Well, Duh: Miguel Montero probably knows the Padres’ hitters ‘a little bit better’ than Trevor Bauer

The Arizona Republic recently estimated that Diamondbacks pitchers shake off catcher Miguel Montero three or four times per game. Tuesday, however, was not like most games.

That’s because rookie Trevor Bauer—making only his second big league start—shook off the signs, said Montero, on “almost every pitch.”

That said, it was only 3 1/3 innings’ worth of almost-every pitches. Then again, giving up six hits, four walks and seven runs to San Diego necessitated 80 offerings from Bauer. Shaking off even a quarter of them would have made for an astounding number, for no reason more glaring than the fact that Montero is a seven-year vet with more than 4,000 innings behind the plate.

Bauer is unconventional, from his preparatory practices to his delivery, which is  all angles and torque. It doesn’t stop there. From the Republic:

While most pitchers try to pitch down in the strike zone, he prefers to work up in the zone. In the past couple of years, Bauer has worked to learn and incorporate a pitch-sequencing theory called “Effective Velocity,” a way of attacking hitters that aims to disrupt timing.

If there are benefits to Effective Velocity, they weren’t apparent Tuesday afternoon. In fact, Bauer might have inadvertently personified an ongoing disagreement between the old and new schools over whose methodoligy is more effective. It’s a tiny sampling, of course, but a  21-year-old just out of college appears to have put his think-tank strategy to the test at the expense of leveraging wisdom from a guy who knows the game.

There’s something to be said for execution (if Bauer doesn’t hit his spots, it doesn’t matter what kind of strategy he employs), but beyond that is the Code and its mandate that young players defer to veterans, at least until such time as they’re able to carry a significant portion of the load on their own.

Montero opted not to blast Bauer afterward, talking about the youngster’s talent and promise. Still,  he added, “I would like him to get a little trust in me. . . . I don’t have all the answers, but I probably know [the Padres' hitters] a little bit better [than Bauer].”

For a guy carrying the old-school end of the argument, Montero’s response was anything but. For an example of real old-school when it comes to this stuff, turn to the the Red Sox clubhouse in 1967, after rookie pitcher Sparky Lyle, 22, shook off catcher Elston Howard—at age 38, a nine-time All-Star and the 1963 AL MVP—not once, but twice during the course of an at-bat, throwing sliders instead of fastballs, both out of the strike zone, en route to issuing a base on balls.

After the game, Carl Yazstrzemski cornered Lyle in the clubhouse. “I want to know one thing,” Yaz said to the rookie, as recounted by Lyle in The Bronx Zoo. “How can a guy who’s been in the big leagues two weeks shake off a guy who’s been catching fourteen years?”

To make sure the point wasn’t lost, manager Dick Williams then promised a $50 fine every time Lyle shook off Howard from that point on.

Bauer should be so lucky.

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5 Comments

Filed under Rookie Etiquette, Trevor Bauer

5 responses to “Well, Duh: Miguel Montero probably knows the Padres’ hitters ‘a little bit better’ than Trevor Bauer

  1. Craig

    In order to understand EV, you have to understand the intense study that went into its creation. Over 1,000,000 samples were analyzed, far outnumbering the number of pitches Montero draws from in his memory. Also, the idea of “knowing hitters” has been proven to be rather ridiculous through Effective Velocity. Rather, there are certain sequences of pitches based on an individuals pitches and movement that offer the best deception. This is a case of failure to execute as effective velocity calls for multiple pitches being thrown from similar planes and located in very specific areas- which Bauer clearly didn’t do during his last start.

    • Jason Turbow

      I’m in no way criticizing EV, with the up-front admission that I don’t understand it much beyond the surface level. I appreciate innovative approaches to pretty much anything, and made sure to point out that execution was Bauer’s primary issue.

      That said, calling familiarity with hitters and their tendencies “ridiculous” doesn’t much help your cause. I’m in no position to say that one thing’s better than another, or by how much, but to completely discount a player’s personal history and response to a given situation is to sell short a vast portion of the sport.

      • Craig

        “to completely discount a player’s personal history and response to a given situation is to sell short a vast portion of the sport.”

        That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Baseball is far behind the times in many aspects of the game.

        For example, almost every single MLB franchise still has pitchers run poles. In the last 10 years that has been proven to be one of the single worst things you can do as a pitcher (if you want specific evidence, please email). If I didn’t want to discount history I would simply just have all pitchers run, wouldn’t I?

        If you buy Perry’s books you will understand that sequencing pitches around “batter recognition” is one of the least intelligent things that pitchers do.

      • Jason Turbow

        Well, okay. Workouts are far different today than they were a generation ago, almost universally for the better. But workout regimens aren’t the same thing as game recognition. An intelligent catcher will set up hitters not just pitch to pitch, but at-bat to at-bat, based on any variety of factors. EV may well be the next big thing in baseball analysis, but to think that pitching strategy can be distilled into one overarching formula (if I’m reading you correctly) seems awfully shortsighted.

  2. 5TOOLPLAYER

    Now I’m curious. :-)

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