Black Jack

Ask Black Jack: Volume 4

Got a question for me? Send it to askblackjack@yahoo.com.

Jack,

Thanks for sharing your inside knowledge. Here's my question:

SABR types say clutch hitting is a myth. What do you think and do you think there is such a thing as clutch pitching?

Regards, PW

You can tweak any stat you want to mean anything. As players we know who we'd rather have up in situations to get the job done, or who we pitchers would rather face or not face etc. But whether that's statistically relevant is always a matter of opinion.

As far as clutch pitching I'd say you could figure it out by how many errors/miscues end up scoring later in innings (or does he pick up his teammates with a big out) and variation of bases empty and RISP stats. Also does he keep a lead once he gets it?

Jack


I just discovered your blog and find it refreshing that someone will state the obvious, thanks Jack. So let me please state the obvious about Greg Walker. I'm sure he's a great guy and works diligently with the hitters. However, everyone responds to coaches differently and if the coach only has one way of telling a player what he wants from him he will not be successful.


Take Josh Fields for an example. The reason people can get a 90 mph fastball past him is that when he cocks, his right elbow flies up. This is not a difficult fix but yet he continues to do it. The rest of our lineup sans Gordon Beckham (who will be a monster hitter someday) can't seem to not swing at a pitch out of the zone with a 2-0 count.

This is stuff I have taught ten year olds to stop swinging at bad pitches. With no strikes you have an imaginary box about a foot or so. If the ball is not in that box you simply don't swing. With one strike the box becomes larger and with 2 strikes it becomes a ball around the entire strike zone. It's a simple concept but our hitters are simply not disciplined enough. Perhaps they should try the box method.

Terry Link


Bad thing is, the things you talked about are sooo ingrained in a guys actions by the time he's in the Big Leagues. Guys either have a good eye and patience/ pitch selection or they don't. It's a heck of a lot easier teaching kids who have a cleaner slate! But you hit the nail on the head, the coaching of kids nowadays is ridiculously horrid! So much is being lost by the teaching of "technique" instead of the game itself.

Saturday game vs the Cubs is a perfect example. The two big hits (besides Beckham's walkoff) were A.J. and Alexei literally throwing the bat down in the zone to flip the ball out of the infield. No mechanics there, just good eye-hand and battling.

Jack


Hey, Jack!

What's up with Linebrink lately? More importantly, why is Ozzie so complacent about his relief pitchers in general? Against the Cubs, Linebrink went 3-2 on every batter (or so it seemed). I was yelling at Ozzie to yank him long before Lee came to the plate. Is he asleep at the wheel?

Keep up the great blog--I love it!

Kevin

I feel like all pitchers go too deep in the count these days anyway. Especially relievers. still trying to figure Ozzie and the pen. I didn't like him pulling Buerhle for Carrasco on Saturday to face Soriano either. Didn't make sense seeing as Soriano has holes that can be exploited if you have command. Forget the lefty/righty thing. It was just a feel thing for me at the time.

Jack


Jack my friend,

My question is this, with Juan Pierre playing so well as a role player for the Dodgers, filling in for an absent Manny, what will the team do when Manny returns? And what would you do if given the opportunity to decide?

Jay Wilkins

Here's my answer...sucks for Juan! But Torre will have a base stealing/pinch runner/pinch hitter weapon at his disposal. Pierre'll get his AB's hitting for the pitcher, pinch hitting late etc.

The toughest part will be keeping him sharp. It's harder to come off the bench and keep the consistency and production level he's had. Plus I hope Joe makes Manny cut his hair. That Testosterone kick really made it grow!

Jack

Jack,

I felt like this was too long for a comment on your site. Didn't want to be a comment whore.

There are alot of cheaters in the Hall, but the Hall of Fame is a joke to begin with. Guys that were admitted years ago based on stats we know aren't the best barometers of talent are still there. The Hall was not sponsored by baseball at its inception and is at best a sideshow.

Bill James is right when he states that a new Hall is needed. MLB needs its own true Hall with different tiers that are fluid. The best nine players of all time changed with Ricky Henderson.

So, a top nine and other tiers to represent the many great ballplayers in history including those overlooked by the Kool Kidz Klub like Ron Santo, Rock Raines, Blyleven, etc is needed. A method to move players between levels based on statistical evidence needs to be in place. Once you're in Cooperstown, you can't be kicked out. It's a joke.

Frank Thomas' performance seems even more incredible in light of what's come out and yet I still hear people say they aren't sure he belongs in the Hall. That right there is reason enough not to take the Hall seriously.

I'm not troubled that there might be Roid users in the Hall any more than I'm concerned that there are spitballers, speedballers, and other cheaters in the Hall. If you're there, that means your career is over. I am very bothered that clean, hardworking ballplayers suffer and suffered at the expense of those who chose to juice earning less money and fewer accolades.

How would your career have been different if you didn't have to face guys with artificially improved hand eye coordination (a seldom discussed component of steroid use) and extra power protecting folks in a lineup?

What about all of those pitchers who intentionally walked Barry Bonds doing his Robocop impersonation? None of those stats are valid. How do we evaluate pitching from the steroid era? Normalization of stats won't cut it necessarily.

Do I weigh a pitcher's stats from the NL West differently from another division where the Roid use was less rampant? How would Maddux have looked if he were in the NL West having to face Barry in extra at bats?

These guys ruined baseball and are continuing to do so.

Thanks for all of your hard work with the Sox. I've been a lifelong Sox fan and I made a point of trying to catch every start you had. Glad I found your blog! I love seeing things from your perspective.

Regards,
Mark in Myrtle Beach

First off, there won't be a new HOF. Too much "history." Can't mess with baseball history you know! Secondly agree about the HOF leaving out deserving players. How about Jack Morris? What a joke. Led MLB in wins over the 80's ...A DECADE!!!

Add all the other things in etc. And ESPN had an interesting take on the game in their mag and on the site. They decided that the purest era of baseball was the actual era when I kicked ass.

So consequently, to quote the great Rickey Henderson, "I am the greatest of all time" (or at least that era.) Thing is, they missed the boat. Steroids started to come into the game in the late 80's.

And about Maddux, he WAS awesome. But when you go back and watch the run that he and Glavine put together in Atlanta, their strike zone was absolutely ridiculous. They consistently got strikes called on balls that literally were 6 inches off the plate.

Let's put it this way. When their catchers set up, if they missed the glove by 6 inches, they hit a corner. If all the rest of us miss our target (the corner) by six inches, it's on the middle of the plate and we're asking the umpire for another ball!

Ask yourself how Maddux and Glavine would have looked in the American league.

Jack

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13 Comments

chibrunew said:

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Jack, I've been extremely disappointed with your blog so far. It appears you have some unresolved hostilities and bitterness towards the MLB and the White Sox organization. I think the Tribune company wants you to provide valuable insight and expertise coming from a prominent member of the White Sox from the 90s, but we are getting material that appears written after a few beers without very much thought or analysis behind it usually with a mean or vindictive tone. Lay off the booze, take some pills, and write something that isn’t lazy and trite.

Jack McDowell said:

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Well, what would you consider trite vs smart? Okay let me try...Four score and seven beers ago...But seriously, I've taken on the issue at hand with my expert opinion and have followed my posts up with comments explaining my views that truthfully have yet to be even slightly disputed. I have No bitterness toward the White Sox and would challenge you to point out a single comment I have made that reflects that other than the blatant fact that the Sox have not "adored" their past stars which is factual and not opinion. In about every other case I have gone out of my way to defend the Sox, their moves and their employees. Instead of broadly painting all that I have written as invalid and lazy, how about we go back and forth on a Sox issue that is appealing to you, and consequently not trite. Oh, and the Tribune Company can fire me any time they want to. Bummer.

TehDave said:

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couldn't disagree more with the above comment - i think jack's stuff comes off as more honest and genuine than most sports people, and i appreciate it. it's great to hear real opinions, whether or not i agree with them all the time.

keep it up!

Jimmymac120912 said:

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Jack,
I really don't understand your statements about Maddux and Glavine. Your a high school or little league coach right now, right? If the umpire is giving 3 to 6 inches off the plate aren't you going to be telling that pitcher to throw it there as many times as possible? You should not hold anything against Maddux or Glavine career's because they were getting calls that you or other borderline all star pitchers were not getting. The fact is Maddux and Glavine earned that strike zone because of thier pin point accuracy and changes of speed. I just dont know if it would matter as much if Glavine or Maddux pitched in the National or American league. They both were smarter and fielded their positions better than anyone else of their time.

Jack McDowell said:

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Well all that is a matter of opinion, but if you believe that you "earn" the strike zone then this is not a realistic discussion. The strike zone is the strike zone. It seems you bought into all the hype about "the command" of those two. My point in my first answer gives the reality about their "pinpoint" control. if you miss your target by 6 inches where is the pitch? For them, on the corner for everyone else over the middle. BIG DIFFERENCE. Earning a strikezone is B.S. Having way more room for error was the reality.

Jimmymac120912 said:

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Jack,
Did Michael Jordan earn the calls from the NBA refs because he was taking the ball strong to the hoop on a consistent basis? Or did he earn those call because he was Michael Jordan? I think Jordan took the ball to the hoop a lot because he was getting those calls. I also think Maddux made a living on the outside corner because he was getting the strikes called. Thats why they are the best we have seen at their respective sports. Its just not all about athletic abiltiy.

Jack McDowell said:

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Chicken or the egg...and the NBA is the biggest farce when it comes to allowing their stars different rules. Don't think Maddux as much as Glavine on this one. I'm not blaming the players or coming down on them...just pointing out the fact of the matter and allowing others to decipher its ultimate meaning. Even YOU admit the strike zone differential was a fact while you argue with me about it???????

Jimmymac120912 said:

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Also, how many calls was Frank Thomas getting at the plate in the early 90's, when he throw ass out everytime a pitcher hit the inside corner of the plate THAT WAS A STRIKE, and the umpire would call it a ball. Yet many baseball scouts would drool over what a great eye Frank had for a big powerful hitter.

Jack McDowell said:

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Agreed and then some!!! We'd laugh our asses off seeing the pitches Frank would jump away from and get balls called. if you go back and watch, Frank stood so far off the plate you couldn't hit him with a pitchout! He'd jump back at a pitch on the inside corner that was still 10 inches away from his knee!!! We always thought there was a league mandate for umpires NOT to call the inside pitch on Frank!

Jimmymac120912 said:

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Jack,
In response to your "a stike zone is the strike zone" comment. In every game that you pitched; did the umpire in the Clevland series have the same strike zone as the umpire in the Detroit series. Or did you adjust to how the umpire was calling his balls and strikes?

Jack McDowell said:

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very slight differences and way overplayed. not the same stuff as we're talking about

Jimmymac120912 said:

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Jack,
I will say this however, if Mark Buehrle got the strike zones that Glavine and Maddux got in the mid 90's, he would probably be playing for the yankees right now making 25 million a year. My point those is you just cant fault guys for taking advantage and succeeding in calls that they were or are getting.

Jack McDowell said:

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Great comparison and completely accurate. Buerhle IS today's Glavine. If he had 6 inches (at least) off the plate, it would be a joke...as it was back then! He'd dominate even more.

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