D’Backs Go Deep Again and Again . . . and Again . . . and Again

In June, we declared the antiquated unwritten baseball rule mandating that hitters take the first pitch after back-to-back home runs to be unequivocally dead.

It’s not that most hitters don’t abide by it—it’s that most hitters haven’t heard of it.

If more proof is needed, look toward the Arizona Diaondbacks’ efforts last night, when Adam LaRoche, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds and Stephen Drew took Milwaukee right-hander David Bush deep, all in a row, in the fourth inning. (Watch it here.)

Reynolds, batting after back-to-back homers, swung at (and missed) the first pitch he saw.

Drew watched one, but that’s because it was out of the strike zone.

The guy who followed them all, Gerardo Parra, swung at the first pitch, singling to right field.

The true Code violation here was Bush’s refusal to take advantage of the stipulation allowing him free reign to knock somebody down. The Arizona lineup had become all too comfortable at the plate, a development that Bush did nothing to discourage.

It’s another example of how the game has changed. Bob McClure recalls giving up back-to-back homers while pitching for the Brewers in the 1980s, and knocking down the next hitter, Dave Kingman, in response.

“The catcher, Charlie Moore, called for a fastball away, but he knew better,” he said. “He went through them all. He called for a fastball away. I said no. Curveball. No. Changeup. No. Fastball in. No. And then he goes (flip sign), and I nod. I threw it, and it was a good one. It went right underneath (Kingman) and almost flipped him. He was all dusty and his helmet was over here and he was grabbing at his bat and his helmet. . . . Back then, we were taught the 0-2 up and in. Home run, next guy: boom! Knock him down.”

It’s about more than respect. It’s about pitchers utilizing the tools at their disposal to better insure their own success. Angels pitcher Paul Foytack, the first pitcher to ever give up four consecutive homers also failed to utilize those tools, going down nearly as meekly as Bush.

It was 1963, and Foytack started by allowing consecutive home runs Cleveland’s Woody Held, pitcher Pedro Ramos (batting a robust .109 at the time) and Tito Francona. At that point, he said, he decided to send a message by knocking down the next hitter, rookie Larry Brown. Even that didn’t go quite as planned, however; Foytack missed his spot, left the ball over the plate, and Brown hit his first career home run—and the fourth in a row for the Indians.

That’s how it’s not supposed to go. Here’s a small handful of examples of more successful operations:

  • In 1944, Cardinals Walker Cooper, Whitey Kurowski and Danny Litwhiler hit consecutive homers against Reds pitcher Clyde Shoun. The next hitter, Marty Marion, was knocked down.
  • In 1991,Angels pitcher Scott Bailes hit Randy Velarde of the Yankees after giving up consecutive home runs.
  • In 1996, after the Red Sox connected for three home runs against the Angels, reliever Shawn Boskie threw a pitch behind Jose Canseco’s back.
  • In 2003, Astros pitcher Shane Reynolds gave up three home runs to the Pirates, then put a pitch under the chin of Brian Giles.
  • Mike Hegan: “In April of 1974, I hit behind Graig Nettles the whole month. Graig hit 11 home runs, and I was on my back 11 times. That’s the kind of thing that happened.”

None of this is intended to suggest that success merits retaliation. (The Commissioner’s office agrees; for his actions against New York, Bailes was ejected and fined $ 450.)

There is, however, importance in a pitcher’s ability to keep hitters light on their feet, and wondering at least a little about what his intentions might be on any given pitch. The more they think about their own safety, after all, the less they think about the act of hitting.

The Diamondbacks didn’t wonder about any of that with David Bush last night. Perhaps they should have.

- Jason

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2 Comments

Filed under David Bush, Don't Swing on the First Pitch After Back-to-Back Home RUns, Intimidation

2 responses to “D’Backs Go Deep Again and Again . . . and Again . . . and Again

  1. Chris

    Hey Jason,

    Bush doesn’t strike me as the ‘intimidating’ type. He’s struggled to maintain any hint of consistency in his career, and lets face it, if he hasn’t learned by now that he needs to lead by example if he can’t lead by performance, he never will. He’s somehow survived on very soft stuff, so I’m reluctant to believe that he’ll ever find moderate success at the MLB level. Each pitch was soft as butter; 89mph fastball to LaRoche, 89mph fastball to Montero, 71mph Curveball to Reynolds, and an 88mph fastball to Drew. Judging by Bush’s location and the fact that it was a close game, is it fair to expect the D-Back hitters to sit back and let him sneak in a strike? I can find fault with Parra for having the audacity to swing at a first pitch, but Reynolds swings at everything and anything, and Drew, regardless of the location, didn’t look as if he was planning on swinging the bat, which leads me to believe he followed the code.

    I think when it comes to living on the fringes of professional sports, the lesser players try to avoid controversy when they can; the less attention they get for negative press, the better. This goes for Bush as well. Even if he were to throw a pitch underneath Reynold or Drew’s chin, he’s never been one to intimidate, so what could he possibly gain out of it? He’s not going to intimidate anyone and even if he attempts to gain the respect of his teammates, it’s pretty clear there’s some weird crap going on in Milwaukee, as they have all this talent, but little in the way of performance, so he might not gain anything at all.

    Another thing to consider: the D-Backs’ pitchers have been extremely unlucky with the long-ball all year. They lead MLB in HRs given up with 157.

    Hope that makes you reconsider the ‘code’ in this case.

    • jturbow

      Chris,

      I’m not talking about intimidation, head-hunting, or even putting an inside pitch above the shoulders. Just a light brushback on the inside part of the plate to move a hitter’s feet and keep him from digging in too consistently. Bush allowed the D-Backs to get into a rhythm, and did nothing to disrupt it.

      One doesn’t need to throw hard for this to be effective (though it certainly helps). Just something to start digging out of a quickly deepening rut.

      The Code doesn’t mandate that a pitcher do this, but it gives him the leeway to get away with it if he does. It was a highly effective tool a generation ago that seems to have been forgotten by a large number of current pitchers.

      Thanks for the comment. Glad you’re paying attention.

      -jt-

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