Richard Herr - Let's Remember What Mr. Keeler Said

Let’s Remember What Mr. Keeler Said
Batting coaches throughout baseball have been espousing this theory that it’s better to hit fly balls than grounders. They look at the batting average numbers and say the numbers are higher for fly balls. They’ve got it all wrong. They’re failing to look at all the numbers. They are missing a key opportunity to get more productivity out of the batting order.

The problem occurs when these batting coaches encourage players to concentrate on pulling the ball. The distance to hit home runs is far shorter down the foul lines than in the center of the field. Therefore, their players turn into pull hitters. What happens next is that opposing teams see that the batters are hitting everything to the pull side, so they shift their infield around to put three fielders to the pull side to swallow up all the ground balls hit there.

You can see an example of what the batters face when you look at the picture at the head of this post. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I’d say this particular image weighs in at several thousand words as it graphically depicts what these pull-happy hitters are facing. If there were a view of the left side of the infield in this picture, you would probably only see tumbleweeds.

The solution to this problem is amply apparent to one William Henry O’Kelleher. (You might better know him by the name he played under, Wee Willie Keeler.) There are ample opportunities available to get a base hit if you steer a ground ball to the left side of the infield in the above picture.

The mistake the hitting coaches make is they are only comparing the batting average of hitters relative to fly balls and ground balls. They should check the figures of ground balls hit to the pull side as compared to ground balls hit to the other side. I’m sure they would come up with quite remarkable results.

Kevin Long espouses this erroneous theory about hitting fly balls as opposed to ground balls. I think the Mets show the results of this philosophy. They score the majority of their runs by hitting home runs. Last year they had a ghastly RISP. The team has to turn away from being these one-trick ponies who are only trying to launch the ball into the pull-side bleachers. They should develop the skill to poke the ball through the wide-open opposite infield when they find themselves in RISP situations.  

Take a look at the numbers for opposite-side hitting. Poking a 44-hopper through the open side of the infield is going to increase the player’s batting average, and consequently his OBP. It will also reduce the need to be so selective at the plate, looking for that one good pitch to hit. Anything on the outside corner (where most pitches are thrown) can be easily pooched the other way. I’m sure it would reduce the called third strike on the batter who is only looking for that one good pitch to drive.

Whenever Richard Herr isn’t solving all the Mets’ problems, he spends his time writing humorous science fiction novels.


Thomas Brennan said...

Richard, I agree. Two of the best hitters in Mets' history? David Wright and (for a shorter period) Cleon Jones, who used all fields very well. Someone who is not hitting well right now and who seems to hit a lot to all fields (whether by plan or lack of competence) is Tim Tebow.

Hitting hard grounders into a shift is a losing proposition, because the guys in the shifts wear gloves that catch balls and arms that throw guys out.

Not to turn this into a Tebow comment, but he has only fanned 7 times in his last 10 games, and only once in his last 5 games, so his batting average should start to climb, because contact leads to hits normally.

Mack Ade said...

I was a switch hitter, and years before any 'shifts' came into the game.

Still, I would save all my attempted bunts for when I batted from the left side. I practiced this every day and I could lay down a successful bunt that got me on first at least 50% of the time.

You want to break the shift while, at the same time, increase your team's RISP?

Bunt down third if you a lefty hitter.

Thomas Brennan said...

good point, Mack, especially for a guy like Grandy who still has at least average speed.

Hobie said...

Bunting (with regularity) for Grandy, Duda or Bruce (Conforto?) would at best force the left-side infielder to play a more conventional 3B (they don't get much business at SS anyway) and we'd be back to pull-happy.

Now, putting outside pitches in play the other way would be an earth mover.

Mack's Mets © 2012