*Each homestand the ‘Topes Tattler will spotlight an individual on the Isotopes for the new segment, “Touching Base.” The blog will be checking in with various players and coaches to give fans an inside look at your 2012 ‘Topes. Make sure to keep checking back to see who is “touching base!”
How do you know a team has found its groove at the plate?
When the starting pitcher goes 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI.
The Isotopes team, as a whole, has been absolutely ripping the cover off the ball lately. The ‘Topes routinely rank tops in nearly every batting category and have scored six or more runs in all of their contests at Isotopes Park. Opposing pitchers haven’t stood a chance.
And it would be different if it were only one or two individual studs racking up extra-base hits every night, but from top to bottom, the ‘Topes can hit.
Behind the offensive machine that is the Isotopes’ roster is hitting coach, John Valentin. The batting instructor is working in his second season with the ‘Topes, and fifth in the Dodgers organization. He gives one-on-one instruction to all Albuquerque batters to ensure the team stays mechanically sound throughout the season.
“It’s a daily thing,” Vanlentin said. “I’m always looking for the good things they’re supposed to be doing, and the bad habits that they have, to make sure they don’t take their bad habits from practice to the game.”
Looks like someone has been doing their job — extremely well.
But even to Valentin, this kind of success was expected from a group of veteran ballplayers. He admitted the dominant performances haven’t really come as a shock, and at this stage in their careers, the players should expect success as they dig in at the plate.
“The potential these guys have is pretty high,” Valentin said. “Their expectations are high, my expectations are high and the organization’s expectations are high. So, I don’t really get surprised when they do well.”
Also factoring into expected success is the intensive preparations before each hitter-pitcher matchup for upcoming games. Valentin works behind the scenes to point out weaknesses in opponents’ pitching and fix any “holes” in ‘Topes batter’s swings.
He describes this as an ongoing “chess match” between opposing teams.
“Other teams are going to make adjustments to our hitters,” Valentin said. “So hopefully we can watch what they (opponents’ pitchers) are trying to do and see how they are trying to get our guys out; basically it’s a chess match, where we’re always trying to keep a step ahead of the pitchers.”
In other words, it’s all about making the right adjustments.
“The player should be aware of how effective he’s being and understand how they are pitching him,” Valentin said. “If he (the batter) works on his weaknesses and he’s able to hit the pitching they’re throwing, then he wins. That’s the chess match.”
According to Valentin, fans can expect to see more and more success at the plate as the season wears on. He said that many teams try to do too much at the plate when the season first starts, resulting in poor quality at-bats and easy outs. It becomes a case of players trying to achieve their full-season stats in a single at-bat.
“Sometimes you tend to press early and that’s what happens when you have high expectations,” Valentin said. “But as you play more you start to relax at the plate, and basically that’s what you’re seeing here lately. Hopefully, it gets to the point where we feel really good and can ride this success out for an extended period of time.”
And to Valentin, an extended period of time, ideally, is the rest of the season.
“My goal is to win every game,” Valentin said. “But is that realistic? Probably not. There are going to be pitchers making their pitches, and not to give them too much credit, but you have to tip your cap to them every once and a while. ”
That’s where the hitting coach comes in.
“My idea, and my goal and my job, is to make sure that I understand what the pitching is trying to do to my hitter. I have to give that information to him and he has to go out and execute. That’s why I’m here.”
Check and Mate.