Pie (oh, my!): the kid who couldn’t check his swing

I’m a big Felix Pie booster. I love his tools, and I still think his future is golden; but I don’t think he knows the first thing about hitting. He has three hitting coaches right now, Dave Keller, Gerald Perry, and Lou Piniella, and another, Von Joshua, back in Iowa, who are not helping him, and should probably stop giving him advice.

The first rule of hitting is to hit the ball hard. Pie swings softly, he waves at the ball and flicks the bat at it defensively, as though the object is not to miss the pitch. I’ve seen most of his 240 at bats with the Cubs and have only seen a handful–by that I mean the fingers on one hand–of good rips, and I’m not necessarily referring to times when he hit the ball over the wall or hit it at all.

Good hitters, which is to say, professional hitters, have two decision points in their swing. Point A, you start your swing, hopefully early enough to get around on a fastball. Point B, continue your swing by intensifying it, continue by adjusting to an offspeed pitch, or ditch the swing entirely. Stop swinging, return the bat to the upright position, and hope the ump didn’t notice. It’s called checking your swing. Pie doesn’t start his swing in time, he doesn’t put any muscle into it and he never, ever checks it.

Pie only has one decision point in his swing, and it’s not point A. It’s later than A, maybe halfway to B. It’s too late to swing hard, and too early to know where the pitch is going to end up. Usually, as I said, he flicks the bat at the ball. If he fouls a couple off, the pitcher will often get tired of playing around with Pie and just zing a fastball down the middle. On two strikes, Pie usually stares at a fastball, because he’s looking for a breaking ball and he didn’t start his swing yet. Have you ever seen a hitter so completely stymied by a fastball down the middle on two strikes?

I don’t care what the Cubs do with Pie as long as they don’t trade him. (I don’t want to do a Felix Pie fan club.) Stick him in the minors and forget about him. Pay no attention to his minor-league numbers: we’ve seen that most of his hits are bloops. When he’s ready to grow up and be a man, we’ll start hearing about 450 foot bombs, and we can take another look at him, to see if he’s really learned how to check his swing.

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