After particularly vexing losses, as fans wait for long-winded diatribes and dissertations, Bud Black will often simply remark, “That’s baseball.” While the triteness of Black’s comment often frustrates fans, it’s actually the perfect thing to be said because, well, baseball’s really weird.
When Chase Headley stepped to the plate on Saturday night to lead off the top of the 9th inning in a 2-0 game, his task was a daunting one – start a rally against Craig Kimbrel, one of the best relievers in baseball.
In the previous 28 games in which he had appeared, Craig Kimbrel had not allowed a run. During this streak, which dated back to July 4th, hitters had compiled a meager slash-line of .115/.167/.135.
Even more impressive than those numbers however, were Kimbrel’s BB% (4%) and K% (40%). In addition to those incredibly gaudy numbers, Kimbrel hadn’t allowed a HR since May 7th, a streak of 46.1 innings. Hitters didn’t stand a chance. Did Chase Headley?
Chase Headley’s season has been one of disappointment. After a stellar 2012 campaign which saw him secure the Silver Slugger award as the best offensive third baseman in the National League, 2013 has been one of bewilderment – for Chase and fans alike.
While compiling a slash-line of .243/.335/.389, Chase Headley’s K% has risen to 24.9%, the highest rate of strikeouts since his rookie year in 2008. His contact percentage resides at 73.7%, the lowest of his career. Simply put: there’s a lot of swing and miss in his game this year. But even more discouraging than these numbers are Chase Headley’s splits against right handed pitchers: a K% of 27%.
What could Chase Headley possibly do against a guy who mixes a slider with two and four seam fastballs that average, 97.3 mph and 96.8 mph, respectively?
On Saturday night in the 9th inning, Brooks Baseball shows us that Chase Headley saw three pitches from Craig Kimbrel, none of which dipped below 98 mph.
Kimbrel’s first offering was a outside for a ball. He quickly came back with another 98 mph fastball around the knees and Chase hacked at it, fouling it off. While he put a good swing on it his bat was late as it has been against good fastballs all season long.
Seeing that Headley was late on his fastball Kimbrel went back to the well one more time. On the third pitch of the at-bat, he again threw a 98 mph fastball around Headley’s knees but this time, Kimbrel located it on the inner third of the plate . . .
Despite the well placed pitch, traveling at a ridiculously high rate of speed, against a batter who has struggled with velocity and down-and-in locations all season long – Chase Headley had little trouble with the pitch.
He sped up his bat and pulled the 98 mph fastball into the seats at Turner Field.
Sometimes a dominant pitcher just gets beat even when he threw his best pitch. Chase Headley won this battle with Craig Kimbrel on Saturday night and, as Bud Black would say, “That’s baseball.”
*All numbers are as of Sunday morning.
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