Games » Baltimore OriolesMay3
Why getting two runners thrown out was the right thing to do
Let’s talk about base running and, specifically, the base running in the second inning of this game.
Billy Butler led off the inning with a walk. Jeff Francoeur singled, and Billy moved to second. With nobody out, the rule is be cautious. If you stop the runner at third, you have three chances to get him home. So when Wilson Betemit doubled, Billy scored, but Frenchy was held at third. (The right call: You can’t send him unless you’re sure.)
Here’s the rule: With no outs, you have to be 100 percent sure, with one down, 67 percent, and with two down, 33 percent … and there are 10,000 exceptions.
Next, Mike Aviles hit a shot off the pitcher that rolled into left. Francoeur scored, and Wilson advanced to third, once again being held up because scoring was not a sure thing. Meanwhile, Aviles hustled and turned a single into a double. Still nobody down.
Brayan Pena hit a sacrifice fly to right. Aviles did the right thing with no outs: He went back and tagged second and made it to third. With one down, the offense gets more aggressive. A third of your outs are gone, so the Royals put on the contact play. (The runner on third breaks for home if the ball comes off the bat at a down angle.) The contact play is used with one down or none down if there are men at first and third (which keeps the offense out of a double play).
OK, Aviles broke for home, and unfortunately the ball was hit at the third baseman. (Remember, if you try to read where it’s going, it’s too late to score … the ball’s hit on the ground and you take your chances.) Aviles is out at the plate.
With two outs, the offense gets really aggressive about getting two places: home, because if you hold the runner up you need another hit and second base, because once you’re in scoring position you only need one more hit. Alcides Escobar hit into the fielder’s choice that made the second out and now stood on first. When you steal a runner with two outs, one of the questions you ask yourself is, “Do I want the hitter at the plate to lead off the next inning?”
Chris Getz was at the plate, batting leadoff, so the answer was yes. Alcides took off and was thrown out. So even though two runners were thrown out in the inning, every choice was logical and came at the right time. The Royals can’t freak out and stop running just because people get thrown out. Over the long haul (and often the short haul) what they’re doing on the bases will pay off.
I don’t get no respect
There are two groups of people in baseball that get dumped on constantly: middle relievers and third-base coaches. Middle relievers get dumped on because all they can do is put up a scoreless inning that tends to get lost between the starter and the closer. Third-base coaches get dumped on because if the runner is out by a step at home, the coach is considered an idiot. If the runner is safe, it was a great slide.
Which brings us to Eddie Rodriguez sending Jeff Francoeur to the plate the other day. The right fielder threw Jeff out, and the crowd booed. Fans have the luxury of waiting to see the results of the play and deciding how they feel about it. Coaches have to make decision before the results are known.
OK, so remember what we said at the top of the article. With two outs, you have to get very aggressive. There were two outs when Brayan singled with Jeff on second. In this situation, the key factor is the on-deck hitter, who was Alcides Escobar. Esky was hitting .232 at the time, and apparently his chances against that pitcher were worse than that.
There are times when the coach is sending a runner knowing that if the defense handles the ball correctly, the runner will be out. Sometimes the chances of bad throw or a dropped ball are better than the chances that the next guy will get a hit … and this was one of those times. Send Francoeur on the same play 10 times, and I’m betting he’s safe more than two times.
Eddie Rodriguez could have played it safe and put the pressure on Escobar, but he did his job and sent Frenchy home. Those were the best odds available, and Eddie took them. Next time it happens explain it to the guy next to you.
A reader asked about four guys getting picked off in the first month, so I asked Royals first-base coach Doug Sisson about it. Doug said that the leads have to be aggressive to distract the pitcher, and a couple of them were on “first movement.” (When a team can’t read a lefty’s move, the runners sometimes roll the dice and go on first movement).
Mike Aviles getting picked and then scrambling back to first on Sunday was a different deal: Mike was timing the right-handed pitcher’s move, and after several deliveries Mike thought he had it down. He broke, and it was the one time the pitcher varied his time in the set.
In short, Aviles got caught trying to get a jump, but it wasn’t out of carelessness. You can’t have all the good stuff aggressive base running brings if you won’t take some of the bad. “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Try to be perfect (nobody ever gets thrown out), and you won’t be good (you’ll play station-to-station baseball).
“Keyholing” is when the hitter looks for one pitch in one spot (for instance, a fastball middle in) and makes his zone as big as a key hole. When Jeff Francoeur hit his home run in the sixth, he was keyholing. On a 3-1 count, Frenchy told me he was looking dead red, got the fastball and drove it out of the park.
Two innings later, Francoeur was in another 3-1 count, told himself they certainly wouldn’t throw him another fastball in the same situation and looked for something off-speed … and got another fastball. He was shaking his head over that one. That’s when a hitter thinks his way out of a hit. Never underestimate the ability of your opponent to do something dumb.
Two managerial moves
Brayan Pena hit a double with one out in the ninth. So why not pinch-run for him? Jarrod Dyson is still not 100 percent, so that leaves Mitch Maier as the other possible runner. Ned Yost said he was saving Mitch for the 10th inning in case Billy Butler got a hit. Without Dyson, they weren’t planning on stealing third, and Ned felt Brayan was fast enough to score on a single. (And Pena is faster than you’d think.)
So how about pinch-hitting for Chris Getz after Escobar reached base on an error? (An error that a lot of people thought was a hit, but that’s another argument.) Why send Getz to the plate with one down and men on first and third? The only righty on the bench was Matt Treanor, who has a lower average, Yost thought Chris had three good at-bats (none resulted in a hit) and Chris has some of the best situational hitting numbers on the team.
You know you can certainly disagree with managerial moves (and I have), but the idea that you spotted something that never occurred to a manager is almost nonexistent. Every time I’ve had a chance to talk with a manager after a decision I didn’t understand, there was always a credible explanation. Chris Getz was sent to the plate because Ned Yost thought that was the best option.
Great play, coach
After listening to Doug Sisson on outfield positioning, it occurred to me that every time we see a great play we need to give some credit to the coach that put the player in that position. And every time we see a player make a routine play, we need to give a lot of credit to the coach that put the players in that position.