Glavine hit hard by new zone
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
DIAMOND NOTES: July 7
No star pitcher has been more affected by the strike zone than Atlanta's Tom Glavine, but it should be noted that in questioning players about the first half, the most common complaint heard is that baseball tried to do too much, too fast in increasing the umpire pool and trying to radically change the zone.
"Until the umpires stop hiding behind the catchers and get back to that big outside protector," says one hitting coach, "they won't be able to get in and out. And they're not going to help the pitchers until they call the low strike more consistently, because the hitters are adjusting to those high breaking balls. Watching Baseball Tonight the last 10 days I saw a ton of high breaking balls hammered, balls that were being taken the first two months because hitters had become accustomed to taking them."
As for Glavine, umpires clearly have made an example of him, and he has yet to adjust inside, as he will. How important is the first-pitch strike to Glavine? Going into his last start before the break, when he went 0-1, the average against him was .188. When he went 1-0, it was .338. Glavine's walks per nine innings have increased from 2.4 to 5.1, which Elias Sports Bureau claims is the biggest jump -- ever.
Ken Caminiti wanted to go to the Braves because of his relationship with hitting coach Merv Rettenmund, and Caminiti will play first and a little third, if Chipper Jones needs a day off. Caminiti eliminated any chance of the Kevin Millwood-Dmitri Young deal; the Braves need Millwood in the rotation so Jason Marquis can deepen the bullpen. "B.J. Surhoff is really coming along for us," says Rettenmund. "He hits all pitching and he hits when it counts."
The Rafael Furcal loss (the third dislocation of his left shoulder in two years), however, is devastating for the Braves. Mark DeRosa had problems laying back on balls when he first came up, but he has shown athleticism and talent. However, he's not Furcal and in reality DeRosa had been playing second base extremely well.
To put it mildly, the Angels are sick and tired of the stupid Rally Monkey. "That's all they promote, and that's all the fans care about," said one player. This is what happens when marketers supercede baseball.
So reigning NL MVP Jeff Kent -- the only second baseman on the NL roster -- plays all nine innings of the All-Star Game? Elias' Steve Hirdt noted that he recently saw an interview with Ted Williams where he mentioned that his home run to win the '41 All-Star Game was the most memorable of his career. On base at the time? Joe DiMaggio. So the man who hit .406 and the man who hit in 56 straight games played all nine innings.
Corporations are finding that baseball is not good for the bottom line, hence Disney begging out of baseball and Fox putting the Dodgers up for sale.
Roger Clemens asked Joe Torre to allow him to be in the manager's office when he told Andy Pettitte and Mike Stanton that they, too, had made the team. Understand -- Clemens doesn't socialize with hitters, period; he might face them someday. Pitchers are another story.
"I played with Jeff Reardon, and when he was young he wouldn't even talk to his pitcher teammates," says one former major-league pitcher. "He'd say, 'I might face you with the game on the line someday.'"
Red Sox pitching coach Joe Kerrigan on Sterling Hitchcock's quick return, a year after Tommy John surgery: "I would think there would be a setback. This thing deceives you. Ask John Smoltz. There are peaks and valleys, and it takes 20 months. I keep telling Pena not to worry, that he will make it back, but it always takes that much time." Kerrigan, incidentally, insists that Bret Saberhagen is three minor-league rehab starts from being back in the Red Sox rotation with David Cone.
Orioles starter Josh Towers is certainly one of the biggest surprises of the first half, but it raises an interesting issue: Are pitchers who aren't radar-gun monsters benefiting from their lack of visible tools? Doug Melvin believes that pitchers like Towers and San Diego's Brian Tollberg have to prove themselves and win on every level because they aren't radar guys, and that they get the innings and experience to learn how to pitch, as opposed to the fireballers who shoot through the minors before they learn how to pitch.
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