Aubrey Huff Homers Thrice to Power Giants Over Cardinals for Series Win

I’m a big believer in turning points in professional sports, the notion that a hitter, a pitcher or an entire team can wake up one morning and everything can fit perfectly together again.

There’s nothing about June 1 that’s substantially different from May 31, no mystical force or change in the weather that suddenly lets balls fall for hits or makes the sweet spot that much bigger on the bat. But try telling that to Aubrey Huff, who homered three times as part of a 4-hit, 6-RBI effort, beating that Cardinals at their own game and securing a winning road trip for the defending World Champs.

The notion of a turning point makes no sense in the real world of physics and rationality, but makes perfect sense in the mind of a ballplayer. In 2010 Tim Lincecum went 0-5 with a 7.82 ERA in the month of August. On September 1, he turned the page of the calendar and walked out to the mound, pitching 8 innings and giving up just 1 ER to win 2-1 against Ubaldo Jimenez and the surging Colorado Rockies.

As Yogi Berra said, “Ninety percent of this game is half-mental.” We underestimate just how important swagger and confidence are to a pro ballplayer, and how easily a hot streak can begin or end. Tim Lincecum was able to say “August was my bad month, and now I’m over it,” and then go out and pitch, it worked. Aubrey Huff did the same, and I can’t wait to see what kind of month this will be for him.

I know that there’s no way that I can prove this, but I predicted Huff’s resurgence before tonight’s homer-rama. His homer in Wednesday’s game encapsulated so many different improvements for him, not the least of which was working the count to 2-0. This gave him the ability to get the count he wanted, and as he said afterward in the San Jose Mercury News, “just breathe and swing 50 percent.”

Huff’s plate discipline numbers show that he’s been reaching, and hasn’t been nearly as patient as last year. According to, he’s swung at 35.3% of pitches outside of the strike zone this year, compared to just 28.9% last year. Overall he’s swung at 48.8% of pitches, compared to 41.9% last year. His walk rate, which was 12.4% last year, is just 7.5% this year. It’s not fair to say that all of his problems hitting have been due to a lack of patience, but it’s a safe bet that improving those numbers will have a positive effect on his other numbers at the plate, and what we saw on Wednesday and Thursday give me hope that he’s beginning to feel more comfortable and confident at the plate again.

That was a nice way to end the road trip, and here’s to a nice, long home stand.

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