June 27, 2008

Redbird Droppings: Brendan Ryan, Toro!

A June 26 4thebirds post from another network, by permission:

In the first inning, Tigers' leadoff man Curtis Granderson hit a hopper to shortstop. Brendan Ryan turned himself so far sideways in his fielding that he looked like a bull fighter.

"Toro!" or whatever the term is for dodging that object flying past you as you spin clear of harm.

As you might suspect, Ryan's glove wave to one side is not how you field a ground ball. There are a lot of techniques to this defensive fielding play, and some of them vary by degree according to what type of ground ball is hit.

But one technique that is all but constant, is that you need to get in front of the ball whenever possible. That's a rule of fundamentals, and if you're going to break it, you'd better have a good reason.

Ryan did not.

Charging most ground balls is common, but if you are experienced and good at reading the speed, and how the current infield surfaces of grass and/or dirt are going to affect the velocity, you might, on certain grounders, stay back. But whichever is the case, you need to square up to the approaching ball, making sure you give yourself enough time to do so before the ball arrives.
Ryan may have been trying to get himself a nice big hop which would allow him to glove the ball easily from almost any position relative to the ball. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen the way you suspect. Hence, the need to square up.

Why square up?

Because when those odd hops come, or you don't gauge the approaching ground ball perfectly, you still have a chance to block the ball. And true, you don't always get the type of block that will permit you to recover and throw a batter-runner out at first, for instance, but you often, at minimum, can prevent the same hitter from getting an extra base, as Granderson did on Ryan's miscue.

All the other mechanics of fielding ground balls need not be discussed here, as if you don't get yourself squared up to grounders which you are able, the rest won't make any difference, because you'll be watching the ball scoot by into the outfield.

Square up, or bring your red cape.