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5.24.2006

Mistakes I've Made 

Watching last night's video highlights, I'm struck once again by the capriciousness of a pitcher's mistakes. Take last night's starters as examples:

Matt Morris has to throw a 2-0 fastball to Albert Pujols in the first inning. Gulp. Matheny sets a target down and away -- it must be a perfect pitch. It is not, the ball drifts back over the middle of the plate and Pujols gives the Cards a 3-0 lead. Granted, even if the pitch were perfect, Pujols might well have lined it up the right-center field gap for a two-run double. He's just too good.

Later, Pujols and Rolen hit balls that travel much farther than Pujols' first-inning home run, but Finley tracks them down in deepest center. Defensive skill = a pitcher's good fortune. Matty Mo easily could have surrendered 8 or 9 runs in a smaller park.

In the fifth inning, Morris makes two great pitches on Edmonds and Encarnacion, who squib two infield grounders and reach base each time (error on Vizcaino; nubber under Vizquel's glove). Two key runs score.

Jason Marquis has Randy Winn down two strikes, then tries to throw a curve down and away. The pitch breaks down and in instead, and Winn golfs it into the arcade for a two-run homer. Bad pitch? Yes, in that he missed his target. No, in that it still wasn't close to the strike zone. Winn, like many lefties, likes to golf pitches down and in, but here's where capriciousness comes in: if Marquis had thrown the pitch low but over the plate, Winn likely would have hit a harmless pop-up to right-center field.

Lesson? Strikeouts may be fascist, as Crash Davis once said, but they eliminate capriciousness: No bounces, no wind, no defense, no quirky ballpark configuration.

Other observations:

* Watching Barry Bonds close-up (my seats are just beyond the left-field fence) is painful. The man looks statuesque in left field: I mean his mobility, not his physique. How long can Giant center fielders continue to cover for him? When considering how he doesn't need to hit home runs to help win ball games (see yesterday's post), it's important to remember his defense. How many balls need to fall in, or singles turn to doubles, before his offensive advantages start to erode?

* My first chance to see Brian Wilson pitch. An interesting comparison with Accardo, whom he replaced on the mound. Both throw mid-90s, but Wilson seems more polished at this point: better breaking ball, smoother mechanics, quicker delivery to the plate. Wilson has the fluid, squared-off motion reminiscent of Seaver or Ryan. Accardo has a herky-jerk kick and hand flutter. This difference may not mean anything, but the more extra motion in a delivery, the more chances for the delicate, complex mechanism to go awry, even by the slightest bit.

And if a tiny mechanical glitch can make the difference between a fastball on the outside corner at the knees and one that drifts back over the plate, well, ask Matt Morris how important that is.

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