Thursday, July 31, 2008

Varitek the Wise Pitch Caller; Fastball Fastball Fastball Fastball Fastball Fastball Fastball Fastball

Ted Williams hated pitchers. Thought they were dumb. As an amateur pitcher: hey! As an everything else, he may have a point.

But somebody has to be smart out there. Crash told Nuke "Don't think, Meat, just throw." If the pitcher's the meat, the catcher's the soul, the ghost in the fleshy machine.

So we leave it to Captain Varitek to steer the ship, (to be the homunculus piloting the meat-craft?). After all, Tek is renowned for his preparation. And we all know how well he handles the pitching staff.

But in the last game before the non-waiver trading deadline, the Sox were humiliated by the Angels 9-2, who swept the Sox for the second time in 2 weeks. And Varitek put down the fingers.

Beckett breezed through 3 scoreless innings. In the 4th, Maicer Izturis lead off. Fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball for a double. Beckett then starts Teixeira with a fastball strike, drops a curve, and then gets the whiff with the fastball. Fine. But then Vlad Guerrero steps up. Fastball, fastball for an RBI single. Then Torri Hunter. Fastball, Fastball for a double, 2nd and 3rd. 1 out. Anderson steps up. Fastball. 2 run single.

John Farrell visits the mound. Kendrick to the plate. Curveball, curveball, curveball, curveball for strike 3. Then Mathews. Curveball, Fastball, fastball, and then Beckett took something off, and got Mathews to tap back to the mound.

I bet John Farrell could hit .215. But that's not his job.

After Beckett tossed a scoreless 5th, and the Sox got 2 back to cut the lead to a single run, Remy calls on Ace Beckett for a "shut-down inning" in the top of the 6th.

Beckett starts Hunter with a curve for a ball, then walks him after 3 straight fastballs. Then 3 more fastballs to Anderson, and the shot hooks around the Pesky Pole for a two run dong faster than you can say Hanley Ramirez.

When Beckett is a two-pitch pitcher, he's hittable. When he's a one-pitch pitcher, he's terrible.

But he's just the meat.

The fastball that Anderson hit for the 2 run single in the 4th was down and away, possibly even out of the strike zone. Perhaps not such a bad pitch. I believe it was at this point that Remy said "you've got to tip your hat to the hitter sometimes." Maybe so. But that particular pitch shouldn't be hittable, and a pitcher- and a catcher- do bear some responsibility for allowing it to be hit.

I have a theory of pitch complements. Basically, every pitch needs a complementary pitch that looks like it but isn't, in order to create doubt and hence delay in the hitter's mind on any given pitch. A fastball down and away, as textbook as it sounds, is worthless without a changeup (or splitter) down and away that that fastball might be, as far as the hitter is concerned.

From Anderson's point of view, he sees the pitch moving down and away. But there's no chance that that pitch is a breaking ball because breaking balls can't start that low, and because Beckett NEVER THREW A CHANGEUP, that leaves a 100% chance that that pitch is a fastball. So Anderson's neural timing mechanism yells 'swing, dummy', and he is able to get out in front and pull a Josh Beckett fastball that is down and away from him, and hook it into rightfield, which should be next to impossible.

If Beckett's been dropping changeups there all night, or at least once in a while, there is no way Anderson leans out and hooks that pitch. Instead, concern about the change either has him take that pitch, or slows him down enough that he tops over it and grounds out to second.

And whose job is it to have Beckett drop some changeups down there? Captain Varibelli, that's who. He's the brains of this operation. The guy whose great catching and pitch selection is what makes his atrocious hitting palatable. Everyone knows Manny isn't the leader. Varitek is. And he hasn't figured out how to lead the staff against the Angels, who have battered the Sox for a 6.26 ERA over these 8 straight Angels victories.

I've said it before- Josh Beckett is only as good as his changeup. In '06, there wasn't enough differential between his 95 mph heat, and his 90 mph changeup. In '07, he got the change down in the mid to high 80's, and was dominant. Now, he's abandoned the change, it seems, in favor of two seamers and an alleged cutter, in the 90-92 range. Not good enough. He needs that third speed, an offspeed pitch down in the zone to complement the low fastball, to get the hitter a) looking low, and b) waiting on a low pitch, both of which then make the high 4 seam fastball that much more difficult to reach.

I don't care if Beckett isn't "feeling" the changeup that day. Meat doesn't feel. Meat's a zombie. Meat throws. Varitek should know better.


Barry said...

For the sake of conversation, what does Varitek do if Beckett shakes off every sign but '1'? Or if before the game, Beckett tells Tek in no uncertain terms: I slept on my arm last night. I can throw, but let's make it a fastball night.

Just curious.

Soxlosophy said...

he tells the hitter that the heat is coming, and then says 'when you speak of me, speak well.'

the hitter then hits the ball off the bull and wins a steak.

Anonymous said...

Veritek better step it up or he could be back for a significant pay cut.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should have taped the game so you could re-watch it! It seemed that all Beckett did was shake Varitek off last night - again and again and again....even my nephew, the non-baseball fan, asked us why the pitcher kept shaking his head so much!

Soxlosophy said...

well, anonymous, if that is your real name, the pitcher might have been shaking his head because of all the well hit balls he kept giving up.

and beckett shakes off fastball location as often as anything else; just because beckett shakes off a sign does not mean tek called for a changeup.

more importantly, somebody has to give in. if the pitcher keeps shaking off the sign, the catcher can keep giving the same sign in perpetuity. if varitek gave in to beckett's stubborness, he's blameworthy. he's the captain, not beckett. he puts down the fingers, not beckett. he's the one who studies the hitters ahead of time and should go over the gameplan with the pitcher and say 'to hitters xyz, we're going with offspeed pitches.' this should be decided ahead of time. and the gameplan should be stuck to. and the catcher- especially one as revered as varitek is for precisely these things- should make sure he and the pitcher are on the same page.

besides, beckett seemed to listen to farrell after he came out. why couldn't tek do that?

there's no reason to let beckett call the pitches. so even if varitek called the right pitch and beckett shook it off (which I don't grant, but for argument's sake) varitek gave in and let the pitcher throw something he didn't want the pitcher to throw. which is just as bad for a guy with a C on his chest.

Soxlosophy said...

wait a minute. why am i arguing with anonymous? this crazy internet. assuming that people already come equipped with a name, it shouldn't be too much trouble to type it in. i think i'll disable anonymous comments.