Monday, March 03, 2008

Spring Training! Texas Rangers Hitting

Evan Grant writes an interesting article about the Rangers efforts to change from free swingers to grinders who work the count, and who force pitchers to throw more pitches per at bat.

The Red Sox, the Yankees, and the A's are especially talented grinders. They force pitchers into high pitch counts. It's difficult for a starting pitcher to go beyond the 5th or 6th inning against any of those teams, and many times I've seen starting pitchers bounced in the 3rd or 4th innings against those teams, having already run up 80 or so pitches in that short period of the game.

One thing which disappointed me about Mark Teixeira was that he refused, last season, to tweak his free swinging approach. Even if the Rangers were behind by 3, with the bases empty, Teixeira was swinging away for doubles and homers. He was selfish.

I expect Teixeira will mature into more of a grindy kind of hitter. He is still young, and headstrong, and eager to protect his coming gigantic free agent contract. He needs to produce numbers Scott Boras can work with.

I'm happy to see, in Evan Grant's article, that hitting instructor Rudy Jaramillo has bought into the grind-it-out batting approach. I had wondered if he was secretly resisting it.

I do worry that the grind it out approach will mentally overload young hitters Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz. I am more concerned with their success than with any other aspect of the Rangers this season. I want them to have clear heads, and to be relaxed, when they go to the plate.

I suspect manager Ron Washington tends to overload young hitters with too much information and too much pressure. Both Botts and Cruz have far more natural hitting talent than Ron Washington ever dreamed of having. Sometimes, I suspect Ron Washington types of scrappy, mediocre hitters do not have enough patience with big talent guys. Everyone develops in their own way - thankfully. If the Rangers had a team full of Ron Washington type hitters, they would be lucky to win 70 games.

Evan Grant says new acquisitions Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley are both grind it out types of hitters. I applaud Jon Daniels for moving in this direction with the Rangers offense. I wonder if Nolan Ryan will buy into it?

I do wonder about Michael Young and Hank Blalock. They are both free swingers. I wonder if they will tweak their hitting approaches at this stage of their careers? I speculate that they will, yet this will be interesting to watch.

I also wonder if this makes Saltalamacchia more likely to be traded. As a hitter, he is still young and malleable. Yet, last season, he was one free swinging dude. Nothing about him indicated that he would ever be a grind it outer. It's possible the Rangers hope to build his value by refining his catching skills, then trade him. Taylor Teagarden will make a fine major league catcher. And there's plenty of catching coming behind Teagarden. A free swinging Saltalamacchia may be expendable.

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