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Saturday, May 27, 2006

New Rule: Don't Miss in the Happy Zone

Phil Garner's take on the present state of his team's current badness hit the nail on the head: "When [Buchholz] missed, he missed in their happy zone, and they made something of it."

Memo to Astros: when you're playing one of the worst teams in baseball, you're supposed to win, and look good doing it!

I've got to believe that Taylor Buchholz has the stuff to be a solid starter. However, something's not right mechanically right now. In all of his bad starts (3 of the last 4), there's been talk of his ball drifting back over the plate. To me, this sounds like an adjustment problem. The amount of spin he either is or is not putting on the ball is causing it to veer from its intended location, back over the plate (and we're not playing Darth Robinson's team anymore, so that doesn't count).

Adjust, Taylor. When you see your two-seamer drifting over the middle of the plate to a lefty, start it further inside. Risk beaning somebody for the sake of finding the right release point. That, or start it over the outside corner and let it drift off the plate. Make 'em chase it.

A lot of coaches discourage thinking on the ballfield: "Don't think, son. Just do it!" While this is actually sound advice for the overly mental (which all players deal with at some point in their careers), it nevertheless isn't sound advice for an extended stay in baseball. You must know what you want to accomplish and have a plan to do it.

Guys who can throw hard don't necessarily make good pitchers. Pitching is an art... how else would Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine or (dating myself) Ron Mathis make it in the Bigs? Not because they threw "hard," but rather because they could pitch. Getting guys out is an art. It takes fine-tuning and adjustments... especially with Big League hitters.

The same goes for hitting. Know what you want to do before you toe the box. Scan the field, look where they're playing you, know the situation, know what the team needs you to do... and do it. This is why it kills me when, with a runner in scoring position, we have guys trying to pull outside pitches over the wall. Go with the pitch, hit it the opposite way for a single, and score the run.

Alas, quality pitching and hitting are art forms. This is why there aren't more players in Major League Baseball. It is also why, consequently, many players make frequent trips to places like Toledo.

Astros, please, please, PLEASE show some life and come back and win this series. We absolutely have to make up some ground on St. Louis, Cincinnati, and (now) Milwaukee.

Last Note: I know I was a litte sarcastic about Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson, but I will say this... he showed tremendous class (and emotion) when explaining having to pull Matt LeCroy from catcher (after Wi-kee-kee had exited due to Special K's special bonk on the head). The Astros stole seven bases off LeCroy before Robinson pulled him. This moved Robinson to tears, not because of how horrible LeCroy was (though he'd not caught for a long time), but rather because he hated to see one of his players be embarrassed like that (the combo of the SB's and getting pulled). Now that's a good manager. Seriously, players appreciate it when managers are upset at having to take guys out... I'm sure Gardner feels the same about Lidge. It probably breaks his heart as much as it angers us.


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