Mariners Analysis

Monday, August 30, 2004

When two bad teams collide...

Somebody has to win. So the M's have a four game winning streak- courtesy of the worst team in the AL not named Seattle. A few quick thoughts on the weekend-

Bobby Madritsch had an interesting start. During the first inning when he gave up three runs, it looked like Bobby's run of nice starts might be over. Visions of ballooning ERA and another loss quickly appeared. I'll admit I was figuring this was going to be a LONG night. What with Melvin's strategy of using relievers, I was thinking we might actually get to see Ichiro pitch after all...

And then Bobby proceeds to throw 7 scoreless innings, for a total line of 8 innings and 3 earned runs. Quite possibly his finest big league performance. I was impressed.

Ichiro is of course amazing. All we can do is watch and marvel. Don't make predictions, just watch.

Bucky is really having a nice run as well. He's not carrying that gaudy .320 average he had earlier, but he is really quite consistent. He is patient at the plate, and isn't afraid to settle for a single. Outside of Ichiro he is clearly our best hitter, and everything I'm seeing right now leads me to believe this is no fluke. I think .270 with 25-30 home runs is reasonable for Bucky next year. For what they will have to pay him, he will be a huge bargain and will free-up money for those big bats we so need.

I'm also amused by Internet critiques of Bucky's swing as "long." There are a ton of players who have long swings, and are quite successful. Is anyone going to tell me Griffey's swing was compact? There are some players who possess the timing and ability to have a big swing and still be effective. I'm not comparing Bucky and Griffey's swing, I'm merely saying there is no one way to hit a baseball. Watching a major league game and seeing all the various batting stances is proof enough there is no single agreed upon method of hitting a baseball.

Some people equate "long" with having a "hole" in your swing. Every approach you take at the plate has advantages and consequences. You dive over the plate, you make yourself vulnerable to getting jammed. You stand back in the box, you face a bigger break on a curve. There are no secrets in baseball when it comes to hitting. However, just like golf, there's no one way to be successful at it.

Hitting well in the major leagues simply requires you to fail somewhat less often than your peers. If someone sees a flaw in Bucky's approach or notices certain types of pitches he fails at, so be it. However, you can't simply say his swing is "long" and have that imply anything really useful. Terms like long or compact swings are merely descriptive phrases that illustrate the type of approach a hitter is using. Similar to golf, if you say a hitter is "long" or "straight" tells you a little bit about their game, but doesn't actually tell you if they will succeed.

Along these same lines, when people first saw Bucky they said he can't hit a breaking ball- not with that swing. If we ignore for a moment if he can or cannot hit a curve, that alone still doesn't mean he couldn't be an effective hitter. There are plenty of examples of major league players who could were good enough at a particular type of pitch that they could succeed on that alone.

What I like about Bucky is he is one of the few hitters on this team who can hit a pitchers mistake. How many times this season has Boone or Winn had a fastball right over the middle of the plate and they miss it? Or a breaking ball that ends up belt high and they foul it off. With Bucky, he has done a great job hitting those mistakes. That huge HR he hit this weekend? It was off a pitch that was left over the plate- a mistake. The pitcher didn't want to throw it there, but he did.

And Bucky made him pay, long swing and all.