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Buster Olney doesn’t make a lot of sense

Jul 16, 2013, 3:38 PM EDT

Buster Olney

From Buster Olney’s ESPN Insider column today comes this little snide remark directed at stats people:

One of the oft-repeated lines about hitting with runners in scoring position is that it’s not really a repeatable skill. This is kind of silly because a lot of hitters work on situational hitting every single day in batting practice.

Olney is trying to make the point that maybe it’s not just luck that Allen Craig and the Cardinals as a whole are hitting so well in the “clutch.”  Craig is currently batting .489 in 90 AB with RISP, compared to .274 in 190 AB with none on. He had the same kind of split, if not quite as pronounced last year, hitting .400 with RISP and .289 with none on.

And the Cardinals as a whole have been outstanding with RISP, hitting .337 with an .876 OPS. No other NL team has better than a .744 OPS with RISP. On the other hand, the Cardinals are just 13th in the NL in OPS with none on, coming in at .673. Their .244 average ranks ninth.

For the Cardinals as a whole, though, it’s not something carried over from 2012. Last year, the Cardinals ranked third in the NL in OPS with the bases empty (.741) and with RISP (.775). The NL average OPS with RISP was 26 points better than with none on, so that’s just the kind of split one would expect.

But this isn’t really about the Cardinals. This is about Olney trying to come up with some sort of bizarre reason why a team would hit better with RISP without simply repeating “clutch” over and over. Which is good, in the abstract, but… situational hitting in batting practice? Really?

When you think of situational hitting with RISP, what do you think of?

1. Trying to hit the ball in the air in order to collect a sac fly
2. Trying to advance the runner from second to third with a grounder to the right side or a bunt
3. A squeeze or suicide squeeze bunt with a runner on third

That’s pretty much it, right? And if you pull off one of those three outcomes, you’ll get your high fives as you head back to the dugout. But what you won’t get is any help with your batting average.

Allen Craig doesn’t have great numbers with RISP because he’s hitting situationally. He has them because he’s ripping the ball all over the place. We shouldn’t expect those odd splits from the last year and a half to continue because, let’s face it, hitting with RISP isn’t really a repeatable skill. But we can probably expect Craig to keep hitting well with RISP because, in general, he’s a darn good hitter.

  1. flyman779 - Jul 16, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    I’m with you on that one Matthew , Graig is killing the ball end of story .

  2. scottj27 - Jul 16, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    Defenders also have to hold men on, so you can hit it towards the spots on the diamond that have been vacated. To that end, line drives and hard hit grounders might turn into hits and RBI more often. Obviously this effect would not enough to explain that large jump (which I agree is pure randomness), but it’s another thing to consider.

    • bisonaudit - Jul 16, 2013 at 3:55 PM

      Defenders employ these same tactics against everyone, not just the Cardinals. Also, pitching from the stretch. Result higher slash line results with runners on than not, but the effect is universal.

  3. mtr75 - Jul 16, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    Your theory might make more sense if a sacrifice fly (point one in your handy lit) counted as an AB, but it doesn’t. It’s you who doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    • bisonaudit - Jul 16, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      A SAC also doesn’t count as a hit. AVG changes not at all.

      • mtr75 - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:46 AM

        My point (if you had the brain to comprehend it) is that in situations with runners in scoring position, you can make outs that don’t make your batting average go down. So you’re not penalized for making “productive” outs. So of course it’s possible to have a higher batting average with RISP.

      • motherscratcher23 - Jul 17, 2013 at 11:32 AM

        mtr75 – You’re the reason that comment threads generally suck, and I usually regret my occasional wandering into them.

      • kevinbnyc - Jul 17, 2013 at 11:45 AM

        I just don’t understand why mrt75 has to be so mean…

      • mtr75 - Jul 17, 2013 at 12:28 PM

        motherscratcher23 – then don’t. When you make a perfectly valid (and correct) point and someone calls you a “pompous dope” then tell me how mean I am. All I did was make a comment. I didn’t start the flaming.

    • schm1471 - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:19 PM

      :) Nothing better than a pompous dope.

      • mtr75 - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:46 AM

        I agree, which is exactly what you are.

      • mtr75 - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:58 AM

        You can have 10 AB’s with RISP, get 3 hits and make 7 outs, and be batting .1000. Can you do that with nobody on? Feel free to feel stupid now.

      • youngblood35 - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:27 AM

        Mtr, are you really so pathetic that you need to insult people on the internet to make yourself feel smarter? Because a. It’s not working and b. Everyone still thinks you’re a douche.

  4. brazcubas - Jul 16, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    It makes for a nice “clutch” narrative, but, really, if you can will yourself to hit .400 in a particular situation, why wouldn’t you just will yourself to do it all the time. Perhaps players need to tap into a limited reserve of juju to pull off the feat, so the great ones, the truly Clutch hitters, are the best at rationing this power.

    • lawson1974 - Jul 16, 2013 at 11:30 PM

      No its not will. Its some peole are better able to handle more stressful situations.

      If your stress level doesnt go up and your concentration level go down in certian situations while most of those around you are more affected, that can be “clutch”

  5. ctony1216 - Jul 16, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    Good situational hitting can actually lower your batting average, not raise it.

    Situation 1: runner on third with one out — hit the ball up the middle, knowing that if you ground out to shortstop who’s playing back, it’s OK. Run scores. Your batting average drops.

    Situation 2: Runner on second, no outs — hit the ball to right side, resulting in ground out to first baseman. Runner moves to third with one out (and later scores on ground out — see Situation 1). Your batting average drops again. You might be 0-for-2, but with an RBI and an “assisted RBI.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:46 PM

      Wait….
      Situation #2 would be a SAC…wouldn’t it?
      If so…your Avg. doesn’t change.

      • Kevin S. - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:56 PM

        Nope. You only get a sacrifice on a bunt that advances a runner or a fly ball that scores a runner.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:01 PM

        Thanks for the reply Kevin.
        And it really has never made much sense to me why that is.
        A bunt? Yep. A fly ball? Yep. A grounder? Nope.

      • keliskuties - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:06 PM

        I thought St. Louis had smart baseball fans? It’s a fielder’s choice.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:11 PM

        Yeah…fielders choice. Thanks for correcting me Keli.
        On occasion we all suffer from “head in the ass syndrome.”

      • Kevin S. - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:13 PM

        No, it’s not. A fielder’s choice occurs when the batter reaches base because the infielder attempted to get another baserunner out.

        And for the record, stl1b is quite the smart, engaging poster. Smart does not mean having perfect knowledge of everything. You know what isn’t smart? Pompously deriding somebody for asking a question while yourself making an erroneous statement.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:15 PM

        But of course…in Keli’s situation it would be “defensive indifference.”
        Specifically, a Fielders choice is typically called when a runner is thrown out at 2nd or 3rd while the batter reaches base. THIS…is a fielders choice. “Defensive indifference” occurs typically when the defensive throws out the batter while allowing the runners to advance.

        Keli: Not that I posted this without trying to be a smart ass.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:19 PM

        Ahhhh….you beat me to it Kevin!
        Thanks for the back up nonetheless.

    • mtr75 - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:53 AM

      And the reverse.

      1st AB with RISP: runner on third with one out, you hit a fly ball to center. It gets caught, you’re out, runner scores. Sacrifice fly, your batting average doesn’t drop even though you made an out.

      2nd AB with RISP: runner on second, no outs, you hit a fly ball to center. It gets caught, you’re out, runner advances to 3rd. Sacrifice fly, your batting average doesn’t drop even though you made an out.

      3rd AB with RISP: runner on second, one out, you single to right, runner scores. You’re “batting .1000″ with RISP, but you’ve made two outs.

      Now say you had those 3 AB’s with nobody on base – you’re batting .333. So you’re a “clutch hitter” with RISP because you have a “.1000″ batting average, even though you’ve done the same thing with nobody on. So this statistic can be just as easily artificially inflated. Actually more easily, because with nobody on, you can’t make an out without it being an official AB.

  6. dowhatifeellike - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:05 PM

    With runners on, the defensive alignment is altered from its most effective state.

    Additionally, hitters adjust their approach to take advantage of it. Some are more successful than others; those who are good at hitting behind the runner(s) or can bunt for a base should see their average rise.

    The sac bunt/sac fly has a big impact on batting average – either you get a hit or the at bat doesn’t count. There’s no negative impact on average if the hitter can put the ball where it needs to go.

    A hitter is also more likely to see a good pitch to hit with runners on since pitchers don’t want to compound the problem with a walk.

    It’s a bunch of little things that add up.

    • paperlions - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:14 PM

      Yes, but those are the reasons that all teams hit better with runners on than with the bases empty. Those reasons don’t apply uniquely to the Cardinals or to Craig, and they don’t explain his current career splits….of course, neither does “situational” hitting. He only has 350 career PAs with runners on….and that isn’t a very large sample size on which to base a conclusion about a skill.

  7. dexterismyhero - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    Buster Olney probably didn’t even play kickball in his youth. No one picked him. But he had their stats!!!!

  8. paperlions - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Is there a situation in which getting a hit is a bad idea? I’m pretty sure leading off an inning with a hit is good situation hitting, too.

    Olney is a classic example of someone that knows a lot about something, but still doesn’t seem to understand much of it.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:40 PM

      Yes…leading off an inning with a hit is the perfect “situation” to do so.
      Along with doing so while batting 2nd, 3rd, Cleanup, 5 Hole, 6th, 7 hole, 8th and/or 9th.
      All good “situations” in which to hit.

  9. Conor Dowley - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Teams do practice situational hitting in BP. Usually the first couple rounds of each group will each have a specific situation called out for each guy to hit to; something like runners on first and third with one out, runner on second with two outs, etc. Sometimes it’s the three situations you laid out, but it’s usually more along the lines of “line drive to LCF gap” or something else a bit more productive than giving up an out. Once everyone has achieved the requested goals from the hitting coach, then they’re allowed to just let it rip for a couple of rounds.

    Now, that doesn’t make Buster right; FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus and countless others have shown down the years that there’s no year-to-year correlation for any form of “clutch” statistics. I’m not really sure what kind of point he was trying to make there, especially as he has been more sabr-friendly in the past. That’s changed recently, however, and I’ve yet to figure out why.

    • keliskuties - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:09 PM

      You mean teams practice situational hitting with a bench coach lobbing 60 mph beach balls down the middle of the plate? Why don’t teams just get opposing pitchers to do the same?

  10. waiverclaim - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    Pretty sure Buster just means that hitters practice bunting from time to time.

  11. mvp43 - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    Buster is becoming the new Skip Bayless. Throw stuff out there so people argue about it until the next stupid thing he says comes out.

  12. stlouis1baseball - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Why are you screaming?

    • heyblueyoustink - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:43 PM

      Does no one else see the irony between the screen name and the comments? No one?

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 17, 2013 at 9:13 AM

        Yeah…I picked up on it as well Blue. Dude obviously has issues.

  13. mattjg - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    One of the oft-repeated lines about me making out with Kate Upton is that it’s not really ever going to happen. This is kind of silly because I fantasize about making out with Kate Upton every single night in bed.

  14. cohnjusack - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    Here’s a question.

    Using…errr…logic, why would a player suddenly be better at hitting with people on base? Wouldn’t that reflect a defect in his abilities, if he is unable to maintain focus on the rest of his PAs?

    Let’s pretend that clutch hitting is a provable skill (which is most certainly is not). If player X is batting .400 with RISP, but .200 the rest of the time, my question is why the fuck is he not playing up to his full potential with no one on? It’s not as though God hands him 170 hits, no more, no less that he is allowed to distribute as he sees fit.

    • mattjg - Jul 16, 2013 at 4:56 PM

      I agree with you, but I’ll play devil’s advocate.

      What if almost every player, being human, performs slightly worse in clutch situations (or chokes)? A big situation is a big situation whether you’re batting or pitching. Maybe each player generally performs a little bit worse but these cancel each other out. Maybe then a clutch player isn’t a player who plays better when the game’s on the line, but one whose play remains constant while the play of those around him decreases, making him look better. This avoids the problem of a player only reaching his top ability in big situations and underperforming the rest of the time.

      Of course, none of that is probably true. Study after study has failed to find that certain players have clutch ability, and there are ways to test the theory in my last paragraph (e.g. using PitchFX) that I suspect would show big leaguers are not worse in clutch situations.

      • Kevin S. - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        That’s actually not true – in The Book, MGL, Tango and Dolphin found that roughly one sixth of hitters do exhibit higher-than-expected performances in “clutch” situations over the course of their career, but the effect is very small, not to the point that it greatly distorts their value relative to their context-neutral statistics.

    • spudchukar - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:07 PM

      But you don’t watch him hit day in and day out. He changes his approach with runners in scoring position. First off he emphasizes contact. Especially contact up the middle and to right field. My guess is this approach is successful for a variety of reasons.

      With a runner on first, the whole between first and second is widened considerably. First baseman has to hold the runner, second baseman needs to play closer to second for the double play. But there is so much more, and often the RISP also has a runner on first.

      Pitchers are more reluctant to challenge with the fastball. What Craig does is try to hit the fastball to the opposite field, sinkers up the middle, and breaking balls he turns on. And I believe Craig both learns and sets pitchers up in AB’s with nobody on base.

      A cause and effect argument can be made. The Cardinal offensive style plays better with runners on base cause a number of their hitters have a similar approach to Craig. They are good fastball hitters, but don’t try to do too much. Square the ball up, put it in play, often to the off field.

      St. Louis also hits into a lot of double plays. It goes with the territory, can be frustrating to fans but is the result of their style. Cards hitters think doubles, not HRs.

      • Kevin S. - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:25 PM

        Allen Craig is the first player in baseball history to successfully discover how to do this?

        Also, while it’s possible Craig emphasizes contact more with RISP (his walk rate rises and his strikeout rate drops), he’s hardly *just* making contact. His batted ball profile is identical, but his power indicators (ISO, HR/FB) rise as well. If it truly is an approach difference, then there is no tradeoff to going to that approach and he should use it all the time. What’s more likely, however, is that this is merely the result of random variation over a relatively small sample and that while Craig is a quality hitter, he’s not the second coming of Mays and Aaron.

      • cohnjusack - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:53 PM

        (his walk rate rises and his strikeout rate drops)

        Interesting thing I was looking up:
        *EVERYONE’S* walk rate rises with RISP.

        2013 Average/OBP
        Total: .254/.317
        RISP: .257/.338

        2012 Average/OBP
        Total: .255/.319
        RISP: .255/.339

        2011 Average/OBP
        Total: .255/.321
        RISP: .254/.339

      • louhudson23 - Jul 17, 2013 at 7:54 AM

        Lots of players(too many) pay no attention to any of this…Hacking away without regard to situation…so the situation may be common to any and every hitter,but certain one’s take advantage more often (and certain one’s try and fail to do so) and certain ones make no change in approach whatsoever…..watching 180 pound second baseman take Jacksonian cuts with men on base is one of the great frustrations of being a fan….

      • spudchukar - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:30 AM

        Kevin you miss the point, whether it is willful ignorance, or misreading I do not know. Is Allen Craig the first player to discover this style. I don’t know. Certainly others have practiced similar approaches, but perhaps he has refined it to a level that supersedes others.

        But what you cannot seem to process is the Craig approach is more effective with RISP. If he produces the exact same action both with RISP and with the bases empty he will be successful more often with RISP, because the conditions he is hitting in are different. Different pitches, different defense, different results.

        And your contention that he should use the approach all the time reinforces the notion that you do not truly “get” the difference. Yes, you are correct that he isn’t a reincarnation of Mays or Aaron, and his approach may not be effective for the two first ballot hall of famers, but it is successful for him and that is all that matters.

      • Kevin S. - Jul 17, 2013 at 3:51 PM

        Explain it to me, then. Without cliches. Because I provide evidence, and you don’t. But I guess I just don’t “get” it.

  15. seanmk - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:04 PM

    well if SAC doesn’t count as a hit as everyone is pointing is not recognizing it doesn’t count as an out either. 50 hits in 200 PA with 0 sac and 0 walks is. 250 avg. 50 hits with 25 rbi outs in 200 pa and 0 walks is a .286 avg. 25 less at bats improves the avg

    • DD23 - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      Wrong. You’re using two different situations and comparing them like they’re the same. The CORRECT comparison is, a player comes up who currently has a .250 average (25 hits in 100 AB’s). After a SAC, he is still hitting….. .250. Hits don’t change. AB’s don’t change. Nothing changes except RBIs. Therefore SAC’s do NOT improve batting average.

  16. chiadam - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    why are so many people bagging on the writer about sac bunts / flies not helping your BA when the writer immediately said that sac bunts / flies do not help your BA.
    a group of words forms a sentence. a group of sentences forms a paragraph. read them in succession, THEN post.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:35 PM

      a group of words forms a sentence. a group of sentences forms a paragraph. read them in succession, THEN post.

      Heh, you’re definitely new here, aren’t you?

  17. uwsptke - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    This is one of those rare articles that really didn’t need anything beyond the title.

  18. papichulo55 - Jul 16, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    The bottom line is that pitching strategies can be changed due to RISP. So, as a Hitter, it is my job to have an idea as to how they trying to pitch to me, and how their plan might change due to RISP. Can I practice things to help me see and hit the different pitches, in a different pitch sequence, with different defense, due to RISP? Sure, why not. At a minimum, it helps to keep my head in the game, and eventually I will become better at anticipating, and become a better ‘Clutch’ hitter.

  19. birdsnblues - Jul 16, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    Pouliot…. Your an Idiot… Have you ever swung a baseball bat in your life

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 17, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      Idiot’s a little strong. The word we tend to use is “dipwad.” Matthew is fond of it.
      Not that it matters…but I think he played soccer.

  20. lawson1974 - Jul 16, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    There are other ways to situationally hit and the author knows it. Depending on the runner placement. Outfields play in, infields pinch towards secomd base. This leaves areas open that wouldnt be there otherwise. So, sacrificing isnt the only possible batting strategy with RISP.

    Some players are clutch, in every sport, including baseball

    • louhudson23 - Jul 17, 2013 at 8:36 AM

      The all too common reply is that that situation presents itself for any hitter,and therefore does not explain why a particular player or team is more successful than another,given the common situation… the answer is of course that some players and teams emphasise situational baseball and at least attempt,and in turn succeed more often, to accomplish what they set out to do…….and others just swing for the downs every time(but lumped together with those who do by statistical analysis)….So, my question…what is the success rate of those who understand and genuinely attempt to apply situational hitting as opposed to those who do not? Mixing the worst with the best creates an average,but tells me nothing of the effectiveness in attempting to do so….with the subjectiveness of discerning intent rendering it impossible to determine….There is a growing belief that the game is an entirely quantifiable spreadsheet exercise and not a series of completely unique situations encompassing multiple unique singular factors.That is what makes baseball the wonderfully unpredictable sport that it is to watch and play and not, in fact,reducible to a mere mathematical exercise which attempts with varying success to discern patterns by lumping the best with the worst and the unique with the common. The result is descriptive of neither…..No reason to ignore them or disparage their use, as they can be enlightening and useful,barring the feasibility of subjective critique on a daily basis …but no reason to be fetishised above the actual playing of the game and the snowflake composition of each game,each at bat,each pitch….As was once said by Duffy Dyer(??), “baseball stats are like a bikini,they show you a lot,but they don’t show you everything”.

      • spudchukar - Jul 17, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        Yes, Yes, Yes. Some play cannot be pigeon-holed into quantifiable numbers. And that is probably a good thing. And this is an important fact that needs to be remembered by all statistical analysts.

        The game will continue to be too complex to do so. Too many variables. This notion shouldn’t discourage sabermetricians. I am all for all scientific analysis. And the re-investigation has had meaningful discoveries and divulged numerous erroneous axioms.

        Because I watch the Cardinals intently I recognize the evolution of their approach. I really don’t know which came first the chicken or the egg. Did St. Louis consciously draft and develop players who fit the mold, or did the philosophy convert the players. Don’t know and don’t really care.

        But currently it is obvious that the Cards offensive success is primarily due to their approach. Granted they have to have the talent to exercise the philosophy, you cannot teach Calculus to a Turkey.

        Hitting the ball the opposite way isn’t just a suggestion to them it is orthodoxy. In fact, the three hitters that aren’t putting up numbers at a pace that is customary is due primarily to their inefficiency to execute that hitting style. Holiday, Freese, and Jay have all gotten too pull/homer happy. Result, poorer numbers. Kozma’s decline is due more to the Turkey cause, but he has been an Einstein in the field, to his credit.

        One misconception that I read here is that the RISP is due simply to the hole between first and second. It is important, but only a small part of the equation. When a hitter tries to aim towards the right center direction a number of improvements occur. I once had a minor league hitting instructor tell me to aim directly at the secondbaseman with my swing. Because no hitter can “place” a ball. His point was that by aiming at the second baseman you will fail and hit it to either side or over his head, all producing good results.

        Which brings me to my main point. By trying to hit to the right side (assuming you are right handed), numerous opportunities arise. First you open the right field line into play, next the right center gap. Mostly, this is done with the fastball. The advantage being when you are slightly fooled and swing to fast other holes then open, be it sinkers hit up the middle or off speed pitches raked into the gap or between 3rd and SS.

        Plus, by waiting on the ball longer, which a hitter going the other way affords himself, pitch recognition is improved, pitch direction easier detected, and the ability to foul off tough pitches improved. You also keep the bat in the hitting zone for a greater length of time increasing your ability to square up the ball.

        Many have prognosticated that the Cards cannot keep up their current pace. Randomness may indeed be a contributor. But much like Allen Craig, practice and adherence to the philosophy may indeed be cause for optimism. Maybe they will improve their execution rate and become even better hitters.

  21. louhudson23 - Jul 17, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    I am teaching my French stepson the game and we watch a game almost daily. He has a basic understanding of a players line,and looks to OBP first ,then for a compensating number…ie: he sees a low OBP is not good,but that 30 HR can be make it more palatable…..that a fat average is not necessarily better or worse than a lower one….something else has to be there….But what he has learned most of all,is that there is no stat for Ichiro keeping a throw to the plate low (through the cut off man) enough to hold a hitter to a single and still make a play at the plate,or how that the hustle from the box can affect an outfielders play in multiple ways from not cleanly fielding to where he makes his throw or a runner making himself bait by attempting a base and drawing a throw away from the plate,allowing the run to score with two outs.. ….or how playing the carom well or badly doesn’t necessarily show up as an error or how that a single becomes a double or an out at second because of it…….that is baseball and you can see it ,appreciate it ,but you can’t quantify it….and all of my negativity lies not with stats themselves, which are as much a part of the game as anything…but with the reduction of the game to numbers and the disregarding of the unquantifiable skills that no amount of BP in a cage or a spreadsheet formula can measure……..

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 17, 2013 at 9:13 AM

      Oui. Bon poste Lou.

  22. coloradogolfcoupons - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    People who don’t play this game may not understand how runners on 2nd base signal the batter the location of the next pitch…with just a tiny hand or leg movement….that enables a hitter to focus on one side of the plate , and sometimes runners can actually signal what TYPE of pitch is coming as well. Sign-stealing has been going on since the first double, and the Cards are masters at it.

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