Games » New York YankeesJul23
Ask about Brian Bannister and the first thing everyone tells you is that he’s smart. The second thing everyone tells you is that he might be “too” smart.
True story: Former reliever, Jerry Dipoto, once told me about facing a batter with two strikes on him. “I knew I could get him out with a slider … but HE knew I could get him out with a slider, so I threw him a fastball. He crushed it … I don’t know how.” Once I got done laughing, I suggested we focus on the first thing he told me: he could’ve gotten the hitter out with a slider.
That’s Brian in a nutshell. In his last outing he admitted his plan had been to get the hitters to chase pitches out of the zone. The hitters didn’t cooperate, and he walked six and got hammered. Brian’s plan was to NOT throw strikes and somehow that didn’t work out for him.
Bannister’s interest in some of the more esoteric stats is well known, but before a pitcher gets too worked up about BABIP (batting average balls in play) here are a couple of stats worth thinking about:
Unless he’s hitting .501, if you make a hitter swing the bat the most likely thing he’ll do is make an out.
100% of the batters you walk get on base.
Figure it out.
After the first inning, Brian made an adjustment and pitched 3 2\3 innings of good baseball, but two batters he put on (walk and hit by pitch) scored. Same with Victor Marte: he had two leadoff walks and both scored. Eliminating four runs from the Yankees total wouldn’t have changed the outcome of this game, but it’s a start.
Billy Butler grounded into two more double plays in this game. I know it’s frustrating, but it’s a product of a good approach at the plate. Fly balls have the lowest chance of becoming hits, line drives offer the highest and groundballs are in between.
That’s the reason hitting coaches generally encourage a line drive-ground ball approach. Billy’s hitting the ball hard and low. He doesn’t run well and infielders have the ball in their gloves quickly. It has occurred to me that Billy is a good candidate for the hit and run. (Last night it also occurred to Frank White, so it can’t be that dumb an idea.)
Some managers hate the hit and run and some love it. I like it. The idea is to wait for a count in which you believe the pitcher will throw a fastball strike and put the runner in motion. The classic count is 2-1, but it’s often done 2-0, 1-0 or even 0-0 (like the Yankees did last night). It all depends on paying attention to the pitcher’s patterns.
It’s a play I especially like with runners at first and third. Combine the hit and run with the contact play (runner on third breaks for home if the ball comes off the bat at a ‘down’ angle) and it puts tremendous pressure on the defense. Someone’s got to cover second, which opens a hole, a runner is racing home and the double play is gone as an option.
When it works, the manager looks like a genius. When it doesn’t, he looks like an idiot, but sitting around waiting has never been my favorite course of action. The Royals don’t do that much to advance runners, and without speed or power, 10 hits a ballgame aren’t getting it done.
Outstanding defensive plays
Early on this season I said Rick Ankiel was an outstanding defender. Some of the metrics guys went bats. Last night Frank White said the same thing about Ankiel. (But when you come right down to it, how much does Frank White know about playing defense?)
Someone told me I had changed their mind about Jason Kendall. He admitted Jason might be a pretty good catcher even though he was highly undesirable as a “rotisserie” player. I think that accounts for a lot of the disagreement over players.
We pay attention to what we can measure. We focus on a pitcher’s velocity because we’ve got radar guns. We focus on a ballplayer’s offense because defense is harder to measure. So a terrific “rotisserie player” might be a lousy real world player (and vice versa).
But there ARE real games being played in the real world, and how many times Jason blocks a pitch with a runner on third (four more last night) matters. There’s no stat that rewards Jason for showing up at 8 a.m. for a 1:10 p.m. game, but in the real world that sends a message to his teammates and it matters.
Paul Splittorff, Bruce Chen, Brian Bannister, Danny Jackson, Tim Bogar, Jon Gibbons and Steve Palermo (in other words “baseball guys”) have all told me they think Jason is a terrific ballplayer. The people who don’t think that tend to be in fantasy leagues…I’m sensing a pattern.
P.S. Jason had a passed ball last night. (C’mon, dude, I’m making a case here — concentrate!)
One more thing
A catcher gives the target with his glove thumb pointing to the right and his fingers up. When the pitcher starts his windup, the catcher then rotates his thumb up, and now his palm is in the same position that it would be if the catcher were going to clap hands. (Take a minute, figure this out.)
Actually, they don’t ALL do this, but they should. (Apparently they didn’t buy MLB’s catching instructional video, starring Ned Yost, like I did). IF they do it, their glove is now in the “halfway” position. Rotate the fingers back up and you’re ready to catch a high pitch, rotate them down and ready for something in the dirt. This technique prevents the catcher from having to make full turn to react to a pitch.
I bring this up because Jason Kendall rotated his fingers down in anticipation of a breaking ball and Brian Bannister crossed him up and threw a fastball. (Crossups mainly happen with a runner on second and are immediately followed by a visit to the mound, during which the catcher requests that the pitcher remove his head from his posterior.)
OK, so there’s a runner on third and Brian is now throwing a fastball up instead of a breaking ball down and Kendall’s glove is WAY out of position. Jason’s solution? He blocked the ball with his shoulder. Brian may not throw in the upper 90s. but that crap still hurts.
And that’s ONE of the reasons ballplayers think so highly of him.
(Sorry if this one went long, but the truth is I still had a LOT more notes. Maybe I need to get out more.)