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Tuesday, September 07, 2004

TRIUMPHANT RETURN
So, I had a great weekend; I hope y'all did, too. Not hurting was the Halo smackdown of those upstart Clevelanders. A few notes on what's up:

-- How good was that play Bengie and K-Rod turned in Sunday night? Breathtaking, amazing ... it's one of the best plays I've ever seen in my life. It's not quite the best, I don't think ... there was Jim Edmonds' back-to-the-infield catch in KC a few years back, and Darin Erstad had an even better diving game-saving catch in Yankee Stadium's left field in 2000 (and then hit the game-winning homer, to boot). But the instincts and reactions of both participants in this play were just incredible. Bengie ran the fastest he ever has (even faster than he did on that triple in the 2002 ALCS), and Frankie is so intense -- there was just no way in hell he was going to let that run score while he was alive. What a thrill; it's the play of the year.

-- In that same game, Adam Kennedy was up with a man on second and no outs. Jake Westbrook threw him a sinker away. Kennedy, trying to pull it to make at least "a productive out," hit a grounder right back to Westbrook. No advance by the runner.

Now, Kennedy was doomed by the pitch location, as Joe Morgan pointed out on the telecast. But he was also doomed by an often silly focus on the productive out. Charlie Lau has this book, The Winning Hitter, the follow-up to his The Art of Hitting .300. In this book, Lau says all the typical things about moving up runners, blah blah blah ... but the way he puts it is that he assigns an "Area of Maximum Vulnerability" to the defense, which goes from the left of the shortstop to the right field line. It's not just about hitting it to the second baseman, it's about driving the ball into that area. So, even if you mess up, you can get the runner over. One of Lau's commandments of hitting is to focus on hitting the ball back at the pitcher's forehead; you can see how that dovetails nicely with his "AMV" theory.

It just seems to me like this is the smart way to go about trying to advance runners. Now, for all I know, this is what the Angels preach. But we know trying to pull a sinker on the outside corner is a recipe for disaster; you are best-served waiting on that pitch and slapping a line drive over the shortstop's head -- or up the middle. The "productive out" thing really gives a good sinkerballer an advantage in that situation, if he's facing a lefty focused on pulling the ball.

-- It's Armageddon time. Dallas McPherson is in the majors, but it's hard to see how much time he'll get. I figure the first day The Legs needs a rest, we'll see him at the hot corner. He's going to Winter Ball this year, too, and Bill Stoneman's remarks as to what he has to work on offensively are encouraging:

He's got to cut down strikeouts, take more walks, and really, that means becoming more aware of pitches and the strike zone. Before he got to Triple-A, he drew more walks. In Triple-A, there were few of those, and a number of them were intentional.
Whoa, we're encouraging an Angel hitter to control the strike zone? Be still my heart!

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