For longer than I care to think about, pitchers have been executing a beautifully simple plan against Viciedo. It’s effective because it’s so simple almost any pitcher can step in and execute it. Start off away, preferably with fastballs off the plate that he’ll lunge at desperately. If Viciedo just whiffs himself out of the at-bat, then it could be as simple as that.
However, if his bat speed is enough to allow him to foul a few off, turn around and bust the outward-looking Viciedo inside, where he’ll either get jammed, or just jam himself on pitches he should turn on.
Since Viciedo had hit .192/.209/.280 with one home run in his last 34 games prior to Tuesday night, there hadn’t been much deviation from this blueprint. Then, in the sixth inning, there suddenly was plenty of deviation, and against Justin Verlander and later against Al Alburquerque. For the most part, it seems like the Tigers missed their spots and missed badly.
Verlander starts Viciedo off outside, but too far to inspire any chasing. When he comes back inside, he doesn’t bust Dayan, but instead just grooves it over. That’s often a fine move for Verlander, except he reaches back for 90 mph in the sixth inning rather than the 95+ mph heat he’s often coming with in big, late-inning situations. Viciedo has managed to cannibalize a lot of his natural bat speed with his big, looping and off-balanced swing, but 90 mph can be had.
Al Alburquerque in the eighth inning, was simply too wild to be expected to execute much of anything. He starts Viciedo out away, but dumps his first-pitch slider too far to expect anything to come of it. When his catcher Alex Avila sets up inside to jam Viciedo on the second pitch, Alburquerque misses by so much that Dayan might have done Avila a favor by taking the ball out of his hands.
“Okay, let’s bust him in here, Al…”
“Oh jeepers, goodness whyyyyy”
We could reduce Viciedo’s success here to missed spots–failures in execution of a still pretty discouragingly boilerplate method of attack against him. That’s likely correct and safe. However it’s worth pointing out that both these at-bats are keyed by Viciedo laying off some outside stuff–and again, it’s stuff that pretty much any hitter should lay off of, but he hadn’t been doing it–and making it so that when Verlander and Albuquerque did come back inside, they needed to throw a strike and erred on the side of splitting the plate rather than asking themselves “I wonder if I hit him with this pitch whether he’d still swing.”
Alex Rios was a lot better than Dayan Viciedo last night. Adam Dunn‘s at-bat that ended in a home run was a lot easier to appreciate for its craft. But Viciedo was the youngest guy in the batting order Tuesday night and could easily outlast both Rios and Dunn’s stays on a White Sox roster. We have to keep watching him. Tuesday night, that wasn’t a chore.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan