Sam Huff on his experiences with the Pitch Clock as a Catcher
Pickoffs: Pitchers can disengage from the rubber twice in an at-bat (whether stepping off or throwing to a base). When a pitcher does that, it resets the clock. Any disengagement after that will result in a balk unless a runner is thrown out.
The first two times are business as usual in today’s game, but once the second pickoff attempt happens, it opens the door for baserunners. “Once they pick you off twice, it’s almost like you can just go,” Josh Smith told me. “It’s definitely different.” The idea is there from Huff’s perspective, but he feels two attempts are too few. “We had guys stealing after we pick off twice, and right away too,” Sam told me. “[Pitchers] wouldn’t be able to disengage because that’s a pick. So if they do picks, I think it should be five picks each. It should be more than three.”
I asked Huff if there were more pitch-outs, and he said yes, mainly against the speedy runners. “Overall, it was usually just on us. They give us numbers, but it’s still [me] running the calling game. I need to understand the running game, whose on, who’s not running, and then how do I need to go about it,” Huff said. I’m curious about how baserunners will attack when a second disengagement happens. How much of a bluff they’ll make to second base, or will they take off completely knowing the only way they’re out is if they’re tagged out? I see a lot of strategy from the baserunner involved.
Shift Ban: Teams must have two infielders on the right side and left side of second base. The fielders must have both feet within the infield dirt. Infielders cannot switch sides (i.e., having the shortstop play second base and vice versa) unless it’s a defensive substitution.
“I think it’s definitely going to be a lot more fun for guys like I know Joey [Gallo] ‘s probably excited,” Sam Huff laughed. The shift’s banning will be the most intriguing thing on the offensive side next season. I asked Nathaniel Lowe, someone, who uses all fields, and he’s excited about many reasons. “Banning the shift is good, especially at [Globe Life Field] because the ball travels on the ground here. So, having the middle of the field is going to be nice,” Lowe said. “You make defenders play defense [and] make the conventional style of hitting more rewarding because there are more hits out there.”
Josh Smith looks at it from both sides, the offense and defense. Of course, more hits equate to more action in the game, but Smith says it gives a chance for infielders to show off their skills more. “[Banning the shift] allows infielders to show off their range. It allows the good infielders who can get to those balls to make spectacular plays,” Smith told me. “That’ll make the game more fun. It’ll make for really good plays instead of guys just being squared up on balls or making rangy plays.”
It changes his approach for someone like Huff, who teams shift against. “[Astros] were shifting me pull-side [and] I was just trying to hit balls the other way. I’d get hits, and I was like, okay. [In the Majors], they’ll pitch to [the shift], but you can still hit the other way. It’s harder in this game up here. It’ll make the game more fun.”
“[Banning the shift] is good for everybody,” Lowe said. “More hits all the way through the order [and] around the league, it’s going to be more hits. It should be good for us.” I’m curious to see how approaches change at the plate in Spring Training and early in the season. For someone like Nathaniel Lowe, who tries to go the other way, does that change his at-bat approach to a more pull side because teams shift him in today’s environment? Only time will tell the results.