High and tight and being dumb

April, 23, 2009
4/23/09
1:05
PM ET
I was watching the Royals-Indians game last night and caught this interesting exchange between broadcasters Frank White and Ryan Lefebvre. Brian Bannister had jumped ahead of Asdrubal Cabrera, one ball and two strikes. Then came a fastball down and away, which Cabrera fouled off. Next, Bannister threw as hard as he could, right near Cabrera's chin ...
    Lefebvre: Not a bad pitch, there. Now the question is, how does he back it up?

    White: Well, he's done a good job. He started him with a fastball, for a ball off the plate, and then came back with a breaking ball for a strike, and then he came back with another fastball for a strike. So that was a second fastball right there, up and in.

    .....

    Lefebvre: And, when you're not a particularly hard thrower and you don't have a whole lot of deception, it doesn't hurt to knock a guy down every now and then.

    White: Well you gotta come in off the plate to clear up a lane on the outside corner. Primarily, I think Brian Bannister's the kind of pitcher who wants to get you out away, so you gotta keep hitters off the whole plate, and take the part of the plate you wanna take.

Cabrera fouled off two more pitches and eventually grounded out to second base on a full count.

But what's a lot more interesting than this single at-bat is the notion that throwing high and tight is a good thing. Everyone tells us it's a good thing, and every time it happens the broadcasters absolutely gush. But is it a good thing, really? When a pitcher throws up there, he 1) risks hitting (and perhaps hurting) the batter, and 2) he certainly gives up one ball, and you know how important the count is.

Does that high-and-tight pitch really plant a seed in the hitter's mind? I suppose that depends on the hitter, but I would guess that most hitters are able to quickly forget the previous pitch. It's not like they haven't been knocked down hundreds of times in their baseball lives. Anyway, to some degree this is an empirical question, just another ancient baseball question that might be answered with Pitchf/x data.

Anyway, if that exchange was interesting, this one was awesome:

    Lefebvre: And for the first time in nine days, Trey Hillman calls on Joakim Soria. The Royals haven't had a true Joakim Soria situation in those nine days, but the days really started to mount. We thought we might see Soria on Sunday in Texas; it was six days at that point. Chance we could have seen him last night, which made it eight days. We'll have to see if all that time off affects Soria and his typical pinpoint control.

    White: It's a lot different than throwing on the side in the bullpen, but if you're a control guy, you usually hold on to it. You usually don't get that wild.

    .....

    Lefebvre: The question even came up today, is something wrong with Joakim Soria? Does he have something that's bothering him and the Royals are just being careful? And Trey Hillman said no, he's perfectly healthy. And Trey, smiling ... saying, "Hey, I want to pitch Joakim Soria just as much as you want to see him in the game."

Really? Just as much? Just as much as I do? Just as much as Rany Jazayerli and Joe Posnanski did and Sam Mellinger?

That's just a dumb thing for Trey Hillman to say. I need to make a distinction here ... I'm not saying that Trey Hillman is dumb. It's like when your child is behaving badly. You don't say (for example), "You're selfish." Instead you say, "You're being selfish."

When Trey Hillman lets one of the best relievers on the planet waste away in the bullpen for more than a week while close games are being lost, it doesn't mean Hillman is dumb. It just means he's being dumb. Which is perfectly human behavior, and acceptable in moderation. Hillman, though, is fast approaching immoderation.

P.S. Soria very nearly blew the save.

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