As an avid, but terrible, golfer I am constantly reminded of (and taunted by) the fact that that size and brute strength aren’t the source of power in golf. Watching Rory McIlroy or Ricky Fowler hit a golf ball, or Ozzie Albies hit a baseball are constant reminders that it isn’t your obvious physical limitations that explain your incompetence – it’s a more subtle incompetence, even more troubling because it is at least theoretically addressable.
Larvell “Sugar Bear” Blanks played 9 years in the majors; in his only season as a Braves regular he OPSed 585. He played the same positions as Ozzie Albies and was the same size (which was also my size when I was Ozzie’s age, although there is also some controversy as to whether Albie is anywhere near his published height.) He hit 20 home runs in his career. Ozzie has (in 700 fewer plate appearances) 44 homers. I can only console myself with the hope that Ozzie is a terrible economist.
Playing the Royals made me think of this because playing the Royals makes me think of their most famous hitting coach, Charlie Lau, and his protégé, former Brave Walt Hriniak. (Lau played for the Braves as well, but not in Atlanta.) Nobody talks much any more about the Charlie Lau School of Hitting, except of course Joe Simpson who absorbed its principles well enough to put up his career 607 OPS. Larvell OPsed 637 for his career.
By the way, watching Albies pop out on the first pitch on Tuesday with the tying run on third and two outs reminds me of my most recent Chip Annoyance: “Remember — the first pitch may be the best pitch you’ll see.” He only says it while facing a reliever, and usually for a pinch hitter, but of course it’s true for every hitter on every at bat. You will face N pitches and one of them will be the best and no one tries to make the first pitch the worst. I guess (and it’s just a guess… that’s part of the problem here) his point is that a hitter shouldn’t just take a pitch automatically to gauge the speed or whatever. But is anyone advocating that? Just asking for a friend. You can judge early swings by the results, but in blocks of 40 or 50, not by single swings. FWIW, During the game they reported that Seitzer had no problem with the decision. It’s not the worst thing Chip says by any means. Indeed, it would be fine if he said it, say, once a month, rather than two or three times a week.
That said, let me praise Chip. His interview with AA was, I thought, pretty good. Some pretty good questions, and he let him talk. Kudos. It would be churlish of me to mention that while he was interviewing he wasn’t play-by-playing, so I won’t say it. [blazon: that’s called apophasis.] I’m not going to comment on what AA said. That’s for you guys to hash out.
Tonight’s game found JT against Brad Keller. In the back end of a two game series. Julio and Freddie were apparently listening to the AA interview instead of paying attention to the game and gave the Royals 2 runs on a Freddie error and a single to the pitcher.
While the offense slumbered (it wasn’t my fault this time – I didn’t nap today) the highlights were all on defense. JD made two nice plays, the second of which was highlight-worthy. Ender made a catch in CF that I think it’s fair to say RAJ would not have made unless he was playing far too deep.
Julio shrugged off a near-30 pitch inning in the 2nd to pitch 6. Newk took over in the 7th and pitched two perfect innings. Luke pitched an uneventful 9th.
The Keller cap-tipping came to a merciful end in the 8th. Diekman came in and was greeted by a single from Culberson. But Riley followed with yet another strikeout – they seem to have reprogrammed the game and his cheat sheet is for a previous version. Then RAJ looked similarly overmatched, striking out on a checked swing, and Albies took a called third strike. (I’m bragging on you up top Ozzie… don’t let me down.) So we moved from Keller cap-tipping to Diekman cap-tipping. At some point, you have to look under the cap and analyze what’s going wrong rather than tipping it.
Ian Kennedy, who was really shaky last night In the bottom of the 9th with a two run lead, was put in again in the same situation. This time he struck out Freddie, got JD on a grounder and struck out Markakis. More cap tipping.
Yuck. But the Braves are still .500 post-break. Just about every team has long stretched of time where they play .500 ball interspersed with a hot streak or two. Day off tomorrow, with a trip to Philly and DC, where it would behoove them to start one of those hot streaks. The reason you build cushions is for weeks like this. Rest up your wrists and arms from all that cap-tipping and soldier on.