In this week’s edition of Blue Jays Central: Ask the Insiders, the Insiders answered several fan questions including how many bats a hitter goes through in a season and how they select the right bat.
SARAH ASKS: How many bats will an average hitter go through in a major league season? Is this expense covered by the team? Also, for those that played in MLB, how did you select the right bat (especially if they are the same length/weight). Any rituals involved in preparing your bats for a game?
Buck Martinez: Sarah there are many dozens of bats broken each day in the Major Leagues and I would truly be guessing if I was to put a number on it. If you count the number of bats a hitter might break in one game and multiple that by 162, you are talking about acres and acres of trees! The expense of the bats is covered by the clubs and many bats cost from $75 to $100 today. When I started I would order a dozen bats from Louisville Slugger for the winter and pay $10.00 per bat. As for picking out a model it is truly up to the hitter and how he feels. The length and weight varies from player to player and the models are all customized to the individual. Many times in my career I switched to a model that one of my teammates was using because he happened to be “hot” with at the plate. As you might expect, that rarely helped me. The one thing that has changed dramatically with the bats today is they are all very light and with that you see them break easily. I remember a couple of years ago, Derek Jeter used the same bat for about 40 games which is unheard of but he was swinging it so well he always hit the ball on the sweet spot.
Pat Tabler: Sarah, on average a MLB hitter will go through about 80-85 bats a season. I am counting spring training also because they break them there too! On average it’s about three a week. Nothing you can do about it. The player is not responsible for paying for the bats. The ball club buys them for the whole organization. How would you like to see that bill? Choosing the right weight and length is totally up to the player. They have certain models that are different types (handle width and barrel width). A player will then choose his length and weight. On average this is 34″ and 32 oz. Bigger players mean heavier bats, smaller players mean lighter bats. As the season goes along, you get tired so you might order lighter bats to help you swing. Players are always tinkering with their bats to try and get the right feel when they walk up to home plate.
Gregg Zaun: Sarah, the average player orders about 6-8 dozen bats a year in my opinion and the team pays for them. They all vary in handle and barrel thickness, thus making the shape and balance different. Each player has different taste and comfort with the length and weight of their bats. The same player may start the season with a heavier bat than those he orders and swings at the end of the season. Most player pick through each dozen they get designating them as BP bats or game bats. Even though they are technically the same model, length, and weight, they can differ greatly. The balance point and handle thickness can vary due to the human error of the bat maker. The density of the wood can cause subtle differences as no two trees grow the same. It’s very involved. There may be as many techniques for determining the hardness of a bat as there are players. The best rule of thumb is order an ounce per inch.
PAUL ASKS: As scary as the J.A. Happ incident was, is there anything realistically that can be done to prevent another serious injury? Or is this one of those risks and dangers that come with the territory?
Buck Martinez: Paul that was the worst I have seen in person. J.A. was very lucky that he didn’t suffer a more significant injury and maybe more importantly he didn’t see the ball coming back at him. Many times when a pitcher sees the ball off the bat hit him in the head he will have a tough time going back on the mound and throwing to a hitter without flinching when the guy swings. Mike Mussina talked about that after Sandy Alomar Jr. hit him in the face. Mussina for several starts after recovering, ducked each time he thought the ball might be hit back at him. It must be frightening.
As for protection, I guess the best way is to encourage them to were helmets but the concern is how the helmet would restrict their ability to pitch. It has been discussed for years but obviously there hasn’t been a good solution.
Jack Morris: They are obviously exploring some sort of helmet/head protection, however nothing has proven to be the right solution yet. Really though, there probably isn’t anything they can do. As for returning to the mound after something like this, you just can’t think about getting hit again. Otherwise it will mess up your plan of attack on the mound. All you can do is try to avoid the middle of the plate as those are the balls that normally come right back to the mound. But even then that’s no guarantee. I was never hit in the head, but I was hit pretty much everywhere else.
Gregg Zaun: Paul, unfortunately, getting hit by a line drive is a danger inherent to the position. I believe that with all of the modern technology out there, a comfortable light weight helmet could be designed.
Dirk Hayhurst: There is something that can be done, Paul. Pitchers can wear protective head gear. Before anyone says that it’s not possible since there is no head gear ready for major league pitchers, bear in mind that in 1952-1956 the Pirates had solid plastic helmets they used (They were called “miners” for wearing them). Hardly anyone on the team wore them, stating the gear was uncomfortable and awkward. That’s probably what modern day players would say about the head gear as well. Players are funny about tradition and comfort. The first batting helmets weren’t even introduced in baseball until 20 years after the first batter was beaned and killed. Even then, the helmets weren’t made mandatory until the 1970′s. I say all that to say head gear could prevent injury to pitchers, is out there, and can be worn today… but most players won’t adapt to them because they want to be comfortable and look cool. This IS baseball, a slow, ponderous sport when it comes to change of any kind. Sad to say, but it will most likely require the death of a pitcher to make head gear mandatory.
Shi Davidi: I’m eager to see where the companies trying to make some protective headgear for pitchers go from here. Short of putting a screen up, which is an obvious non-starter, some sort of protective headgear, preferably thin and under the cap is the only logical thing. If something thin and light enough can be developed (MLB has already gone through a dozen prototypes and rejected them), pitchers will buy in.
Jamie Campbell: Paul, baseball needs to find a solution before someone gets killed. And pitchers have to think of safety before vanity. I’m convinced it will take a tragic occurrence on the field to force change.
ROB ASKS: After the Indians/A’s botched home run replay review, some in the media (and fans) argued that the call should have been reversed and the game continued from that 4-4 tie the following day. Obviously that didn’t happen. I’m curious as to why in 1983, the on-field call to take away a home run by George Brett with the infamous pine tar bat was reversed after the game was completed? Why was it so different? Is the Brett homer the only example of a call being changed after a game was completed (not counting hits to errors and vice versa)?
Buck Martinez: Rob that is a great point and exactly the play I thought of when trying to come up with a reversal of an on the field call. I think the commissioner should have ruled that a home run and replayed the game from that point. If the goal of the umpires is to “get it right” then they should go back and change the call on the field which was wrong.
Pat Tabler: Rob, I think the umpires blew the call in Cleveland. After the game was over, MLB declared that the umpires made a mistake. If that is so then why don’t they suspend the game and pick it back up from that point. MLB has said for years that they “just want to get the call right,” thus instant replay. Well they didn’t and they now have a chance to get it right. Make the score 4-4 and start from that point. They could have done this the next day. Final game in the series and also a day game. I think MLB didn’t make the right call.
Jamie Campbell: Rob, there were some suggestions MLB might overrule the call, give Adam Rosales a home run, and pick the game up tied at four the next day. If the replay was as obvious as it was to me (and I was watching on standard definition), I’m surprised this wasn’t considered. I don’t believe baseball likes to admit to mistakes, and make up for them after the result of a game has been recorded.
CAMERON ASKS: What do you think of the Jays handling of Ricky Romero? Regardless of how his outings in the majors turned out, was it realistic to expect he’d be “solved” after one start vs. low level minor leaguers?
Buck Martinez: Cameron the Jays made the decision based on all of the information they had. Ricky told them he was ready, the scouts that watched him pitch said he was ready and the team had a need for a starting pitcher. The Ricky Romero I saw make two starts was the same Romero we saw at the end of last year. He may be trying to change his delivery and alignment, but it looks the same to me. Ricky is never going to have a beautiful pitching motion, he never has, what he needs to figure out is how to get the ball in the strike zone and use the great movement he has on all of his pitches.
Pat Tabler: Cameron, I don’t think the Jays handled the Ricky Romero case correctly. If you are going to make the decision to send him all the way down to A ball in Dunedin to tear his mechanics down and then rebuild him, why are you asking him to get Major League hitters out after one start in the Florida State League? I don’t care about side sessions or bullpen work. Show me games and plenty of them that prove that Ricky has overcome his problems. They didn’t and you saw the results. Now he has to start over at Buffalo. I would like to have seen a natural progression through the minor leagues for Ricky as he worked out his mechanics. I am hoping for the best from Ricky. We all are!
Jack Morris: I think they rushed him up because of the starting rotation issues. They wanted someone with a major league record, but truth be told he probably wasn’t ready. I still think he might have a problem with his shoulder, but that’s just me, I don’t know. The thing for Ricky to remember is, it’s not about where he is (level of the minor leagues), it’s about getting it right. When you are a major league player and you are in the minors, it doesn’t matter if you are at triple-A or single-A.
Dirk Hayhurst: Absolutely not, Cameron. The Jays mishandled him. If you strip a player’s identity away by busting him all the way down to the minors, you have to make sure he’s logged enough time under his new identity to feel confident that he can hold his own in the majors. Ricky needed to get demoted to sort some things out, but one outing was far too little to tell if he’d really turned the corner — especially one outing in the low levels of the minors, where pitching mistakes are not punished. Ricky needed to spend a couple months working his way back up through the system, building up strong outings as he went, getting a chance to struggle and recover.
Shi Davidi: This is a very polarizing issue, and there are no definitive answers. In hindsight it certainly looks like the Blue Jays rushed him, but it’s possible he might have succeeded, too, and they had an immediate need for which he was the best answer. The other school of thought is that if you’re going to send him all the way down to single-A, don’t skip steps along the way back, see it through. The Blue Jays and Romero himself thought they could fast-track things and it blew up in their faces.
Jamie Campbell: Cameron, the Blue Jays are now conceding that they brought him up too soon, but remember this: Romero was vocal in the lead-up to his promotion. He told Alex Anthopoulos he was ready to pitch at the major league level. Considering the lack of talent in triple-A, and the fact none of the Jays’ top pitching prospects are ready, it was likely an easy decision for Anthopoulos. Does he regret it? Time will tell.
LISA G ASKS: My son wants to know why the grounds crew changes the bases after the sixth inning?
Buck Martinez: Lisa it is a cosmetic thing. The infield is manicured before the top of the sixth to smooth out any divots kicked up during the game and while they are at it they will put down clean white bases for the second half of the game. Nothing more than that.
Pat Tabler: Lisa, the grounds crew changes the bases in the sixth inning because they are dirty.
Gregg Zaun: Lisa G, the grounds crew changes the bases after the sixth inning because they are sponsored by Home Hardware and they have very little dirt to maintain. They run out there like a house of fire in bright uniforms to advertise for Home Hardware.