I don’t know who to blame more for the headache I incurred after reading this article, Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry or the writer, Bruce Miles. Though, I have to place some of the blame with the copy editor, who wooed me in with a headline suggesting that Hendry recognizes the value of on-base percentage. He clearly does not.
I should have known this was a sham article right from the get go. After all, Hendry’s marquee signing this winter was Alfonso Soriano, he of the .325 career OBP and who only last year — his walk year — drew more than 33 walks. Not that Soriano is a bad player by any means. But don’t go touting OBP when you paid a low OBP player $136 million.
The first filth to spew from Hendry’s mouth: “They’ve (the Oakland A’s) set the standards for higher on-base percentage and working the count.” Of course, he’s basing that on the oft-misunderstood Moneyball. But Billy Beane was not the first to employ this philsophy. I suggest he read The Numbers Game by Alan Schwartz, which delves into baseball past to discover who played with what numbers. Also, if you look back at the early 90s, a man by the name of Gene Michael built the Yankees dynasty around guys with high OBPs. They set the modern era, followed closely by the Red Sox.
It doesn’t stop with Hendry:
“Still, more importantly, you have to knock people in, knock the runs in the right way with two outs in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning. You can fluctuate the numbers a lot of different ways to create your own argument.”
Knock runs in the right way? There’s a wrong way to knock in runs? And am I alone in not understanding the last sentence?
“A lot of times, you want somebody to hit one off the wall to knock in 2 and maybe not take that walk depending on who’s up next.”
A lot of times, you want people to hit a home run, but it doesn’t happen every time. From this quote, it seems like Hendry believes baseball players can will the ball into play. Yeah, I want Soriano to bounce one off the wall, but I don’t want him swinging at pitches six inches off the plate in his attempts. If he does that, he’s likely to strike out. Had he taken the walk, you wouldn’t have wasted the out.
“The game’s all about two things: scoring runs and knocking in runs, and you have to have a balance of all of it.”
Well, you see, Jim, knocking in runs means you’re scoring runs, so to say the game is about two things when, in fact…ah, fuck it. Even if I explained it, I don’t think Jim Hendry would understand.
From Sweet Lou:
“What you want out of your leadoff hitter is on-base percentage, and you want some speed. (Alfonso) Soriano can give you that.”
Obviously, Piniella has never seen Soriano’s Baseball Reference page. Speed? Yes. OBP? .325. Below league average. Only above average in his walk year. Please, Lou, you’re better than that.
“You don’t really want your 3-4-5 hitters taking too many pitches. You want to let them swing away.”
Why shouldn’t they take pitches? Why would you want them to take pitches out of the zone? They’re more likely to see worse pitches, since they’re better hitters, so I would say that taking pitches is just as important for 3-4-5 hitters. Yes, you want them to drive in runs. They’re best able to do that on a good pitch. They have to take their walks so that pitchers know they’re not going to swing at junk. I’m not saying they should be looking for a walk — they shouldn’t. But they also shouldn’t succumb to shitty pitches in an attempt to put the ball in play.
At least Gerald Perry, new Cubs hitting coach, can shed some light on this topic:
“My philosophy is you don’t go up there looking for a walk. You go up there looking for a good pitch to hit.”
Yes, a good pitch to hit. You don’t look for a walk, but you take it if it’s all the pitcher gives you.