3.05.2006

Niekro Speaks!

Niekro had a nice write up today in SJ Mercury. Most fans know of his problems hitting RHP in 2005 - to that he noted, "In the past, I've always hit right-handers better than lefties. I didn't pay attion to anyone who said I couldn't hit righties, because I know I can." I don't know if that's true that he hit them better, but you don't hit over .300 (as he did all through the minors, or close enough) without hitting RHP to a certain extent.

His hitting came up in a discussion diary on McCovey Chronicles, in particular his ineptitude in taking walks. For example, in 2005, Niekro had 3 walks or less in every month of 2005 except one, when he had 5. In addition, Niekro had zero games with more than one walk during the 2005 season. That's basically Feliz-bad, which is not good.

The reason he came up was because he took 3 walks in the first game, which is something he hasn't done before at the major league level for two walks, let alone three. And the poster was wondering if this was a sign that he is doing what he said he would do, which was talking more pitches. While it is an extremely small sample, and I would add that it is spring training and pitchers are just beginning to get into shape and/or trying out pitches that they are not good at throwing, I think it is a rare enough event that is noteworthy enough to point out and to keep an eye out for further progress.

Beause, bad pitches or not, rusty pitchers or not, Niekro has shown previously via inept-walkability (or Feliz-itis in Giants parlance) that there isn't a pitch he won't swing at, and yet for one shining day he somehow took 3 walks. Thus far this spring he is 3-6 with 1 HR, 6 runs, 5 RBI, and the aforementioned 3 walks with only 1 strikeout. Too early to rely on results but it sure is better than 0-8 with 1 HBP and 1 run, like Frandsen, unfortunately, is doing.

Niekro is worried about fans accepting him due to Snow's big shadow and footprints, but I think all fans are rooting for him to figure out things and became the hitter he was early in the 2005 season and for him to be healthy all season, which I think is the bigger hurdle to leap for him.

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