Games » Los Angeles AngelsApr1
A lot of people are going to write about how well Jeff Francis threw in this game. They should, he deserves it. Seven innings, one walk, 99 pitches and 12 groundball outs. That means he was throwing strikes and keeping them low (with the notable exception of the changeup that stayed up and got hit out). Robinson Tejada and Joakim Soria did their part with two more scoreless innings.
But don’t forget Brayan Pena’s block of a pitch in the dirt with a runner on third. Without that Kila Ka’aihue’s 9th inning home run just ties the game instead of being a game winner.
Now the bad stuff
Two more errors by the Royals. Pena had a throw sail into centerfield on a stolen base and Mike Aviles had one go through the wickets. It looked like Brayan got on the side of the ball on the throw. That makes the ball move, and it did. Mike was backing up (it puts the weight on the heels instead of the balls of the feet, leaving the fielder in a bad position) and had his glove above the ball when it arrived. Ideally, the glove is below the ball and comes up underneath the ball as it arrives. That way a bad hop is deflected into the chest and the fielder still has a shot. Keeping the glove above the ball until its arrival means any mistiming will let the ball through.
It wasn’t an error, but Alcides Escobar blew a shot at a double play when his head came up too soon and he bobbled the ball. Anytime a fielder misses an easy one, watch his head on the replay. Ninety percent of the time he got in a rush and didn’t concentrate on the ball until it was in his glove. Alcedis did get the runner at first, so no error.
Spent some time talking to bench coach John Gibbons and asked if Mike Aviles should’ve gotten in front of the ball he tried to backhand (it went off his glove for an error) on Opening Day. Gibby didn’t think so. At this level guys run so well you have to play faster and that means backhanding some balls. The backhand closes up the throwing side shoulder and has the feet closer to the throwing position they’ll eventually need to be in. So it’s riskier, but faster. John thought Mike’s best chance of making the play was approaching it like he did. It just didn’t work out.
Mike Aviles then talked about all the throwing angles a major league infielder utilizes. The short version: over the top is used when you have a lot of time, but the bigger the rush, the lower the angle (it takes time to get your arm up).
That led to a discussion about Luke Hochevar’s Opening Day error on a bunt. Luke was in a big hurry, he threw from his ankles and the throw went wild. Interesting point: I thought Luke didn’t have a play (I could be wrong - there’s always a first time), but the guy picking up the bunt isn’t always making the decision on whether to attempt the throw. His head’s down and he’s listening to the players around him. They tell him whether to throw and, in some cases, where.
They call out the base “Two! Two!” Or they might say, “You’ve got time!”(slow down, it’s an easy play) or “Eat it” (no play is possible). In this case Mike was calling “eat it”, but thought he might’ve called it too late to get Hoch the message.
Lots going on out there, huh?
Another Opening Day play
Melky Cabrera stole second and slid past the bag. The Angels middle infielder had applied the tag and then held up the glove to show the umpire, missing the fact that Melky was no longer on the bag. So I asked Chris Getz if the tag should stay on the runner throughout the play or be applied and then shown to the umpire.
The old style was to keep the tag on. (Frank White says, maybe “help the runner get where he’s going” or, in English, nudge him off the bag if the opportunity presents itself.) The new style is to “sell the play”: make the tag, show the umpire (and the crowd) you’ve got the ball and try to sweep the umpire along in the natural sequence of events. In other words, call the runner out.
That led to a discussion of fads in playing styles: one guys makes a play in a different way and a lot of people follow along. For instance: you never saw an outfielder making a catch while doing a figure-4 slide (the basic slide used going into bases which is called a figure-4 because of the position the legs are in) for the first 100 years of baseball, then someone does it and everyone else joins in.
Same with the pop-slide while fielding a ball to the backhand side at shortstop. One guy shows it can be done and then you see a lot of people attempt it. Chris then told me he thought a lot of guys liked attempting these plays because if they didn’t catch the ball they’d be less likely to get an error. It looks harder (and probably is) so they think the scorer will go easy on them.
Matt Treanor was listening to our conversation and said, “Most infielders wouldn’t admit that.”
Getzie was laughing and said he couldn’t make those plays so he had nothing to lose by admitting it. Have you figured out why I like talking to Chris Getz?
Speaking of errors
Last season I would fill out a paper grid using Ron Polk’s player evaluation system. The grid had 1,100 boxes on it. Then, after the game, I would transfer those numbers to an electronic grid and send that to the Star’s Web Editors. Then they would take those numbers and put them into our website’s system. I believe this process involved a voodoo priestess and killing a live chicken.
This season, in order to cut down on mistakes, I offered to put the directly into the website system myself. This immediately improved things because, when there’s a mistake, we know exactly who made it - me.
So I got off to a roaring start by handing out four rbis in game in which the Royals scored two runs. (Hey, I’m trying to be positive.) Fortunately, an alert reader caught it almost immediately and I went back and fixed it. This will not be the last time it happens. It’s easy to get numbers in the wrong column when the columns are so long. So if you think you’ve spotted an error, tell me and I’ll check it out. It takes a village to raise a child and keep accurate baseball stats.
I’m counting on you.