Saturday, January 19, 2013

Guest blogger, Jared Case

Late Innings fans, today we’re featuring our first guest blogger of the new year, Jared Case. I’ve know Jared for a number of years. He’s an interesting guy and excellent writer – also a major baseball fan like the rest of us here. Interestingly, living in Rochester, NY, you would expect him to be a Yankees fan. But then, too, you’d expect Will, having lived in or around Toronto all his life, to be a Blue Jays fan. With both Jared and Will, it is the opposite. Go figure...

So please put your hands together and welcome Jared in what I hope will be the first of many guest blogs to sport his byline on Late Innings.

Making the Switch

Among all the articles, opinions, features, and prognostications I’ve read over the past three months, there’s been something missing. There is a significant fact that has been overlooked (as far as I can tell) by everyone writing about the moves the Blue Jays have made this offseason, one that may be intrinsic to the Jays success this season. Shall I tell you what it is? All right, chew on this. All the significant bats that have been added this year are switch hitters. Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis can all hit from both sides of the plate. This may not, on the surface, seem important, until you realize this one thing: No matter who you put at second base, and no matter how you construct the lineup, the Jays will have three regular switch-hitters in their lineup. For the first time in 20 years.

That’s right, those World Champion Jays had the benefit of Robbie Alomar and Devon White for both years and featured Manny Lee at short in 1992 and Octavio “Tony” Fernandez at short in 1993. And although the Jays have had several switch-hitters in their lineups since – Orlando Hudson, Gregg Zaun, Jose Cruz Jr., Otis Nixon, and Fernandez (again) most notably – they have never regularly featured three in the lineup at the same time.

Why is this important? Well, the idea behind switch-hitters is that they are able to play off of both left- and right-handed pitching, that it is easier to both see and hit a ball coming toward you from the opposite plane, rather than the same side of the plate you’re standing on. It’s also easier to pull a ball than to slap or push it to the opposite side of the field. Some can do this with power. Most cannot. But to increase the ability to get good wood on a ball and pull it into the alleys between fielders is a great benefit.

Especially when you’re playing at the SkyDome. It may not be the same old green concrete it was back in the ’90s, but the field still plays fast. And if you can get a switch-hitter pulling to both sides on that fast turf, and if you add in the speed of Reyes, Cabrera and Bonifacio, I see a lot of doubles piling up against the opposing pitcher. And doubles are important, especially at the top of the order. They negate the traditional double play, and they automatically put someone in scoring position for the 3-4-5 guys. And with the potential to have a 9-1-2 of Bonifacio-Reyes-Cabrera, turning over the lineup is going to be very difficult to pitch around, with Bautista and EE coming up.

And it’s not just that they are switch-hitters. Reyes and Cabrera are proven hitters. They are the last two batting title winners in the NL. Reyes has averaged .296 with 33 doubles and 51 stolen bases over his last full six years. Cabrera has been a different hitter over the last two years, but he’s only 28, and may have found his mature stroke in addition to increasing his testosterone. So perhaps they are not exactly Alomar and White, especially on the defensive side, but I might argue that Carter and Winfield are no Bautista and Encarnacion, either. However the season turns out, I think adding proven switch-hitters to play at SkyDome was a shrewd move by Anthopoulos, and am looking forward to a very entertaining season, both in Toronto and Buffalo.


Jared Case has been a Blue Jays fan for over 25 years now, introduced to the team by his uncle. His greatest regret is missing a 1988 Reggie Jackson home run because his uncle said they had to leave Exhibition Stadium early to beat the traffic. During the day, he is the Head of Collection Information and Access for the Motion Picture Department of the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. He appeared on Turner Classic Movies as a guest host in December, 2011 and can be found at conferences and film festivals around the world talking about his love of film noir.

1 comment:

John Trembath said...

Good post Jared. How sneaky are the Jays to have gone old school. I hope what you say holds up. I think it will. The Jays have so many options now. Welcome to Late Innings.