“Hitting is harder than ever,” says Blue Jays’ George Springer of baseball in 2022


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A week ago on Saturday, the Jays were at home to the Cincinnati Reds.

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The opposing pitcher was Hunter Greene. He threw 40 four-seam fastballs in his 84-pitch afternoon. A full 24 of them exceeded 100 miles per hour.

Greene started the year as the Reds’ No. 1 prospect and lived up to that billing.

The very next day, the Reds offered Graham Ashcraft, their chain’s No. 8 prospect and a guy who had never pitched before at the major league level.

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Ashcraft mixed in another 96+ mph fastball with a slider that had so much 12-6 action, it felt like a curveball. His first pitch of the game against Jays first runner George Springer was a 99.7 mph lead for a called strike.

Six nights later, having completed his pre-game batting practice, Springer shakes his head when asked about the state of the pitch in the game today.

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“Yeah, I feel like that’s the new normal,” he said when Ashcraft and Greene’s exits are brought up. “Pretty much everyone is throwing 95-96 and up. It cuts, it flows, it flows. I think the game is harder than it has ever been.

“You’re facing five or six guys on a weekly basis who are rookies throwing 100, which you’ve never seen before.”

It’s definitely not the game Springer remembers five years ago.

“I was just saying to Hudgie (Dave Hudgens), our hitting coach, that I remember when the Angels had a guy named JC Ramirez (in 2017) who used to throw 100 with a 90-mile slider at the hour, which is the craziest thing you’ve ever had. never seen in your life,” Springer said. “He was the only guy there that you kind of looked at and said, ‘Oh man, there he is.

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“Now he would be one of three guys on this staff who would have this stuff,” Springer said.

The veteran center fielder isn’t complaining. It’s clear he loves the nightly challenge.

“It’s a really interesting time in the game,” he said. “I think hitting is as hard as ever. I mean the stuff is obviously more, guys are throwing as hard as ever. You just have to try to do your best, navigate and move on.

That night, Springer had a new challenge ahead of him. Another hard-throwing rookie was starting for the Angels and making just his third major league start.

Less than a year ago, Chase Silseth was pitching through the college ranks before essentially bypassing minors, but for a handful of starts, and taking his game immediately to the biggest stage possible.

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The thing about a newer face like Silseth for a guy like Springer is that he brings the added lesser-known component to an arsenal that includes a four-seam fastball that peaked at 96.4 (still a times on the first pitch of the game at Springer) and a slew of off-speed pitches and breaking balls that travel the entire surface of the strike zone.

Springer said his approach with a guy he’s seeing for the first time is all about keeping it simple.

Springer subscribes to the theory that his best opportunity is to stick to his strengths and not obscure the issue by over-analyzing what the pitcher could do.

“I just try to sail as best I can,” Springer said. “There’s not really any familiarity. We played against these guys (the Angels) a group so they know pretty well how I’m doing, but obviously I haven’t had a chance to see it, but I’ll just have to navigate it as best I can. Don’t really try to do too much, just see what happens.

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“I’m a fairly simple person. I don’t really like diving. I like having my information in the box. What they say on a piece of paper or what you see on a video may not match what you see on the mound that day.

“So I just like to feel it. I’ll look for something to hit and then if I see it I hope to hit it and then move on to the next one.

Over time, Springer will build his own scouting report on a pitcher. There’s no end to the reams and reams of information on every man who’s ever thrown a pitch in the majors, but how one particular guy is approaching Springer versus how he might go to teammate Vladimir. Guerrero Jr. can be, and most often is, very different.

You won’t see Springer pull a notebook off the bench after a bat like Carlos Delgado would back in the day keeping track of every pitch he ever saw, but Springer does keep track of pitch trends and patterns from a launcher.

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“I’ll do it in my head,” Springer said. “I’m not a guy who’s going to write it. I know guys who do. I can do it in my head. I may not remember all the details, but I remember, you know, a lot of footage, of how he attacked me and how he likes to move around the plate. “But every bat and every pitch is still totally different. You just have to have that knowledge and fight.

But the bottom line for Springer is to have a home plate attack plan based on what he does best, not the man throwing the ball.

“I have to be true to myself,” he says. “I have to know what I want to do. Obviously he can throw whatever he wants to throw, but for me it’s going to be simple, and I’ll see what happens.

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