Colby Lewis and how to play the game


Colby Lewis has given up 135 hits this year, 44 of which have gone for extra bases. Yet it was one of those that went the shortest distance, a bunt by Colby Rasmus, which finally made Lewis draw a line in the dirt on the pitching mound.

Rasmus bunted for a hit with two out and nobody on against Texas’ shift on Saturday, and Lewis said, “I don’t think that’s the way the game should be played.”

Lewis has a 6.37 ERA, a .353 batting average against and .932 OPS against, and a WHIP of 1.84. It’s easy to suggest that’s not the way the game should be pitched.

Lewis is the latest to interpret baseball’s unwritten Code of Hammurabi, following the examples last year of Brian McCann and Adam Wainwright, who treated excessive celebrating as if it were the original sin. Perhaps if Lewis wanted to follow Wainwright’s example, he might imitate his performance and not his social criticism.

It’s possible Lewis’ outburst wasn’t all his fault. Given his numbers for the season, and given the start previous to Saturday’s — Texas manager Ron Washington left him in to yield 13 hits and 13 runs in just 2.1 innings against the Angels — it’s possible Rasmus’ bunt triggered some kind of a baseball PTSD episode.

It’s about the only explanation. Offense is down all over baseball, and part of the reason is defensive shifting is up. That’s fair game. Mark Teixeira, a lifetime .276 hitter, is at .231. David Ortiz, a .285 lifetime hitter, is at .249. McCann is down 32 points (.274-.242), Ryan Howard 48 (.267-.219). They keep trying to hit through the shift, and feign surprise when their line drives to short right field go down as 4-3 (former Pirate outfielder Andy Van Slyke once said if they made a movie on his life, it would be called “The Summer of 4-to-3,” a play on “The Summer of ’42).

Rasmus is hitting .224 against a career average of .246, so he bunted for a cheap hit. That’s fair game, too. If Lewis and the Rangers didn’t like it, there’s an easy remedy: don’t shift.

Lewis went on to criticize Rasmus for being selfish because he didn’t try to steal on either of the next two pitches. “(Rasmus) didn’t steal within the first two pitches to put himself in scoring position,” Lewis said. “That tells me he is solely looking out for himself, and looking out for batting average. And I didn’t appreciate it.”

Lewis should appreciate it, given his numbers.

But his analysis tells me Lewis didn’t read the complete version of How to Play Baseball for Dummies. Because anyone who would risk an out trying to steal a base against a pitcher with a .932 OPS against is … a dummy.

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