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August 7, 2013
The Lineup Card
Nine of the Worst Baseball Clichés
1. It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint
2. The Improper Use of "Patient" and "Disciplined" to Describe Hitters
The point of plate discipline is not letting pitches go by for the sake of letting them go by. It's recognizing what you are capable of and then figuring out whether a particular pitch is worth swinging at. If you recognize the first pitch in an at-bat as one that you can deposit in left field for a single, then by all means, swing. Walks and high pitch counts (while they have their benefits) are not necessarily signs that you are a patient or disciplined hitter. It might simply mean that you are a passive hitter. It might also mean that pitchers don't want to really challenge you because you might hit the ball a long way. On the flip side, if a hitter is capable of reaching a lot of pitches (a la Vladimir Guerrero about 10 years ago) and getting hits on them, then that's disciplined as well. The point of the exercise is not to walk in every plate appearance. It's to do something productive with your at-bat. And while we might all worship at the altar of "drive up the pitch count," if you can score 10 runs and the pitcher only throws 60 pitches, you'll still be okay. —Russell A. Carleton
3. Must-Win Games
4. Professional Hitter
pro·fes·sion·al [pruh-fesh-uh-nl], adjective:
Last I checked, everyone who comes up to bat in a major-league or minor-league game is there because it is their occupation, not out of the goodness of their own heart. There has to be a better term for this that we can all start using for guys like Paul Konerko, Michael Young and the like. We can't just call them veteran hitters, as that's just "a person who is long-experienced or practiced in an activity or capacity," and it has no direct ties to performance. I mean, Yuniesky Betancourt is a veteran for crying out loud. We can't call them good hitters, as while there may be a decent amount of overlap in that Venn diagram, it's certainly going to be inappropriate some of the time.
My proposition: let's just label the good ones as good hitters and the ones who used to be good as pesky hitters. Maybe the professional broadcasters will heed the advice. —Bret Sayre
5. Even the best hitters fail 70 percent of the time
“Baseball is a game of failure,” people sometimes say, and while trite, there’s plenty of truth to that. The real problems pop up when people try to quantify that failure. A 70 percent failure rate suggests that a hit is the only positive outcome of a plate appearance. It’s a relic of an era when batting average ruled the roost and no one worried about walks or on-base percentage. Sixty percent would be better, though even that might be an exaggeration; Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera, for instance, make outs about 55 percent of the time. And maybe “making an out” is itself too broad a definition of failure: a hard line drive that lands in a glove is in some sense a success for the hitter, who did everything right and was robbed. (Though you could say the opposite about a blooper that falls in.) No matter where you put the percentage, it’s potentially misleading. Let’s just leave it at “game of failure.”
(Then again, what sport, or human endeavor of any kind, doesn’t involve failure? And isn’t every failure someone else’s success? Maybe it’s time to rebrand baseball as a game of success.) —Ben Lindbergh
6. Selective Aggression
Admittedly, my hated for "selectively aggressive" is irrational. I know what it means, I understand the deeper concepts, but it drives me nuts.
If you're a poker fan you probably know what "selective aggression" is. More than an oxymoron, it's a philosophy that encourages players to go for a pot when they have a chance.
Maybe the concept makes sense to you, but there is a problem with oxymorons: they can lead to confusion, especially when translating the concept to another language.
So, why is the term used when it comes to hitting? Well, hitters want to find pitches they can do damage with, and lay off of ones they can't drive. It makes sense, and it avoids the confusion created by a clumsy figure of speech. —Mike Ferrin.
7. "You Talk About ______"
8. Bryce Harper Plays Too Hard, Unlike Mike Trout/Pete Rose
Harper’s aggressiveness has been compared many times to that of Pete Rose. Rose himself weighed in on this topic with BP’s own Mike Ferrin last week: “There’s a difference between playing hard and playing recklessly. And Bryce plays recklessly.” This is coming from the guy who dislocated Ray Fosse’s shoulder in an exhibition game. Rose bruised his knee on that play and missed three games as a result.
The misadventure that sticks out most in people’s minds is when he crashed into the Dodger Stadium wall. But there’s nothing wrong with Harper’s “mindset” or “style” that will have him colliding full-steam with unpadded walls his whole career. He got a bit lost in the outfield—which, as Rose pointed out, is still a fairly new position for him. Less than two weeks later, the mortal Harper may even have cost himself an important catch because the Dodger Stadium episode was still in his head.
I have not seen Bryce Harper play recklessly this year. In fact, Harper has matured in much the same way people expected he would. Last year, he was prone to high-intensity, low-percentage throws when there were smarter plays available. (Adam LaRoche gave him a talking-to in the dugout after one error on an overthrow led to a run against Colorado on June 26 last year.) This year, he’s been throwing back to the infield more often instead of trying for every play at home.
Harper has proved that concerns about his emotional maturity from the minor leagues were overblown. People will hopefully soon realize that he’s not a danger to himself physically, either. —Dan Rozenson
9. Change-Piece, Slide-Piece
Now that we’re beyond that, I’ll talk about my pet peeve: adding “-piece” when referring to an off-speed pitch. It doesn’t add anything, it means nothing, and it actually makes the original word longer, yet I often hear people––including players and coaches––saying “slide-piece” or “change-piece.” I also heard an AZL Angels pitcher say “changy” last week––that’s a new one for me. In the long run, this is harmless and it’s nothing more than a personal pet peeve. Perhaps I’ll eventually be sucked in. Anybody else see Verlander’s fastball-piece last night? —Jason Cole