Games » Seattle MarinersAug7
I once wrote that Joakim Soria not only had the guts of a burglar, he had the guts of a burglar that used your microwave to make popcorn before leaving. Bruce Chen has the guts of a burglar that wakes you up to ask if you have any butter to put on his popcorn.
If I counted right, Bruce threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 24 batters. After giving up a home run, he came right back and threw strikes (always a good sign) and struck out Franklin Gutierrez.
He did all this (according to one gun) without ever throwing a pitch above 89 MPH. Maybe it’s my own lack of talent, but I love watching guys go out there without the best stuff in the world and win.
I’ve made this as clear as I can in every way possible: I am not a good ballplayer and never played at a high level. I’ve been lucky enough to be around good ballplayers. I’ve been lucky enough to manage ex-college players (a couple played in the College World Series) and a few ex-pros (a couple had World Series rings). I’ve been lucky enough to face a few professional pitchers, some retired, some in their prime.
While I can’t do much of what I see on a big-league ball field, I can at least appreciate it. I hope this website is passing along some of that appreciation: the ability to spot things within the game done well or poorly.
Pardon my long-winded explanation, but a few readers (who I think probably haven’t played) get upset when someone is given points for doing something they consider ‘routine’ like catching a ball in the sun. If you’ve tried it, you know it ain’t.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the other day I gave Mitch Maier points for freezing on a couple line drives. Think about that: points for doing nothing. (Man, I ought to be racking up the points every weekend.) The logic behind that scoring ought to be clear if you saw Alex Gordon get doubled off after taking a couple steps on a line drive that was caught. It’s hard not to run when your brain is screaming at you to get going. Alex had the normal human reaction, Mitch had a ballplayer’s reaction. Minus points for Alex, plus points for Mitch.
Once again, I got a look at the statistics the Royals keep on quality plate appearances and situational hitting. (Now’s the time to stop reading if you’re easily bored, but if you like to understand what you’re seeing, plunge ahead.) Quality plate appearances include any hit, a walk, a hard-hit out or an 8+ pitch at-bat. Situational hitting includes moving a runner over from second to third with 0 outs, driving in a run from third with less than 2 outs, sacrifice bunts and hit and runs.
Overall, the Royals have done well in these situations. Anything above .425 in quality plate appearances is considered excellent and the Royals team mark is .436 (at least it was early this week). Six players are above the .425 mark and Billy Butler and Wilson Betemit are over.470.
In situational hitting the team is looking to succeed 60% of the time and has succeeded about 65% of the time. Billy Butler, Jason Kendall, Mitch Maier and Brayan Pena are succeeding over 70% of the time.
Critics complain about run production and whine about the lack of power. They ought to grow up and start whining about the lack of team speed (it’s what I do). Face it, if you told a Royals fan a few years ago that the team would lead the league in hitting, you would’ve been asked to share what you were smoking. Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth: the Royals are hitting, now let’s hope they figure out how to maximize on it.
How to maximize on it…
(Hey, I’ve promised not to play GM, but I didn’t say anything about playing manager.)
OK, the team is getting a lot of hits, but doesn’t score a lot of runs. You can fix this through power or speed. Speed makes more sense to me: it’s cheaper, helps you on the defensive side of the ball and fits Kauffman Stadium.
If you can’t jack one out, why not play small ball? Otherwise, you’re asking the offense to get three and sometimes four hits to score a run. That’s a tall order. Using some of the outs you’re likely to make anyway to put runners in scoring position seems like the next best solution. (Of course, my job is not on the line.)
Looking at the numbers, the Royals do have some options:
Mitch Maier has stolen over 40 bases in a minor league season, but has only two attempts this year. Alex Gordon has stolen over 20 bases in a minor league season. Chris Getz is 11 for 12 stealing bases. Gregor Blanco looks made to play small ball.
Jason Kendall can steal a base and has succeeded in situational at-bats nearly 76% of the time, Mitch Maier nearly 83%. Billy Butler’s swing looks made for the hit and run (hard and low, which is why he grounds into so many double plays), but it doesn’t appear he’s been asked to do it. Willie Bloomquist and Mike Aviles also look like they have some small ball skills.
If this is an evaluation period why not evaluate your philosophy as well as your players?