Games » Cleveland IndiansAug27
Baseball is all about percentages. Pitch a great game and everybody appreciates it, but a pitcher who makes all his starts will get run out there 32.4 times. How many of those starts will be great? How many will be good? How many will be average? How many will be lousy?
Bryan Bullington pitched great against the Yankees: eight innings, no earned runs. His last two starts have been lousy (sorry, Bryan, I’m pulling for you, but there’s no other word for it): a total of nine innings, 13 earned runs. So which pitcher is he? How often will he be great and how often will he be lousy? That’s what the Royals (and Bryan) are trying to find out.
Percentages are why you shouldn’t rush to call someone great OR lousy based on a few games. Everybody’s both: the question is how often?
(Remember: lousy teams win about four out of 10 games, great teams six out of 10. The line between lousy and great is thinner than you think.)
Looking back, the Royals’ season was lost when Gil Meche and Luke Hochevar were lost. A pitching staff might make do with a couple of bottom-of-the-rotation type starters, but not four (at least that’s what the percentages tell you).
Seven different Royals pitchers got their first win in the major leagues this year. Good for them, but it means the Royals have had a lot of guys on the mound who had never won in the big leagues.
It’s common, even among ballplayers, to assume good hitters are good because they have good swings…and they probably do. But that’s only part of what makes them good. (I’m getting my money’s worth out of the word “good,” ain’t I?) They’re also good because they swing at good pitches.
That becomes even more important in situational at-bats. A hitter needs to swing at the pitches that will help him get the job done and the Royals didn’t do such a hot job of this last night.
Here are a few situations, what the pitcher will probably throw and what the hitter needs to hit.
Runner on second, no outs: The runner wants to get to third with no more than one out so he can score a sac fly or a groundball. The pitcher wants the hitter to pull the ball to short or third, freezing the runner. The hitter wants to hit the ball to the right side so the runner can advance, even on an out. So: off-speed and maybe fastballs in (depending on his ability to go the other way) to a right-hand hitter. Hard stuff down and away to a left-hand hitter. If the hitter at the plate is a lot better than the hitter on deck, the third base coach has a sign to tell the hitter at the plate to forget moving the runner over, go ahead and drive him in.
Double play situations: The pitcher wants a groundball, so he’ll throw something down in the zone. If he’s got a pitch with sinking action, so much the better. You see a lot of two-seamers in this situation. The hitter needs a pitch that’s a bit higher in the zone. The pitcher know this, so if he goes up, he’ll probably go up out of the zone, hoping to get a pop-up. A fast runner from the left side may call for a different sequence.
Runner on third less than two outs: The hitter wants a pitch up in the zone he can get to the outfield for a sacrifice fly. Once again, the pitcher may go up in the zone, but too far up, hoping for an infield pop-up. If the infield is in, the pitcher may want a ground ball to freeze the runner at third. If there’s one out, runners at first and third or bases loaded, the pitcher may go back to the double play ground ball strategy…and all of this is complicated by what the hitter tends to do, who’s on deck, who’s available to pinch hit and the relative humidity in Jakarta.
(OK, I threw that last one to make a point…this stuff is complicated). Bottom line: most of the time, both sides have a plan. At times you can decipher what that plan is and enjoy the skirmish within the battle.