Games » Minnesota TwinsApr12
Butler's defense costs one
In the third inning of this game, Jeff Francis picked Minnesota Twin Alexi Casilla off first. Casilla did what he was supposed to do in this situation, breaking hard for second while running to the infield side of the bag. The idea is to make the throw from the first baseman more difficult by obscuring his target.
When a pitcher picks a runner off first and the runner decides to head for second, the first baseman has move toward the pitcher while catching the ball. Billy Butler failed to do this, so when he caught the ball from Francis, he was still pretty much in line with the runner. Butler then had to make his move to clear the throwing lane (the move that should have been made before he ever received the ball), which made him rush his footwork.
Right-handers who play first have all this weird footwork they have to do to throw, and this is some of it. Butler needed to turn clockwise to get his feet in throwing position and then start the counterclockwise throwing motion.
From the trajectory of the throw (the technical term is “to hell and gone”), it appeared Butler’s feet never got in the right position. The throw sailed to the outfield side of the bag, Alcides Escobar was lucky to keep it on the infield, Casilla was safe, scoring two batters later and instead of winning the game 3-2 in nine innings the Royals went to extra innings and lost.
For the want of a nail, the Royals wasted another quality start from Jeff Francis.
Some good defense…
Brayan Pena blocked a pitch in the sixth inning with a runner on third which saved a run. He blocked another pitch in the ninth, which kept a runner on first, which meant the runner only got to second on the base hit that followed, which meant the runner only advanced to third instead of scoring on the fly ball that followed that (hold on, I need to take a breath), which saved another run. Pena then blocked another pitch which temporarily saved a run in the 10th inning.
This is why baseball professionals don’t get too excited about good-hitting, bad-defending catchers. They will give up more runs with their bad defense than they can ever drive in with their good offense (and a couple of recently departed Royals receivers come to mind).
The full base running article…
In 2010, the Royals hit well, but didn’t score many runs. Some people thought the Royals needed more power and other people thought they needed more speed. (I like speed: it makes more sense in a big ballpark, it helps your offense be more versatile, it improves your defense and you can get an awful lot done late at night.)
So far the Royals’ plan to get more out of all those singles by aggressive base running seems to be working, but what happens when people start getting thrown out?
And they will get thrown out: that’s part of the plan.
Doug Sisson, the Royals’ first-base coach and base-running guru, said that if the Royals don’t get someone thrown out on occasion, they’re not being aggressive enough. For this plan to work, the players need permission to fail.
Let me explain: Last season, I talked to Mitch Maier about stealing bases and he said he had to have the green light, start to go, stop and then wish he had gone. In trying to be perfect (never get thrown out), Mitch wasn’t as good as he could be.
Let’s say you’ve got a coin guaranteed to come up heads seven times out of 10 (the Royals succeeded in stealing bases .696 of the time last season). The first three times you flip the coin, it comes up tails (if it’s guaranteed to be heads seven times, it’s also guaranteed to be tails three).
If you stick with the plan, you will win the next seven tosses, but if you panic and start trying to be right on EVERY toss, you’ll give being right 70 percent of the time.
(Time out for math: just because the Royals as a team stole bases successfully 69.6% of the time, that doesn’t mean every player steals at the same rate. Depending on the runner, the catcher and the pitcher, that success rate could go up or down dramatically.)
And remember, not stealing isn’t risk free. Say there’s a runner on first with two outs. You probably need a hit and a hit, a walk and a hit or a steal and a hit to score the run. Most of the time (depending on the runner), stealing the base is the highest percentage move on the table. It only seems safer to not send the runner; often you’re playing worse odds.
At the best of times, it’s a calculated gamble. When a runner arrives at first base, Sisson gives him two times, say 1.2 and 1.4. The faster time is how long the pitcher takes to deliver a fastball, the slower time is how long it takes for an off-speed pitch to get there.
The Royals already know how long it takes for the catcher to receive the ball and get it down to second base. (This is called “pop to pop.” Pop in the catcher’s mitt, pop in the middle infielder’s glove…often shortened to ‘pop times.’)
So add the catcher’s pop time and how long it takes the pitcher to deliver the ball home and you should know whether you can successfully steal based on simple arithmetic. (Although, when I asked Chris Getz how long it took him to get from first to second he had no idea, but knew he could beat a 1.3. “Chris, that means you’re a 3.2 or better.” He then asked me to quit making him do math that early in the morning…and THEN pointed out that if the delivery time gets up to 1.5 or 1.6 “Now you’re in Billy territory.”)
So when a guy takes off for 2nd it might be because, if everything goes perfectly, he plans on beating the throw by 1/10th of a second, which is about 2 feet…or at least that’s what I was told. So if the same guy slips and loses a 1/10th of a second or expected the pitcher to throw a curve, but got a fastball instead, he’s out. And that’s a complete waste of a perfectly good runner, right?
Not at all. When you get thrown out on the bases you still gain something. Whenever you’re on,s the pitcher has to think about using a slide step (quicker to the plate, but dampens velocity), the catcher’s want to call more fastballs, the middle infielders have to pinch towards the bag and open up hitting lanes. The reputation of a running team forces the opposition to speed up. The Tigers made four errors last Sunday and at least three were forced by the Royals running game.
So if a runner gets thrown out, don’t panic; it’s all part of a winning plan.