Category Archives: Kiz Blog Post

Willie McCovey – A Star Without a Moment

Willie McCovey, also known as Stretch or Big Mac, is a pretty commonly known star in the baseball community, and that is precisely the problem. The average fan has surely heard of him as an all-time great and a Hall of Famer, but never mentioned in the same circles as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams. I believe this is purely due to his lack of a career defining play or stat – Mays had the over the shoulder catch, Babe Ruth called his shot, Williams hit 400. McCovey’s moment may have been stolen away from him in the 1962 World Series when his scorching line drive was caught at second base by Bobby Richardson in the 9th inning of Game 7 with 2 outs and the Series winning run on second. With no such stat or moment to speak of, where does that leave Willie McCovey in the pantheon of baseball lore? Oh I don’t know, just a career that spanned across 4 decades (21 seasons), a career .889 OPS, 521 home runs, a RoY, an MVP, and a hall of fame plaque to wrap it all up. Simply put, Willie McCovey was an all time great hitter year in and year out, although some left to be desired defensively, but our listeners know that’s not what matters.

It is notable the McCovey was forced to sit out of games in the minor leagues due to stadiums and towns still under segregation, but none of this deterred Willie from reaching the big leagues. McCovey spent the first 15 years of his career playing for the giants, with stops in San Diego and Oakland for 2 years, before returning to the Giants for the final 4 years of career at age 39. In that triumphant return to the giants, he hit .280/.367/.500 with 28 home runs. Since his retirement, Willie has been honored with a statue at AT&T park (PFG loves statues), the naming of McCovey Cove in right field, and the retirement of his number 44 jersey. After his retirement in 1980, Willie remained a senior advisor with the giants for another 18 seasons and was a constant presence around the ballpark and in the clubhouse. We at PFG salute a baseball life, and one hell of a hitter.

Not too bad for a guy without a defining moment.

Rest In Peace #44

Kiz is infamous for wearing number 44 and will probably be able to found on twitter someday. Listen to him on Pop Flies and Grounders which can be found on this website, iTunes, and Spotify.

Featured Photo: Associated Press

There is no hidden secret to hitting…and that’s ok.

Image result for justin turner leg kick

I absolutely love the art of hitting a baseball, it is so perfect and imperfect at the same time.  There are times when everything clicks for no apparent reason and you feel like you are hitting a watermelon with a tennis racket.  On the other hand, in the depths of a slump you find yourself contemplating just how absurd this task really is.

While the rise of sabrmetrics has given us some incredible analytic tools, there are parts of hitting that just simply cannot be explained, like the rapid appearance or disappearance of power statistics.  And although these metrics have helped drive powerful insights, we now find ourselves stuck in a time where we feel there must be an explanation for any statistical anomaly.  For instance, Justin Turner and Jose Bautista both went from marginal major league utility players to superstars by adding a large leg kick and upper cuts to their swings; this must mean this is the correct approach.  Now we have youth academies teaching little leaguers to take exaggerated leg kicks, with the purpose of a hitting a few more home runs as a twelve year old.

I want to be clear, I am by no means suggesting that this approach is a new development in baseball, as trends have always followed techniques that successful players used.  All serious baseball players have seen one of the instructional books, including “The Science of Hitting” by Ted Williams, “Hitting is Simple” by Don Mattingly, “Hit to Win” by Rod Carew, and even “A Zen Way of Baseball” by famed Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh.  Simply put, the baseball community loves to assume a that a player having success with new hitting mechanics or approach, means this is a new principle that applies to everyone.  When we assume correlation means causation, we ignore the fact that Turner and Bautista were both already MLB players that hit for contact, without high levels of strikeouts.  They both could take the calculated risk of raising their strikeouts to try and add power to their game.  I would argue that a little leaguer, and even a younger high school player, does not know themselves well enough as a hitter to make that type of judgement.

Ack and I are not professional players, but we were both college starters, and continue to play in a collegiate level summer league.  Both of us will tell you that we continue to learn more about ourselves as hitters every single game, year after year.  So please, for the love of everything that is great about hitting, stop forcing these ideas on kids.  Instead, I propose a return to the words that PFG guest Grandpa Byrne told me when I was younger, “look to make consistent, solid contact.”  If you can do that, it does not matter whether you choose a large stride or no stride at all, to rotate on the back foot or to push off, bat on the shoulder or hands above your head.  However, for now let’s just appreciate that there are some aspects of the game that still can’t fully be explained.


All-Star Week for Mets Fans

Warning: what you are about to read may cause extreme sadness.

I’ll keep this short and sweet, these all star festivities suck as a mets fan. I wish there was a more elegant way to put that, but after hours of thinking, I cannot come up with one. Perhaps under different circumstances I would be able to look at Conforto flourishing as a great sign of things to come, but not this year. This season was sold to Mets fans as “the year we’ve all been waiting for,” and it seemed as though the promised land was finally within reach. Yet, here we are at the mid way point in the season, and not one of the mets starters from the now infamous round table was in Miami this weekend (the case could be made that degrom deserved it). I’d like to take a brief moment to focus on who was there:

Daniel Murphy – .342/.393/.572

Justin Turner – .377/.473/.583

Michael Fulmer – 9-6 with a 3.19 era

While Fulmer was an understandable trade, it is painful to watch Murphy and Turner absolutely tear up the league. I certainly don’t root against these guys, but they both appear to have made it their mission to bury the Mets at every opportunity. Well, here’s to Fire Sale Season!

P.S. If the Mets can just get healthy and with that rotation, think about the potential for next year!