Games » Cleveland IndiansSep25
Gregor Blanco ended this game on a called third strike. If you check out MLB.com’s Gameday (you didn’t think journalists can spot 87-MPH sliders just by looking, did you?) you’ll see the pitch wasn’t that bad.
Now maybe the Gameday strike zone is off, but I’ve watched a whole lot of called third strikes this season and it’s rare that the hitter got robbed or at least robbed badly. Most of the pitches were borderline, but too close to take.
Unless the hitter really gets screwed by the umpire (and it doesn’t appear that happened to Blanco) taking a called third strike reveals a bad two-strike approach. The hitter should believe he’s swinging for sure and stop only when the ball is clearly out of the zone. Getting picky with the two strikes is a bad policy and worse hitting.
Greinke gets rocked
Zack Greinke didn’t appear to have a great explanation for his results in this game and neither do I. Zack said he felt like he was executing pitches, but must have been doing something wrong. Maybe, maybe not: once again, looking at the Gameday strike zone, several of the pitches that got hammered appeared to be in good locations.
If the location is OK .the next question is stuff: how was the velocity and movement?
There’s one more possible explanation: the Indians had a good night. As fans we tend to think a good performance by our team is because our team is good and a bad performance by our team is because our team is bad. Doesn’t the other team’s performance figure into the equation?
I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating and repeating and repeating.
The mental mistake category is the most difficult to score and here’s why: Gregor Blanco missed the cutoff man in the third inning, allowing a runner to advance to second base, taking the double play out of order. Now did Gregor miss the cutoff man because he was trying to throw the ball all the way home (mental mistake: two hard, low throws can get there faster than one rainbow, plus you freeze the runner) or was Gregor trying to hit the cutoff man and missed?
That would be a physical mistake and wouldn’t cost Blanco points under Ron Polk’s system. If I’m at a home game, I can try talking to the player afterwards. Sometimes they’re available, many times they’re not. Road games leave me making semi-educated guesses. (As always, it’s good to remember any system that’s subjective is only a rough estimate of what actually happened, just like balls and strikes and range factors.)
So while I’m trying to discern Gregor’s motivations, he helps me out by doing it again in the fourth inning. A physical error seems possible once, but missing the cutoff man consistently seems more like a bad approach than a ball that slipped.
I don’t want this to be “Hate on Gregor Blanco Day”. Even the smartest players can make mental mistakes (Greinke had one in this game when he failed to go to his backup position behind the catcher, stayed in the middle of the infield and cut the ball off). I think Gregor’s got some fabulous baseball tools, but not knowing how many outs there are or the count or whether or not the team’s running the contact play is disconcerting. (Which is the polite way of saying, “What the #$@%, dude?”)
Brayan Pena made a nice block on a pitch in the dirt with a runner on third. Brayan says he knows this part of his game needs to improve and in this case it looks like the work paid off.
On the other hand: after last night’s error, Wilson Betemit is now a -5 defensively after 81 games under Ron Polk’s system, and that’s hard to do. (Defensive points are awarded for outstanding plays, assists, etc. and deducted for errors and mental mistakes.)
The people who handle the ball the most (catchers, shortstops, second baseman and to some degree first basemen) have the most opportunities to put up points. They also have the most opportunities to lose points. I think this was Ron Polk’s attempt to bring defense into the evaluation of players.
Does a light-hitting, but slick-fielding shortstop contribute more to the team than a great-hitting, but poor-fielding first baseman? I don’t think the system gives you a conclusive answer, but it starts you along the right path. Mike Swanson, Royals VP for communication (and the only guy who seems to know where the ice cream Drumsticks are hidden in the press box cafeteria) thinks the system restores some sanity to the evaluation of players. Chris Getz likes it because it not only measures errors, but rewards above average play.
Where was I?
Oh, yeah, Wilson Betemit. A -5 is a very difficult number to put up. Billy Butler (no great shakes on defense) has a +17 in 150 games and if you extrapolated Kila Ka’aihue’s current numbers over 150 games, he’d be a +60.
OK, forget all the numbers and systems because I’m starting to sound geeky, esoteric and annoying: the bottom line is the Royals have too many guys that are good on only one side of the ball. If you want Butler AND Betemit in the lineup, one of them has to play defense and that doesn’t help an already struggling pitching staff.