Games » Oakland AthleticsAug3
For the ninth time in a one-run win, Jason Kendall blocked a pitch in the dirt with a runner on third. That’s a big deal. At least it’s a big deal to me and a big deal to this scoring system and a big deal to anyone who’s ever played or managed at a high level.
It’s not as big a deal to most of the metrics guys or fantasy baseball players because they look almost exclusively at numbers. Those numbers reflect offense much better than defense, and blocking pitches usually doesn’t register. So Jason gets no credit for one of his best and most important skills.
Looking at numbers is important and can tell you a lot, but I thought this game was filled with moments that matter yet don’t show up in a box score. For instance:
Three times, Kyle Davies got two outs in an inning and then gave up a walk. A two-out walk can be a sign of poor focus. The pitcher gets two outs, mentally relaxes, and all hell breaks loose.
Rajai Davis was one of those two-out walks. Rajai is faster than bad news, so now Kyle’s focus was divided. Poor approach. If you get the batter, it doesn’t make any difference what the runner does. Kyle tried to pick Rajai off, Billy Butler continued his policy of not being much help to the people who throw baseballs at him, and the throw got away. Davis ended up on third and went on to become one of the two walks that scored.
Kendall picked up more defensive points by backing up first on a wild throw from second. This is the kind of stuff that goes unnoticed until someone throws a ball away and sometimes not even then. Coaches and this system appreciate players who hustle into position in case they’re needed.
Jose Guillen went zero for four, but it’s how he did it that matters: two weak grounders and two weaker pop-ups. Guillen is now something like zero for his last 12 and two for his last 32, but not all outs are equal. A guy who’s smoking the ball but not getting hits shouldn’t bother you. A guy who can’t get the ball out of the infield is a worry.
Gordon hit another home run to the opposite field. Another big deal. It means he’s letting the ball get deeper in the zone, which leads to better pitch selection. Hitting the ball out shows Alex going the other way doesn’t mean he has to give up power.
Mitch Maier made a catch on a low line drive that stayed in the sun. Despite playing nearly blind, Mitch hung in there and made the catch.
Mitch continued to have good at-bats, hitting the ball hard twice, walking once and laying down a sacrifice bunt in the ninth. He picked up points for baserunning, freezing twice on line drives (the correct play because it prevents being doubled off, but it’s really hard to do because your body says “let’s get going,” and one step in the wrong direction and you’re screwed). Mitch picked up more points for getting in a rundown between third and home and allowing the trailing runners to advance and then lost points for a mental mistake.
After the rundown, Mitch and Yuniesky Betancourt were both standing on third. So far, so good. The next thing that’s supposed to happen is the fielder tags both runners. The preceding runner is entitled to the base, so Yuniesky would be out…but Mitch left the base prematurely and was tagged while off the base. This messed up everybody: Mitch was out, which meant Yuni had the right to the base, but the umpire anticipated the play being done correctly and mistakenly called Betancourt out.
Meanwhile, Mitch had already started for the dugout before realizing he might not be out. The A’s catcher, Kurt Suzuki, was calling for the ball, so Mitch turned and headed for home. This treated the fans to the unusual sight of a player sliding into home pretty much directly from the pitcher’s mound. Mitch slid in safe, but was then called out for leaving the basepath.
After this mess, the Supreme Court met, and in a 5-4 decision (Maier v. Good Baseball) ruled that Mitch was out and Betancourt was safe (the right call). At this point, the A’s manager, Bob Geren, appealed, arguing if Betancourt was called out on third and Maier was called out for leaving the basepath, how come I don’t have two outs?
Geren was ejected for asking a logical question too strenuously, and the game went on.
And most of this won’t show up in a box score. You really need to watch these games if you want to know what’s going on.