OBSERVATIONS: Pitchers Look For Nothing But Swings And Misses

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after a weekend of watching the Cincinnati Reds put together more zeros than the Japanese Air Force in World War II.

—LOOKING FOr K’S: Bob Feller pitched more than 300 innings three times for the Cleveland Indians, once pitching 371 innings.

In today’s game, a pitcher is considered an iron man if he pitches 200 innings. And that’s rare.

Feller also pitched 36 complete games one season. Last year there were 34 complete games, total, in MLB.

Why is that?

It’s because a starting pitcher these days is just that. . .a starting pitcher, not a finishing pitcher.

It is because teams prefer the almighty strikeouts. They want swings and misses. No contact, please.

Starting pitchers realize they won’t go more than five or six innings, close to 100 pitches. And some have innings limits for the season.

So they don’t pace themselves. It is maximum effort on each pitch. No more painting the corners like Greg Maddux. Blow it by ‘em.

And it leads to elbow and shoulder injuries. Front offices don’t care. They jjust plug in another hard-thrower and tell him, “Go as hard as you can for five innings and get those strikeouts.”

It’s why teams strike out 25% of the time in each game. It’s why MLB hitters are averaging .240, an average that not long ago would have players packing their bags for the minors.

And it’s why so many fans, even fervent fans, are bored to distraction with the strikeouts, with starters going five innings, followed by a parade of one-inning relief pitchers.

So most starting pitchers are treated as if they have crooked teeth and double dandruff. Bob Feller, where have you gone?

—AIN’T SLAMS GRAND?: While the Cincinnati Reds continue to treat runners in scoring position as if they are on base for no apparent reason, the first-place Milwaukee Brewers know how to clear ‘em.

The Brewers are performing their own ‘grand opera.’

During an eight-game span, the Brewers hit four grand slam home runs by four differenrt players. And Christian Yelich, the Reds assassin, isn’t one of them.

There were Jake Bauer, Rhys Hoskins, Brice Turang and rookie Jackson Chourio. But you can wager that Yelich was on base for most of them.

Then on Sunday, Turang hit another grand slam.

—A FAN-CY CATCH: MLB outfielders utilize gloves the size of the Jolly Green Giant’s hands. Yet they drop balls and have balls glance off those gloves like slippery mercury.

Then there are the fans, especially one in Baltimore’s Camden Yards. The other day a foul ball hit by Cleveland’s Jason Naylor came off the bat at 108.5 miles an hour and traveled 415 feet to the upper deck in the right field corner.

There stood Tim Byer, his cellphone and a drink cup in his left hand. Nonplussed, he reached up a caught it with his right hand. Barehanded. Didn’t drop his cellphone. Didn’t drop his drink. Didn’t spill a drop.

Baltimore TV interviewed him and he said, “Do I get a contract? When you’re good, you’re good.” He should get a contract. And he should start for the Orioles in right field. . .barehanded.

For sure the Savannah Bananas can use him. If a fan catches a foul ball in ‘Banana Ball,’ the batter is out. Hey, Josh Naylor. You’re out.

—MR. CONSISTENT: Until Pete Rose not only broke it, but smashed it, Stan Musial held the career record for most hits in the National League with 3,360.

Musial always was one of the most consistent players ever. How consisent? Well, of those 3,630 hits, 1,815 were hit ata home and 1,815 were hit on road. How’s that for consistency?

And when they talk about humble pie, Musial had all the ingredients. When somebody asked him about Joe DiMaggio, he said, “There was never a day I was as good as Joe DiMaggio at his best. He was the best, the very best.”

QUOTE: The inscription on Stan Musial’s statue outside Busch Stadium: “ Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior, here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”

—BRETT AND BUTTER: When it comesa up for discussion, few fans list George Brett as one of baseball’s all-time best hitters. He is one of the few players who came close to hitting .400, something not accomplished in 82 years. Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.

Brett is the only player in MLB history to get three or more hits in six straight games, accomplished in 1976.

Brett is full of integrity, even if he got caught using too much pine tar on his bat. Even that was overturned.

“I could have played another year, but I would have been playing for the money, and baseball deserves better than that,” he said after retiring.

QUOTE: From George Brett: “If a tie is like kissing your sister, a loss is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out.”

So, George, what is it like when you get shut out two times in three games

—CATCHNG ON — Why is it that so many catchers become MLB managers? There have been 73 former catchers manage in the majors, guys like Yogi Berra, Joe Torre, Bruce Bochy, Jim Leyland, Al Lopez, Birdie Tebbetts, Bill Dickey, Mickey Cochrane, Joe Girardi, Mike Scioscia.

In my time covering the Reds, former catchers Russ Nixon, Dave Miley, Bob Boone, Jerry Narron and Jack McKeon have managed the team.

Only 35 former pitchers became managers, guys like Roger Craig, Walter Johnson and Cy Young27.

The fewest? Third basemen, only 27. But Davey Johnson was one of the best. And Reds manager David Bell is a former third baseman.

The theory is that catchers control games, run games. Pitchers? Mostly they just do what they’re told.

—BILL AND GOODS?: People keep saying they were sold a bill of goods. What is a bill of goods and can Nadine order it on Amazon?

—I CAN BE. . .CENTER FIELD: It is apparent to me that Cincinnati Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz really wants to play center field, as I keep suggesting. Why else would he keep running out there to catch short fly balls that the outfielder should catch?

—PLAYLIST NUMBER 67: I just keep finding ‘em:

My Sweet Lord (George Harrison), All Out Of Love (Air Supply),You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC), Proud Mary (Credence Clearwater Revival), No Time (Guess Who), Into The Night (Benny Mardones), Paradise City (Guns ’N Roses), The Letter (The Box Tops), Jump (Van Halen).

Light My Fire (The Doors), I Think We’re Alone Now (Tiffany), Higher Love (Steve Winwood), Alone (Heart), Don’t Dream It’s Over (Rounded House), It’s Now Or Never (Elvis Presley), Heart Of Gold (Neil Young), Put Some Sugar On It (Def Lepard).


2 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: Pitchers Look For Nothing But Swings And Misses”

  1. Ha – Elly on playing centerfield. Yeah, def. looks that way! Great point about games of swings and misses. Would baseball have become the “National Pastime” in its current form?

  2. Ha – Elly wanting to play centerfield. Sure looks that way. Great point about game of swings and misses. Would baseball have become the “National Pastime” in its current form?

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