Games » Minnesota TwinsSep7
Custer had a better outing at the Little Big Horn than Brian Bannister did in this start. Afterwards, Brian was brutally honest, saying he’s lost his cutter (a pitch about halfway between a fastball and slider) and the fastballs he got by with in Triple-A aren’t enough up here.
Even though it sounds like Bannister wasn’t going to have a good outing without his best stuff, it didn’t have to be this bad. In the second inning, Denard Span led off with a hot shot that caught the lip of the infield (the grass and infield dirt aren’t always exactly even) and the ball came up and hit Billy Butler on the right hand. Billy was in an awkward fielding position (insert joke here) and got nailed so badly he had to leave the game. Tough play, but a better fielder probably makes it.
Span then stole second, but should’ve been out. Brayan Pena’s throw beat the runner, but Yuniesky Betancourt dropped the ball in his rush to tag Span. Yuni’s not the only player in history to get in a hurry and drop a ball, but his concentration level is probably the main concern about him as a player, so this wasn’t a good sign.
After Orlando Hudson hit a fly ball to left (outstanding play by Gordon) and Joe Mauer made an out on a ground ball back to Bannister, there were two outs instead of three and all hell broke loose. Six runs later, Brian was still not of the 3rd inning, but he WAS out of the game.
The next level…
Brian Bannister’s experience (doing well at Triple A, but poorly in the big leagues) isn’t uncommon. Every level is a step up and players have to step up their games to compete.
Last Sunday, hitting instructor Kevin Seitzer invited me into the indoor hitting facility just a few step behind the Royals dugout. Kevin showed me the computer setup where hitters can see their last at-bat from three different angles and the statistical breakdowns of what pitch each opposing pitcher is likely to throw in any count.
Seitzer’s got a bunch of new players to work with and he talked about the importance of them learning to hit the ball to the opposite field if they want to be consistent at the big league level. He said that in the majors the good pitchers can consistently hit the outside corner and throw their breaking stuff for strikes, even when they’re behind.
Case in point: In the 7th inning Jai Miller was up 2-0 after seeing two 94-MPH fastballs from Francisco Liriano. Against lesser pitching, a hitter could count on seeing another fastball, this time for a strike. Tee it high and let it fly, right?
Wrong. Liriano, threw an 85-MPH changeup and Jai came out of his shoes, a swing and a miss. 2-1, another fastball count, right? Wrong again, this time it was an 87-MPH slider, another swing and miss. Then Liriano missed with another slider and ran the count to 3-2. No way he wants to walk Miller with a 10-2 lead, so it’s got be a fastball this time, right?
84-MPH change, Miller strikes out swinging: Welcome to the big leagues. The ability to throw secondary pitches for strikes separates the quality pitchers from the ones that won’t be around long. Pay attention to fastball counts (2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1, 3-2) and what the pitcher throws in those counts. If he has to throw a fastball, he’s in trouble. If he’s got options, the hitter has a problem. Watch closely and you’ll see what I mean.
A Brian Bannister wild pitch moved two runners up in the disastrous 3rd inning. Brayan Pena tried to backhand the ball instead of blocking and wasn’t able to pull it off. When a ball’s in the dirt you don’t want to see the catcher try to glove it. The catcher is supposed to collapse to his knees, use the mitt to fill the hole between his legs, drop his chin to his chest (protects the throat) and roll his shoulders forward. This brings the chest protector over the ball. When it’s done right, the ball drops in front of the catcher like a chicken laid an egg. This ball looked like chicken shot an egg out of a bazooka. Pena’s defense is part of the concern about him and it looks like he’s got more work to do.
Alex Gordon made a diving try for a ball, but caught it on the short hop. This was a ball that easily could’ve gotten by him, but Gregor Blanco wasn’t busting it to back him up. Gregor didn’t get burned this time, but it’s the kind of bad habit that will come back to haunt you…and baseball always seems to make sure it’s at the worst time possible.
In the 5th inning Luke Hochevar walked the Twins number nine hitter, Matt Tolbert. This was bad in at least three different ways: Tolbert is hitting .238 (make him swing the bat), he was the leadoff hitter (leadoff walks score a high percentage of the time) and walking the number nine hitter means (unless you get a double play) you have to face the number three hitter, Joe Mauer, with a runner on. Pay attention not only to walks, but who the pitcher will have to face because of the walk. It’s a big deal.
Jai Miller misplayed a ball over his head. Jai hit the warning track, didn’t know exactly where he was (outfielders need to come out early and figure out how many steps they have before they hit the wall) and mistimed his leap.
In this game two walks scored, a catcher’s throw was dropped, a wild pitch moved an extra runner into scoring position and what should’ve been an out was turned into a triple. The Royals don’t have enough talent to play like this and win. The game’s hard enough without beating yourself.
If they did all this stuff right, they still probably wouldn’t have won this game, but it didn’t have to be a blowout.