Mark Bowman of MLB.com explains how Takashi Saito’s bad vision cost the Braves in last night’s loss to the Rockies:
Turns out, the passed ball that gave Dexter Fowler a chance to deliver a two-run single was directly attributed to the vision problem that Takashi Saito experiences during night games. Because of Saito’s limited vision at night, the Braves catchers are unable to call pitches by simply placing a certain number of fingers between their legs.
They are instead forced to signal pitch selection by touching different parts of their body, much like a third-base coach. After McCann signaled for a breaking ball, Saito delivered the fastball that drilled plate umpire Lance Barksdale in the right shoulder and then made its way toward the backstop.
Interesting, but it’s also worth noting that on a per-inning basis Saito has thrown fewer wild pitches in night games (passed balls are attributed to catchers) and has also been every bit as effective as he is during day games.
Saito has appeared in 208 career night games, posting a 2.15 ERA and 262 strikeouts versus just 151 hits in 213 innings. Not bad for a guy who can barely see which pitches are being called.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉