Leyland says Tigers didn’t swing at enough first pitches

by billfer on August 13, 2009 · 11 comments

in 2009 Season,Offense

During Jim Leyland’s post game presser, he made some interesting comments regarding the Tigers approach against Josh Beckett. Leyland thought the Tigers weren’t aggressive enough on first pitches and settled for too many first pitch strikes. The actual quote was:

“That just makes it easy for him,” Leyland said. “I know how good he is. I know it’s not that easy. But for you to get a guy like him, he basically is going to come right at you. He has very good stuff, and then, he’s a very intelligent pitcher. He’s going to come at you, and if he can get you to stand there and take a strike-one fastball, that’s really playing into his hand.”

It wasn’t really a take I expected (and not just because I spent a chunk of my recap praising the Tigers for making Beckett throw more than 5 pitches per plate appearance through the first 4 innings) because the Tigers aren’t really noted for their patience at the plate.

Detroit ranks 7th in terms of percentage of pitches swung at (46.5%). They are often criticized for swinging at the first pitch too often and making too many quick outs. Their walk rate is middle of the pack. They have the fewest pitcher per plate appearance in the American League (3.75 and the league average is 3.84). Swinging the bats has never been a problem for the Tigers this year.

As for last night’s game Beckett recorded first pitch strikes on 19 of the 24 batters he faced. Here is the breakdown:

  • Called Strike: 12
  • Foul: 1
  • In Play – Out: 5
  • In Play – Hit: 1
  • Ball: 5

The Tigers actually only swung at 30% of the first pitches that Beckett threw. For the season they swing at 28% of first pitches, and the league average is 26%. Last night they had 1 favorable outcome out of the 7 times they swung at the first pitch. Maybe the Tigers get more hits the more they swing away at the first pitch against Beckett, and this is a VERY small sample. But looking at this I don’t see how you can say that the Tigers made things easy for Beckett by laying off the first pitch and if anything their uncharacteristic patience and ability to foul off pitches early in the game made Beckett work harder. And if anything, I think you just need to tip your cap to a very good pitcher.

Beck’s Blog: Leyland critiques approach

 
 

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jb61973 August 13, 2009 at 10:14 am

My God, Leyland is an idiot.

Kathy August 13, 2009 at 10:35 am

Well, absolutely, Inge should have tried to hit the first pitch. His were all down broadway and he just stood there. I saw lots of first pitch strikes, but that’s what you expect from a Josh Beckett. What else can Leland say? “I made a mistake by putting Carlos on 1st base. He hasn’t played on any field in over 3 months”? He is absolutely driving me nuts. I didn’t watch the post game interview as I’m sick and tired of watching our manager eat with an open mouth in front of us. I could tolerate a cigarette in his hand more than the disrespect he shows us by chewing with an open mouth.

Matt August 13, 2009 at 11:06 am

Even if this was absolutely true, why did Leyland have to say that?

Because it won’t change anything from last nights game, but it’s definitely going to affect what happens today.

Prediction for today’s game: Verlander pitches well, but team only scores 0-1 runs BECAUSE they heeded Smokey’s advice and started slapping at the first pitch in every plate appearance and bail out a young pitcher who hasn’t won a game yet.

Eric Cioe August 13, 2009 at 11:50 am

Miguel Cabrera has absolutely the right approach with swinging at first pitches: he doesn’t do it unless they’re good pitches to hit. The numbers bear that out. Hitters should go up there and shrink their zone to an 8 inch circle, and if it’s in that, pound it. If it’s not, let it go by. I think that a lot of Tigers hitters go up with no plans of swinging at any first pitch, in an attempt to ‘work the pitcher.’ But that’s not how you do it.

Zach August 13, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I really wonder sometimes if Leyland watches the games.

Shane Trapped in Toledo August 13, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Seemed to me that Beckett threw the same sequence of pitches to about every batter last night. The first pitch was usually a fastball on the outside corner, then he threw a breaking ball over the plate on the second pitch. Then, up 0-2, he would get the Tigers to chase a pitch outside the zone to strike out or ground out. It seemed like this was on an endless loop.

Keith (Mr. X) August 13, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I don’t know the best strategy to hit against Beckett. I had no expectations of the Tigers winning that game at anyway. We had a legit chance to win the 1st 2 games though.

I’m just glad King Felix and company shutout the White Sox in 14 innings.
Thank you Seattle.

Chris August 13, 2009 at 1:46 pm

First pitch swinging is a perfect way to keep an effective opposing starting pitcher, deep into the game.

Chris in Dallas August 13, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Hey they linked to this over at Baseball Musings. Yay billfer!

Vince in MN August 13, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I assume that after losing three straight and looking bad doing it, the EM felt it was necessary to “do something” and this is what you get. If everyone had swung at Beckett’s first pitch, then that would have been the topic.

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