Games » Cleveland IndiansSep23
Sean O’Sullivan is supposed to be a great dancer. He must be: He danced between the raindrops for six straight innings. Five times the Indians got their leadoff batter on (three times by walk) and they still didn’t get a run until the seventh inning.
Everyone (by everyone I mean Frank White and Ned Yost) seemed to feel Sean did a better job of mixing his pitches early in the count (as opposed to getting ahead with the fastball and THEN going off-speed…a more predictable pattern). In fact, he struck out Shin-Soo Choo by throwing him three change-ups when Choo kept thinking the next pitch HAD to be a fastball.
Nice outing, but as always, baseball demands consistency. Now that he’s won as a starter, the question changes from can he do it to how often?
Joakim Soria has changed the rules of baseball. Games are now only eight innings long. Joakim hasn’t blown a save in four months, so the other team needs to be ahead after eight innings or it probably isn’t going to happen.
Yost says his main job is figuring out how to get the ball to Soria in the ninth inning with a lead. Every extra inning the starter throws means one less inning from the middle relievers. Because of Joakim’s dominance, the nail-biting innings are usually the sixth, seventh and eighth. Those are the innings you want to watch closely. If the Royals get the ball to Soria with a lead in the ninth, you can turn off the TV and go grab a cold one, because that game’s over.
(OK, technically it’s been over 41 out of 43 times, but it sounds better the other way.)
Lucas saves one…
Phil Humber was missing the target badly in the seventh inning. (If you’re watching on TV, concentrate on the catcher’s glove and how much it moves.) Lucas May temporarily saved a run with a nice block of a pitch in the dirt.
Banana routes have nothing to do with fruit…
You’ll often hear someone (including me) talk about an outfielder taking a great route to the ball. So what the heck does that mean?
OK, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Make a dot on the piece of paper and a vertical line next to it. The dot is the outfielder and the vertical line is the path of the ball in play. Let’s say the outfielder runs directly sideways (draw a straight line) and intersects the ball’s path, just as the ball’s arriving. Good play (he got there as quickly as he could) or bad play?
Weirdly enough, bad play.
If the outfielder guesses right and intersects the ball’s path just as it arrives, he’s still moving laterally as he catches it. That’s a very awkward fielding position and it’s going to take several steps just to get stopped to make a throw…and the throw will be weak, coming from a fielder with no momentum back toward the infield.
And say the player misjudges the ball’s speed and arrives one step too late. The ball’s now past him and headed for the wall. You can spot this misjudgment when a player moves laterally and then has to turn toward the fence and chase the ball. (Jose Guillen comes to mind…I don’t know why.)
Now draw another line from the outfielder to the ball’s path and have the outfielder intersect the ball behind the first line. Remember to curve the line (he won’t be able to make the turn at a right angle, he’ll curve, which is the banana in the “banana” route) until the player is moving forward along the ball’s path in the opposite direction of the ball.
The right play is to go to a spot BEHIND the spot where the outfielder wants to make the catch, turn and make the catch moving forward. This route is a lot more work and requires a lot more running, but now the outfielder’s squared up to the ball, able to react to a bad hop and make a strong throw back to the infield. (They also do a smaller version of these routes in the infield).
When it’s done really well (and Mitch Maier did it in Wednesday’s game) the outfielder can turn a double into a single by cutting the ball off and being in a position to make a good throw if the runner tries to advance.
Y’know, I hope you diehards still following the Royals and this site aren’t bored by this kind of technical detail. I realize there’s something seriously wrong with me…OK, there’s several things seriously wrong with me…but when I was shown this stuff, I found it fascinating. The game became decipherable. I began to spot good and bad plays I’d never noticed before…and I began to realize winning wasn’t just home runs and strikeouts. It was small thing after small thing done right.
I’ll leave you with this quote: “Champions make a habit of doing what others find boring.”
Got no clue who said it, but it sounds right.