Pirates pitchers weigh in on pitch execution
Hurlers split on the topic of getting beat on a good pitch vs. a bad pitch
PITTSBURGH -- On April 8, Charlie Morton took the Wrigley Field mound in the bottom of the third inning, protecting a 4-1 lead, feeling and throwing the ball totally in control.
Morton got the pitch precisely where he wanted to leadoff batter Anthony Rizzo, who ripped it to center for a single. With one out, he made the same desired pitch to Luis Valbuena -- with the same unwanted result.
Four pitches later, Starlin Castro homered and scored the tying run on the heels of the two runners who had reached base by spoiling Morton's best-laid plans.
The Pittsburgh right-hander boiled over those two outcomes for a long time, finally reaching out to his father in a search for closure.
"For days, I was thinking about those pitches, so I asked my dad to send me the PITCHf/x charts," said Morton, referring to the pitch tracking system deployed in every Major League ballpark. "And I see those pitches were right where I wanted -- bottom of the zone, on the outer fifth of the plate.
"Those are the ones that make you mad. They perplex you and stay with you longer. You're left wondering, 'What more could I have done?'"
The ruined good pitch leaves you feeling not in control of your fate, a helpless sentiment.
Five days later, in Miller Park, Morton held a 1-0 lead over the Brewers when he got a four-seam fastball above Martin Maldonado's waist and he powered an opposite-field double that soon turned into the tying run.
"After a good sinker early [in the at-bat], I wanted to throw the four-seamer up, but I didn't get it up enough, and [the pitch was] right down the middle," Morton said. "So in retrospect, you don't have to torture yourself. You know why it got hit. It was a bad pitch."
Getting beat on a bad pitch empowers you with the ability to correct it. Next time, better pitch, worse result for the batter. You are in control, not he.
The pitchers polled in the Pirates' clubhouse were surprisingly split on the issue: Right-handed reliever Vin Mazzaro also has a tougher time getting beat on the perfect pitch; for others, a lousy pitch and its predictable result are harder to swallow.
Gerrit Cole was somewhat on the fence.
"I guess making a bad pitch is more frustrating, because you feel like you could have done more," Cole said. "If you make a good pitch and it gets whacked, if the guy puts a good swing on it ... that's almost as frustrating. You don't like getting beat, period. It might depend on the damage that's done with the mistake."
Facing the Blue Jays last Friday night, Cole delivered an inside fastball in the first inning to Jose Bautista, who pulled it down the line for a double. Two innings later, he centered a fastball to Colby Rasmus, who jumped on it for a two-run homer.
"I wasn't as frustrated with the fastball down and in to Bautista as I was with the fastball left over the plate for Rasmus," Cole said. "Maybe that's just the difference between a double and a two-run homer.
"I'm probably more frustrated if I miss a pitch in the middle of the plate and it gets crushed. For the most part, you do everything you can do, and if the guy gets a hit, he gets a hit. It's the Major Leagues. Guys hit the good pitches."
There's a saying invented for those occasions.
"Getting beat on a good pitch is a little easier to get over," said left-handed reliever Justin Wilson. "If you hit your spot and the guy beats you, sometimes you just gotta tip your hat."
"But over the course of the season, it'll go both ways," Wilson added. "You'll make some bad pitches that get outs ... and some good pitches will get smoked."
Other perspectives from Bucs pitchers on a question they had never before been asked:
"None of them are easy to shake off," Mazzaro said, "but if I had to pick, getting beat on a good pitch is tougher to take. You did what you wanted to do, did it with conviction, and it just didn't get the results you wanted. If I made a bad pitch ... well, next time, I'll make a better one."
"I think getting beat on a good pitch is easier to take, because you at least executed the way you wanted to," Jared Hughes said. "When you don't make your pitch, you always look back on it, wishing that you had [made a better pitch] and gotten different results."
"Making a mistake eats at you," said Francisco Liriano. "When I miss my spot, I've got to get my act together. If I make a good pitch and it gets hit ... you have to give credit to the hitter."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.