TP Is At It Again

Last night, after watching the Braves blow a late lead in spectacular fashion, I left the television on for the post-game show. It turns out that they had a feature with Terry Pendleton on how to be a hitting coach. And during the course of the interview, TP discussed how Andruw Jones needs to hit the ball “the other way.” Fortunately, Andruw continues to ignore this terrible advice, but TP just doesn’t get it. As I’ve demonstrated before, when AJ goes the other way, he makes outs. When he pulls the ball he gets hits. And his slumps are a product of plate discipline, not where he hits the ball. The same is true in 2006—the hit-chart is for Turner Field only. The red g and f markers are groundouts and flyouts. The black s, d, and t are singles, doubles, and triples, with the blue h representing home runs.


Andruw Jones, 2006

It boggles my mind that Pendleton tries to get Andruw to hit like he did, as I wrote earlier.

TP was a hacker, a good hacker, who never really liked to walk. TP had to hit to all fields because if he didn’t he wasn’t going to get on base swinging at every pitch. Jones has the makings of a patient power-hitter, and needs to be trained as such. Yes, he shouldn’t try to pull outside sliders. But, don’t give in and slap it to right. Foul it off and wait for your pitch. If it stays over the plate crush it to left, right, or center…I don’t care. Risk taking a strike if you have less than two strikes.

I really hate this “other way” crap that color commentators always try to pull-over on the viewer. It’s a device they sometimes use to say, “I’m smarter than you, because while power is fun to watch, it’s the Fundamentals that make a good player.” So, I guess Ted Williams was just some streaky power hitter who would never hit for average. TP ought to know better. He’s not getting paid to talk fluff.

Interestingly, I recently received some advance material relating to Jeff Angus’s new book, Management by Baseball. In it he tells the following story.

Jeff Burroughs, a massively muscled, barely motile Mariner slugger, was on first base. He took off, trying to steal. What happened next unfolded like an auto accident you’re involved in—in slow motion so you get to savor every ugly detail. Burroughs started lugging. Then, at the speed of a tectonic plate, the lug went into the least graceful slide I’d seen since Little League. Finally, to add injury to insult, he crashed into the infielder tagging him out. He had to be scraped off the field like some ignominious road-kill—existential humor at its most unsightly. Burroughs missed a big chunk of the season, thereby weakening an already anemic offense.

Was the slug-like Burroughs afflicted with a sudden dementia? Nope. After the game, Mariner manager Maury Wills explained that the signal to steal had come from the skipper himself. Wills had once been the premier basestealer in the majors, a compact, efficient speed merchant with an unerring ability to read pitchers and their moves, an exceptional talent that made him famous. Like most people, he came to believe that the talent most important to his career was the talent most important for winning ballgames. It’s a classic management blunder.

Andruw and TP seem to be friends, and I know they are neighbors. But TP has to realize that if this is his advice for Andruw, and it’s the same advice he’s giving to all hitters, it has to stop. While many hitters are successful hitting the ball to all fields, some of the games very best players are pure pull hitters. And it’s these hitters that Andruw ought to emulate, not slap-hitting speedsters.

3 Responses “TP Is At It Again”

  1. Marc says:

    There has traditionally been sort of a cultural archetype in baseball that pull hitters are “selfish” because they aren’t willing to sacrifice home runs for the good of the team. People used to say that about Ted Williams. I agree, there is nothing wrong with being a pull hitter, but, as you say, you have to be willing to wait for the right pitch rather than pulling outside sliders, which Andruw has done for most of his career. On the other hand, Andruw seems to be pulling off the ball a lot, almost falling backward when he swings. That’s not good no matter how much of a pull hitter you are. It seems to me that the value of going with the pitch is helping to stay on the ball, which you have to do regardless. Typically, hitters in slumps are told (or used to be) to try to hit the ball up the middle because to do that you have to stay on the ball. So, it’s not so much that Andruw needs to hit to the opposite field as that he needs to stay on the ball and stop pulling off. And, he needs to get good pitches to hit. But no one on this team does that.

  2. rob says:

    you know, i may be crazy, but i never have thought aundruw jones was a great hitter. last year did nothing to change my mind, although i must say his season was impressive. i do not come to this conclusion he pulls the ball or is ‘selfish’ or any of these things (and i don’t think hitting the other way is selfless). i’ve basially looked at his numbers since he came to the bigs and have watched him semi-regularly. he is a good hitter, has good power, is moderately disciplined at best, and you could do worse in the middle of your lineup. and like lots of players with those traits, he’ll have a big year from time to time. but he’s far from great. .267/.342/.502 in this day and age ain’t great for a middle of the order guy….it’s good. it should come as no surprise that he is no ted williams and the comparison really should never be made (even if trying to prove a point about pull hitters). if aundruw were a .344 career hitter and on-base almost half the time he came up, tp would of course just let him go about his business (we hope). but he’s a .267 hitter with good power. tp may be trying to make him better. and i’m not so sure it’s fortunate that aundruw isn’t giving it more of a try. if we look at his 2000 season (arguably his best along with 2005) he hit plenty of balls up the middle and to right. that year his ba and obp were higher than 2005 (slg was lower). so which aundruw jones is better? i’m really not sure. but the current aundruw jones is good at best (his slugging % is right below jacues jones and his ops falls behind shane victorino). of course i believe aundruw is better and more talented than those guys, but his numbers don’t consistently live up to that.

  3. Marc says:

    Rob,

    I have always thought that about Andruw–good player but not great. People talk about his HOF credentials and I cringe; I have watched too many bad Andruw Jones at bats to even contemplate him for the HOF–even granting that he is one of the best CF’s ever. He is actually a classic Braves product; aggressive to a fault, poor plate discipline, wants to hit home runs at the expense of everything else. Chipper was the only one that was not like this.