach to do it. If someone can hit 10 homers I want them to hit 15. If someone can hit 15 I want them to hit 20. The reason is simple: home runs correlate really nicely with winning. If you have power, you usually win. If you don’t, you hardly ever do.

Aaron’s comments suggest that only those players who can be elite home run hitters like he was should concentrate on the long ball. I’d take his general idea to heart, but I’d only advise those guys who simply can’t hit it out of the yard even if they square and turn on the ball perfectly — the Nick Puntos of the world — to get homers out of their head and try to slap it the other way.

Indeed, if some teams did that during Aaron’s heyday instead of adhering so strictly to the then-prevalent orthodoxy (shortstops don’t need to hit; everyone but the cleanup hitter bunts, etc.) there probably would have been more offense back then.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.