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Mike Schmidt to Mark Reynolds: don't be like me; I totally sucked

Sep 30, 2009, 8:20 AM EDT

Usually you hear old ballplayers talking about how good they were. It’s quite odd, then, to hear someone as good as Mike Schmidt talking about how flawed he was:

I hated striking out, all 2,000 times I did it. I guess my problem was
I felt the opposing pitcher saw me as a dangerous hitter, not a good
hitter. There is a difference. Most of my career I was that hitter …
“dangerous.” Make good pitches – fastballs up, sliders away – and I’d
get myself out, especially in pressure at-bats where contact was a
must. I wanted to be a “good” hitter, good in my eyes and the opposing
pitcher’s, not just a guy who whaled and occasionally hit a bomb.

I suppose Schmidt was that guy for the first couple years of his career, but if he was merely a dangerous mistake-ball hitter from 1974 to 1987, he was doing it in another dimension. The guy won three MVPs and probably deserved two or three more. He’s the best third baseman in the history of the game. He was the best hitter
in baseball between the end of WIllie Mays’ career and the beginning of Barry Bonds’. Really, if you’re defining eras by their best players, the progression arguably goes Wagner/Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Williams/DiMaggio, Mantle/Mays, Schmidt, Bonds, Pujols. Rare frickin’ company.

So what is Schmidt up to?  In this article, it’s criticizing Mark Reynolds, and offering him some advice:

Mark Reynolds and any other high K guy could choke up, spread out and
just center the ball, and they’d hit 50 home runs and around .300 in
today’s game . . . When hitters understand that a shorter, less violent, level swing
increases contact, when they realize that more contact means more
production, more consistency, and more wins, they’ll change . . . It took me 13 years to see the light, make those changes and become
“dangerous” and “good.” Why should they wait that long? Take it from me
and my buddies: Sometimes a single is harder to hit than a home run!

Wow. As noted above, it decidedly did not take Mike Schmidt 13 yeas to become a “good” hitter. Indeed, his eighth through twelfth seasons are clearly his statistical peak (though he remained elite for about four more years). Mike Schmidt was the seventh most strikin’-out hitter in the history of
the game. And that’s OK, because that was just part of the deal to get
those 548 home runs. If Schmidt had taken his own advice when he was at the point in his career that Reynolds is in his own — if he had shortened up his swing and sought contact — he wouldn’t have all of that hardware, may not have made the Hall of Fame, and certainly wouldn’t have rated a column in the Sporting News.

Mark Reynolds strikes out more than Schmidt ever did and he could probably stand to make an adjustment or two if he ever wants to be a truly elite player.  Having an inner-circle Hall of Famer telling him not to do as he had done, however, is probably not the best way to go about it.

(link via BTF)

  1. Saguaro - Sep 30, 2009 at 9:10 AM

    I find it amusing how in the past several years the baseball media have jumped on the bandwagon of believing that a walk is as good as a single, and a strikeout is no worse than a grounder to short.
    Both notions are ludicrous. Would opposing teams have walked Barry Bonds 200 times a year if walking him was as damaging as having him hit? Of course not. Walking him, from their standpoint, was the lesser of evils. Moving runners one base at a time made more sense to them than watching the runners move two or three or four bases.

  2. Aarcraft - Sep 30, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    Saguaro: Some have said that a walk is sometimes (not alway) as good as a single. Some have said that a strikeout is sometimes (not always) no worse that a grounder to shortstop. You can dispute these points, but you would be wrong. NO ONE has ever said that a walk is as good as a homerun, which appears to be the point you are railing against. In other words, they weren’t walking Bonds because they were worried he might hit a single.

  3. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Sep 30, 2009 at 10:44 AM

    When hitters understand that a shorter, less violent, level swing increases contact, when they realize that more contact means more production, more consistency, and more wins, they’ll change…
    Honest question, is it? Or is this another cause of causation vs correlation?

  4. Tom - Sep 30, 2009 at 12:35 PM

    Taking a look at Reynolds splits there is one clear situation when he sacrifices power for more contact: when there is a runner on 3rd with less than two out.
    He hits 256/360/390 in those situations, compared to 258/340/504 normally. Now I’m sure that he has an extreme change to his approach in those situations so it’s not exactly what he’d hit if he took Mike Schmidt’s advice but is the cut down of strikeouts worth the loss of power?

  5. Dan - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:01 PM

    One out, man on third base: ground-out gets the run in. Strike out doesn’t.

  6. Joe - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:07 PM

    What if the infield is playing in and the ground ball is to third base. You need more info here.

  7. Joe - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:08 PM

    Good question, and one Ichiro has answered.

  8. Aarcraft - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:34 PM

    Dan: One out, runner on first: ground out ends the inning, strikeout doesn’t. See, two can play at this game.

  9. Baseball Nut - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:39 PM

    Baseball people know……contact outs are always more productive than non contact outs. That is why OB% is more important than BA to team that want to win. Contact creates runs in less than two out situations (ML teams only play in to cut off tying or go ahead runs late in a game. They never play in otherwise and a fly ball will work even if the infield is in). Contact puts pressure on defenses to make plays and these days, defense on teams are rare (except on those teams that win regularly)
    Those that say strike outs are the same as ground outs and a walk is the same as a hit don’t know the game. Bonds is a good example. If you look at the production “after” the intentional walk to Bonds, you will see that walking him was a mistake. The Giants were more productive when teams walked Bonds that when they pitched to him. The key stat is number of outs made regardless of type of out. Reynolds has significantly decreased his total outs this year as opposed to last year.

  10. GiantFans - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    One out runner at 3rd. Fly out….Run scored. Ground out to right side……..Run scored……….Foul out to left or right field… scored……..STRIKE OUT……2 outs.
    Infields only play in to cut off tying or go ahead runs late in games.

  11. Aarcraft - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:20 PM

    GiantFans: No one is arguing. It kills me when players strikes out with a runner on third. It also kills me when a player grounds in to an inning ending double play. Read my original comments – “A strikeout is sometimes (not alway) no worse than a groundout.” I think your situation falls under the “not always” comment.

  12. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:37 PM

    Good question, and one Ichiro has answered.
    Really? I forgot that the Mariners were 4 time WS champs. You’re absolutely right.
    Oh wait, his BR page says he’s been in the Post Season once his career, his rookie year. Since then they haven’t reached the PS once. So how does this prove that theorem?

  13. GiantFans - Sep 30, 2009 at 8:00 PM

    OK, so how did the Yankees do last year with all that power in the lineup???? They did nothing until they got some pitching.
    Simple question is who would you rather have 2 or 3 Ichiro types in your lineup or 2 or 3 40 plus homer guys who strikes out 200 plus times…….Give me the Ichiro’s any day of the week. Put him on the Cardinals and see if his Post Season appearance stat line doesn’t change.
    Forget about the WS or playoffs. That’s a team thing. More importantly a pitching thing. Ichiro has done his part. Mariners pitching, defense and the rest of the offense hasn’t done their part. That is why his PS stats suck.

  14. GiantFans - Sep 30, 2009 at 8:13 PM

    Baseball is a percentage game. Your percentages of winning go up dramatically each time you put the ball in play. Zero chance of winning when you don’t.
    I think the overall question is whether a strikeout has the same effect as a contact out. Even in your scenario a strikeout is not an advantage because a DP is the only poor option of many other possible scenarios on that same groud ball DP…….hit, error, throwing error, hit and run staying out of the DP, moving the runner up if no DP can be turned. Your option is defensive baseball, hoping that the worst option doesn’t happen.

  15. JojoBebop86 - Oct 1, 2009 at 10:38 AM

    Yes, making contact is better than not making contact- that is true because more things can happen when you make contact. No one is disputing that. That’s why striking guys out is so important for a pitcher, he doesn’t have to deal with the potential consequences of contact.
    But people are mostly right when they say that there’s not much difference, on average, between a contact OUT (not just making contact) and a strikeout. Yes, there are more situations where a contact out can be helpful, but they’re pretty much negated by the double plays, which are truly devastating rally killers.
    The big question though is will the cost of decreasing strikeouts/increasing contact outweight the benefits. For Mark Reynolds, someone who lives on his power, I think it would. By decreasing the power in his swing he’ll probably hit a lot of soft outs while giving away the power that makes him good. I don’t think he’ll hit enough singles to make up for the decrease in extra base hits.

  16. Jeff Berardi - Oct 1, 2009 at 3:53 PM

    “Mark Reynolds and any other high K guy could choke up, spread out and just center the ball, and they’d hit 50 home runs and around .300 in today’s game . . . When hitters understand that a shorter, less violent, [b]level swing increases contact[/b], when they realize that more contact means more production, more consistency, and more wins, they’ll change”
    Increases contact, maybe. It DECREASES power however. If you want to hit those 50 home runs, an uppercut swing is the way to go. You can read about it in a book called “The Science Of Hitting”. Some guy named Ted Williams wrote it.

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