Biggio’s breaking balls
In his first at bat of Game 1, Cavan Biggio saw eight pitches, every single one of them a breaking ball, before he finally struck out looking on a hanging sweeper and walked back to the dugout with a confused look on his face.
Why is this significant? Well, it has been known around the league for years that Biggio struggles with elevated fastballs, particularly those with high velocity. As such, nearly two-thirds of the pitches he has seen over his career have been fastballs. Moreover, both Twins starters in the series, as well as a number of their relievers, throw significantly more fastballs than any other pitch against lefthanded hitters. Surely, as a hitter who is fed mostly fastballs facing pitchers who throw mostly fastballs, Biggio was sitting on a fastball.
Throughout the season, an oft-repeated criticism was that Blue Jays hitters were being overloaded with information before heading to the plate, the team’s hitting coaches, rather than working with batters through the ebbs and flows of games and series’, instead serving as little more than delivery boys for stat sheets from the analytics department.
The problem is, if the Jays have statistics which they think tell them what the other team is going to do, then the other team has these as well. Numerous times this season, it seemed as though by simply doing the opposite of what the stats said they were going to do, opponents were able to leave Jays hitters totally befuddled.
Indeed, with all signs pointing to Biggio seeing a steady diet of fastballs, he instead saw nearly 80% breaking balls in the Wild Card series. How befuddled did this leave him? Well, in eight at bats, he watched nine breaking balls, many of them hangers, float past him for a called strike, and swung and missed at three more, nearly every time, with the same perplexed look on his face.
Was there ever a moment when John Schneider, or Guillermo Martinez, or Dave Hudgens approached Biggio and said, ‘forget the fastball, go up there and sit on a sweeper.’ Judging by the results, it appears not.
They couldn’t. The statistics were set in advance, immovable as the game changed around them.