05 May 2007

Squizzed At: Two Fat Fastballs

"Squizz" is a term I've learned from my wife. It means, roughly, to have a look at something, maybe to investigate something. In a baseball context we've applied the term "squizz" to mean to watch a good, hittable pitch go by. One shouldn't squizz at pitches, one should hit them.

Oscar Robles was the king of squizzing. Is the king of squizzing, I guess, since he's with the Padres now. While with the Dodgers he squizzed at nearly every first pitch offered him, and most second pitches too. Since he couldn't hit and scouts could detect his pattern of taking every first pitch, pitchers always threw a nice fat fastball over the plate to get the easy first strike. It was maddening to watch Robles take so many hittable pitches. I guess he wouldn't have known what to do with them if he had swung.

Betemit is the new king of squizz. On the surface it's good that he takes a lot of pitches, because it's allowed him to walk a lot and salvage what otherwise would be a catastrophic offensive season. His OBP is around 0.300 because he leads the team in walks ... that's not a great percentage, but it's better than Valdez and Martinez. It's better than Kouzmanoff of the Padres. Heck, it's better than Scott Rolen so far!

The problem is when he squizzes with runners on base. He took two fastballs that looked very hittable in the same at-bat last night to strike out. There were runners on, and bad hitters coming up behind him. He needs to swing there, with vengeance. Maybe he would have hit a little grounder, or even missed the ball, but he has to at least try. I've said before that you shouldn't always try, that there is an art to knowing when to try, but with those pitches a batter has to try.

It's those two squizzed pitches that have for me defined Betemit's struggles. I'm ready to give up on him, even though I know that's not the logical course. I know it's not enough of a sample size, but the fan in me is too damn impatient. And when is enough enough? What is the rational cutoff on moving on from Betemit?

I still don't endorse playing Valdez or Martinez ahead of Betemit; in fact I endorse cutting Valdez right now. ( I choose him to go because Martinez has the bigger contract. ) Bring up LaRoche, or move Nomar and bring up Loney. Don't make a trade for some proven third base veteran, though. I still like the idea of bringing up LaRoche and giving him 60% of playing time and Betemit 40%.

We've squizzed for long enough at Betemit: it's making me queasy now. I say it's time to squizz out our other non-Valdezian options at third base.

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