The Diamondbacks had runners on first and second and no one out in the seventh inning against the geographically-challenged Angels yesterday, when Eric Byrnes came up to bat. He was asked to sacrifice them over. (Daryl cringes. He hates the sacrifice bunt!) The first pitch was a ball. Byrnesie tried to bunt the second pitch but fouled it back. Strike one. The third pitch was a ball. With the count in Byrnes’ favor, the bunt sign was taken off. Byrnesie sent the fourth pitch into territory well beyond the left-centerfield wall. <big, toothy grin>
What is the moral of this story, beyond the fact that it is more fun to hear your favorite player hit a three-run-homer than it is to hear him bunt?
It’s that patience is a virtue. When a hitter, especially a guy with pop in his bat, like Eric Byrnes, can run the count in his favor, it’s less likely that a pitcher will try cutesy stuff like throwing low and away junk to get the hitter to chase a bad one; the pitcher doesn’t want to risk issuing a walk. In yesterday’s scenario, a walk would have loaded the bases. Special moral of the story to pitcher J. Bulger: he who does not precisely locate his fastball to Eric Byrnes often needs a replacement sphere. <heh-heh-heh>
AMN of Some Ballyard put it well: "A skilled batter is not simply attempting to hit the pitch. He is attempting to hit the pitch with purpose…Often an at bat has multiple purposes, and varies depending on how the at bat unfolds, which is obviously dependent on what the pitcher, who also has his objectives, throws. "
Of course, there are several ways to advance runners. The home run is the most fun. But, as it has been said, "The three-run homer does not come to the park everyday." Earlier in the day, Eric Byrnes demonstrated another method. He advanced Craig Counsell from first to second with an opposite-field single to right. Moral of that story: go with the pitch, be willing to use more of the field, or as Wee Willlie Keeler said, "Hit ‘em where they ain’t." It’s great for the batting average, the OBP, and it sometimes leads to runs for the team.
Unfortunately, such was not the case this particular inning. What should have been at least bases loaded with one out after Byrnesie batted, was instead runners on first and second with two out after that single because Orlando Hernandez, who had singled earlier, got thrown out trying to steal second. Just what the heck was in "El Duque’s" mind when he tried to steal with Counsell and Byrnes coming up behind him? Pitchers, especially old pitchers, should not try to steal bases. (Bobby, of Deep Fried Fish Blog, might partially disagree. But Dontrelle Willis knows more about baserunning than most pitchers do because he hits way better than most pitchers do. Still, even D-Train barrelling down the basepaths can be unsettling to his own team).
Eric Byrnes’s spring batting average is now a hefty .341. And the astrologically inclined among you should note that he had his Mars return on the 24th. Mars is a symbol of our physical energy and assertiveness that is especially important to athletes. About every two years, Mars returns to where it was when a person was born. The Mars return marks a new two-year cycle and is a great time to launch new projects, and fastballs over the wall. Happy Mars Return, Byrnesie! 2006 is promising to be a good year for you.
Other Notes: Yesterday was a truly great day for Eric Byrnes. Not only did he go 2-4 with a homer, 3 RBI and a run scored in a game the D’Backs won, but his UCLA Bruins made the Final Four.