John Harper at the Daily News wrote about Tony Bernazard's organizational emphasis on hitting the ball to the opposite field, starting after the 2008 season. Before his firing, Bernazard was apparently so obsessed with players "going oppo" that he scolded them when they pulled the ball, even after a base hit. Others in the organization were convinced by this nonsense philosophy, which means one of three things:
(a) No one of consequence in management thought this idea ridiculous;
(b) Bernazard is Svengali-like in his control over others; or
(c) People did realize how dumb this idea was but were afraid of being put in the Bernazard
camel clutch belly-to-back suplex if they disagreed.
Unfortunately, none of these choices would surprise if actually true. Rob Neyer opined on this story, writing what is common sense to most fans (I think):
In the 21st century, if you don't pull the ball you're not going to win. It's (mostly) as simple as that.
Hitting the ball where it's pitched seems like the smart play. Trying to hit an inside pitch to the opposite field just for the sake of it is pretty dumb. Did this philosophy change affect Mets hitters? John Walsh at The Hardball Times cooked up a quick study and found that the Mets "pull fraction" was 27th out of 30 teams in MLB in 2009, meaning only three teams pulled the ball less. In the comments to the post, Derek Carty wrote that, per his data, the Mets were 1st in MLB in "push percentage" (percentage of balls hit to the opposite field) after being 5th lowest in 2008. In other words, they went from being an extreme pull-hitting team to an extreme push-hitting team in one season, with minimal roster turnover. Walsh also showed that David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Fernando Tatis and Ryan Church decreased their pull percentage from 2008 to 2009. Luis Castillo, hopefully sticking it to Bernazard, slightly increased his pull percentage. Good for Luis.
The importance of "going to the opposite field" is a mostly empty bromide that doesn't really make any sense but allows "baseball people" to feel smarter than fans and other outsiders to the game. Going the other way in itself is not bad, especially when appropriate, but it seems many analysts immediately point out that the reason a hitter is struggling is because he isn't going oppo, regardless if that's even the case. It's a lazy, go-to cliche that's used often used in lieu of real analysis of a hitter's problems and is up there with the "Mets have to build their team around speed and defense" mantra in terms of pointlessness. Howard Johnson said in the Harper piece that the opposite field philosophy no longer permeates the organization. Also, the infamous 80-pitch drill has disappeared from camp. This is great news and hopefully any lingering Bernazard pearls of wisdom have been excommunicated, much like their creator was this past summer.