Vladimir Guerrero made certain the Texas Rangers stayed white out with a two-out, walk off, seven-iron golf shot against Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Steven Jackson. Guerrero hit a pitch well down in the zone into left field for his second hit of the night giving Texas a 6-5 victory. The ball was sharply hit driving in Elvis Andrus who walked. It immediately emptied the Rangers dugout, and extended their winning streak to the longest in franchise history.
Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach Don Long was on the radio before the Pirates and Texas Rangers took the field last night. Long was discussing the Pirates young players being ready to hit. Being mentally prepared with the bat in the right position. Not lifting the foot too early.
Long mentioned he saw the players changing their approach based on the pitch count. For example, Long mentioned, the players get in a 2-0 count and feel they have to drive the ball. Thus, we wanted to keep an eye on it.
If you’re a regular at RumBunter, you know we get to DC quite a bit. Last month, a good friend mentioned that Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote this excellent article on the game-within-the game. The article fits well into our context today.
With less than two strikes, the average hitter is a superstar in every count. It doesn’t matter whether the scoreboard says 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 0-1, 1-1, 2-1 or 3-1. In those counts, the average big leaguer is a .339 hitter, comparable to Stan Musial, and is a .549 slugger, comparable to Hank Aaron.
Last season, in those eight “hitter’s counts,” the MLB average, respectively, was .339, .340, .368, .395, .317, .332, .339 and .352. You barely need to distinguish between them. If the next pitch is hit into play, watch out. The results will evoke “The Man” and ‘The Hammer.”
Almost half of all plate appearances end with less than two strikes, which deems well for hitters. Obviously, the other half get to strike two on the hitter….:
Once that happens, the whole sport changes. On the two-strike counts of 0-2, 1-2, 2-2 and 3-2, batters hit .156, .171, .189 and, finally, if they can reach a full count, .233. In every at-bat last season that reached a two-strike count, the MLB average was .186, with pathetic on-base and slugging averages of .259 and .283.
We watched the game closely and applied the theory to the Pirates batters last night: [continue reading]
Pirates First Inning:
Jose Tabata: 0-2, 1-2, inside fastball off the plate, leadoff single. What odds?!
Neil Walker: Bunt attempt 0-1, Tabata gets great jump, foul back 0-2, called strike three on ball off the plate.
Andrew McCutchen: Hasn’t had a hit in the series. 1-0, Tabata steal his third base of the season 2-0, 3-0, 3-1, ball four. Mike Maddox looks bothered.
Garrett Jones: Muscled first pitch foul 0-1, 1-1, scorches hanging breaking ball through right side. Tabata scores. Pirates 1-0.
Ryan Church: 0-1, 1-1, 2-1, fouled at plate on breaking ball 2-2, struck out on cutter.
Pedro Alvarez: Drills two out two run double on first pitch. 3-0 Pirates.
Ryan Doumit: 1-0, 2-0, bloop single to right field.
Lastings Milledge: 1-0, 1-1, fouled back pitch out of zone 1-2, struck out looking.
Pirates Second Inning
Bobby Crosby 0-1, 1-1, chopper to third.
Tabata 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 (huge strike zone) groundball.
Walker 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, full count, foul, single to left
McCutchen 0-1, 0-2, struck out
We could see what Coach Long was talking about with Tabata. Swing got long.
Pirates Third Inning
Jones 0-1, 0-2, 1-2, single up the middle
Church 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, Jones gunned at second, whiff.
Alvarez 0-1, 0-2, 1-2, fouled, struck out
Pirates batters sucked when behind in the count. Church tried to battle, but seriously.
Pirates Fourth Inning
Doumit: Down in the count 1-2, infield single when Doumit went with the pitch. He hit the ball to Michael Young’s right at third base, Doumit legs it out. Nice work.
Milledge: 0-1, 0-2 fouled both pitches that were off the plate. Just like first at-bat, 1-2, two more fouls, then drives the fastball away for a single to right.
Crosby: 0-1 bunt attempt pulls back takes strike, bunts down the third base line, ump says Kinsler was off the bag, Crosby is safe.
Tabata: First pitch line drive caught by Josh Hamilton.
Walker: 1-1 fly ball to left fielder Hamilton scores Doumit from third. Crosby and Milledge move up on Hamilton’s error-dropped ball on the exchange.
McCutchen: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2 foul ball off his foot, struck out looking.
Pirates Fifth Inning
Jones: 1-0, 2-0 ripped single to right
Church: 0-1, 0-2 fouled off his leg, grounder to Kinsler forces Jones at second
Alvarez: 0-1, double play ball.
Theory is being proven vividly.
Pirates Sixth Inning
Doumit: 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, groundball to Kinsler.
Milledge: First pitch single.
Crosby: 1-0, 1-1, (Rangers Pitcher Feldman reaches 100 pitches) 2-1, 2-2 Milledge is thrown out by Matt Treanor, grounder to pitcher.
Once again the odds win.
Pirates Seventh Inning
Tabata: Bunt single on the first pitch. Feldman exits. Left hander Darren Oliver comes on in relief.
Walker: Squares around to bunt on a throw over to first. First pitch from Oliver, Walker hits a sharp grounder to firstbaseman that results in double play ball.
McCutchen: 2-1 fly to left field
Pirates Eighth Inning
Jones: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, battles to full count, fly out to LF.
Church: 0-1, 1-1, fly out to LF.
Alvarez: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, struck out.
Pirates Ninth Inning
Doumit: 0-1, gap shot to left center, caught by Borbon
Milledge: 0-1, 0-2, 1-2, struckout on foul tip.
Crosby: Line drives first pitch to left field, Hamilton drops it as he jumped to reach the ball about four steps from the warning track.
Tabata: 0-1, 1-1, infield single bounced off the plate.
Walker: 1-0, geared for fastball, got change up rips it foul 1-1, 2-1, driven high and deep to left center field and caught by Borbon on the warning track.