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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Baseball Interlude: Three Hits for a Double

My team, the Chicago Cubs, aren't in the World Series this year -- generally teams which lose 101 out of 162 games don't make it to the post season. However, there are still some interesting things to watch...even when other teams are battling it out for the joy and glory that should, rightfully be mine.

The Tigers didn't need any encouragement to blow past the Yankees in 4 straight (cheers!), but it wasn't quite as easy for the Giants to defeat the Cardinals. It took San Francisco 7 games to send the St. Louis team home for the winter. (Cheers for that, too!)

One of the most interesting (or least interesting depending on whether you love or hate baseball) aspects of baseball is the constant attention to detail. Statistics in baseball aren't just for keeping track of which players are better and which teams are winning...they are the heart and soul of the game. Why else would you need to know what a batter's on base percentage (OBP) is against left-handed pitchers (LHP) with runners in scoring position (RISP) (I can hear the fans saying...yes, of course we need to know that...while the "I hate baseball -- it's so boring" crowd is still trying to figure out what an on base percentage is)?

So, if there's anyone left reading, here's a new stat question for you. How often does a player spur his team to victory by hitting a ball more than once with a single swing of the bat?

The answer is "probably more often than we would expect"...but it happened last Monday night and was caught on camera. Hunter Pence, an outfielder for the 2012 San Francisco Giants earned his $10+ million salary by hitting a double during a 5-run third inning to help the Giants win the 7th game of the National League Championship Series and the National League Pennant.

You can read about what happened here (they went on to win the final game 9-0), but the most interesting part of the play (at least to me) was that Pence's bat hit the ball three times during his swing sending the ball bouncing into the outfield for a double. Watch...
  1. the bat hits the ball squarely at the bottom of the black part of the bat
  2. the bat breaks, hitting the ball in the middle of the black part of the bat
  3. the bat continues forward hitting the ball at the end of the bat.



Notice that Pence doesn't stop his swing when he hits the ball the first time...or even the second time. This, for you young players out there, is called "following through on your swing" and it's what makes good hitters good. In fact...you can see he continues his swing way beyond the point of impact. The multiple hits on the bat only happens because Pence's first hit is straight and clean. If he had hit the ball on the top of the bat (or the bottom of the ball) it would have popped up or gone foul and never hit the bat a second time. So, it's a good swing and a clean hit with straight follow through. Great form!

Ted Williams once said, "I think without question the hardest single thing to do in sport is to hit a baseball." There might be those who disagree with him, of course, however, I think hitting a baseball three times with one swing of the bat ranks right up there!

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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