What if you had a hitter who was all-but guaranteed to walk every time at bat. That’d be the most useful player ever, right? An OBP of 1.000. An OPS better than all but a couple major leaguers. A guaranteed leadoff baserunner. A guaranteed bases-loaded walk.
(Flood’s the one at bottom, FYI.)
That’s the thinking behind the independent York Revolution trying out 3-foot-2-inch Dave Flood in spring training. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that this is a publicity stunt, one which Atlantic League teams are known for. But there’s hard research behind this experiment, and at least some people think it could change the game of baseball.
Of course this has been tried before, by, naturally, Bill Veeck. Eddie Gaedel, all of 3′7,” and wearing the number 1⁄8, came up to bat in 1951 — and promptly walked on four pitches.
This led to a thought experiment by Todd Gallagher for his pop-sports book “Andy Roddick Beat Me with a Frying Pan”. What if you had a pinch hitter who would walk every time you put him in? With a six-inch strike zone for Flood, that’s no easy task to hit with a 3-inch diameter baseball.
Said [Francisco] Rodriguez: “First of all, I’m not going to be able to throw strikes. No way. My target for the hitter is very different so my approach would be completely messed up. He’s going to get a walk immediately. I’d rather face Barry Bonds in the bottom of the ninth.”
Gallagher called up the Revolution to see if they’d be interested in helping with the research. So they invited Flood to spring training, with the intent of putting him in as a pinch hitter, with express instructions never to take the bat off his shoulder.
“If I hit it, I have to run,” Flood said more than once for local media covering the event, “and I’m not too big on that.”
Well, spring training has ended, and with it the experiment. Flood went 0-3 with three strikeouts and a walk. His complaints about the umpiring notwithstanding, I think we have our answer.