I had the good fortune of sitting in Buck Showalter’s office today and listening to him talk about his Orioles and simply the game of baseball for awhile.
Buck is a really endearing guy. He’s nice, but at the same time demands respect.
The thing about him that I really loved, though, is that he doesn’t treat reporters like reporters. He treats them like fellow scholars of the game of baseball. He cares so much about the game, and knows so much, that he can ramble about whatever happens to be on his mind and it will be the most entertaining conversation you’ll ever have.
But there’s something he said today that really struck my interest.
He said that in today’s game, pitchers don’t get hitters out anymore. Hitters get themselves out.
Showalter said there are 10 guys in each league who actually throw strikes consistently, and the rest of them are living out of the strike zone, but hitters chase themselves out of at-bats.
It’s an amazing theory to think about, and the more I did, the more I really started to agree with him.
I’m just trying to figure out why.
Maybe it’s because hitters have such a limited opportunity to make something of themselves these days. When guys like Kila Ka'aihue, who prove all they can by dominating the Minor Leagues over multi-year periods, barely get 80 at-bats to prove what they can do in the bigs, of course they’re going to be trying too hard.
They’re up at the plate to get hits, big ones, and drive in runs. They want to show that they deserve to be there. But very seldom do they simply just try to get on base.
I was talking to Luke Scott today, and he’s a guy who has really struggled to get anything going this season. But he walked four times yesterday. He said "You know what? You’re lucky if you get one pitch over the course of the entire game that’s worth hitting. The rest of them are junk."
And it’s true. Hitters are under so much pressure to make something happen, they’ve made pitchers’ jobs a lot easier over the years. I just wonder who is going to catch up to the trend first and simply make getting on base the only priority.
Billy Beane has tried to do it in Oakland, but maybe he’s just not assembling the right cast to make it happen? Or maybe every other club knows the A’s philosophy and takes advantage of it.
But that’s the beauty of baseball. The game never stops changing.
Oh, and a quick piece of fantasy advice too. Pick up Jake Fox. I really don't know if he's going to be the guy who fills in for Derrek Lee, but he might, and if he starts to get everyday playing time, look out.
Koji Uehara doesn't make a bad add either. Buck deflected any questions about Koji's role change, but he's been the most consistent arm in that bullpen, and once he can throw multiple innings and back-to-back days with consistency, he'll be the guy.
And Adam Jones was slated to hit third today in Lee's absence. Jones has played well this year and is stealing more bases than ever before. Having Showalter's confidence doesn't hurt either.