FACE OFF: Pressure!

Question: Who is under more pressure in the ninth inning with two outs in a clutch situation: the batter or the pitcher?

In our inaugural Face Off on Team to Beat, John Russo and Christian Hetrick will battle it out with this tough question. Here are their sides:

John: The Batter

Game 6 of the NLCS will be burned into the brains of Philadelphia fans every where. Ryan Howard staring at strike three as Brian Wilson helped the Giants clinch a berth in the World Series while the Phillies went home to reflect on a disappointing end to their season.

The Phillies Ryan Howard pouts after looking at strike three to end the 2010 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants last October.

Did he mis-read Wilson’s pitch? Was he too afraid to swing at junk that he didn’t swing the bat at all? Howard caved under the pressure, choking away the Phils World Series hopes.

How crappy do you think Eric Hinske feels from the Rays? He couldn’t touch Brad Lidge’s slider to end the 2008 World Series. Just like his career has gone, he’s bouncing around the league looking for a job.

Look at the reward batter’s get if they do come through. Luis Gonzalez in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and Joe Carter in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. How about Jimmy Rollins in the 2009 NLCS off the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton?

The reason the batter is under more pressure is because the reward of getting that game-winning hit is so much more. A hitter has to keep the inning alive. A hitter has to get his team the win.

Batters are under the most pressure in these situations. They don’t have eight guys behind them to make a play if the batter puts the ball in play. They don’t have three open bases to work with if they fail to get an out. They don’t get chances.

A hitter gets one chance at glory. If they fail, they’re the goat. They’re a choke artist. They are Ryan Howard.

Christian: The Pitcher

Let’s set the stage.

Elimination game, bottom of the ninth, two outs, and one runner in scoring position with the winning run coming to the plate.

Who is under more pressure, the pitcher or the batter? Both players are obviously under a lot of pressure, but who has more to lose? If the batter gets out he will get heckled by the fans, and ripped by the fans. In the end though, people will forget.

I think it is safe to say Rays’ fans aren’t cursing Eric Hinske’s name for striking out to end the 2008 World Series. In fact, most Rays’ fans probably don’t know who Eric Hinske is. Yes, Ryan Howard got ripped by Phillies’ fans and media alike for striking out to end last year’s NLCS, but is Howard’s strikeout always going to be replayed like Mitch Williams’ loft to Joe Carter? I doubt it.

A dejected Mitch Williams was ran out of Philly after giving up the three-run blast to Joe Carter that ended the 1993 World Series.

Oh you forgot about the Wild Thing? Unlike Howard, Phillies’ fans pretty much ran his ass out of town for messing up in a game six. It seems when in that situation it’s a lose-lose situation for pitchers.

If the pitcher gets the batter out, it is no big deal. After all, that is what he is supposed to do because he is the closer.

However, if he gives up the long ball, “he is a choker,” “a fraud,” “a disappointment,” and a bad memory forever.

On the other hand, if the batter grounds out, “he gave it his all,” “it wasn’t meant to be,” “he will get him next year,” and we forget after he hits a homer the next season.
That sounds better, right? What sounds even better is if he does get the walk-off hit and becomes “a hero.”

If Brad Lidge strikes out Albert Pujols in game five of the NLCS, the replay is never repeated over and over on Sports Center’s top 10, probably because there is no “Top 10 Strikeouts to End a Series” because they all look the same.

However, since Pujols’ home run ball off Lidge still hasn’t landed yet, the moment will be replayed on televisions forever.

So just remember, both the hitter and the pitcher are under a lot of pressure. Nobody wants to disappoint their team. The only difference is if the batter gets out, he has to live with it for the whole off season.

If the pitcher gives up the home run, he has to live with it for the rest of his life.

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