Monday, April 14, 2014

Why pitchers can't field

Brian Dozier beats Wade Davis to the plate in the eighth
inning Sunday with the winning run.
The Twins plated the tying and winning runs Sunday when Kansas City reliever Wade Davis picked up a bases-loaded comebacker and threw it to the backstop, then stood around pouting rather than hustling to cover the plate while the catcher retrieved the ball. Two runs scored, and that was enough for the Twins to win.

There have always been lousy fielding pitchers, and always will be, but I have a pet theory that (a) many, perhaps most, major league pitchers today are essentially unable to handle anything beyond their basic task of throwing from the mound and (b) that the designated hitter rule has a significant role to play in that.

The DH prevails almost on almost every level of baseball, except the National League. With hitting chores essentially taken from them, pitchers are — you can chose your verbal slant — either liberated to focus on the act of pitching or constrained to focus on the act of pitching.

They aren't baseball players. And when they are asked to do other, basic, things relevant to baseball games — be it run the bases, or field a ground ball and throw to a base — those things are out of their skill set, or at least out of their comfort level.

That's my theory, and I know quite well there are pitchers who can make plays in the field and go first-to-third on a single to right. But I do think there has been a general decline in overall athletic ability among pitchers since the DH rule came into play, and I don't think it's coincidental.

1 comment:

  1. Ed, maybe there's a connection with the DH, but as a DH proponent, I'm not really convinced. In any event, I don't think Davis' miscue is evidence of it.

    Pitchers work on fielding drills. Maybe Wade Davis even does pretty well in those drills, I don't know. In this instance, he simply let his emotions overwhelm his judgment and had a brain fart. I've seen players at many other positions have similar failures when they get upset with themselves for making a physical mistake and it leads to a mental error.

    I think Davis KNEW the right thing to do and had possibly had plenty of similar situations arise throughout his career where he HAD covered home in a similar situation. This time, he got ticked at himself and didn't do it. That's all.