Patiently Aggressive Behavior

An article by Tom Krasovic in Wednesday’s San Diego Union-Tribune takes a look at Grady Fuson’s efforts to improve the approach of hitters throughout the Padres organization by educating them on “the importance of getting a good pitch to hit.” These are methods that served the Oakland A’s well when Fuson was there and that helped produce the likes of Eric Chávez, Jason Giambi, and Miguel Tejada.

As the article notes, Fuson’s ideas aren’t exactly revolutionary. At the same time, how many clubs are sitting their coaches and young hitters down in a classroom and showing them the batting averages of big leaguers by count over the past two seasons?

This is an example of how traditional baseball thought can coexist with stathead concepts, and how the two actually reinforce each other. Of course, you always want to get a good pitch to hit. But maybe when someone like Fuson, who has been in the game for a long time and enjoyed considerable success (and helped others to do the same), demonstrates exactly how much your chances improve by getting into a favorable count, you take it a little more to heart than if someone simply tells you to work the count.

Fuson addresses the “why” part of the equation. Now, armed with this knowledge, you know as a hitter that the goal isn’t to work the count, but rather to get a good pitch to hit so you can improve your likelihood of succeeding. Working the count is merely the tool by which this goal is achieved. Drawing walks, which also helps the team by putting potential runs on base, is a fortunate by-product.

All well and good, if a tad academic. But if there’s any doubt that Fuson is the right man for the job, check out his track record. And listen to his attitude toward getting staffers to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid:

I told them, “Let me show you. I don’t expect you to just nod your head and say OK.” I don’t feel resistance. And if I do, I look at it like my presentation needs to be better.

In other words, Fuson isn’t some guy wielding a bunch of books and formulas with ivory tower authority. He knows the numbers and how to use them, but he also has the cred of one who has achieved measurable success. Beyond the cred, he has the confidence of such a person, such a messenger. If the message doesn’t get through right away, he will try again. This isn’t someone looking to impress people with his knowledge, this is a man with real solutions to real problems.

Fuson’s ideas may not be revolutionary, but in the Padres universe they represent movement in the right direction. Getting people to embrace an unfamiliar concept is less a matter of hitting them over the head with it and berating them for “not getting it” when they don’t jump on board immediately, and more a matter of patiently explaining the idea and how it benefits them personally.

This is not a short-term strategy, and not everyone has the temperament to be “patiently aggressive” (is it coincidence that Fuson’s favorite expression applies to his own teaching methods as much as to the approach he wants his hitters to adopt?). But it is a plan with a history of demonstrable success, and with the right man driving the plan, it just might start a revolution.

21 Responses »

  1. NickG – thanks for the link to Crasnick’s column in yesterday’s comments … here’s one of his comments that interested me …

    Remember that Padres-Devil Rays change-of-scenery trade featuring two former first-round picks who were floundering? It isn’t working out so well for Sean Burroughs. He failed to produce an extra-base hit in his first 27 Grapefruit League at-bats with Tampa Bay, and he won’t get much playing time at third base if the Rays stick with Aubrey Huff at the position.

    … Vinny is an upgrade … and I expect the Padres to get some contribution from Justin Leone @ 3B before the season’s out.

  2. The reality check on that previous statement (re: Vinny) comes from BP’s STAT OF THE DAY

    Bottom 5 2006 NL Starting Third Basemen, by PECOTA Projected VORP

    Player, Team, Projected VORP

    Vinny Castilla, SDN, 10.7
    Pedro Feliz, SFN, 11.0
    Corey Koskie, MIL, 13.9
    Garrett Atkins, COL, 15.2
    Bill Mueller, LAN, 21.5

  3. Okay, the bad news…

    Bottom 5 2006 NL Starting Third Basemen, by PECOTA Projected VORP

    Player, Team, Projected VORP

    Vinny Castilla, SDN, 10.7
    Pedro Feliz, SFN, 11.0
    Corey Koskie, MIL, 13.9
    Garrett Atkins, COL, 15.2
    Bill Mueller, LAN, 21.5

    So Vinny is projected 16th out of 16.

    The good news? That’s still 11.6 VORP more than we got from last year’s opening day 3rd baseman.

  4. Vinny’s PECOTA is also about 5 or 6 higher than Burroughs PECOTA for VORP, so at least from BP’s perspective we’re making out over last year and this year by moving from Burroughs to Castilla, and this is without taking defense into account.

  5. Does performance in Durham count towards Seany B’s PECOTA for VORP?

  6. The Brazelton stuff really intrigues me. I thought it was a pretty good deal at the time, and still do. He’s having a great spring, lets hope he can carry that into the regular season. A little further down in the Crasnick column, one source is a little suspicious of Braz’s spring, saying he’s only a fastball-changeup pitcher.

  7. I thought the crack about being a two pitch pitcher was a little odd too. If he only has two pitches why was he such a big prospect? And I thought I read somewhere that his fastball was around 88-90mph this spring. If that’s all he has then his changeup must be Trevor-like. Another article in the UT mentioned that he had all 3 pitches working in an earlier outing, fastball, change and slider so maybe he’s picked up or refined a slider since his time in Tampa.

    I know we get these optimistic stories every spring but it sure is looking good with Brazelton and Chan Ho. Maybe we’ll have two guys competing for the Comeback Player award.

  8. Brazelton was never good. How can he come back?

  9. Most improved player then?

    For everyone in the Ducksnorts Yahoo league, I just noticed the draft is set for tomorrow night! Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to make the live draft.


    “Towers has raised a few eyebrows this spring by telling people that Hoffman no longer has the best change-up on the roster.

    That, the GM says, belongs to Brazelton.”

  11. Braz was never good? Fuson said his change rated as the best he’d EVER seen from an amatuer…

  12. GY – your tinyurl isn’t working for me … can you give us the full URL?

    Yahoo league’ers … “league #2″ is not drafting until NEXT Friday, March 31st @ 7pm …

    NickG – what’s your definition of “great spring”? I saw him pitch about 2 weeks ago and he threw A LOT of pitches in a few IPs … ie. didn’t look that good to me … obvious, both our observations are “small sample size” … mine being the smaller … if he can pitch well enough to make 30 starts and keep his ERA under 5, I think that will exceed expectations … mine, for now, anyway. In other words, I don’t expect him to hold onto the #5 spot in the rotation … I’m hopeful, but not expectant … I’m also hopefull that Stauffer will earn another shot in the Padres’ rotation …

  13. I s’pose today’s outing by Chan Ho wasn’t aweful …;_ylt=Asp2mrh3gTMm9NqZUzHACjYRvLYF?gid=260323125 … 4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks …

    But NO OFFENSE! 2 hits! Eh, no Giles, Khalil, Klesko, etc in the lineup … OK, not to worry :-)

  14. NickG … i’ll answer my question … here’s a quote from that azcentral article … “Brazelton, 25, has a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings in camp with 14 strikeouts and four walks.” … ya, that’s pretty good :-) But, like I’ve said … I saw 3 of the those K’s that took ~24 pitches … which isn’t sustainable.

    I’m a believer in the power & value of a good change-up … it will server Brazelton well!

  15. LM — Haven’t seen him pitch in the spring. Going off the stats. I know he’s gotten some mixed reviews, but on the whole, it appears that he’s exceeded expectations. I’ve seen him pitch well in the past (with TB) and I know he’s got a pretty nice upside.

    Basically, I spend most of my time in late March (besides the obvious work, family commitments, etc) searching for reasons to be excited about the upcoming Padres season.
    So here is what I’m excited about so far (I’m leaving out the obvious stuff like Peavy, or Kahlil the Highlight Reel):
    1. Barfield — this kid is going to be very good. If nothing else, you have to love the work ethic.
    2. Piazza — I don’t care how old he is. I’m pumped to see him in a Pads uniform.
    3. Brazelton — It would be great if this is another one of Towers’ scrap-heap success stories.
    4. Chris Young — If his spring ERA was less than a billion, he would probably be #2.
    5. Chan Ho — I hesitate to even put him on here. It sounds like he’s put some issues behind him, and he’s ready to go. According to the NC Times (maybe it was the U-T) he’s throwing a nasty slider he abandoned a few years ago.

    The thing that I’m most excited about, though is that no team in the division stands out, and the Pads have a decent chance to win it again.

  16. By the way, don’t know if anyone knows about this site, but it’s always interesting. A lot of fantasy related projections there, but the guy is pretty informed, and his analysis is usually pretty good.

  17. NickG – thanks for the link to BBNB … here’s a comment from him that I think will interest this group … in a discussion about players whose role has changed as a result of performance in spring training …

    The Mets’ Right Field Situation: Here’s one I’m already fairly sure I was wrong about. I fully expected Victor Diaz to emerge as the regular right fielder with Xavier Nady only posing a threat to win the fourth or fifth outfielder’s job. My newest projections will reflect that Nady is about to or has already won the starting spot here and he’s good enough to keep it. I’m not necessarily forecasting the next coming of Babe Ruth but if he somehow ends up with 550 at bats or so (which is still more than I will forecast now), Nady could challenge the 20 home run mark. Diaz can and may be sent back to the minors so this has played out differently than I expected going into spring training.

  18. Interesting article at on “Oddball Stats”.

    I think the oddest is John Dewan’s Fielding Bible has Khalil Greene as the worst defensive shortstop in the National League. I realize his defense is probably overrated due to his sometimes spectacular plays but watching him every night I never got the feeling he was a bad shortstop.

  19. Dex has some interesting notes over at GasLampBall about Moores and the Petco $ …

  20. That is curious Khalil is rated so low. I felt after last season his fielding had been HUGELY overrated, but I didn’t think he was bad either. Still it did seem as if his range was noticeably less in 05. I kept waiting and waiting for one of those spectacular diving plays, but the ball just kept going by him. Fielding stats are coming along, but still have a ways to go so it’s likely Khalil is more toward the middle of the pack than the bottom, imo.