San Diego SABR meeting – 24 Jan 09

There hasn’t been much said on this site about the San Diego SABR branch that I am a part of. That’s because in trying to complete my Masters (which will FINALLY finish 1 Apr), I’ve really pared down on the things I do outside of work, so I have enough time to complete the coursework. This has put a crimp in my SABR style, to the point where I went to last January’s meeting and haven’t been to a single function since.

Which has made my life poorer as a result.

However, the clouds parted long enough this weekend for me to attend most of our Winter Meeting, which was Saturday. On the agenda, in addition to the normal research presentations, was a question and answer period with Merv Rettenmund, Major League baseball player and coach, and Warren Miller, Director of Media Relations for the Padres. I was able to stay for all of Mr. Rettenmund’s comments, but not for Mr. Miller, which was unfortunate, because I had some questions I wanted to ask him. Maybe some other time.

Because Mr. Rettenmund was the Padres hitting coach until 31 Aug 2007, and therefore had some insight into Khalil Greene, I was really looking forward to hearing him speak. Some interesting things that he offered during his 45 minutes with us (NOTE: These aren’t exact quotes unless so indicated, rather, my interpretation and paraphrasing what was said):

– A long, slow swing means you’re probably a good fastball hitter, not a good breaking ball hitter (I always thought it was the opposite).

– Older generations of hitters might have gotten 8000 minor league at bats; now you’re lucky to get 800. The number of broken bats we see may be due to players not having taken enough swings to really learn how to hit.

– On inside pitches, don’t shift your body to get your shoulder out of the way, get your hands through sooner (I’ve been shifting my body. Good tip)

– There is no such thing as 2 strike hitting. What can you do? Get ready earlier, swing slower, get to the ball? Hitting’s all about timing.

– Choking up makes no sense with today’s lighter bats. Players 50 years ago using 35-40 oz bats, you could choke up and have some bat left. Now, you choke up and have what, 20 oz? You got no bat left.

– Hardest parks to hit in: Comerica, old Arlington Stadium in Texas, Oakland Alameda, and Petco. He loved to hit in Tiger Stadium. He REALLY likes the new ballpark in St Louis.

– Petco: DEAD in Apr/May. When the weather heats up, the ball jumps better. You can hit it out to CF if it’s to straightaway CF. Wind will knock it down in the gaps. RF – that’s ridiculous.

He likes Khalil Greene – called him one of the smartest ballplayers he’s ever worked with.

– Didn’t have much good to say about the current state of the Padres. They are a bad team (99 losses last year, that’s no secret) with a bare farm system. He wouldn’t be surprised to see the Padres trade Peavy (that’s the worst kept secret in the league) and Adrain Gonzalez for prospects (that’s interesting, and makes sense).

– Being a good hitter is all about timing, not so much mechanics. Getting ready at a good pace.

– Tony Gwynn thought the extra weight he put on gave him better balance at the plate.

– He had a lot of interesting things to say about hitting. Don’t hack, have a plan. Look for a certain pitch at a certain speed in an area. When you get it, hit it. Count doesn’t matter so much. He stated that lefties were high-ball hitters and righties low-ball hitters, but that’s shifted 180 degrees the last 20 years.

– Greene can’t hit a breaking ball. He had positive things to say about Hal McRae, and that Greene needed a change of scenery, but he still can’t hit a breaking ball.

– You hit a breaking ball with your eyes. If you see a guy swinging at a breaking ball while looking at the centerfield camera he’s got no shot.

– He things the big clubs draft too many players, because there aren’t enough teams for them all to play on (this was interesting also. Too many guys splitting time at positions to get into games, so no one gets enough at bats or reps to really improve. He believes you get better by playing the game regularly, and I agree).

– Not a fan of players taking a lot of BP from coaches, because it doesn’t simulate a game.

– MLB players suck at running the bases. Quote: “.220 hitters aren’t on base enough to work on it.”

All in all, a great 45 minutes. Did nothing to assuage my misgivings about Greene, though.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “San Diego SABR meeting – 24 Jan 09

  1. Stephen

    Of course a good breaking ball hitter has to have a quick swing. He has be able to identify it as a breaking ball and then wait for the break to get the optimal contact. Also, a slow swing can hit a bad, hanging breaking ball because it is easy to identify and stays up in the zone, but a good breaking ball hitter is the one who can hit good breaking balls.Nova’s hanging tough, Xavier looks assured of a birth in the Tourney, and Notre Dame tries to end its losing streak at home tonight against Marquette

  2. Mike

    Again I’m paraphrasing, but I think his point was the long slow swing-er has the same swing through the same plane regardless of what pitch is thrown. Because he has to start his slow bat earlier to get it through the zone on time, he must time it for a fastball. Throw him a breaking ball and he’s on his front foot.You’re right, a good breaking ball hitter has to identify the pitch as a breaking ball and react. That’s hitting with your eyes, as Merv explained it.Anyway. X is #10, and I can’t believe Nova is still ranked since they can’t beat a ranked team (0-4 so far).

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