If You Can’t Hit, then Play Defense

We are midway into August and in the midst of our playoff run with the team playing well and finding ways to win.  This late in the season, wins come at a premium and we have had the focus of a team determined to earn a playoff spot.  While baseball is a game played by individuals with their collective efforts deciding the ultimate outcome, a strong emphasis has been placed on every player playing for the team and doing everything within his power to help the team win.  A player’s individual statistics are not going to change drastically in the final two weeks, and with the playoffs at stake, a heightened awareness of playing for the team has been made.

The nature of the game can make it difficult for players to keep the offensive and defensive parts of the game separate.  If a player dwells on a poor at-bat, that can affect his defensive performance as soon as the next half inning, or if a player laments about an error in the field, this can contribute to his poor at-bat in a tight situation.  The best players are the ones who can separate offense from defense.

Many players have heard the adage, “If you can’t hit, then play defense.”  While simple in nature, there is a powerful truth behind these words.  Playing for your team means finding any way to contribute on a given day, whether it is at the plate, in the field, or even something like figuring out how an opposing pitcher tips his pitches.

I started behind the plate in Sunday’s 5-4, 13-inning victory and was forced to put the adage into effect.  I started the day with two strikeouts, one looking at a curveball down the middle, and the other swinging at a ball about eye-high.  My next three at-bats only got better in the sense that I was able to put the balls in play, grounding out three times to the shortstop.  I hit two of the balls fairly well, but had nothing to show for it, as he was able to make the plays in the hole.

Despite my lack of success at the plate, I knew I could still contribute to the team’s efforts and subsequent victory by playing solidly behind the plate.  I did well with my blocking and pitch calling, helping the team put up zeros for the last nine innings of the game.  My two throws to second, which were not even that great, still gave us a chance to get the base stealers, and got a break with the second one when he over slid the base and was called out.

Perhaps the biggest separation I was able to make to keep offense and defensive separate was after I was unable to drive in the winning run from third with two-on and two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning.  After grounding out for the third time of the game and having nothing to show for my five at bats, I was exceedingly frustrated.  However, I had to leave those feelings in the dugout and focus my efforts back on defense.  I feel that this mindset aided me in a crucial tag play at the plate in the top of the 13th inning on a one-out single to right field with a runner at second base.  I got into position and was able to block the plate and tag the go-ahead runner out.  This left us in a tied game and we were able to win on a walk-off home run in the bottom half of the frame.

With my lousy day at the plate, I had plenty of opportunities to dwell on this and let it affect my defensive performance.  However, I understand that as a catcher (especially in the Angels organization), my primary responsibility concerns defense and doing everything in my power to catch a winner.  I feel that my ability to keep the offensive and defensive aspects of the game separate greatly contributed to my strong defensive performance in this win.

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One Response to “If You Can’t Hit, then Play Defense”

  1. Greg Says:

    Good stuff once again Chris. Good luck on the road trip!

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