By Gino Gallo,
The game of baseball has been through cycle after cycle for as long as there has been baseball. However every now and then, a player or players come around and change the cycle. It has become abundantly clear that baseball has changed over the last 10 to 15 years drastically.
Almost every single lefty now has to deal with the dreaded shift, more frequently then ever, right handed batters are even being shifted against. The launch angle theory has also come into play more recently and players are now swinging for the fences like it is mid to late 90’s again.
Personally, (and I do not think I am alone) the more old school approach to the game is a better game. This is not to say I do not enjoy the game as it is today, to me it is and always will be the greatest game in the world. Although the Chess like adaptation and precision is an art that has taken a back seat and given way to a more Checkers approach.
This is especially in regards to the art of hitting. The philosophy now of “go up there and swing as hard as you can with a swing that contains launch angle” is less appealing then the go up to the plate and try to out think the pitcher. Find your pitch and drive it somewhere.
As a avid and die hard Met fan, I have noticed two players playing a huge part in swinging the cycle back toward that old school style of play. First and foremost, lets look at Robinson Cano, his new approach is as brilliant as it is obvious. All spring long he worked on shooting the ball into left field. He made the proclamation that he was going to do it, and he already did it once in only one game. It’s something we all have seen.
The infielders drastically shift over toward the right side of the field and we collectively sigh and say, just poke one down the left field line. Robinson Cano has finally decided to make a conscious effort to put that into practice. I’m not saying Cano is going to bat .350, however if someone with his type of bat control decides he’s going to forgo swinging for the seats every single at bat and take a double or base hit when that shift is on, .350 can be an easy average to obtain.
If other hitters with Robinson Cano’s bat control such as Joey Votto, Andrew Benitendi, Daniel Murphy, Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez Ect. start taking this same approach. Eventually the shift will revert back to a tactic you can only deploy against big sluggers like Joey Gallo and Khris Davis. It is only a matter of time before other players pick up on this and begin to adapt the same way. As Cano has gotten older it seems he has gotten much wiser, because he is the first one I’ve seen make a serious effort into making that shift ultimately work for him, rather then against him.
The second player I believe has figured something out is our beloved Jacob deGrom. Remember not to long ago Jake’s out pitch was that devastating low and outside fastball? His first two years that was how he predominantly retired hitters. Although Launch angle has completely put a damper on that philosophy. The fastball at the knees has turned from a deadly weapon into a pitch that is now right in a hitters wheel house. The launch angle technique which pushes for an uppercut stroke, make a low fastball a hitters dream.
After a season in which deGrom had a higher then usual ERA of around 3 and a half and had given up more homeruns then usual he seems to have moved the pieces on the chess board around. If you watch closely “peas at the knees” (As Terry Collins used to call it) is no longer the way Jacob strikes batters out. When deGrom gets two strikes on a batter nowadays, he inevitably throws that high fastball which looks great to a hitter, however is almost impossible to hit when using the launch angle method. Once again it is only a matter of time before the other smart pitchers in the league see what’s going on and adjust. Before long to high fastball is going to be a premiere out pitch again.
As it seems Jake and Robinson have figured out new methods of combating the competitions strategy. It is imperative the New York Mets see what is in front of them and draft and develop players accord.