Games » Minnesota TwinsApr30
How the Minnesota Twins tried to do too much
Let’s talk about the inning that changed the ballgame — and it’s not the one you think.
Clearly, when the Royals put up eight runs in an inning, it’s going to get some attention … and it should. But the inning that changed the game was in the seventh.
The score was tied 2-2 when Chris Getz came to the plate to lead off the inning. Getz represented the winning run, and the defense needed to make sure that if Chris got a hit, it was kept to a single. (A runner on first is two hits away from scoring, a runner on second, one hit and a runner on third with less than two outs can score on an out.)
Getz sliced a line drive to left. Instead of playing it safe and keeping the ball in front of him, Twins outfielder Rene Tosoni dove for the ball. Tosoni missed, and Getz motored around to third. Mike Aviles hit a sacrifice fly, and the Royals had all the runs they needed for the night. Had Tosoni played the ball for a single, the two fly balls and strikeout that followed would not have scored Getz.
Sure, eight insurance runs are nice, but with Crow and Soria (if he had been needed) in the Royals’ bullpen, the Twins were pretty sure to lose this game once Getz crossed the plate. (I pointed out when Jarrod Dyson made a diving play that might have been a mistake, and I figured it was only fair to point it out when someone else does the same thing.)
A longtime friend and longtime sportswriter once pointed out that all my close friends in baseball were underdogs. Generally speaking, he was right. (Being a 175-pound defensive lineman in high school will make you appreciate athletes who have to work a little harder at their craft than those more physically gifted.)
That attitude probably — OK, definitely — creeps into this website. Nobody needs me to say Alex Gordon is having a terrific year or Billy Butler can really hit. But appreciating what Matt Treanor or Chris Getz or Mitch Maier or Alcides Escobar brings to the table takes a little more work. That’s part of why I like Ron Polk’s system: It lets you recognize the small stuff that blue-collar players do to help their teams win.
It may be that I give too much credit to stuff like blocking pitches or taking extra bases, but pointing out the less obvious building blocks of a win seems like a worthwhile thing to do. (And I am available for arbitration hearings.)
One of the less obvious building blocks
Russ Morman (hey, another blue collar player) once told me that when a team wins big, look at the bottom of the order. If the bottom of the order doesn’t produce, rallies can’t be sustained. The Royals won big, so what did they get out of the bottom third of the order?
Alcides Escobar, Matt Treanor and Chris Getz combined for three singles, one triple, one RBI, two walks, one hit by pitch, four runs, a double play, a block of a pitch with a runner on third and one instance of heads-up base running (Getz was on second when what appeared to be the third out of the inning was dropped and scored from second on a ball that never left the infield.)
Not a bad night for any third of the order.
Let the big dog eat
In the eighth inning, Billy Butler hit a lead-off double. The Royals were up by only one run, so an insurance run seemed pretty big. Ned Yost sent Jarrod Dyson out to pinch-run, and Jeff Francoeur walked to the plate. Frenchy’s job is to hit the ball to the right side and make sure Jarrod is on third for the next guy, right?
Not necessarily. Teams have a sign that let the hitter know what they’re supposed to do and with some guys the team doesn’t want a weak 4-3. Frenchy’s one of those guys. The team likes his chances of driving the run in and wants him to swing at the pitch that he thinks will get the job done. That’s why Jeff went after an inside pitch early in the count.
Once Jeff got to two strikes, it was time to forget driving the run in and just move him over. Francoeur tried to hit it to the right side, got slightly under it and fouled out to the first baseman. This stuff is pretty hard, you know?
Outstanding defensive plays
These are in the eye of the beholder, but at least it gives you a rough gauge of how many above-average plays a guy makes. Players appreciate this. Sure, count the errors, but how many unexpected outs did a player get the team?
Mike Aviles and Matt Treanor both had errors and you’ll see them in the box score, but they both had outstanding plays (which you won’t see in your box score). Treanor made another block with a runner on third and Aviles made a play deep at third to rob the Twins of a hit.
So they’re even in my book.
Ned Yost said Sean’s walks were caused by getting under the ball and being up in the zone. I asked whether that was from over-striding, and Ned said “yes.” Pitchers get amped up, want to throw hard and take too big a stride. (Try it and you’ll see. Take a big stride and your arm will feel like it never catches up.)
On the positive side: Sean knows this and when he’s getting the ball up can try to make a quick adjustment. He walked the leadoff batter three times (maybe too wired starting the inning) but then seemed to adjust and get it under control.
I’ll have to ask him about that tomorrow.
Once again, Joel Goldberg and Paul Splittorff had me on the pregame show. I think they wanted to see whether I could make two consecutive appearances without using a profanity. (And I sure as #@%&% did!) Splitt started asking me questions about some of the stats I keep and I didn’t know any of the answers. (He’s like waaaaay smarter than me about baseball.)
I told them I just feed the numbers in and no one’s more surprised than me when the totals appear. It happened last year, just because I was so busy doing the games, but now I purposely don’t stare at the totals because I don’t want to have a preconception of how things ought to come out.
Once the pattern become obvious, then I think about why and usually come to some interesting conclusions.