8/27 Being selective
One of the things Dale Sveum has stressed with the Cubs players is the need to improve their pitch selection, which will hopefully make them smarter hitters. Sveum was the hitting coach for the Brewers for three years and was asked about one of his former pupils, Ryan Braun. Did he take a lot of pitches in the beginning?
“Not when he came up,” Sveum said Monday of Braun. “He swung at more pitches out of the strike zone than anybody in baseball his first two seasons.”
So, how do you teach someone to be more selective?
“It’s not the easiest thing to teach because you’re still trying to create slugging percentage,” Sveum said. “You have to remember, Braun went to a major college and played for a long time. The bottom line is, he came to the conclusion that he was strong enough, fast enough and confident enough that he was going to hit any fastball in his count. A lot of times, young players don’t have that confidence in their ability to hit a fastball in any count so they speed things up. He’s changed things, he’s able to hit 0-1 with no panic. He doesn’t swing at a lot of 2-0 pitches, he doesn’t swing at 3-1 pitches, but that comes with a tremendous amount of confidence.”
So, is it something that can be taught?
“It’s very difficult to teach,” Sveum said. “Unless you tell them to take pitches, it’s a very difficult thing. About the time you do that, there’s a ball right down the middle and they get frustrated and the whole system breaks down. The system of on-base percentage and OPS — those are obviously the stats we judge people by offensively but remember that curve is brought up by the Yankees and the Red Sox and the Rangers. They have 28 to 32 year old hitters. That’s why that scale is so high. That doesn’t come with young players. Every one of those guys over there on the other side of the fence today [on the Brewers] were young and none of them walked. They walk enough to keep their heads above water. Rickie Weeks was the only one who walked from the get go but sometimes it wasn’t the best thing either. When J.J. Hardy was there to Corey [Hart] to Braun to Prince [Fielder], none of them walked.
“But you get old enough and tired of swinging at pitchers’ pitches, and you get more confident in your own abilities, that scale starts coming up when you play the game,” Sveum said.
The Cubs, by the way, rank 13th in the National League in slugging percentage, and 15th in OPS.
— Carrie Muskat