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 Post subject: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 12:31 am 
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The ultimate shake-off

There is no sign that the lunatics are running the asylum, but it should not be dismissed that the Pirates' pitchers -- unwittingly, in most cases -- played a role in management's decision to keep Raul Chavez and demote Ronny Paulino.

There had been a sense most of the season that pitchers felt uneasy throwing breaking pitches in certain situations, particularly with a runner on third. There also had been a sense that they struggled to find a rhythm in terms of wanting the same pitch at the same time. This was not unique to Paulino. Depending on the day or outcome, it could be the case with Doumit, too, although his defensive work has improved markedly this summer.

Thus, when management saw all this and then, most important, saw how positively the pitchers reacted to Chavez, it was decided that a change was in order. Paulino's continuing struggles at the plate and behind it made the call fairly easy.


OK, I'll admit it. Been chomping at the bit on this one ever since I read it. But, given what I perceived to be a particularly nasty tone to the Board lately, I decided to stay quiet. But, alas, I cannot continue to bite my tongue and it has nothing to do with any recent posts here.
So . . . I go to Charlie's blog to read the latest rantings over there . . . and sure enough, he has locked into this little piece by DK. And, to my surprise, he cites this article as further evidence that "calling" a good game is nothing more than a fantasy. While he doesn't come right out and say it, the insinuation (IMO) is that anyone who suggests that game calling skills are possessed by a catcher is a damn idiot and far less intelligent than him because "all of the evidence" points otherwise. Mind you . . . from what I can tell, "all" of the evidence consists of a BP article from 1999 or 2000.
In reading this, two sentences jumped out at me. The first was "there had also been a sense that they struggled to find a rhythm in terms of wanting the same pitch at the same time." The second was management "saw how positive the pitchers reacted to Chavez." Maybe I'm crazy . . . maybe I'm nuts . . . but when I read DK's note I was left with the impression that the Bucco pitching staff liked how Chavez called a game. That they trusted him. That they felt like they could comfortably throw anything in their repetoire without holding back or wondering whether the catcher was going to catch the ball or block the ball, etc. etc.
What I find to be incredibly ironic are the conclusions reached that sending down Paulino is an indictment of the notion that catchers call good games. The logic apparently goes as follows: (1) Jim Tracy said that Paulino called a good game; (2) Paulino just got sent down; (3) pitchers this year felt uncomfortable throwing certain pitches in certain situations when Paulino was behind the plate . . . ergo, game calling is not a skill.
Is it just me or are there some jumps in logic that are missing? Pitchers struggling to find a rhythm because they were not on the same page as the catcher? At risk of being accused of patting myself on the back, where has that been written before? I remember vividly being mocked here by several posters when I made comments about the positive effects of a catcher being on the same page as the pitcher and a pitcher being able to trust who is behind the plate. Management seeing the positive reaction when Chavez was behind the plate? That seems to be a far cry from concluding that catchers have no impact upon a pitcher's performance.
Now . . . if you want to reach the conclusion that Tracy et al misevaluated Paulino's effect on the pitching staff . . . then I might buy into the argument. But, to reach the conclusion that "game calling" skills don't exist simply because Paulino was demoted is ludicrous. Particularly when the stated reason for keeping Chavez was because of his influence on the pitching staff.
Sorry, I'm done. I'm just sitting here in lovely Bethlehem, PA after a client dinner (would have much rather gone to see the Iron Pigs play) and the tone of the other posts got me a little worked up - particularly ZM's claim that Craig Wilson is one of the top 10 hitters in MLB history. I'm really freaking worked up!!!!!! :evil:

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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 1:12 am 
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LOL No. 9. The inability of a catcher to block balls in the dirt is a particularly touchy subject with pitchers. I know this from first hand knowledge. The breaking ball in the dirt can be the nastiest of pitches but if the pitcher doesn't feel comfortable throwing it in certain situations due to the catcher's lack of catching skills, it then removes a weapon from the pitcher's arsenal. I am just amazed that it made it into paper.


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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 1:15 am 
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Az Bucco fan wrote:
The breaking ball in the dirt can be the nastiest of pitches but if the pitcher doesn't feel comfortable throwing it in certain situations due to the catcher's lack of catching skills, it then removes a weapon from the pitcher's arsenal.


Or . . . the pitcher is afraid to throw it anywhere near the dirt so he leaves it hanging and then . . . bye-bye.

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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 2:48 am 
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I wonder what the big dispute was in the dugout with Ray's catcher Dioner Navarro and Ray's pitcher Matt Garza. Didn't Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs have a run-in with another Cub's player recently? Or was that last year? Was that run-in with a catcher?

I know we have had this discussion before, but I still wonder who really runs the show when it comes to pitch selection. The Pitcher? The Catcher? The Manager? The Pitching Coach?

I can also agree that a pitcher should have every reason to be irritated about a catcher's lack of defensive skills. Heck, not only the pitcher but everyone else!

Being that JR was a catcher, that can only help with the pitcher-catcher "thing". As far as I'm concerned, JR already gets high marks from me because Paulino is now playing with Indy. I am very happy with the effect JR and the other coaches have had on this team and the way JR has managed his players.

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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 9:50 am 
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Several comments come to my mind on this subject. As you all know,I claim no expertise in the technical aspects of the game but...

1)Was Tracy so bad that he couldn't even tell that Paulino was very poor behind the plate? Maybe he called a good game but his defense was so bad that even I could see he was awlful. Could catch pitches in the dirt, or throws to the plate, or even pop ups. Yet he was consistently praised by management for his skill.

2) I didn't realize that pitchers would actually shake off a catcher because they were afraid to throw a certain pitch especially with a man on third, because they were afraid the catcher couldn't catch the ball.

3) The degree to which the catcher, the pitcher, the pitching coach, or the manager calls the game should not even be an issue in my mind. Surely, it should be a team decision as to how to pitch to all hitters based on their skill in certain situations and the skill of the individual pitcher, i.e. can he hit a sinker down and away? Can the pitcher throw a quality sinker down and away? Those decisions should have been made pre-game by all of those involved in the decision not at the spur of the moment by anyone of them.

4) Paulino was on the receiving end of the accountability issue with the Pirates. All I can say is once again, great job by JB and his staff. Looks to me like we have a keeper in Russell and even though he is a soft spoken guy, he is doing an excellent job for us based on the situation he is in. Hopefully, he will get to see how to manage a great team in Pittsburgh.

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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 10:29 am 
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There usually is a plan but it ultimately comes down to the pitcher in regards to what pitch is thrown.


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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 10:35 am 
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To completely discredit a catcher's ability to affect the performance of a pitcher seems silly to me. And I'm not just talking about stopping balls in the dirt. I believe that elite pitchers probably have less need for the intangibles that a good catcher possesses, while below average to average ones benefit more. Roger Clemens in his prime could probably strike out 18 with Bea Arthur behind the plate while a guy like Ian Snell benefits more with Chavez over Paulino.

And yes, I do realise that catchers aren't the ones actually throwing the ball. But pitching is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. If a pitcher has no confidence in his catcher, it has to affect his performance.


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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 10:58 am 
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No. 9 wrote:
- particularly ZM's claim that Craig Wilson is one of the top 10 hitters in MLB history. I'm really freaking worked up!!!!!! :evil:


Hey, that was all about the "using stats mindlessly" thingy. It was intended to be (lightheartedly vis a vis smilies) a note of stats run amok.

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 1:02 pm 
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No 9:

A couple thoughts (and remember, I'm a former pitcher, not a catcher).

If game calling were a skill, one would expect that from year to year, it would be relatively repeatable. Power hitting is a skill, and you rarely see guys hit 10 homeruns one year and 50 another (barring injury and using Brett Boone's pharmacist). Drawing walks and getting on base are skills, and are generally consistent. Even a player's defensive skills are generally consistent. How then, if game calling is some sort of inherent skill, does a catcher go from being such a supreme game-caller one year to being so horrible that pitchers don't like throwing to him the next?

I'm not trying to argue that there isn't some sort of relationship between the pitcher and catcher that isn't important throughout the course of a game, an inning, or an at bat. There clearly is, and that chemistry is important for reasons you have listed here and in other threads previously. But I have a hard time calling that a skill. It varies, obviously, and takes 2 sides of the equation...the pitcher and the catcher. You could very easily build a case that Snell and catcher X work really well together, they never are in disagreement over which pitch to throw, etc. Does that make him a good game-caller? What if Gorzo is constantly shaking him off? Is that Gorzo's fault that he won't listen to a superior game-caller, or is the catcher just not calling a good game based on what Gorzo feels he can throw? Do you have to have good chemistry with all of your pitchers to be considered a good game-caller? If thats the case, then we just need to find a good people-person to sit behind the plate (obviously, I jest).

Take baseball out of the equation though...even in your own workplace, things tend to be more successful when everyone is on the same page. And, undoubtedly, there are people you work with better than others. Do they have some sort of inherent skill for working with you (my wife would argue it takes an inherent skill to get along with me :P )? Do others lack that skill? And do those "skills" not vary from day to day, even for non-work-related causes?

I tend to agree with a point made above...the overarching game-calling strategy should be developed long before a pitcher takes the mound, in conjunction with coaches, based on what the hitters can and can't do. From there, it is just a matter of chemistry between a pitcher and catcher in reacting to game situations. While I hate using the word, I can't argue that this is some inherent skill so much as an, ahem, uh...here goes...intangible. I would further argue that the longer a pitcher and catcher work together, the better the chemistry becomes...therefore, it doesn't make sense to bench a guy because he is a bad "game-caller", if the only way to become a good game-caller is to work with the pitchers on a regular, day in, day out basis.

From there, the argument becomes, how much of a clear, measureable skill (hitting homeruns, blocking balls in the dirt, getting on base) are you willing to sacrifice in order to gain an intangible? Obviously, in this case, Paulino didn't offer an improvement in any of the categories (in fact, his defense was clearly worse) so the decision was easy. But in deciding who makes the club, who is your starting catcher, etc., how in the world do you value game calling?


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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 1:17 pm 
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In this case, it appears the measurable, consistant ability is/was Chavez' defensive ability behind the plate that allowed the pitchers to feel comfortable throwing all their arsenal when they needed. That would I imagine, help over the course of several games, develop ... ahem... intangibles that could translate to "calling a great game there buddy!".

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 2:26 pm 
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ZelieMike wrote:
In this case, it appears the measurable, consistant ability is/was Chavez' defensive ability behind the plate that allowed the pitchers to feel comfortable throwing all their arsenal when they needed. That would I imagine, help over the course of several games, develop ... ahem... intangibles that could translate to "calling a great game there buddy!".

ZM

If that's the case, then there should be absolutely no reference to Chavez's "game-calling," as that is not what made Chavez the better choice. And if good defense is what leads to better game-calling, then this game-calling ability does not appear to be independent of the catcher's fielding defense. That further diminishes the existence of the so-called game-calling ability.

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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 3:45 pm 
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OK guys now I need a definition of 'ahem...'

.... a word used when trying to make a point without offending another who might be sensitive to your position, might even disagree completely with it. ;) ;) ;)

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2011 Will Be Our Year -- well make that 2012 (just saying) So it looks like 2013 now - how long must this go on!
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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 4:25 pm 
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Jeez, No. 9. I encourage everyone to go and actually read my post, rather than No. 9's absurd caricature of it.

I'm not going to bother with the substance of the arguments, because there's really no point when someone won't argue honestly, but:

While he doesn't come right out and say it, the insinuation (IMO) is that anyone who suggests that game calling skills are possessed by a catcher is a damn idiot and far less intelligent than him because "all of the evidence" points otherwise.

Given that I DON'T SAY THIS, that's an interesting conclusion.

Mind you . . . from what I can tell, "all" of the evidence consists of a BP article from 1999 or 2000.

Do you know how to use Google? If you'd even tried, you would have seen that this is a subject that lots of people have researched, and that their research goes back years... come on, man. That's a completely unfair characterization.

What I find to be incredibly ironic are the conclusions reached that sending down Paulino is an indictment of the notion that catchers call good games. The logic apparently goes as follows: (1) Jim Tracy said that Paulino called a good game; (2) Paulino just got sent down; (3) pitchers this year felt uncomfortable throwing certain pitches in certain situations when Paulino was behind the plate . . . ergo, game calling is not a skill.

Not my argument. Not even close to being my argument.

Is it just me or are there some jumps in logic that are missing?

In that strawman? There sure are.

No. 9, if you're trying to troll here - good job! You got a reaction out of me.


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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 5:36 pm 
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For those of you who would like to actually read Charlie's post on this subject, as opposed to No. 9's second-hand depiction of it, here's the link:

http://www.bucsdugout.com/2008/6/8/5482 ... table-thro

Charlie's right: No. 9's characterization of Charlie's post is way off-base.

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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 6:00 pm 
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charlie wrote:
I encourage everyone to go and actually read my post.


I encourage everyone to read it as well. And I stand by my opinions.

Here is a portion of what you wrote:
All the serious evidence suggests that there are not important differences in game calling ability among major league catchers. The only reason why this debate ever came up is because Jim Tracy just didn't like calling pitches from the dugout. (Paulino called his own pitches; Doumit didn't.)

So . . . the "only" reason why the issue of game calling ever came up was because Jim Tracy didn't like calling pitches from the dugout?

You also wrote this:
This is why it's generally not good to make arguments that fly in the face of decades of evidence. Players and managers and writers say things all the time for all kinds of reasons. It turns out that the likely reason why Paulino's game calling was such a big deal was because Jim Tracy was lazy. Remove the lazy guy, and all of a sudden nobody talks about the game calling issue anymore.

It is not an "honest" argument to conclude that you are essentially calling anyone who believes in "game calling" an idiot? Really? If not, then what exactly are you intending to convey in your first sentence? And you accuse me of not arguing honestly? As for being "honest" with your assessments, I note that you conveniently left out the portion of DK's notes which references the pitchers positive reaction to working with Chavez.

BTW, the acronym "IMO" means "in my opinion" and the word "insinuation" means to introduce in a subtle or covert manner. I'll translate: It was my opinion and remains my opinion that the post on your blog regarding "game calling" subtly or covertly (or . . . not coming right out and saying it) suggests that anyone who thinks that a skill of "game calling" exists is an idiot and far less intelligent than you.

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Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 6:00 pm 
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Willton wrote:
No. 9's characterization of Charlie's post is way off-base.


Shocking conclusion, counselor-to-be.

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Reflexively, obsessively and tastelessly submitted,
No. 9
Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 6:02 pm 
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ZelieMike wrote:
Hey, that was all about the "using stats mindlessly" thingy. It was intended to be (lightheartedly vis a vis smilies) a note of stats run amok. ZM


You do know that I was joking with you . . . . I laughed my butt off when I read your post.

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Reflexively, obsessively and tastelessly submitted,
No. 9
Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 6:16 pm 
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Willton wrote:
ZelieMike wrote:
In this case, it appears the measurable, consistant ability is/was Chavez' defensive ability behind the plate that allowed the pitchers to feel comfortable throwing all their arsenal when they needed.


If that's the case, then there should be absolutely no reference to Chavez's "game-calling," as that is not what made Chavez the better choice. And if good defense is what leads to better game-calling, then this game-calling ability does not appear to be independent of the catcher's fielding defense. That further diminishes the existence of the so-called game-calling ability.


That is not what I'm saying, and its not the conclusion you should reach. That Chavez' defense is good enough to allow the pitchers to be comfortable, allows him to call the game and have more options to call a good game.

Being good defensively does not in and of itself make a guy good at setting up and taking down hitters. Conversley, a good game caller can set up a hitter, it is just his defense (Paulino) does not allow the pitcher to use the best possible pitch for the situation.

Calling a good game is immently independent of defensive ability. That the two don't always mesh, and further, do not mesh with the pitcher always, is not a function of "good game calling ability". However, good game calling combined with good defense and a good pitching repetoire will almost always make a winner

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 6:22 pm 
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Substitute2 wrote:
3) The degree to which the catcher, the pitcher, the pitching coach, or the manager calls the game should not even be an issue in my mind. Surely, it should be a team decision as to how to pitch to all hitters based on their skill in certain situations and the skill of the individual pitcher, i.e. can he hit a sinker down and away? Can the pitcher throw a quality sinker down and away? Those decisions should have been made pre-game by all of those involved in the decision not at the spur of the moment by anyone of them.


Sub -
I think that you touch on an important issue but it goes deeper than your analysis. Pitching to a hitter is very much a cat-and-mouse game. It is a dynamic action/reaction/action/reaction game within a game. Those "mini games" happen not only over a course of ABs but also within a particular AB.
I'll use Freddy Sanchez as an example. The likely "book" on Sanchez would be that he has been susceptible to breaking pitches low and outside. The pre-game analysis may be to focus on getting Sanchez out with those pitches. However, Sanchez also has an idea that the book on him is too pound him low and away. So . . . Sanchez may "cheat" up in the batter's box a bit to have a chance to hit the breaking pitch before it goes low and away and becomes unhittable. A catcher seeing this (and the catcher is usually in the best position to see a hitter's adjustments) can call for a couple of inside fastballs which will be more difficult to catch up to when the hitter is looking for breaking pitches and with the hitter slightly up in the box.
Or, Sanchez might "cheat" slightly closer to home plate so that he can reach the outside breaking pitch. Again, seeing this, the catcher might call for inside fastballs to set up Sanchez.
A catcher's job is to not only understand the pre-game strategy for approaching a pariticular hitter but also to take copious mental notes of how the hitter is reacting to how he is being pitched. Also, it is not limited to calling pitches when on defense. It extends to the dugout between innings when the catcher and pitcher can talk about how the hitters are reacting.
On top of that, a good catcher should react "on the fly" to how the pitcher is throwing that particular day. If Snell's fastball is topping out at 89-90 mph, then you may have to forgo the strategy to get certain hitters out with fastballs. If a particular pitcher's "out" pitch is a breaking ball but on that particular day, the pitcher can't get it over for a strike and the other team is sitting on fastballs, you have to react "on the fly."
Just as hitters adjust to pitchers, pitchers adjust to hitters. Catchers are an invaluable asset when it comes to assisting a pitcher with what hitters may be trying to do with him. Its not just about calling a particular pitch at a particular time. It is far more detailed and dynamic.
That the Bucco pitchers feel more "comfortable" with Chavez very much speaks to their trust in his instincts and what he is calling for in a particular situation. When a pitcher is not comfortable with a catcher, does not trust what his catcher is calling, or frequently second guesses the calls, the chances of a successful outing are lessened.

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No. 9
Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


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 Post subject: Re: From DK's notebook the other day
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 6:35 pm 
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From the PPG last year (6/20/07):

"Believe me, I know Ronny Paulino's not performing offensively the way we saw him a year ago," Tracy said. "But do you compromise your pitching when you know there's a comfort level there with what's a major strength of our club? Are you going to compromise that for some added offense?"

Tracy added that he has seen improvement in Doumit's game-calling this season vs. last, but he stressed the importance of making adjustments once the starting pitcher is facing the lineup for the second or third time.

"That's a big part of the craft," Tracy said.

The Pirates could simply call the game from the dugout when Doumit catches, of course, as many teams do. But Tracy's preference, as he reiterated, is to have the catcher do it because of his unique vantage point.

"No one sees the pitches the way the catcher does," Tracy said. "No one sees better how the batter moves his feet, which pitches are fooling him, which ones aren't working. You can't see it from anywhere else in the stadium."

Doumit, who started in right field last night, expressed optimism that his game-calling will become a strength. But he also acknowledged it can get better.

"I'd like to think it's coming along OK," he said. "I've been watching a lot more film about opposing team's hitters than I have in the past, and I've been working with our pitchers to find out how they want to approach each guy. I've worked hard at it."

Asked if he might be more comfortable having the game called from the bench, Doumit replied, "You know what? To be honest with you, sometimes I do get stuck. I think every catcher does, with so much going on. Obviously, I don't want to look over there every single pitch. But there are some times when I do need help."

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Reflexively, obsessively and tastelessly submitted,
No. 9
Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


Last edited by No. 9 on Tue Jun 10, 2008 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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