A (Mostly) Free Strike

We’ve talked about the odds being in your favor when grooving a 3-0 pitch. What we all know but forgot to discuss is that most hitters are taught to NEVER swing 3-0. So if you groove one, its most likely going to be taken, suddenly its 3-1, and the hitter is not only allowed to swing but often takes a hack. That one grooved pitch can get you back into the count enough that on the next pitch, you get the hitter to put a bad swing on a bad pitch.

On May 4, 2002, Seattle’s Mike Cameron stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning with two on, nobody out and his team leading the Chicago White Sox, 15-4. When reliever Mike Porzio started him off with three straight balls, Cameron knew just what to do—his manager, Lou Piniella, was a stickler for the unwritten rules and had taught his players well.
Cameron watched the fourth pitch split the plate for a called strike. It didn’t even occur to him that he’d already hit four home runs on the day, and couldn’t have asked for a pitch served up more nicely to give him a record fifth. As Cameron proved, however, should players let it, the Code even trumps history.

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