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Brogna On Baseball: The 0-2 And 3-0 Count Myths

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(credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

(credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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By Rico Brogna
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Stubborn me. I decided once again this year to not get the flu shot. Smart move, Suave!

I sit here typing my latest blog entry for WFAN feeling just great, just great. Ya right! The cold & flu has hit me like a Tyson uppercut when he was 19 years old and in his prime. WHACK! Down for the count I am. But I will stay stubborn I guess and not get that shot. It’s worked in the past, right???

Stubborn baseball: forever baseball myths and practices hold true to this day from 100-plus years back. “They” say not to give the hitter a good pitch to hit or even a pitch close to the strike zone with a 0-2 count on the batter. Hmmmmm?

I often refer back to the best pitcher in our modern day era of baseball, Greg Maddux. ‘Maddog’ was intelligent and quite pitch-efficient often throwing a complete game (or close) with under 75 or 8o pitches. Greg simply did not waste any bullets. In the age of pitch counts, Maddux was the master of making the most of his pitches in a game, often saving his arm for the next start down the road of a marathon baseball season in which he was expected make about 35 regular season starts.

Greg, the ultimate team baseball player, understood how important it was for him to make all of his starts so he simply did not waste one single pitch. And that’s the key right there. He did not waste one single pitch.

I am in agreement that a pitcher’s 0-2 count pitch shouldn’t be a cookie. It should not be a center-cut 4-seam fastball unless there is unique and obvious to all supreme velocity. This is rare. Not too many pitchers deliver a 98+ MPH heater and even the ones that do shouldn’t center his No. 1 on a 0-2 count to any major league bat.

In the end, any pitcher with a 0-2 count should not give in to any hitter. However, I am convinced that this baseball theory (“wasting” a pitch on 0-2) is not correct.

As a hitter myself, I knew that I was in a hole. But I actually discovered that if I could hold off and not chase, that I would get back to even at 2-2 because most pitchers went to their conservative mode. And believe me, I was not a patient hitter.

Command, throwing a pitch where you intend to throw it, is something that most MLB pitchers have. Obviously some pitchers have better command than others but all-in-all most big league arms have the ability to put a pitch where they want to consistently. Knowing this, I have instructed pitchers that I have managed or worked with to go after the hitter on a 0-2 count.

Be the aggressive one. Be the type of pitcher who WANTS to put the hitter away and save that conservative, waste pitches stuff for another day. In other words, don’t do it! As we say in the business of pitching, “save your bullets” and make the most of each pitch you toss up there. The pitcher that gets to that 0-2 count go there for a reason, he’s good, or at least he was good enough during that particular at-bat to get to that count.

Maybe it’s the rhythm just found or maybe the hitter isn’t on time. Whatever the reason, go for it! Not giving in to a hitter is not the same thing as wasting a pitch. Waste nothing and save your bullets for the rest of that game and for the rest of the season. Each pitch you throw adds up and counts.

Stubbornly, baseball again practices an offensive theory that I would change without blinking. The old “automatic strike” pitch is what we identify with when a hitter has a 3-0 count. When I played for Terry Francona in Philadelphia, each hitter had the “Green” Light to swing away on any 3-0 count. The only reason a hitter would take there is if the “must take” sign was put on or if the hitter was not comfortable swinging at that particular 3-0 pitch.

Still, most of us took a pitch that was usually a strike, when we had this count in our favor.

Think about it for a second. Why would a hitter automatically give a pitcher anything?!?! It’s difficult enough to hit successfully when we use the 3 out of 10 math as our guideline for great hitters. Why then would any hitter give in to this opportunity to get a pitch that will most likely be right over the heart of the dish?

Now, I am guilty of taking many, way too many, 3-0 pitches in my career. But it’s what I learned later that made me change my mind. If my mindset as a hitter is to swing at pitches that are better to hit than pitches that are more difficult to square up, why wouldn’t I take the opportunity to ‘grip it and rip it’ at a 3-0 center-cut fastball! This is usually the pitch and pitch location a hitter gets in this count. The hitter has worked the situation into his favor so for goodness sake, take advantage, would you?

The kicker is that as soon as a hitter gets a reputation for being a dude that hacks at 3-0 pitches, the more careful and hesitant the pitchers will become when that exact situations arises. And if so, you’ll draw your walk or even if the pitcher throws a 3-0 slider for a strike, you still have an incredibly favorable count to go to town with on the next 3-1 pitch.

Bottom line is that the best baseball players, pitchers and/or hitters, all possess a killer instinct and go for the knockout (see Tyson reference earlier) blow when given the chance. Be the type of baseball player that does not go with the norm. Be different! Take advantage of favorable counts that provide successful opportunities and wear that reputation as word will spread and all will fear you.

After all, baseball is a game of numbers.

Agree? Disagree? Let Rico know in the comments below…

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