Feb 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) pitches against Chicago White Sox right fielder Alex Rios (left foreground) during the first inning at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Inflicting patience on others

It’s spring training, so writing ideas are coming from the radio still.

Darrin Jackson was commenting on Adam Dunn’s pledge to be more aggressive, and more or less predicted doom in his polite and sunny way of talking.

He also casted doubt on the flip side of the equation, and admonished attempts to force patience on hitters that were more comfortable being aggressive. The essential idea is simple. Most of these established veterans have gotten to the major leagues hitting a certain way, and having the talent level to switch approaches mid-stream is rare.

That idea certainly applies to Alexei Ramirez, for whom Robin Ventura tepidly suggested that more patience would be useful but is probably not coming.

“You can tweak (Ramirez’s aggressiveness) to a certain extent, but I don’t see him all of a sudden taking a bunch of pitches and walking 60 or 70 times a year,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You can move it around. He got to a point last year where he was pulling the ball only and was susceptible to off-speed stuff. And when he did have spurts when he was going well, he was going the other way and covering the strike zone better.”

To which, Alexei replied…

“My game is not going to change,” said Ramirez, a career .276 hitter with a .316 on-base percentage. “But I’m aware I need to hit the ball the other way a little more and try to do that. But my game is not going to change.”

Later Ramirez admitted that he needs “a little more patience at the plate. That’s something I’ll continue to get better at.”

Alexei, of course, has already run the gamut with alterations to his approach, and never been able to combine patience and power beyond a two-month stretch in 2011. His exhaustion with the concept is justified. The way pitchers react to Ramirez’s strengths and weaknesses (fastballs) does not jive with the idea that he should simply take more pitches.

As another right-handed hitter prone to pull-happiness, impatience and contact, the overhaul of Alex Rios that took place last year comes to mind. As much talk as there was of Rios’ focusing on his approach, that had more to do with working all fields than discipline. The end goal after all, still remained to “look for a pitch to drive, then put a good swing on it.”

Rios, who like Ramirez flashes above-average ability making contact, would simply be wasting those skills by passing on strikes earlier in the count. He can cover the whole zone, and should use that ability to remove options for pitchers.

This year, the transformation that the offense desperately needs–in addition to hoping for more from Alexei–is Dayan Viciedo.

Viciedo’s an undisciplined hitter who is among the tops in all of baseball in pitches swung at outside the strike zone, yet it seems like a fallacy to think that his progress will come in the form of more patience.

Cleaning up his swing path, using a leg kick to keep him from flying open, lunging and jamming himself are more immediate problems that need to be addressed before quibbles about how much better he would be if he weren’t naturally aggressive can be raised.

If Ramirez and Rios are any indication, maintaining balance in focus, and keeping the contact clean enough to prevent all these danged pop ups, will be a consistent battle for Viciedo. His strengths, his meal ticket, is going to be his bat speed, and the protection of the zone it can provide in addition to prodigious power. Until that comes to fruition, Viciedo has too much on his plate to worry about what he’ll never be good at.

 

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan

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Tags: Alex Rios Alexei Ramirez Chicago White Sox Dayan Viciedo

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