Monday, May 18, 2009

Small Ball Paying Off

One thing Joe Girardi is doing that I like is trying to get this team to manufacture runs. Paying small ball, getting guys on base, advancing the runners then driving in runs is something that you don’t often see in the power-hitting American league.

When Joe Torre took over as Yankees manager a years ago, there was a fundamental shift in the team’s playstyle, which they slowly got away from over the years. When Girardi took over, the term “small ball” started popping up again, but at times it still seemed sporadic. Watching the series against the Twins really brought this to my attention again, and it’s a good thing.

Ideally, with no outs, you get someone on base with either a hit or a walk and then they steal second. A sacrifice bunt can advance the runner over to third, now with one out. At this point a decent drive into the outfield will score a run even if it’s caught for an out. Get runners on base, move them into scoring position, drive them home.

It sounds easy enough to do but can be tough.  Bunting takes practice and discipline, and a big ego needs to take a back seat to a smart play. Always swinging for the fences doesn’t jive well with trying to get on base or advance the runner. Having speed on the bases is often overlooked in today’s game and besides Brett Gardner, is rather lacking on the Yankees roster.

If you can do it though, putting up a run is always a good thing. Think of all the games where the Yanks have gone scoreless until the 7th, 8th or 9th inning, or ended up going to extra innings. How much of a difference would one extra run make in those instances. It can definitely boost a team’s confidence early on. A run is a run, but a manufactured run can be more encouraging for a team than a solo home run because it’s a group effort – a bunch of guys chipping in and doing their part, rather than just one guy crushing one out of the park.

Lastly, to me it just feels like baseball. Hitting, running, stealing, bunting, driving the ball deep all make me stand up and say “Now that’s how you play the game!”

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