This is the first post in what I hope that will become a regular feature on Blue Jays Plus. Well, maybe not regular feature, that sounds ambitious. Let’s call it a recurring feature.
I will take a pitch by pitch look at a particularly interesting, or dramatic, plate appearance from the previous day’s game. The hope is to get a sense of what approach the batter and pitcher were taking as the at-bat developed, and whether or not they were successful.
The Setup: As we travel back to last night’s game, we set the stage for the selected showdown of Brett Cecil vs. Chris Davis, leading off the bottom of the 8th inning. The Orioles are down 2-0. Chris Davis had faced Dustin McGowan three times, and had hit two deep flyballs to centerfield, as well as a sharp single. Brett Cecil had entered the game in the 7th, and struck out the first two hitters he faced on a total of eight pitches. Both players were having good nights.
The Sequence: Chris Davis steps up, and for the first time on the night, is facing a lefty. Despite also being left-handed, Davis still hit .235/.289/.475 off of lefties during his breakout 2013 campaign. That was good enough for a 104 WRC+, which is just slightly above average. Unfortunately for Davis, Cecil eats left-handed hitters for breakfast. In 2013 they hit a combined .191/.223/.235 off of him.
Assuming Davis was paying attention, he must have known that Cecil began both batters he faced in the seventh inning with curveballs. As such, Davis hangs back on the first pitch, maybe waiting for the break, but it never comes. Brett throws a sinking, ‘get me over’ fastball at just over 90mph, and gets plenty of the zone for a called strike one.
Now the pitcher has a big advantage at 0-1, with batters being forced to guess a little to protect against going down 0-2. Davis is also free swinger. He might have been looking for a curveball on the first pitch, but he saw a hittable fastball. He wants to make sure he doesn’t miss another opportunity to hit something hard. As Cecil delivers his second pitch, Davis sees the fastball out of his hand and loads up for a big cut.
What he saw as a fastball was Brett’s changeup, and it ends up inside and well below the zone. Davis swings over it by a good margin.
With the count 0-2, Cecil is in the driver’s seat. He can pick any pitch he wants. He rears back and throws a high, hard sinker.
This pitch is so far out of the zone, it does not show up on the pitch chart. Cecil has wasted a pitch, in every sense of the word.
Now the count is 1-2, and Cecil is still in good shape. Davis is trying to protect the plate, and hasn’t recognized anything Cecil has thrown to this point. Cecil delivers the final pitch. Davis commits early, but Brett has tossed the old ‘Uncle Charlie’, his looping curveball, at 86mph. Davis is so off-balance, well, how about I show you (GIF courtesy of Dan Toman at Gamerax)……..
Yep, he loses his bat. Not like Edwin Encarnacion’s helicopter-of-death overcommitment, no. He somehow manages to look like a fisherman who accidentally threw his rod away when casting a fly. Davis sheepishly turns for the dugout, leaving his bat lonely and out of pace on the infield grass.
Bonus GIF! Davis deflated:
One at bat, one completely undressed home run champion.
As a final thought, Shi Davidi included a quote from Brett Cecil on how he approached Chris Davis.
“I was trying to punch him out,” said Cecil. “It was a curveball and I had him set up the way I wanted to. I wanted to try and get him to chase the fastball up, but it obviously was a little too high. I went to my bread and butter curveball and got him on that one.”
And that’s what we call One At-Bat.