I/O: The entire blog-o-sphere is -- uncharacteristically -- swooooooning over Brad Miller's spring performance.
CRUNCH: Dr. D is impressed by (other) sites' ability to put aside the baseline assumption, that Spring Training does not count. Generalizations are fine, but mastery of any subject depends on one's ability to find exceptions to the general rules. With respect to Miller, this is occurring.
In the SSI Shout Box, of course, the denizens never did have any trouble grok'king the fact that Brad Miller's spring may have dire implications for the pesky rodent Angels.
Dr. D's own take on Brad Miller's 1.000 SLG over the course of a mere 40 AB's? Will we still be excited after Miller goes through a 4-for-30 stretch?
1) I've seen some studies -- don't ask me to link them -- that breakout seasons ARE somewhat correlated with huge SLG's in spring training. When a young player goes absolutely bonkers in March, it SOMETIMES DOES mean that he's about to explode on the league. Dr. D vaguely remembers this occurring with Jose Bautista in 2010, but if not with him, it's happened a fair bit.
Which makes sense. I mean, sometimes players get good, right? And if they do, they're liable to beat up on sloppy pitching in March, right?
2) There are two types of hitters generally.
One type is ... well, a different type :- )
The second type is the "See Ball Hit Ball" guy, the Yogi Berra type who asks, "How do you expect a guy to think and hit at the same time?" Vlad Guerrero, Kirby Puckett, Ken Griffey Jr. These guys tend to be aggressive, and they are often capable of being good without much experience.
Mike Trout didn't need 2,000 big league at-bats to jell. Bryce Harper didn't. Josh Hamilton. These guys don't need experience.
Brad Miller has a born ability to sink his weight, and get the back shin parallel to the ground, and launch the ball, NOT BECAUSE IT IS 2-0 AND HE GUESSED RIGHT, and decided to load up 3 seconds ahead of time -- but IN REACTION to a pitch.
Miller has a born ability to wait on a pitch and drive it off the left field fence, to sting it down the 1B line, to do whatever ... he's both very quick, and very capable of loading up quickly.
He takes the ball all over the field, with authority, and that's because his natural "Ki" is alert and agile. He doesn't predetermine what he's going to do with a pitch. He reads it and then he leaps into it with great flexibility of spirit.
The Mariners have had three hitters like this, that Dr. D recalls, guys who didn't think too much, but simply reacted: Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro, and Brad Miller.
The sight of a hitter in Miller's style? That's not common around these parts. We're not saying that Miller is as gifted as Ichiro -- maybe he is -- but the point is, we're not used to seeing gifted, aggressive See Ball - Hit Ball batter.
We're always caught up in how well a batter manages the strike zone! As sabermetricians who never played top-flight baseball, we like to judge ballplayers by how intelligently they play, by how strategically they play. That's the part that we can relate to. The physical gifts of a hitter, and we might say the spiritual gifts of a hitter, that's a little harder for us to grok.
Plate discipline's a wonderful thing. But there's something to be said, too, for guys who were born to hit.