If you ask me, Little League Baseball is our nation's true pastime. Watch a ten year old Little Leaguer if you want to see a kid truly being a kid. For a kid like myself whose position was right field and right bench and who played the obligatory one at-bat and two innings in the field, baseball was no more complicated than Big League Chew, sunflower seeds, and eye black. It is a beautiful thing to watch kids playing just for fun without a care in the world.
It is not so fun when they play the same way on a professional baseball team.
If you want to know what that looks like, meet Ben Revere. Benny loves to play baseball. Running hard, swinging hard, diving, and a constant smile are a big part of his game. In some ways he is everything that is right with the game of baseball. Unfortunately, there is little more to Revere's game than that.
The difference emerges when examining his defense. Outfield play is simple for a Little Leaguer. Get in a fielding position, always take a step back first on fly balls, and run to the ball. Centerfield is a bit more complicated in the majors. You need to be aware of the type of hitter, the type of pitcher, the count, and the score. You need to anticipate the hit based on the type of swing. Then you need to read the flight of the ball and determine the best route to catch it.
Revere seems to miss on all accounts. On Tuesday night, Revere made a B-line directly to his left on a fly ball before needing to change direction, run straight back towards the wall Willie Mays style, and making an unnecessary leap at the fence.
On Wednesday, he made a catch in which he changed direction three times.
Then there was a blooper a couple weeks ago in which Revere took a step back before sprinting in and taking the ball on a bounce. Chris Wheeler pointed out that the batter was lunging for the ball, which should have been the clue to anticipate weak contact. Not a bad play...if you are a ten-year-old.
Let's move on to his swing. Revere's swing looks like fun. He begins with that little elbow twitch, then he drops his hands down, brings them back up again, and swings as hard as he can. Not much thought involved other than see the ball, hit the ball. His approach oftentimes leaves him in a position where he is late before he even swings.
Most hitters with no power and terrific speed choose to forgo extra base hits in order to strategically place the ball between fielders or guide the ball into the outfield. Revere's approach is to simply make contact anywhere and hope to leg out a hit. He just hacks and hopes.
Revere came to the Phils with a supposed bunting pedigree, but in actuality he is a poor bunter. He was tied for 3rd in baseball with 9 bunts last season, but his 34.6% success rate ranked 18 out of the twenty players with 5 or more bunt hits in 2012. His 6 bunts this season is tied for second, but his 35.3% rate ranks 13th of the 15 players with 3 or more bunts.
Part of the problem with Ben's bunting is that he oftentimes ignores a basic rule of thumb and bunts to the pitcher's glove side. Most hitters try to bunt to the pitcher’s throwing side since their momentum takes them in the opposite direction. Revere appears to bunt just because he wants to bunt.
Revere does not take enough pitches, does not work enough walks, his leads are too short, he makes a habit of sliding past the bag, and even tried to break up a double play with a head first slide.
In short, Ben Revere is fundamentally flawed in nearly every aspect of his game. And while Revere is still young in age, most of his flaws should have been corrected a long time ago.
The possibility still exists that he can correct some or all of these flaws, but at this point I think these problems exist due to a lack of instincts and baseball acumen. This might simply be the best he has to offer. That is extremely disappointing, because Revere had the makings of the leadoff hitter and centerfielder of the future - he totally had me fooled. Once we eliminate that as a possibility and take him for what he is worth, we can enjoy him as an average centerfielder with the speed to occasionally make things happen at the plate.
I really don't mean to bash him because Ben Revere seems like a great kid. He plays hard, brings energy, and enjoys playing the game. Those are all terrific qualities I would love to see in a 10-year-old at Hilltop Little League. So my advice to you is this: pretend he wears a double-sided helmet that doesn't fit with gummy bears in his pocket and a wad of Big League Chew in his mouth, and he will be a lot more fun to watch.
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