Mailbag: Swisher, Posey, Pitching, Veras

David Cone interview in New York Magazine
2011 Draft: Blake Swihart

I figured I’d grab the reins from Mike this week and answer a few reader questions.

Mark asks: Given Swisher’s morbid .170 avg and .578 OPS against righties through yesterday, how much longer before we start talking about a platoon of Swisher and Dickerson in RF? Swish’s .302 avg & .714 OPS against lefties combined with Dickerson’s .273 avg & .697 OPS against righties sure looks better than Swish’s combined stats!

Given Swisher’s performances during his first two years as a Yankee (.270/.365/.505), I have to believe that they’ll give him more time, perhaps until the All-Star Break, to turn things around. If this is just a prolonged slump, then the Yanks will reap the benefits when he comes out of it — much more so than they would from a Dickerson/Swisher platoon.

If Swisher continues to struggle, we could certainly see more of Dickerson. In 461 career PA he is .273/.362/.419 against right-handed pitching. That’s more ideal for center field platoon, but it’s better than what Swisher is currently producing. Again, I think he’ll break out of this and have a fine second half. But if he’s not hitting when the second half starts, I’m sure we’ll see more Dickerson with perhaps an eye on a trade.

Nick asks: Hey I was wondering what your thoughts on this Buster Posey injury are? I mean them calling for a rule change and whining about it is a joke. It was a clean play. I liken it to Jeter getting hurt in 2003, it was a clean heads up play. What do you want runners to stop before home plate if the catcher has the ball? What a farce.

Your definition of clean play is different than others’. It was clean, in that no umpire would do anything about it. It’s an accepted play and has been for decades upon decades. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right, though. Baseball is decidedly not a contact sport, and Cousins went into Posey in the same way a safety would go into a wide receiver (except, of course, the wide receiver would be standing).

That said, no, I don’t think there should be a rule change. Do I think that runners should try to find a clear path to the plate, rather than just gunning for the catcher, wherever he may be in relation to the plate? Yes. Do I think that catchers should get the hell out of the way until they get the ball ? Yes. Do I think that catchers shouldn’t go to their knees when receiving a throw? Again, yes. That sounds more like a training issue than a rules issue to me.

To the last question, “do you want runners to stop before home plate,” obviously that’s a red herring. If there were to be a no collisions rule, catchers would be barred from blocking the plate.

In essence, I think that properly training players will go further than a rules change. If it’s a runner barreling down the line at a guy covered in the equipment, and holding the ball, I can see why a collision works. But the Posey play had more to do with him being on the ground without the ball. Of course, training only goes so far when you’re in the heat of the moment.

Jeff asks: With the way that Russell Martin is playing and now that Buster Posey is out for the season do the Yankees match up with the Giants for a Jesus Montero trade for one of Sanchez/Bumgarner/Cain? Would you be open to trading Montero for one of their young pitchers? The Giant’s can catch Montero this year and then shift him to first base next year.

The Giants certainly aren’t shifting him to first base next year, since 1) they have Aubrey Huff under contract for another year, and 2) their top prospect, Brandon Belt, is a first baseman. Without a DH spot, and with their top two young players covering first and catcher, the Giants have no real use for Montero. It’s a nice idea to consider, especially since the Yanks need pitching and the Giants have plenty of it. But this is an unfortunate instance where the Yanks just don’t have much to give in return.

Joe asks: Jose Veras is in Japan? How is he doing??

Jose Veras actually caught on with the Pirates, and he’s pitching fairly well. He has thrown 20.2 innings in 22 appearances, striking out 30 to just nine walks (one intentional). His 2.61 ERA is all nice and sparkly. Of course, we’ve seen this from Veras before. In 2008 he had some stellar stretches. From June 5 through July 9, a span of 17.1 innings, he allowed just one run, striking out 18 while walking eight. Then he allowed just four runs in 16.1 innings from July 12 through August 24. That is to say, we know he’s capable of this. I’m just keeping my mouth shut so that Pirates fans can appreciate him while he lasts.

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David Cone interview in New York Magazine
2011 Draft: Blake Swihart
  • Nick

    Thanks for answering my question Joe! Also as an add on…Mike said it in the chat, that Posey should’ve been positioned better. Who waits for the ball (and tries to make a play) while sitting/crouching indian style? Really not the smartest move there. Anyway thanks!

    • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      If we’re going to talk positioning, we shouldn’t neglect to mention that Posey was not blocking the plate and the runner could have scored without colliding with him:

      http://yfrog.com/hsrx0bp

      • jon

        when youre a career minor leaguer are you really going to risk getting thrown out at the place in a game because you tried to slide around the catcher?

        • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          On the Posey play? No, because players have been allowed to do what he did. If they changed the rules and said you can’t intentionally collide with a catcher who is not blocking the plate? Then yes, I’d imagine he’d just slide and touch the plate instead of going out of his way to level the catcher who is not blocking the plate. If not, he’ll suffer whatever consequences there are of whatever that rule might be.

          There’s a difference between (1) looking at this (http://yfrog.com/hsrx0bp) and saying maybe we should take a look at how we treat plays at the plate and (2) saying Cousins should have done something else. I’m saying the former, not the latter.

          (And I think “slide around the catcher” is a bit of a stretch in this particular case. It’s not like the guy had to go out of his way to get to the plate and not level the catcher. If he went straight for the plate he would have gotten there without colliding with Posey, instead he crossed from the outside of the baseline to the inside in order to hit Posey instead of going straight for the plate.)

          • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            I’ve also gotta ask, just because I find this interesting… Were people really taught that you go for the catcher, whether the catcher’s blocking the plate or not? I certainly wasn’t taught that, I was taught that you go for the plate and run through the catcher if he happens to be in your way. From having conversations about this stuff the last couple of days it seems like a lot of people think the runner should collide with the catcher whether the catcher’s blocking the plate or not.

            • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

              I was taught to slide, but I never played after 13 years old. So I dont think everything what we were taught in Little League or High School really applies to major leagues.

            • Rick in Boston

              I think the “going through the catcher” is the by-product of a lot of baseball coaches on the youth/HS level also being football coaches. In high school, our varsity and freshmen coaches were football guys, and they implored us to go through guys. However, the JV coach and varsity assistants were not football guys, and taught us to go around.

              • Dale Mohorcic

                Frankly I’ve never really understood why the catcher can block the plate anyway. You can’t block any other base. Catching equipment not being conducive to fielding a thrown ball (as opposed to a pitched ball) or making a tag probably has something to do with it. In my little league and babe Ruth leagues they had the “Pete Rose rule” because of the all star game where Rose creamed the catcher (was it Steve Yeager? Or was be the dude that got a piece of bat in his throat?) You could not try to deck
                the catcher. I’m not one for reactionary rule changes, but I don’t really get the block the plate thing.

                • Monteroisdinero

                  Ray Fosse. He was never the same. Yeager got the bat in the throat.

        • Ed

          At least in this particular play, I’d think a slide away from the plate in foul territory with your left hand reached out to touch the plate would be the best thing to do. No one’s going to get hurt, and it would be really hard for Posey to make that tag.

          And maybe it’s just me, but running full speed into a 200lb guy covered in body armor doesn’t sound like something I’d want to do unless I had to.

  • jsbrendog

    i wanted to punch someone in the face yesterday when i was talking to 2 “yankee” fans who said that swisher sucks and should be cut, jorge needs to go cause he cant hit, and that they didnt like gardner because of his “fragmented swing and inability to bunt”

    when my friend and i confronted them with the fact that posada has been hitting somewhere around 350-400 the past couple weeks they shouted me down and when saying gardner has been one of the hottest offensive yankees (non c g-rand division) they again said i was an idiot.

    god i hate yankee fans.

    • MattG

      Who is the bigger idiot, the idiot himself, or the person that reasons with him?

      • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Oh man that’s deep.

  • MattG

    I’d like to see if the Giants would listen to a Cervelli-for-excess-pitching exchange. Even if it were to retrieve a loogy or a smoke-and-vogelsong, clearing a path for Montero makes it a win.

  • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

    Mike, do you feel the same way about Gardner and Swisher injuring two middle infielders on slides into 2B?

    • MattG

      To me, its not the same thing, because you aren’t trying to separate the player from the ball. In this instance, you are trying to disrupt their timing so they cannot make a strong or accurate throw. You can do that without touching the fielder. The intent isn’t necessarily contact, that just happens sometimes.

      And the rules surrounding breaking up double plays will occasionally be enforced. In theory, a middle infielder has ways to protect himself (if the runner does not break the rules), and still complete the play.

      • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

        Rules are only enforced if the runner is away from the bag, like Youkilis. Swisher and Gardner were both very close to the bag, they both had free view of the bag, and both aimed for the 2B, and both caused serious injuries.

        • MattG

          The point is they are not necessarily intending to make contact with the infielder on that play. The intent is to prevent a throw, or cause a bad throw. You can do this without hitting the infielder. Contact happens often of course, but it is more about the fielder’s will than the runner’s.

          In a play at the plate, you can’t separate the catcher from the ball without contact, so the intent is to cause a collision. The catcher might want no part of contact, but he has to make a tag, and the runner can impose his will.

  • Rick in Boston

    If there were to be a no collisions rule, catchers would be barred from blocking the plate.

    I’ll have to disagree with that. In high school and below, the catcher can still block the plate, even though the runner is out and ejected if they hit the catcher (they must slide or make an attempt to go around the catcher). If MLB was to outlaw the collision, they would just bring up the lower age rules and allow them to block the plate.

    • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

      So a catcher can block the plate, but the runer can’t touch him? Can we change their title from ‘catcher’ to ‘quarterback’?

      • Rick in Boston

        I prefer “Tom Brady”, but yeah, that’s it. You can slide into them, I guess with the thought to dislodge the ball, but any good catcher will use two hands and hold onto the ball.

        • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

          Does a free ankle surgery come with every slide into a catcher?

          • Rick in Boston

            I’ve actually never seen an ankle/knee injury at home in my time playing and coaching. Maybe because sliding slows down the player enough to reduce the potential for serious injury? I have no idea.

            • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

              Seems the runner is taking all the risk in that scenario, IMO. Why even slide? Just let him tag you and move on.

              But my opinion isn’t that they shouldn’t ban running guys over, but if you do that you can’t let a catcher block the plate – just like Tex can’t stand infront of 1B. And if you do that then no take out slides at 2B, of any kind – close or far from the bag, and no quick pop up slides either.