In case you were unaware, Tim Tebow is a baseball player now. Tim Tebow, winner of a Heisman trophy, conquerer of playoff games and starter of weird online trends plays a sport that isn't football.
I use the word “plays” loosely, in the sense that Tebow puts on a jersey, a ball cap and some cleats and hits the baseball diamond every day for a full-time salary. His actual play on the field is ... regrettable. As a 29-year-old “prospect,” Tebow is hitting .167 during his spring training with the Mets — for some reason he hasn’t been assigned to minor league camp yet — with a strikeout rate of 33%.
That’s bad, folks.
But I’m not here to pontificate on the debate of, “Should Tim Tebow be playing baseball?” There are other spaces for that debate — the comments section for instance! — and there are reasonable(ish) points to be made on either side. I certainly fall on one, but again, this is neither the time nor the place.
What this is the time and place for, however, is highlighting an at-bat Tebow had yesterday. It is of particular instance for Mizzou fans because Tebow took up his lumber against True Son Max Scherzer. Max Scherzer, winner of Cy Young trophies, conquerer of lineups and starter for the Washington Nationals, faced a baseball player who is really a football player.
The result was just about as marvelous as anyone could have hoped. So we’re going to break it down pitch by pitch. Before we do so, go ahead and watch the video of said strikeout for greater context.
Tim Tebow hits against Max Scherzer.— Jay White (@JayWhiteSports) March 27, 2017
It's fun and eventful, and for Tim, it doesn't go well. pic.twitter.com/4oZabpjOYS
Pitch No. 1: Fastball
As most people with pitching experience will tell you, the important thing in facing any batter is getting ahead in the count. So your first pitch should always be geared around the goal of getting a strike.
How a pitcher does so is a matter of strategy. An aggressive hitter may be more prone to swing at the first pitch, so you can leave it a little off the strike zone. More patient hitters will generally wait until a strike is thrown, so you can put a get-me-over fastball right down the pipe.
But because this is Max Scherzer vs. Tim Tebow, we got the best of both worlds.
Here, you’ll see a picture that made its rounds on the internet yesterday. That’s Tebow swinging to catch up to a Max Scherzer fastball right. down. central.
Let’s analyze this for a second: I’d like to think Scherzer isn’t throwing full strength yet. Yes, the season starts next week, but he — and most pitchers — will still be working on getting to full speed as the season comes around. So by all accounts, this is not Scherzer’s best fastball.
And yet, it might as well have been the best fastball Scherzer ever threw or ever will throw. Tebow is so behind on this fastball, everyone. Like, hilariously behind. Matt Wieters is just about to receive the pitch, and Tebow’s barrel, as evidenced by the shadow on home plate, hasn’t even crossed the strike zone yet.
This swing — despite being incomprehensibly behind a Max Scherzer spring training fastball — might possibly be my favorite baseball swing of all time. It’s amazing in the way that Mike Gundy’s mullet is amazing. I can’t believe he’s still rocking it, but you have to give him props for commitment.
Pitch No. 2: Fastball
Depending on how pitch number one went, the pitcher’s next goal is to either (A) even the count or (B) put a hitter in the hole. Clearly, Scherzer is working under scenario B, so there are a number of ways to accomplish this new goal.
Since hitters have now seen a strike, they’ll tend to get slightly more aggressive, so this would be a good time to fool a hitter with an off-speed pitch or perhaps a fastball somewhat off the plate. Only the most patient hitters are comfortable hitting down two strikes to one of the best three pitchers in all of baseball.
Proverbs 25:15, written by the wise King Solomon, says, “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” I can’t be certain that’s what Tebow was thinking when he took this pitch, but I would say there’s a decent chance it was something similar.
Once again, Scherzer put a juicy fastball right in Tebow’s wheelhouse. But instead of taking the bait, Tebow decides to wait. It’s a bold move, one I would not have suggested to Tebow in this scenario. Giving Scherzer an 0-2 count is a foolish gamble for any player to make, much less one who has been playing at the professional level for less than a year.
But then again, Tim Tebow plays professional baseball. I don’t. I say that without the slightest bit of sarcasm or malice, because there is no doubting Tim Tebow is a better athlete than I. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was operating under a plan that called for him to go back-against-the-wall to Max Scherzer.
Pitch No. 3: Fastball (obviously)
To be honest, I’m surprised, but not shocked Scherzer went fastball again. If there’s anything Tim Tebow can hit, it would be a fastball. His athleticism should allow him to time anything. And with Scherzer’s velocity and Tebow’s raw power, any contact for Tebow would be earth-shattering.
But pitch number three is always the put-away pitch. For many hurlers, this comes in the form of a wicked breaking ball or changeup. But for many power pitchers, strike three is simply rearing back and saying, “Hit this fastball near your chin.”
As I mentioned above, Tim Tebow has probably planned for this moment. He saw two fastballs right at his gut and couldn’t catch up/didn’t pull the trigger. But this is the money pitch. This is where Tebow faces arguably the second-best pitcher in baseball, looks him square in his differently-colored eyes, and proclaims, “Show me what you got!”
It’s not exactly clear where the ball is unless you watch the video closely. So let me help you out.
The ball has already crossed the plate and is sitting squarely behind Tim Tebow’s wide shoulders. Scherzer has clearly chosen the high fastball route. Wieters is going up to receive said fastball. And Tim Tebow’s bat? It is, once again, wonderfully, beautifully and outlandishly behind. Not quite so much as the first pitch... but enough so.
Once again, this article should not be meant as a reflection on Tim Tebow’s baseball career experiment. There are much more qualified people talking about that topic.
I just wanted to highlight this brief moment in history: when Tim Tebow faced Mizzou grad Max Scherzer in a Grapefruit League baseball game and struck out in the most beautiful, heroic and uproariously entertaining way possible.
Max Scherzer, long may you reign.
Goodnight, sweet prince.