Games » Los Angeles AngelsJun12
Vin Mazzaro's best friend wins a game
As we all know, the pitcher’s best friend is a dab of Vaseline strategically placed on a pitched ball … wait a minute … that’s actually a pitcher’s sleazy brother-in-law. Let’s start over. A pitcher’s best friend is actually the double play, and Vin Mazzaro’s best friend showed up five times in this game.
Vin would pitch his way into trouble: Three leadoff walks, two regular walks and a hit batter (Mazzaro put the leadoff hitter on base in five of his seven innings). Then Vin would pitch his way out of trouble thanks to those five double plays and 14 ground-ball outs. If a pitcher can induce ground balls, the only way he gives up an extra-base hit is if the ground ball goes right down one of the lines.
As bad as their defense was Saturday night, the Royals shook it off and were excellent Sunday afternoon. I don’t think we’ll be seeing five double plays on a regular basis, but having the same two guys up the middle every night ought to help.
*A short time out to discuss double plays: The double play is one of the reasons that Mike Aviles is in Omaha and Chris Getz is still here. Mike struggled with the footwork at times and would eat the ball on occasion. Chris is more adept at the footwork and gets the throw off.
As Getz said before leaving for the West Coast, the runner is always an issue. You either have to dance around him or be willing to take the hit. On Saturday night, Chris took a hit, but threw anyway. That’s how much confidence he has in first baseman Eric Hosmer. Getz pretty much spiked the ball and three-hopped it to Eric, but Hosmer came off the bag and kept the ball on the infield.
Oh, yeah. There is one other option for the pivot man who doesn’t want to dance around the runner or take a hit: “dropping down,” and you saw it in the ninth inning. Billy Butler was on first and Mitch Maier hit a hard grounder to Angels second baseman Howard Kendrick. Kendrick flipped to Erick Aybar at shortstop, and Aybar “dropped down” on Billy. Dropping down is throwing from a low arm angle. The ball usually is aimed in the vicinity of the runner’s head, and that’s why you saw Billy sliding about 15 feet short of second base.
OK. Enough about double plays. Back to our regularly scheduled program, which is about … let’s see … double plays. Royals catcher Matt Treanor kept a double play in order by blocking a pitch in the sixth inning.. It was one of those small, unnoticed details that led to a 6-4-3 later in the inning. Matt also blocked a pitch in the seventh inning with a runner on third, saving the shutout. Eric Hosmer also saved a double play with a backhand pick of a Chris Getz throw.
This infield could be really fun to watch.
Why didn’t Ned Yost pinch-hit for Escobar?
Hey, where have all those critics gone? Getting two hits in each of three games over the weekend doesn’t mean Alcides Escobar’s offensive problems are over, but it may mean he’s making progress. (Which is what Ned Yost said he would do, if given time.)
I know something about hitting mechanics (I can name every flaw in my swing), but nothing like Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. (On the other hand, I bet I’m a much better hitting instructor than Kevin is a cartoonist.) Anyway, they were talking on the TV broadcast about corrections in Escobar’s swing, and I thought maybe you could use a glossary:
*SHORTENING THE SWING: Hitters do a lot of different stuff while they wait for the pitch, but once it’s on the way, they mostly do the same thing. When they stride, their hands go back. This is like the drawing back your hand for a punch or shooting a basket. It gathers energy and gets you ready to strike. When the front foot touches down and the hands are back all the way, this is called “launch position.” Ideally, the bat head gets to the ball without looping underneath or going outside the path of the ball and coming back to it. If the bat head has extra unnecessary movement, the hitter is said to be “long to the ball.” When Seitzer is “shortening a swing,” it’s the part of the swing between launch and contact.
*STAYING BACK: When hitters take their stride, some of them lunge forward. Once again, compared with a punch, this would take away power because the weight is gone and you have are the arms to hit with. So Esky is working on keeping his weight back until the appropriate moment. I don’t know what Kevin believes, but I was told that the hands are like the locomotive and the body is the train that follows, but I couldn’t hit Egypt if I fell off a pyramid, so take that with a grain of sand. (Free Egypt joke.)
*OVER-SWINGING: When you over-swing, everything gets tight, including you neck muscles. That makes your head move, and that makes you miss the ball (which might account for the hittable pitches that Esky fouls back). So Esky’s working on staying relaxed through the swing.
OK. This was pretty much like your fifth-grade science teacher explaining the theory of relativity. I might be in the ballpark, but I probably left out some pertinent details. (If Seitzer reads this, I’m sure he’ll tell me how I screwed it up.) At least when you hear these terms, you will have a vague idea of what they mean … and I do mean vague.
Mitch Maier advanced twice on wild pitches, so why only 1 point for heads-up base-running? Well, one pitch kicked sideways off the catcher. It was a swinging strike three by Mike Moustakas, and the throw had to be made to first base to complete the out. I thought most base-runners would be able to advance on that, and I try to give points for taking an extra base beyond what’s expected.
The other wild pitch was much trickier. The Angels’ catcher kept the ball in front of him, and it didn’t get very far away. Most of the time, runners can’t advance on that. Mitch made it because he broke as soon as he saw the catcher drop to his knees. A smart runner breaks right away knowing it is unlikely that the catcher is going to stop the ball and make a good throw from his knees.
Maier’s good base-running scored a run without a hit. He walked, moved to second and third on wild pitches and then scored on a balk.
And why wasn’t Alex docked points for getting picked off?
Technically, he wasn’t (it was scored a caught stealing), but that’s not the reason. Ron Polk meant the “picked off” category to be used for runners who fall asleep and get caught trying to get back to the base they already obtained. Alex was trying to steal third and got caught by an “inside move.” (The pitcher picks up his knee and instead of going home just keeps spinning toward second.)
This is kind of philosophical point, but Alex wasn’t asleep. He went on first movement and lost a gamble. Base-running coach Doug Sisson makes an interesting point on this subject. The Royals believe in aggressive base-running, and aggressive base-running is getting thrown out going to the next base, not coming back to the one you already have.