Brian Erni, MetsBlog.com:In a report for ESPN New York, Terry Collins tells Adam Rubin that Matt den Dekker has tried to become more disciplined at the plate. However, Collins warns that there is a fine line between being patience and becoming too passive.
“I see a guy who has worked hard at trying to have a little more discipline at the plate, almost to a fault at times, where he ends up taking certain pitches he’s got to ‘hunt,’” Collins said of den Dekker. “The philosophy and the theory we have here about working the count is not taking the first pitch. If that first pitch is the one you want, hit it, and hit it hard. If it’s on the corner, if it’s in, if it’s out, if it’s something you’re not looking for, that’s having the discipline to take it.”
Since Sandy Alderson came on board at general manager, we’ve heard the term “Moneyball” painted with a broad brush. One facet of it that it often thrown around is the affinity for on-base percentage, which puts as much emphasis on walks as hits. However, that does not necessarily mean that walks are more important than hits. It just means they’re valued equally.
That might sound like a fine distinction, but it’s an important one. When hitting coach Dave Hudgens speaks to the hitters about “hunting” for their pitch, he doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be a 3-2 pitch. He’d gladly see a hitter drive the first pitch of the at bat to the gap just as much as drawing an eight pitch walk. The philosophy is designed to get hitters to go up to the plate looking for something they can drive, and have the patience and enough confidence to try to find that pitch even if they’re behind in the count. If that pitch comes on the first of the at bat, go ahead and put a good swing on it. But the idea is to get in a position where a hitter is hitting their pitch, not the pitcher’s.
In den Dekker’s case, staying aggressive is important. He has some pop in his bat, and hitters like that need a degree of aggressiveness to excel. But it’s very difficult to be a free swinger, because Major League pitchers can pick apart that weakness. If a batter doesn’t make a pitcher throw them a strike, they won’t. As den Dekker evolves as a hitter, he’ll need to strike that delicate balance that Collins is eluding to. I imagine he’ll get a chance to do that in Las Vegas to open the season, and if he can master this, he could develop into a very dangerous Major Leaguer.