The Taking Man
In the late 1940′s and early 1950′s, there were several infielders who became known primarily for drawing a tremendous number of walks. For some reason, they were all named “Eddie” — Eddie Lake, Eddie Stanky, Eddie Joost, and Eddie Yost. (Yost, in fact, became known as “the Walking Man.”) These men didn’t hit for a very high average, weren’t very fast, and had mid-range power. Defensively, they were more reliable than anything else.
The 2012 Norfolk Tides have a successor to the Eddies in Matt Antonelli; I’ve suggested that we give him the nickname “Eddie”. (Mike, the official scorer for the Tides, seconds me in this; he even thinks “Eddie Antonelli” has a mellifluous ring.) However, an even better sobriquet would be “The Taking Man”. For Matt Antonelli seems to swing at fewer pitches than just about anyone I can remember.
I’ve scored four Tides home games so far this season. Antonelli has played in all four and has seen 74 pitches. He’s swung at 17, or just under 23%. (That includes foul balls, swinging strikes, and balls put in play.) In comparison, Ryan Adams has seen 84 pitches and swung at 43, just under 52%.
Antonelli is effective with his take-all-pitches strategy; he draws a lot of walks and has an on-base percentage close to .500. It remains to be seen if pitchers will adjust by throwing more pitches over the plate and, more specifically, throwing pitches less close to the corners. And if they do, it will be interesting to see if Antonelli adjusts. I’ll be monitoring The Taking Man throughout the season.