7/19: Just One Thing

In an effort to write more than I have been, I decided to try at least putting together “Just One Thing” about each game I cover. It might be about a particular play, an at-bat, or a guy’s walk-up song. Whatever piques my interest that game. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Let me set the stage: In the bottom of the third inning with Adrian Sanchez on first base and one out, Dante Bichette Jr. came to the plate.

A swinging strike and a called strike from Portland starter Bryan Mata found Bichette in an 0-2 hole. But that’s when the at-bat got interesting. Bichette fouled off five straight pitches including some hacks that would look bad at a coach-pitch game.

In the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Bichette did the same and just reached out to make contact. But this time he softly rolled it over into no man’s land between the mound and third base. Just well placed enough for an infield single that kept the rally going.

While the rest of baseball cares less and less about strikeouts and making contact, Bichette seems to have gone the other way.

This season with the Senators, Bichette has struck out a career-low 14.8% of his plate appearances. Factor in his time with the independent league High Point Rockers to begin the year and his K rate drops to 11.6%.

It’s not like he was colossal strikeout guy before. Most of his career he’s hovered around 17-19%. But the change Bichette has made in his two-strike approach has been noticeable.

“I know the game has shifted to homers and strikeouts,” Bichette said. “And I tried that for a few years with the Yankees, and it didn’t work out too well for me. One thing I know I can do is put the bat on the ball at a really high rate. So I just decided to see how that would work out. Strikeouts have gone down, and hits have gone up.”

Bichette’s philosophy at the plate has crystallized even further as the season has progressed. The former first-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2011 has whiffed only five times in July so far, and that includes three times in Michael Baumann’s no-hitter this past Tuesday for Bowie.

“I feel like if you put the ball in play more than not, you’re successful more than not,” he said.

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