Games » Texas RangersApr24
How walks lost the game
When you lose a game and want to understand what you can do to improve your chances next time, look for things you control. Don’t worry about what the other team does. You don’t control them. But you should be able to control yourself. (Not a bad philosophy for life, either.)
This is why managers zero in on walks and errors. Theoretically, you should be able to control throwing strikes and making routine plays.
In this game, Royals pitchers walked six batters and four of them scored. Throw strikes to those six batters, and the odds say you will get at least four of them out and win the game.
On Saturday, a walk and an error scored. Throw strikes and make the play, and the game’s tied after nine innings. On Friday, a walk and an error scored ,and frankly, it didn’t make much difference. The Royals were going to get beat that night no matter what. (And we’ll talk about why in a minute. It has to do with the stadium.)
The goal in baseball is to make the other team beat you. In Sunday’s game, the Royals beat themselves.
Things didn’t get much better on offense. An interesting rule of thumb that I got from Red Sox third base coach Tim Bogar (which he got from Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle) is this: If you make more than half your outs by strikeouts and fly balls, you probably will lose the game. The theory is that strikeouts put no pressure on the defense, and fly balls put very little pressure on the defense. (Remember the ‘make-the-other-team-beat-you’ philosophy?)
In Friday’s game, the Royals struck out 12 times and had four fly-ball outs, On Saturday, they struck out seven times and had nine fly-ball outs. On Sunday, they struck out 13 times and had five fly-ball outs.
So what happened? I don’t get to talk to the players when they’re on the road, but I suspect they got away from their game plan in the Ballpark and Memorial Wind Tunnel in Arlington. (If I remember, I’ll ask Kevin Seitzer when he gets back to Kansas City.)
Teams should be built around ballparks. I guess the wind is a big issue in Texas, so the Rangers have plenty of guys who can get the ball up into the jetstream and watch it sail.It may be that too many of the Royals wanted to do the same thing. Over-swinging and lifting the ball would explain the fly ball/strikeout numbers.
If you watched Kevin Seitzer’s video on hitting in Kauffman Stadium (and if you haven’t, you should; it’s here on the website), you know that the Royals need to hit the ball hard and low because Kauffman is just too big to be a home-run-hitter’s park.
If all this is true, we should see a very different series when the Rangers get to KC. Here’s hoping. (Boy, I don’t know if I’m right about any of that, but it sure sounded good, didn’t it?)
Science class: radar & chemistry
There were a couple of interesting articles in The Kansas City Star on Sunday morning: one by Rustin Dodd on radar guns and another by Sam Mellinger on team chemistry and what it’s worth.
I don’t know a lot about radar guns. I’ve been told that some models are ‘hotter’ than others and pitches up in the zone tend to read higher than lower pitches. I also know that, under the right circumstances, it’s possible to prove that a house or palm tree is breaking the speed limit. (Which is why some of those tickets gets thrown out. … That’s right, I’m saying it. … Get a good lawyer.)
When Clint Hurdle became manager of the Colorado Rockies, he had them turn off the scoreboard’s pitch-speed reading because he was tired of pitchers throwing a pitch and then turning around to see how hard they threw it. (Watch for this in games and you will be able to spot an immature pitcher.) Clint had the crazy idea that they might want to concentrate on the hitter. I don’t know what his policy is in Pittsburgh.
As for team chemistry, I did not believe in it until 1999. I was managing a men’s amateur team in what was often derided as a ‘beer league,’ which is so unfair. (On a good night, it was a ‘beer-and-a-shot league.’) Anyway, most of my players had played college baseball, and a few were ex-pros, so these guys weren’t clowns.
Our team had always been good, would make it to the playoffs and then find a way to melt down, culminating in a thrown helmet that hit an umpire who happened to be partnered with an umpire who was an off-duty sheriff, who then wanted to arrest one of my players for assault. (Hey, Ned Yost, try managing under those conditions.) We were an embarrassing spectacle and went into the off-season with a lot of questions about the future.
I did some reading about sports psychology and came to the conclusion that we were too emotional, too up and down. We were aappy when things went well, bickered when they didn’t and it all started with me. There is a whole lot a that manager doesn’t do that he gets credit for and a few things he does do that no one notices. Setting a tone is one of them.
I think everyone was humiliated with our finish and came back the next season with an attitude of ‘I don’t care what happens to me. I just want the team to win.’ Hurdle told me once a ‘team-first’ attitude sets in, a whole lot more is possible.
Anyway, we come back in 1999 with a new attitude, same players and won a championship. Afterward, I called both Clint Hurdle and Russ Morman and told them what we had done and said the team was completely united, a brotherhood of man, let the sunshine in and it couldn’t possible last.
Hurdle and Morman agreed. I wanted to know how and why our team chemistry was going to end. They both said the same thing: “You’re going to get a jerk on the team.” (Except they didn’t say “jerk.”) The jerk was going to be unhappy, as jerks tend to be, but jerks are never satisfied being unhappy alone, they need other people to be unhappy with them.
Whenever I pulled a pitcher or sent out a pinch-hitter, the jerk would sidle up and complain about my managing, and pretty soon we hadfactions. People would be going to the plate thinking, “Why is he asking me to bunt?” or “I could’ve finished the inning, why did he pull me?”
The factions would disagree, and we would be right back to where we were: a team that was too emotional, unable to hang tough when things weren’t going well, and we would start to lose the close come-back games we had won before. After those conversations with Hurdle and Morman, I vowed to keep the jerks out of our dugout and we went on to win a whole lot of games over the next decade.
Having said all that, I believe talent is still the main thing. No matter how good your team chemistry, you’ve got to have talent to win. Team chemistry just helps you get the most out of that talent, and that’s what’s happening with the Royals now. (They lost again today but rallied at the end to make it close.)
When I walk into the clubhouse and see the players circled in Kendall’s Corner (Jason, we should open a bar and call it that … you provide the money, and I’ll drink the beer), I leave those guys alone. They’re busy building a team back there, and I don’t interfere with that process. Getting together and going over the game is how better teams are built. And if having a cold one while you do it helps, by all means, have a cold one.
Because the Royals are in ‘beer league’, too.