Lidge vs. Pujols: I was in the wrong spotPosted: March 15, 2010
What’s My Point?
David Eckstein’s hit in the “5–6″ hole was the difference in the game. I was not positioned properly at third base.
Why Does it Matter?
If Eckstein gets on base, Brad Lidge has to face Jim Edmonds, a power-hitting lefty veteran. In 2004 and 2005, Edmonds hit 4 home runs into the left field Crawford Boxes. Behind Edmonds is Albert Pujols, the best hitter the game has ever seen.
Positioning of Fielders
Position is vital in baseball. The key is to align your fielders according to the spray chart. A Spray Chart is a sheet that marks down every location of a ball hit in play or caught foul. This is a spray chart from 2005 (enter 2005 and Minute Maid Park to see what our coach was looking at when he put me into position.) showing every location where Eckstein hit a baseball when he played at Minute Maid Park. If the pitcher’s plan does not line up with the defense, the batter has a greater chance to get a hit in that vacated spot. The pitcher has a plan for every batter, that plan is between he and the catcher and the manager. The manager bases his defensive plan on the spray chart. If the pitcher’s plan doesn’t line up with the manger’s interpretation of that spray chart, there is a good chance the batter will “hit it where the defense ain’t.”
With the Cardinals down 2 runs, we are certain that he will take a strike, in this case a walk is as good as a hit, because even if he hits a HR, the Cardinals are still down by 1 run. Sometimes power hitters are allowed to “swing away” if a hr can tie a game. If Eckstein is given the green light to swing away at the first pitch and misses, he will be working with just 2 strikes against a closer throwing close to 100 mph. Knowing this, his swing will be shorter, simply trying to make contact which lessens his chances of pulling a ball down the line.
But you should know that there is an optical illusion at Minute Maid Park. Phil Garner (manager) sits in the first chair of the dugout protected by the handicap elevator in the first base dugout. From his vantage point, it looks like the third baseman is directly in line with him. However, the view from the third baseman’s vantage point is off to the left by about 5 feet. This is a problem.
Garner is lining me up according to the spray chart, but I am not where he thinks he is moving me. I am actually closer to the third base line then he would want me to be, due to the illusion. But there is nothing that can be done. From his view, I am in the exact spot where Ecksetin will most likely hit a ground ball based on the statistics of the spray chart.
Why Didn’t You Move Closer to the Hole Then?
You do what the manager says. He has the spray chart in front of him. Managers use that information as a starting point and move players according to the pitcher’s plan against the batter. With that said, I believe he is adjusting me according to Lidge’s plan against Eckstein.
How Do You Know You Were Positioned Incorrectly?
If a ball was hit where the chart says, then the positioning would have been wrong. Garner knew where Eckstein usually hit the ball and knew how Lidge would pitch to Eckstein. Garner took those 2 points into consideration and moved me towards the third base line as an adjustment.
Now that I am positioned, we can look back at the match up. Lidge is a power pitcher who was touching 100 mph and throwing a slider that came close to 92 mph. At those speeds, hitters can’t help but hit the ball up the middle or the other way (opposite field). Garner moved me off the line but he stopped me a couple feet short of his intended target. Lidge threw a fast ball that Eckstein hit in the “5-6″ hole for a base hit. If Garner’s view wasn’t offset, I could have made the play and the game would have been over.
Two batters later, Pujols made history and there was no optical illusion involved there at all.