Just Play Ball, Dummy

Thearon W. Henderson

Perhaps my favorite of the baseball cliches that are actually true is the one about needing a short memory. It's been said after a thousand dropped grounders and a thousand three pitch strikeouts. You gotta forget it and move on.

Still reeling after yesterday's double-header sweep and horrifying Nuggets game? Me too. It was a tough day for Colorado sports fans, but put your minds at ease, or at least at rest, because there are plenty more games left on the calendar. We love to prognosticate here. We love to break down stats and offer in-depth critical analysis at every step of the way. We love it. And we should because it's fun. But the subjects of all of this analysis may need to turn off their analytically brains and just play ball.

Perhaps my favorite of the baseball cliches that are actually true is the one about needing a short memory. It's been said after a thousand dropped grounders and a thousand three pitch strikeouts. You gotta forget it and move on. Baseball is a thinking man's game but isn't it also a dumb man's game? Buster Olney told a story on his Baseball Tonight podcast about Denard Span asking Joey Votto about his two strike approach and having to walk away 5 minutes into the conversation because it just got too dense. Votto is clearly one of the best hitters in the game, and he thinks along with every single pitch, so this seems like a good approach. But remember when Manny Ramirez was the best hitter in baseball? Now, I have no way of knowing that Manny wasn't constantly thinking about every aspect of hitting every time up, but either way the fact remains that hitting requires an intense focus in the moment that requires a stillness of the mind.

I have been a little critical of the Rockies ROOT sports broadcast a few times here at Purple Row, but it is also important to give credit where credit is due. On a recent broadcast while discussing the confidence and solid approach of nearly every hitter up and down the Rockies lineup, Drew Goodman and George Frazier began praising Walt Weiss, Dante Bichette, and Vinny Castilla for instilling a more simple minded approach. They argued, correctly I believe, that sometimes coaches who have been coaching for a long time might tend to, well, over-coach. When you have spent so much time developing the eye and working on ways to explain everything from how to keep your hands back to how to cover the breaking ball away from a particular pitcher. If all this information does indeed overwhelm certain players, especially if being delivered too often, it could end up extending slumps and creating inconsistencies by fostering a space where the hitter is never fully comfortable.

I remember hearing Shaq explain once that his approach to shooting free-throws was that if he made it he would try to repeat his motion but if he missed he would change things up. Shaq was a terrible free throw shooter for a very long time. Good to great free-throw shooters will tell you that they try to repeat the exact same motion every time. Hitting a baseball is obviously a different animal, but the fundamental principle remains that valuing constant changes and adjustments vs. consistency and comfort is probably not best done in knee-jerk reactions to small sample size production.

This is why it was nice to hear the guys in the booth gush over Dante Bichette's insistence on shrugging off ABs where his hitters fail to come through, choosing instead to point out positives. It seems Bichette wants to unleash his guys, not control them.

I'll always remember Yorvit Torrealba hitting a decisive 3-run home run in game 3 of the 2007 NLCS. It was pouring, the Rockies were down, and he had only hit 8 home runs all season. After the game in response to a generic question about his strategy or approach he said, "I see the ball. I hit the ball."

I'm sure there is a nice warm middle ground somewhere here. I certainly have no inside information on exactly how Dante Bichette and the rest of the coaching staff are approaching how, when, and where to offer adjustments to players. I do know, however, that baseball is unique amongst the major team sports in the time and space it gives you to dwell on your mistakes or over-analyze your approach. Scouting reports are important. Being prepared for every defensive situation is necessary. But no player is perfect and pointing out each imperfection in a sport like baseball where failure is so common only gives that player more potential to dwell on the negative. Contrarily, the approach "no worries, you'll get it next time," reinforces a constant truth about all sports. You can't do anything about what just happened, you are only in control of what is happening right now.

Yesterday was a tough day for Colorado sports fans. The beautiful thing about baseball is that there is almost always a game again the next day. Right now the score is 0-0. I think Weiss, Bichette and company would like everyone to pretend that they were batting .000 (or 1.000) or had an ERA 0.00. Can't do anything about those numbers now. If you start getting too specific about trying to produce specific results based on past production you can get into a rut where you stop taking what the game is giving you.

Some intense Rowbots were getting on Dexter Fowler in the comments section saying that he needed to stop trying to hit home runs and start going for line drive singles with the chance for them to turn into gap doubles and triples. In other words, forget that you already have 7 home runs and just hit. It seemed to me like as soon as Dexter stopped looking specifically for pitches he could pull out of the park, he started getting the aforementioned base hits.

See the ball. Hit the ball.

Today is a new day. The score is 0-0 nobody on, nobody out. The most important pitch is always the next one. No use in thinking about the last one.

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