Games » Minnesota TwinsMay1
Why Mr. Spock would be a good ballplayer
Baseball will eat you alive if you get emotional. I’ll give you two examples from this game: Jarrod Dyson led off the game with a single, and whether it was the roar of the crowd, trying to show off his speed or live up to his growing reputation, he tried to stretch it into double. He stretched it into a single-and two-thirds, and the ball was waiting for him when he arrived. He then tried to avoid the tag, rolled an ankle and wound up looking like a stock car going end over end across a NASCAR infield. Out of the game with a sprained ankle.
(Not the first time Jarrod has had footwork problems: He’s faster than bad news, but has hit a base awkwardly on occasion, sometimes slipping when he steps directly on top of the base, instead of the inside corner.)
If Jarrod stayed at first, he would have been able to steal both second and third. (Apparently Carl Pavano is horrible at holding runners.) If you know you can steal the bag on the next pitch, you don’t advance unless you’re sure … or emotional.
The other example is the Twins starter, Carl Pavano. He came out the game in the sixth inning after giving up seven runs and decided to beat a trash can to death with a bat.
Nothing hurts the dugout atmosphere like a meltdown. Fans may think it shows passion (one of the reasons were fans and not ballplayers), but it sends a message to the rest of the team that things really are bad and what happened to Carl is more important than what happened to the Twins.
If the ship is on fire and sinking, nobody wants to see the captain freaking out. It makes everyone think they really are doomed. You want to think that the captain has been here before and has some plan for saving everybody.
Ever watch Joe Torre? A player’s head could explode, and Joe would take another sip of coffee with a “yeah-sometimes-that-happens” expression.
If the Royals had come back from their 0-6 road trip thinking it was the beginning of the end, would they take three in a row from the Minnesota Twins? Nobody panicked, everybody seemed to say ‘sometimes you lose six in a row’ and go on with business.
There’s a reason this thing is called a grind.
P.S. It’s the American League. Carl Pavano doesn’t own any bats, so he probably has an upset teammate after trashing someone else’s gamer.
*Matt Treanor was on a contact play when he headed for home in the third inning. The infield was back so if it gets past the pitcher, Matt scores easily … but it didn’t get past the pitcher.
*They say doubles are made out of the box and Mitch Maier proved it in the fifth inning. On what appeared to be a single when it left the infield, Mitch was digging hard and never stopped. I asked him if it was better to come in the game unexpectedly (after Dyson’s injury) or spend all night thinking about the fact that he had a start the next day. Mitch said the same thing happened when he came off the bench to replace Rick Ankiel last season: he had a great game. So maybe Ned should never tell Mitch he’s playing until after the national anthem.
*Alcides Escobar made another of his jaw-dropping defensive plays to lead off the sixth. This time he got Jason Repko. The next batter, Justin Morneau, hit a bomb into the right field bullpen. The only way Esky’s defensive play isn’t the exactly the same as an RBI is that it doesn’t show in a box score. Put ‘em on the board or keep them off: it’s all the same.
*First Mike Aviles got picked off and then he did a great job avoiding the tag. I thought about docking him points for the pickoff and giving him points for the base running, but decided it was just an entertaining athletic spectacle in which nothing actually happened … kinda like soccer. (Soccer fans, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, I deserve your scorn.)
*I asked Ned Yost if he felt the Royals had an advantage in Kauffman Stadium. Upon reflection, I realize it was a bad question. Ned said the team felt “comfortable” in Kansas City, which made me realize I had just invited him to say something other teams could take the wrong way. Ned, if you’re reading this (and I don’t think you are) … OK, let me start over … Ned’s friends and/or family… if you’re reading this I apologize and will try to do better next time.
Lots of notes, but today’s an off-day so what the heck
Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer gave me the quality plate appearance/situational hitting stats the Royals keep. A quality plate appearance is any walk, hit, 8+ pitch at-bat or hard hit out. Anything over 40% is excellent and the Royals are at .420.
Situational hitting is moving the runner over from second to third with no outs, driving the runner in from third with less than two outs, sacrifice bunts and hit and runs. Succeeding 60 percent of the time is considered average, anything over 70%, excellent and the Royals are at .684.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you that Billy Butler (.491) and Alex Gordon (.479) are two of the leaders in quality plate appearances, but how about Matt Treanor at .435? It’s the difference between hitting well and getting hits. (Mitch Maier is over 70 percent in a limited sample, but didn’t do anything to hurt himself today.)
As for situational hitting, guess which three guys have been perfect? As of Sunday morning, when I got these stats: Mitch Maier (1.000), Chris Getz (1.000) and Brayan Pena (1.000). Seitzer keeps these stats to help in making out the lineups and to prove a point: fans remember the failures more than the successes.
Fear the beard
I asked Sean O’Sullivan what Matt Treanor said to him during a visit to the mound in Saturday night’s game. As I recall, the count was 0-2 and then Sean struck the guy out, so I figured Matt must have passed on some vital information.
Wrong again. Matt told Sean the umpire wanted him to wipe his hand off if Sean touched his beard. Never thought of that one, but I guess a beard would be a pretty good place to hide pine tar, Vaseline, a nail file, a work bench … whatever you could get away with. (Hmmm…ever notice how many pitchers have beards?)
Sean also said the leadoff walks weren’t due to being over-amped at the beginning of an inning. He said that happens at the beginning of games, but after that he feels under control. Knowing that he’s over-striding when he leaves the ball up helps him adjust quicker and make a pitch when he has to.
How to steal a base without running
Ever since Doug Sisson talked about the quality of pitches thrown after numerous pickoff attempts, I’ve been paying attention. Saturday’s game had a perfect example in the fourth inning: Alcides Escobar was on first and Matt Treanor was at the plate. No way Twins pitcher Brian Duensing wanted to walk a run into scoring position with two outs, but that’s just what he did. Duensing was so worried about Esky taking off (making three pickoff attempts) he walked Treanor on four pitches. Like Sis says, sometimes the threat of a steal is as good as a steal. Just one more way the Royals aggressive approach on the bases is paying off.
Playing straight up
We made a video with Doug Sisson on the signs he uses to position the outfield. Every time a new hitter comes to the plate (and sometimes during an at-bat), Doug can be seen on the top of the dugout steps, positioning outfielders. (Watch the video and you’ll be able to amaze your friends by telling them what Sis is telling the outfielders…it also ensures that any first date at the ballpark is also a last date at the ballpark.)
After we turned off the camera and microphone, Doug said some of the best stuff: Hitters who are ahead in the count have more chance to pull the ball, hitters who are behind in the count tend to go the other way. (When they’re ahead, they’re more aggressive. When they’re behind, they have to wait and see if they’re swinging at strike three out of the zone.)
Doug said playing “straight up” consists of the leftfielder being in line with first and second, the right fielder being in line with third and second and the centerfielder being in line with home and second. (Heck, I always just stood in the bare spot.) They start from “straight up” and position from there. Sis also pointed out that he can’t always get the angle to see when they’re straight up so he has to find something in the background (especially on road trips) to use as a sighting device. That also means Doug has to stand in the same spot every time so he doesn’t throw the sightings off.
You know, you grow up watching this game thinking you know how it’s played, and then find out you didn’t have a clue. It’s really interesting to talk with these guys, find out these amazing details and bring them to the website.
Royals coach Doug Sisson explains his outfield signs
Kansas City Royals coach Doug Sisson explains some of the signs he gives to the outfielders in getting them into position during a game. May 1, 2011 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)