Saturday afternoon, someone on Twitter suggested that I — and by extension, Gabe Kapler — might not be aware that there’s a mental aspect of playing baseball.
Uh, okay. I know a tiny bit about it, and Gabe knows a LOT about it. Nobody’s denying the existence of a mental angle. It’s a question of degree, and impact. Gabe and I don’t believe the Nationals are at a disadvantage against the Braves because of something that happened three years ago. Or for that matter, three weeks ago.
Individual players in extreme situations, though? Sure. I mean, I can’t speak for Gabe. But I’m going to guess that Trevor May’s nerves got the better of him Saturday night, when he walked seven Athletics in two innings, in his major-league debut. Minnesota’s May thus became only the seventh pitcher since World War II to issue at least six walks in three or fewer innings in his debut. The prior list, in chronological order: Dizzy Sutherland, Terry Ley, Ken Kravec, Steve Adkins, Ben Diggins, and Neal Cotts.
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I’ll note that none of those men wound up in the Hall of Fame, although Kravec did enjoy a decent three-season run.
For what it’s worth, May has never exactly been a control freak, and in the minors he’s walked nearly four-and-a-half batters per nine. His walk rate was somewhat better this season in Triple-A. But he probably has some work to do there, still.
Addendum: Someone informed me that May grew up in Kelso, Washington, just up the highway and across a big bridge from where I’m typing this right now. Jason Schmidt’s from Kelso, too. So now I’m hoping May is more like Schmidt than ol’ Diz Sutherland.