In case you didn't read it yesterday, and seriously, there's no excuse for your not having read it by now, Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell talked in his weekly chat on Tuesday about how he watches baseball games. The veteran reporters said he watches in slow motion on the television, fast-fowarding between pitches and any delays in the game but slowing things down as each pitch is thrown so that, "... you can watch a 3 hour game in maybe 2:15," and, "... get a great grasp of the pitch recognition abilities of hitters.":
"By using slow mo, you slow the game down enough that you __the slob observer__ can see the game as they SHOULD see it and as they WANT to see it. 'Everything" becomes obvious so quickly that it's spooky."
The WaPost reporter goes on to explain how he focuses on hitters' triggers and uses the slow-mo to call pitches and see which hitters are able to quickly recognize what's coming and how quickly they react to what they see. The first example Mr. Boswell provided was Adam LaRoche, who started the season in a slump with a brutal .136/.213/.259 first month-plus in which he hit three doubles and a home run in 24 games and 89 plate appearances before figuring things out and going on a run that has him hitting .341/.425/.637 with four doubles, a triple and seven home runs in 26 games and 106 PAs so far in May. Here's what the Washington Post writer saw:
"When LaRoche was cold, the pitch would be 10 feet out of the pitcher's hand and, with the omniscience of slo-mo, I'd say, 'Ball.' He'd swing and miss by six inches. I'd say, 'Strike,' he'd take it for strike three. Then, as soon as he got hot, he saw EVERY PITCH just as if it had been thrown in slow motion! He 'recognized' probably 80-to-90 percent of the pitches correctly -- which to swing at, which to take. Of course that doesn't mean you drill every pitch. But it's like watching an entirely different player."
The next example he uses, however, is Danny Espinosa, and it's not pleasant:
"This year, Espinosa has the worst pitch recognition I have ever seen -- except for pitchers trying to hit. It's unbelievable. He's already swinging before I can even say 'ball' or 'strike' and I'm watching slo-mo. He's just lost, swings at anything, everything, guessing wildly, hoping. I think it's taken a couple of years of swing changes, approach to hitting changes, injuries and lost confidence to reach this point. It's sad to watch."
Espinosa is, of course, dealing with a wrist injury and playing with a torn rotator cuff he opted not to have surgically-repaired when it was discovered last Fall. Mr. Boswell's colleague at the Washington Post, Adam Kilgore, wrote on Wednesday that Espinosa faced a difficult choice when he learned the extent of the injury to his wrist recently. He could sit for around three weeks and wait for the fracture and bone chip to heal or continue to play through the pain. Espinosa told the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore the decision was simple. "I don’t have three weeks to sit." Espinosa said he made the choice to play at less than 100% as many in the major leagues do and allow the injuries to heal while he remains on the field.
In an interview on ESPN980's The Sports Reporters with Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan, the Nats' second baseman, who has a .166/.197/.290 line with nine doubles, three home runs and 43 Ks in 153 PAs so far this season talked about why he made the decision to play with the pain once the swelling went down. "The fracture is going to stay," Espinosa told the show's hosts, "It's going to have to heal over time. They basically said that they can't do surgery on it, they can't cast it, so it will be something that heals in the offseason. So they just wanted to get the inflammation down, sit about five or six days." Espinosa said he was likely to return as he did last night for the Nationals' game in Camden Yards, where he went 1 for 4 with a single and three Ks.
Asked about dealing with the shoulder and wrist issues, the 26-year-old, '08 3rd Round pick said it's something every major league player deals with during the course of a season. He wasn't, however, willing to blame the injuries for his struggles at the plate when he was asked if the injuries and his production were related and if everyone has seen the best he's able to offer so far in his career. "I'm not going to use injury as an excuse," Espinosa said, "Never have, I never will. But, it doesn't make it easier. Hitting is already the toughest thing you can do and to try to do it with injury doesn't make it any easier. But, yeah, I won't say, 'Oh, cause my wrist was hurting that's the reason I wasn't hitting.' I just, I wasn't producing at the time."
"But no," Espinosa said, moving on to the second part of the host's two-part question, "people haven't -- I don't think I've really tapped into what I can do. So, I think if everyone is kind of patient with me in a sense -- I know everyone thinks they've been patient with me for the last two years -- and I think I've done a decent job. I go out there and I play hard every day, and I never take my at bats into my defense, and my defense always stays on top of its game. Offensively, I'm still learning, I'm becoming a better hitter. I'm feeling more comfortable at the plate and I feel like my swing is there. So, I think, as this year goes on, I think everyone will see, I think my numbers will be better this year than what they were. I'm just trying to get better every year. I'm not trying to go from a .250 hitter to a .340 hitter in one year. I'm trying to get better every single year and that's my goal and that's what I'm trying to do this year."
Davey Johnson hasn't yet reached his limit in terms of patience with his second baseman. Danny Espinosa's in the lineup again tonight as the Nationals take on the Orioles in Baltimore:
Davey's Lineup, Thu @ BAL/G54: Span cf, Bernadina rf, Zimmerman 3b, LaRoche dh, Desmond ss, Moore lf, Tracy 1b, Suzuki c, Espi 2b, Haren rhp— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) May 30, 2013