Power is king.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
An emphasis on absolute power is absolutely corrupting baseball.
But not here on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s just the right amount.
If you live anywhere in the vicinity of Civic Field, you’ve been hearing the pop and subsequent cheers of an astonishing amount of power from the Port Angeles Lefties.
The Lefties, who are out of town this week after a six-game homestand, are leading the West Coast League with 24 home runs. That’s as many as the next two highest teams, Bellingham and Bend, with 12 home runs each. Bend plays at an elevation of 3,600 feet, so no surprise the Elks can hit them out, too.
In fact, the Lefties have hit 24 percent of all the home runs hit in the entire West Coast League so far this season. The Lefties’ Kyle Schimpf has five dingers, Austin Earl four and Issac Wersland and Matthew Christian three each. Wersland has hit his three homers in only 19 at-bats. Dalton Harum has three home runs, but one of them came in nonconference play.
That’s 24 home runs in just 21 games.
The Lefties are also leading the WCL in doubles with 37 (for 61 extra-base hits in 21 games), slugging at .408, OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) at .776 and runs scored with 139 (6.6 per game).
So. if you like home runs, if you like power, I strongly suggest getting out to a Lefties game when they return from their road trip July 2.
I kind of wish they could put up a temporary fence, something that wouldn’t affect the soccer field, for the Port Angeles High School games at Civic. It is virtually impossible to hit a home run at Civic otherwise (Johnnie Young from Sequim did his best, darn near reaching the fence along Washington Street on one his drives against the Roughriders, but it would take a Ruthian blast to hit a ball that far.). It would be fun to see some Port Angeles kids hitting home runs at home.
Home runs get the crowd buzzing. They’re fun.
When I was a kid, I was strictly a slap hitter to the opposite field for years until a coach taught me how to hit for power. I became a dead pull fly ball hitter. I think I hit a total of maybe seven or eight home runs in my entire life, but it didn’t matter, it was GREAT. It was great seeing the other team’s outfielders standing on the warning track when I came up to bat.
Too much emphasis on power?
Weirdly enough, I also think they’re kind of ruining the game at the Major League level.
Because with that much emphasis on home runs, it’s also created an insane increase in strikeouts.
Home runs are fun. Strikeouts are boring … and in the words of Crash Davis: “Fascist.”
Right now, “launch angle” is in vogue. It’s a new hitting theory, generated partly as a way to beat the defensive shifts now being used in baseball. By swinging hard and emphasizing an upward swing, it creates more fly balls, but it also creates more strikeouts.
MLB right now is looking at shattering the all-time record for strikeouts … and it’s not a new thing. Strikeouts have been going up for 10 years. The average team strikes out 8.7 times a game this year and the MLB leaguewide batting average is .245, the lowest since the early 1970s.
Scoring is roughly about the same as it has been because more runs than ever are being scored via the home runs. So, a lot of aspects of the game are fading, such as making contact to move guys over, using speed or smart baserunning to create runs, etc.
Hitting at the Major League level has become increasingly “all or nothing.”
Because let’s face it, we like power from our pitchers too. We like seeing that speed gun hit triple digits. Personally, I’m more blown away by wicked breaking balls.
I’m going to go out on a limb here that launch angle will eventually go the way of the hitting theories of Charlie Lau and Walt Hriniak. When I was a kid, these guys were in vogue and everyone was dropping their top hands off their bats and chopping down on the ball with the bat held high over the head in the stance. Everyone thought Charlie Lau and Walt Hriniak were the future of baseball. Their hitting strategies created contact.
Now, how many of you under the age of 40 have even heard of these two guys? No one follows their theories anymore.
I’m curious to see if “launch angle” will go the way of Lau and Hriniak … and the dodo bird. One thing that would help would be some restrictions on defensive shifts. I think it’d be completely reasonable to require teams to keep two infielders on each side of second base. Teams could shift infielders around a little, but they’d have to stop putting their shortstop in shallow right field or their second baseman in shallow left field. Then, maybe hitters wouldn’t be so motivated to try and hit over the defense so much.
Power, it’s a good thing. It’s a bad thing. Balance is key.
And as an off-topic aside, I’m really glad the power didn’t go out Sunday night from that massive lightning strike during the middle of the season finale of Westworld.