Saturday, October 10, 2009

Diamond Demo Lies

I can't believe I'm going to do this. It saddens every bone in my body. I'm going negative on MLB Network's Diamond Demos. Don't get me wrong, some of these Diamond Demos are great. They brought Rickey in to talk about how great Rickey is, and in the next segment, with Rickey possibly still watching off-set, they decided to make fun of Rickey. I really do enjoy just about everything MLB Network has to tell me.

Unfortunately, I stumbled upon a Diamond Demo in which Mitch Williams and Dan Plesac were demonstrating the correct way of holding runners on. They put a strong emphasis on the fact that they were giving the analysis from a lefty pitchers point of view and a righty pitchers point of view. I'm not understating this emphasis. Basically, every other word out of both of their mouths was as a lefty I or as a righty I and this was the downfall of the segment. There is one problem. Mitch Williams, lefty closer was doing the analysis for a lefty pitcher. Dan Plesac was doing the analysis for the righty pitcher, but wait Dan Plesac throws with his LEFT hand. Strike one!

When going into their analysis Mitch Williams starts first, saying that as a lefty he held guys on by mixing his timing to the plate. Alright, that is solid analysis (except for the fact that for the next 5 minutes he restated one thought 6 different ways). Exactly what any pitcher should do, but all pitchers should mix up their timing, not just left handers. This is giving youngsters watching the wrong impression. Righties should also mix up their timing to the plate. On a side note, Mitch Williams was a closer. When did he ever care about holding runners on???? If he really had that many runners on, so that he had to mix his timing to the plate up, he was not doing a very good job closing down ball games. We will count those as Strike Two!

As a righty, Dan Plesac (remember he is not a righty) liked to hold his runners by getting ahead in the count. Then he faulted Red Sox pitchers for not getting ahead in the count. He even pointed to a segment of the game in which 2 different Angels runners stole second. The first runner stole on the first pitch though, so really what does getting ahead in the count matter? And, after both successful steals of second, the camera points to the catcher, Victor Martinez!!! Things Victor is good at: hitting. Things Victor has had constant troubles with in the past: throwing runners out.

By saying the Red Sox pitchers are at fault for the steals because they aren't getting ahead of hitters is asinine. And, what does all this have to do with being right handed? Shouldn't a pitcher, no matter their race, creed, or pitching hand try to get ahead of hitters?

What a pitcher needs to focus on when working on holding runners on is fairly simple. First for righties, having a concise move and eliminating all extra movement when throwing to first is essential. Also, avoiding taking too much time on your step back is huge, because typically that is what base stealers are keying on (even though Rickey says that he keyed on the back elbow. I don't know how that could possibly be better than the knee or heel, but he's Rickey Henderson). For a lefty, replicating your normal stride to the plate will always be tricky for base runners. Lefties also need to take full advantage of the 45 degree rule, in which it is only a balk if the pitcher exceeds a 45 degree angle from the mound.

For both types of pitchers, mixing the timing of your moves and practicing throwing accuracy over to first is something pitchers should not take lightly in practice. All of these things will help a pitcher hold runners on more effectivley. Unfortunately, the Diamond Demo guys only gave us one of those things, and they never gave any information that was strictly for righties or lefties (probably because both were lefties), even though they insisted they did.

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