Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hitting From the Bottom of the Deck

When the skills decline, what's a player to do? Cheat, of course. Varitek continues to get beat on fastballs fair and square, so what other recourse does he have?

Tek, in the 2nd inning of Monday night's 6-3 Sox victory over Baltimore, pulled a 94 mph fastball for a homer to right field, just his third in 64 games. And then in the 7th, he pulled a grounder down the first base line on a 92 mph fastball.

How does such a slow bat get around so early on fastballs? What's the ace up his sleeve? Simple. A 2-0 count in both cases. A hitter's count. A fastball count. A count where Varitek can cheat.

I've noticed this for a few weeks now; Varitek is cheating in fastball counts, looking fastball, and starting his swing early, so he can get around on the predictable pitch. This is a last ditch effort to survive, using brains over that other quality, the one that fades earlier than brains.

Of course, cheating risks getting pinched; it's the price for living dangerously. And if Tek gets an offspeed or breaking pitch in a fastball count, he's apt to get caught redhanded. In the 8th, against stupidly named Rocky Cherry, Tek was ahead in the count 2-1. A count where one is to be selective, waiting for that perfect pitch, and only then making a move. But Tek tipped his hand; gearing up for a fastball, Tek starting his swing early, and had no choice but to chase a slider down and out of the zone. And then guessing fastball again on 2-2, he chased another slider down and out of the zone, for the whiff. In the 9th, Tek had another 2-1 count, and this time was well ahead of a changeup, fouling it off, only to then take a belt high fastball for a called third strike.

Tek was caught cheating on the basepaths last week, too. On Thursday, he tried to get an early start on a stolen base, and left before the pitcher delivered. The pitcher stepped off the rubber, and caught Tek in a rundown, the result of which was not in doubt.

Of course, I can't help concluding that all this cheating business relates to mortality; wishing to stave off infirmity, Tek is looking to cheat death any way he can, to get whatever edge he can muster before old age catches him in a run down. But of course death catches everyone in a pickle of inevitability; it's just a question of staying in it long enough for the other runners to advance.

Anywho, in cheerier news, Bay slammed two dongs, and Lester continued to be the my-subjective-ace, defined as the guy who prompts me to say to myself 'phew, he's pitching tonight.'

Yeah, I say 'phew'. Even to myself. And in private moments, no less.

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