Friday, May 27, 2011

Brett Gardner Fills 'Hole' For Bombers

If we're on the cusp of Memorial Day, it must mean the NHL is close to awarding that gloriously dinged up chalice known as the Stanley Cup.

So it is with hockey on the brain that we mention the five-hole.

The five-hole refers to the space between the goalkeeper's legs. In other words, he is responsible for blocking the puck from entering five holes: above and below his stick, above and below his glove, and between his legs. That's the five-hole.

The term occasionally creeps into the baseball world too.

Writes the New York Post about last weekend's Subway Series:

You let a ground ball from Brett Gardner somehow go five-hole on you, without getting a glove, calf or shoe on it. "The moment I threw it, hard sinker, I'm thinking, 'Be ready, he may hit it right back at you,' and I still can't get a hand on it. Frustrating," Pelfrey said.

Protect that five-hole, Billy B!

A more common--and totally different--use of five-hole in baseball refers to the spot in the batting order, as in, the Mets need some power in the five-hole, since Jason Bay drives the ball with all the power of Erkel. You can pretty much affix "hole" to any spot in the batting order, outside of leadoff. There's no hole in hitting first.

And what's just a wee bit better--or .5 better, if you're scoring at home--than the five-hole?

The 5.5 hole, of course, as the space between the third baseman (#5, in scoring numerology) and the shortstop (#6) is known.

Tony Gwynn was known as a master of hitting it through the 5.5 hole.

Had he played against Mike Pelfrey, Gwynn probably would've racked up a few hits through Pelf's long legs too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

SI Spits Out New Baseball Phrase With LOOGY

Sports Illustrated shows it can, on occasion, be clever and edgy by dishing the oddball acronym LOOGY in the current issue.

SI's Ben Reiter (Reiter...There's a good name for a writer...) credits Hardball Times with the phlegmatic phrase: A LOOGY is a Lefty One-Out Guy--a left-handed specialist whose sole job is to get mighty left-handed sluggers--Ryan Howard, David Ortiz, Jim Thome--out.

The article is about a pair of tribal elders in the bullpen--Arthur "Is He Still Playing?" Rhodes and Darren "Didn't He Retire Five Years Ago?" Oliver. The patron saint of LOOGYs, notes Reiter, may just be Jesse Orosco, who retired seven years ago at 46.

Hardball Times published A History of the LOOGY--and, presumably, gave birth to the phrase--way back in 2005. A "hard-core LOOGY" appears in at least 20 games, averages less than an inning per appearance, and fewer than .2 saves a game.
SI's Joe Sheehan lists some other LOOGYs around the league, including Aroldis Chapman and Tim Collins, and makes the point that some of them should not be just LOOGYs much longer.

"[They] can all do more than face lefthanded sluggers in big spots," believes Sheehan. "Let them."

[image from 3-Putt Territory]

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jeter Eager to Turn 'Page' on Posada Flap

Derek Jeter has long proven himself to be a master at a number of things: Stroking that line drive to right center with the game on the line, going deep in the hole toward third to make that jump-throw and get the guy at first by thismuch, and offering banal cliches in lieu of true insight and perspective in interviews.

Jeter has drawn the ire of Yankee brass for defending Jorge Posada's snit over the weekend, and there's ample evidence that the face of the Yankees and its front office are growing a bit tired of each other.

Jeter was happy to put the incident behind him yesterday, and tapped one of his favorite cliches--nine times, in fact--to help him close the book on it.

Writes the NY Times:
“It’s all good,” said Jeter, who in less than four minutes used a variation of the phrase “we’re on the same page” nine times. 

It's funny to picture the beat reporter, Ben "Buy a Vowel" Shpigel," putting down check marks in his notebook next to "We're on the same page" with his timer, er, his Jeter-Meter, counting off the minutes.

The Yankees have lost six straight and don't seem to be doing anything right, on and off the field. And one is starting to wonder if mega-signing Rafael Soriano has played his last Yankee game, due to troubles with his elbow and his mouth.

Jeter actually did offer a hint of insight into his dealings with the media later in the Times story.

“I learned a long time ago,” Jeter said, “the more you talk about things, the longer they last.”

So if his nine "page" utterings are any indication, this "thing" might stick around for awhile.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

R.A. Dickey is Not as Bookish As You Think

Terrific correction in a NY Times this week, explaining that Mets hurler R. A. Dickey's bat, dubbed Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver by the Dickster himself, is not named for Bilbo Baggins' sword, but for Hobbit dwarf Thorin Oakenshield's hardware.

We saluted Dickey's bibliophilin' ways last season, and this correction does not change the fact that we dig Dickey because Dickey digs books.
This represents the second greatest NY Times correction to run in Batter Chatter--well behind, so to speak, Aubrey Huff's infamous rally thong men's underwear.
[image from Mets Blog via Buzz Feed]

Mets Skipper Hasn't Got Time For 'Bull'

It's like dreaded 2009 all over again for fans of Flushing's Finest, as a woeful list of injuries hits the Mets.
The latest wounded warrior is Chris Young, whom the Mets signed for $1.1 million, and got four starts out of.
Looks like Young is done for the year with a torn shoulder.
Said Mets manager Terry Collins in today's NY Times:
"You go into spring training and you're aware of it and you watch him throw his pens, and when he started building up his pitch count and you never saw any discomfort and you never saw any holding back from trying to pitch, you thought, 'OK, he's over this.' "
Ignore the wondrous run-on sentence (hey, Times editors, how about some, ya know, punctuation?) and check out the use of pens. We noted in the early days of this blog the use of "bullpen" in MLB parlance, not as the place where a pitcher warms up, but as the name of the session in which he warms up. To wit:
"It's easier to throw a bullpen than to see a ball come off the bat again," said Tribe skipper Manny Acta about a pitcher taking the mound after being hit in the head with a batted ball.
Apparently "bullpen" is too long to say for a busy manager who suddenly has to keen one eye trained on the waiver wire at all times, and has been shortened to "pen."

[image: NY Daily News]

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Derek Jeter Has Had Enough of His 'Swinging' Singles Days

You have to feel for Derek Jeter.
I mean, not that much--the guy is still the toast of New York, he's engaged to Minka Kelly, and he's got that mega-manse down in St. Jetersburg.
But there he is, a man who values privacy the way Bartolo Colon values cheezeburgers, on the front page of the New York Times, addressing his season long--make that, year-long--slump. Not the front page of the Sports, he's been there before. We're talking page A-1--sharing space with President Obama and Bin Laden and other global luminaries present and past.
Jeter's stats may be down, way down, this season. But the Times suggests he's leading in one crucial category: the swinging bunt.
Writes Ben "Buy a Vowel" Shpigel:
The only offensive category in which he leads the major leagues is infield hits — and, well, it isn’t his speed that accounts for that.

The swinging bunt. The most flaccid of batter outcomes in baseball, perhaps even more ignominious than the strikeout. At least you don't have to sprint to first--running twice as far as your ball did--after a strikeout.
The swinging bunt. When it happened back in childhood sandlot ball, we called "cheap!" and made it a do-over.
Yet Jeter--the Prince of the City, The Captain--is riding those "cheap" balls all the way to first with frightening regularity.
Writes Shpigel:
[Detroit third base coach Gene] Lamont said the Tigers had not been positioning their infielders any differently to guard against what has become Jeter’s perhaps most noticeable offensive trait this year — the swinging bunt, 60-foot dribblers up the third-base line. He had 10 infield singles, and many have been nubbers or bouncers that do not reach the dirt of the basepaths, as opposed to sharply hit balls that ricochet off an infielder or shoot deep in the hole.
Jeter is 48 hits--swinging bunts and searing liners alike--away from 3,000. It's safe to say he won't enjoy the media's buildup to the historic event--especially if he remains homerless dating back to last summer.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bautista's 'Load' Helps Slugger Load Up on Dingers

Here's a baseball term I know you never heard before: a batter's load.

No, we're not talking about Prince Fielder's expansive derriere.

A load, as defined by Tyler Kepner in the NY Times this past weekend, is the path of a batter's hands to the ball.

Kepner, who spends a ton of time inside baseball clubhouses, suggests the load is an established term inside MLB's corridors of power.

Speaking of power, he refers to Jose Bautista when discussing load.

[Hitting coach Dwayne] Murphy and Cito Gaston, the former Blue Jays manager, eventually got through to Bautista, who maintains that his swing is the same as it has always been. The difference, he said, is his load — that is, the path of his hands to the ball. Hitting is timing, the saying goes, and now Bautista is on time.

Jose Bautista takes a load off before facing the Bronx Bombers. [photo NYT]
Homerin' Jose went hitless yesterday, but did drive in a run at the Stadium. That gives him 16 rib-eye steaks thus far in 2011--a load by anyone's count.