Heated Observations: Game #2
Joe Mauer’s 8 Balls-In-Play Have Been Grounders
So, yeah, infinitesimally small sample of eight plate appearances in which Joe Mauer has put the ball in play have resulted in grounders. One of those games was against Chris-Freaking-Sale who was so dominant against left-handed opponents that he only faced 163 in 2013 because no manager in his right mind would trot his lefties out there to spin holes in the batter’s box (Sale led the league with a .133 batting average against). With all that in mind, Mauer’s put eight balls in play, all have been on the ground, and (AND!) only one has been slashed the other way. ONE. [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
Could this be concussion-related/time-off/rust issues at the plate? Possibly, but again, CHRIS EFFIN SALE. Something to watch for over the next few games. More likely however, Mauer will revert back to his above-20% line drive clip while peppering left field with tons of balls soon enough.
Glen Perkins Pumped Nothing But Gas
In his first appearance of the season and since his new monolithic closer extension was signed, Glen Perkins... (wait for it) ...blew a save.
Now, Perkins had help in the form of Trevor Plouffe’s errant throw to the plate but the usually lights-out closer did not appear to be his usual self. Perhaps it was the cold (pitchers struggle to find the grip on the ball in cold weather), working with a new catcher or possibly the start of the season but -- for whatever reason -- Perkins eschewed using his biting slider. Against the Sox, he threw 28 pitches with 24 of them being fastballs and one being a slider**.
To their credit, the White Sox hitters jumped all over Perkins’ first-pitch fastballs that were in-zone and collected two of their three hits early in the count.
It should be noted too that Perkins’ fastball velocity was down compared to last season’s average -- averaging 92.2 at the Cell yesterday. While he was a few clicks above that for the year in 2013, his first outing of the year he was averaging 92.4. Probably nothing to worry about.
**This means either those pitches were not identified or some glitch in the system. BrooksBaseball.net says he threw 25 total pitches -- 24 fastballs and one slider.
Hot Start For Aaron Hicks
Sample size notwithstanding, what is impressive about Hicks this season is that he has a strong two-strike approach that did not exist at this point (and longer) in his rookie year. In six of his plate appearances so far in two-strike situations, he has collected two of his four hits while putting a third ball in play. Through two games last year, he had seven two-strike scenarios and struck out five times and put the ball into play just once.
What you can see in the heat map is that Hicks has taken advantage of pitcher’s up-in-the-zone mistakes in two-strike counts. Are we witnessing a maturing Aaron Hicks who is going to battle with a game plan this year?
All charts and data is provided by ESPN Stats & Info