By Thom Henninger
For hitters and pitchers, baseball is a constant battle of adjustments. What a hitter or pitcher learns about the other during their first showdown in a game can be of benefit the second time through the order.
By the time a starting pitcher has faced all nine batters on the opposing team, a hitter should have a sense what pitches are working for him and what he is likely to see his second trip to the plate.
It’s early in the season and the sample size is still rather small, but the Mets’ Carlos Beltran has gone 20-for-42 (.476) the second time he has seen a pitcher. That’s the highest average among major leaguers who have faced a pitcher twice in a game at least 25 times in 2009.
There are plenty of variables at play here, but Beltran’s numbers suggest he is processing what he sees in his opening at-bat, and maybe what he sees from the bench as well.
Carlos Beltran, 2009
|1st Time vs. Pitcher||89||.303/.431/.483|
|2nd Time vs. Pitcher||42||.476/.532/.667|
|3rd Time vs. Pitcher||34||.382/.432/.618|
|4th Time vs. Pitcher||4||.500/.600/1.250|
Perhaps Beltran’s numbers drop off a bit the third time through the order because starters who hang around that long are often faring quite well — just not so much when facing Beltran.
Among major leaguers who have faced a pitcher twice in a game at least 25 times in 2009, here are the batting leaders:
Highest Batting Average, 2nd Time Facing a Pitcher in a Game, 2009
(min 25 PAs)
|1st Time||2nd Time|
|Carlos Beltran, NYM||.303/.431/.483||.476/.532/.667|
|Ryan Ludwick, StL||.175/.238/.333||.440/.462/.880|
|Luke Scott, Bal||.279/.362/.475||.440/.517/.840|
|Kevin Youkilis, Bos||.365/.500/.683||.433/.486/.767|
|Howie Kendrick, LAA||.128/.167/.256||.432/.488/.568|
|Joe Mauer, Min||.423/.516/.769||.429/.400/.905|
|Skip Schumaker, StL||.263/.313/.382||.421/.436/.658|
|Nick Swisher, NYY||.138/.318/.322||.421/.455/.868|
|Mark Teixeira, NYY||.219/.336/.521||.421/.511/.684|
|Ryan Theriot, ChC||.230/.287/.370||.421/.465/.737|
There’s not much we can learn here about Joe Mauer, who’s hitting .425 for the season since coming off the disabled list on May 1. He doesn’t seem to be wasting many trips to the plate at any point in a game.
The disparity between first and second plate appearances for Ryan Ludwick and Nick Swisher may have as much to do with generally not feeling completely comfortable the first time up as making adjustments the second time. Even if that’s the case, they sure don’t waste a game’s second opportunity to hit.
It’s impossible to know if these guys are making deliberate adjustments or even watching the opposing pitcher when they’re on the bench. The numbers suggest they’re paying attention, and most of them probably are. Regardless, whether they are making conscious adjustments or just doing what they always do, they are much more dangerous the second time around.