Contact Hitters and Pitching Are Keys to Winning In the MLB Playoffs: Bravo Giants! Attn: Yankees!
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer): Follow @chuckbooth3024
I can’t believe I am going to utter these next few words, “I am starting to shift on the idea of eliminating the DH in the AL and also I am beginning to find the National League Brand of Baseball a lot better these days.” I am not just saying this because the National League has registered 5 World Series Wins out of the last seven years (STL x 2, SF x 2 and PHI vs BOS AND NYY since 2006.) I just find that the American League Baseball is becoming boring. If you have read my articles in the past, I hate teams that strikeout non-stop and when you put two of these teams together for a Series like the AL routinely does, the games are filled with heavy pitch counts, four-hour games and not much contact. This years ALCS represented an all-time low for fan excitement. Put aside that I am a Yankees fan for a minute, it was absolutely brutal baseball. In fact, last years ALCS was no picnic either. If the games continue on like this, they might as well scrap the DH, start having the umpires call more strikes on the hitters and have all AL Teams convert to a National League style of game.
The National League has seen the Cardinals give us thrilling moments and comebacks to epic proportions over the last 2 years. I honestly think that Mark McGwire is not receiving enough credit for molding that team into a bunch of contact hitters. You watch the 2013 offense of the LA Dodgers, they will all have a different approach. We will save the DH debate for another day, but lets just say that 2012 was the worst year for DH’s in some time if not ever. There are only about 3-4 decent DH’s left in the game and if David Ortiz is not in the lineup for the Red Sox, there are no more marquee guys that just hit and not field! The National League Teams plan on more contact for runs created out of necessity and it is always reflective by the competitive games we see them play in the playoffs.
In 2012, the Giants made 4 key acquisitions before and during the season to change their offensive demeanor. If you ask me flat-out as a baseball observer, there is no way the Giants win the World Series without Marco Scutaro or Angel Pagan at the top of the lineup. I also am conceding credit to Melky Cabrera’s hitting contributions as a contact hitter before being busted. Before Melky Cabrera was shown the door for PED’s, he was the same hitter as Scutaro in the 2nd half and postseason, in just hitting every single pitch that was thrown at him. To be honest here, Angel Pagan does strike out a fair bit as a lead off hitter, however he also has speed that makes him dangerous whenever the ball is contacted. It is all about a mixture of power, speed and contact hitters. To illustrate this fact, Hunter Pence (also picked up near the Trade Deadline) did not hit well in the regular season or playoffs for average, yet he was able to drive in a pile of runs because guys ahead of him were always on base. All he needed to do was to make contact for his RBI.
This is a throwback philosophy to the 80’s, which every team should try to copy for next year. Scutaro hit .362 in the last half of the year for the Giants and then hit .328 in the postseason. His most important contribution was only striking out 3 times in 64 Plate Appearances. It is remarkable on how effective this guy is placing the bat on the ball. This is where the Giants have shown the Majors the template for winning. Have a guy lead off with extra base power, that can steal bases and put the bat on the ball without an abysmal batting average and OBP. This guy is Pagan. Follow that up with a guy who will make contact almost automatically in Scutaro. At the very least, he will move the runner-up bases a portion of the time. Then enter Pablo Sandoval, this guy will be a free swinger, however he will make contact with a lot of pitches. Buster Posey then has players in scoring position as he bats, thus ending any chance to entirely pitch around him. At this time I would like to remind everyone that Pagan, Pence and Scutaro are Free Agents and two of them are likely to fly the nest of the Giants.
This is just a small sample. I do believe in some of the old ‘MoneyBall’ Philosophies that Billy Beane had at the turn of the millennium. For the sake of this article, I just can’t shake Joe Morgan‘s candid speech at the end of the movie “MoneyBall is great, but computers don’t play with human emotion on the field.” It was a remark that you can win versus inferior teams with MoneyBall, but when you have to match up against the best, you better have some guys with talent! So what is a healthy balance? You should have a bunch of everything on your team when it comes to skill sets. It is paramount that each guy does his job properly.
The lead-off batter should hit for a decent average, walk a little, have speed to steal bases and score.
The #2 hitter should be your best contact hitter. Average is nice with this option, yet it is not the be all end all. If I were a GM, I would try to covet a left-handed hitter to always hit second. You have more room to pull the ball through the hole between 1st and 2nd with runners on base.
Your 3rd hitter should be your best average hitter in the lineup, but must have considerable pop/extra base potential.
Your #4 and 5 hitters should be your best RBI/slugging guys. I would never change the approach of a #5 batters to cut their swings down. Strikeouts in these slots are the only acceptable position as a trade off for power
Your #6 and #7 guys should be your power guys that carry a low average but can burn you with walks and power.
Your #8 and #9 guys in the AL should be speed and stolen base contact hitters. In the NL, because of the pitching slot, you could leave a power guy to hit 8th and try to clean the bases before the pitcher hits. Both of these spots should be switchable late in the game.
In this past year, 111 Players struck out more than 100 times and 20 others were within 5 K’s of joining them. In 1986, only 26 years ago, barely 40 baseball players hit that plateau. If you ask me to predict which way this trend will continue, it is not even a question of it increasing more each year, it is a question of how much will it go up by? Organizations simply do not punish players enough for striking out. It is not frowned upon like it used to be. Bunting has almost been completely erased from the game entirely by managers. What is wrong with bunting? It makes the defense make 3 plays to get you out! Defenses have to field it, throw it and the 1st baseman has to catch it properly in order to receive an out. That sure beats hitting at thin air! (Somebody please clone and bring back Rod Carew and Brett Butler.) Heck, even Roberto Alomar would drop down several bunt hits over the course of a season when he played in his prime.
In the playoffs, the best pitchers usually take the mound in the game. The case gets made every year, that great pitching beats great hitting. Now that the PED’s have been almost eliminated from the game, that gap will continue to become stronger. It is nice that Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher can run into 65 HRs combined ever year. However, when they are in a lineup with a down-trodden A-Rod and a every playoff year disappointment ‘Teixeira,” where does it end with the limited contact?
This leads me to 4 wicked contact hitters that are available in FREE Agency. If the Yankees were serious about fixing their lineup, they should go after all four of these men and revamp their offensive attack to be more of a balanced.
Marco Scutaro SS/3B/2B: It is not just 2012 that Scutaro has been effective. He was great with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009 in scoring 100 runs in 144 Games. The Man hits everything in sight that is thrown at him. A lost art to many great powerhouse teams like the Yankees. Projected 2013 Salary Per Year- 12-13 Million Dollars.
Juan Pierre CF/LF: You could say that a .307 average and 37 steals is pretty darn good for a 800,000 dollar one year contract he received from the Philadelphia Phillies. This gentleman strikes out only about once every 17 Plate Apperarances in his career. He was amongst the 2000-2009 hit leaders for the decade and at 35, he can still play baseball. As a left-handed hitter, he could hit 2nd in almost any lineup. Projected 2013 salary per Year- 2.0 Million.
Jeff Keppinger: 2B/1B/SS/3B/DH: Keppinger had a career year in 2012, hitting .325 in over 120 games for the Rays. he can play any position you want in the infield and can DH as well. He only made 1.5 Million this past year. He has only 173 strikeouts in 2459 Career Plate Appearances. How perfect would he be to spell A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira or just provide some contact? Projected Salary Per year 3-4 Million Per Year.
Ichiro Suzuki LF/RF: Suzuki is a magician with the bat and routinely has about 30 in field hits every year. At Yankee Stadium, I could even see him hit 15-20 HRs in 2013. He has already stated the he wants to return with the Bronx Bombers. He would not be seeking the moon for years on a contract, or dollars for that matter, so the Yankees should be players on him. I believe he would be capable of hitting over .300 for the year with the Yankees and steal about 40 Bases. That would be perfect for their #2 slot. Projected 2013 Salary: 8-10 Million Per Year for one or two years.
You could sign all four of these guys for about 28 Million Dollars per year= what A-Rod will steal from the franchise in 2013. You could put A-Rod on the bench at DH permanently with Scutaro at 3rd. Pierre could play LF and Ichiro RF. These contact guy would make the rest of the lineup tolerable if they strikeout a fair amount. Cashman will never do this and the Yankees fans will probably see more windmills in 2013 than a Old Dutch Chip Factory.
To read my previous article on how Strikeouts have been on the steady rise for the last 50 years, read this article here.
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Posted on November 10, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged alcs, American league, angel pagan, billy beane, boston redsox, brett butler, brian sabean, buster posey, Chuck Booth. fastest 30 ballgames, curits granderson, david ortiz, dh, giants, hunter pence, ichiro suzkuki, Joe Morgan, juan pierre, Marco scutaro, mark mcgwire, melky cabrera, mlb, national league, new york yankees, nick swisher, nlcs, old dutch chip factory, pablo sandoval, phillies, roberto alomar, rod carew, st louis cardinals, twitter @chuckbooth3024, world series. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.