Three and out

As we all know, baseball is a game of threes: three strikes, three outs, three bases. Even the game is three squared innings. So if you want to be a well informed batter, you have to know the three types of pitchers and go up to the plate conclusion in mind.

Number one is the mechanic. He is a two or three pitch guy who depends on his fastball, preferably a four seamer that screams into the plate pushing the radar gun into triple digits. There are a number of closers who fit this mold, the most notable being Aroldis Chapman, who owns the world record for the fastest recorded pitch at 105.1 mph. Can you imagine what it feels like to throw something like that? Thor and his hammer couldn’t do it better. What about the poor batter? Woooof! You’re gone.

Number two is the artist. He is a guy who paints the corners and bends the ball around to place it where it will most befuddle his enemy, the batter. As I watch games, these days, I’m seeing umpires give the artistic pitcher more leeway, especially up in the zone. Batters are seeing a fair number of a pitch once thought extinct, the drop-in curve, a pitch that starts above the letters and “drops in” for a called strike. You can almost bet the next one will be a drop-out pitch that looks like a strike and then heads for the dirt. Hitting against an artist can be an exercise in frustration if he is on his game.

Clayton Kershaw is the pitcher I think of as an artist. Every pitch bends, slides, tails, or rises; and when he is on, the other team will be just waiving at his offerings.

Last one up is the magician. These are the David Copperfields of the baseball world. “Now you see it, now you’re out” is the mantra of the magician. The batter is sure he sees the pitch and “Oops, there it goes.” The magician just out thinks the batter and disguises his pitches so well, the poor guy just has to walk away shaking his head.

The best magician I can remember was Pedro Martinez. He would throw just the pitch you didn’t expect at any time in the count and make the batter disappear in a puff of smoke.

The most elite pitchers, like Jacob deGrom, actually wear more than one hat. In deGrom’s case, he can be all three any time he wants. If you are batting against him, you had better wield the bat like Harry Potter’s magic wand or just resign yourself to that slumped walk back to the dugout. I hear that muttering incantations against pitchers of that ilk does no good at all.

 

Millerton resident Theodore Kneeland is a retired teacher and coach — and athlete.

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