Games » Oakland AthleticsJun15
If you're going to lose, lose fast
How the hell are you supposed to beat a pitcher named Outman? I guess you don’t. At least the Royals played quickly, sticking to the immortal credo of Clint Hurdle: “If you’re going to lose, lose fast.” We’ve all got stuff to do, and now maybe we can get to bed before midnight.
I kept waiting for that one blow-up inning Luke Hochevar seems to come up with in every outing. It kind of happened in the sixth inning, but giving up one run isn’t exactly falling apart. It’s just that Hochevar will throw a few innings that make you think he’s got no-hit stuff that night and go from there to struggling in a heartbeat. He did provide the Royals with a quality start. Giving up only two earned runs in seven innings ought to be enough to win a ballgame.
By the way, in that sixth inning, good defense kept Oakland’s David DeJesus from scoring two times. With David on third, Royals catcher Matt Treanor blocked a pitch in the dirt and right fielder Jeff Francoeur did another excellent job of getting behind a fly ball and making a strong throw. DeJesus didn’t tag. The A’s didn’t challenge Jeff’s arm, but credit Frenchy’s good approach to the ball for that decision. If the outfielder is drifting or moving sideways, the runner will tag. If the outfielder is behind the ball and moving forward, maybe not.
Three more hits
Clearly, Alcides Escobar is going to be the next .400 hitter. All he has to do is keep getting three hits a night for the rest of the year (actually, I’ve got no idea what three hits a night would do for his average, but it would be pretty good). While Esky isn’t going to hit .400 or even .300 (he’s not, is he?), his approach at the plate seems improved.
I hesitate to say even that because I’ve spent enough time talking to hitting coach Kevin Seitzer to realize I understand the fundamentals of hitting, but not much more. While this hot streak won’t continue (at least at this pace), you can see Alcides taking the ball the other way on a regular basis, and that’s a good sign.
Hitting the ball the other way does a whole bunch of good things for a hitter. You wait longer and are better at recognizing which pitch is hittable and which isn’t. You keep the front shoulder closed and don’t pull off the ball, and you keep your head on the ball at the point of contact more often. Frankly, if you don’t have power, I don’t see why every hitter doesn’t hit the ball the other way.
On the other hand, when Clint Hurdle was managing the Colorado Rockies, I told him that the one baseball skill I understood was hitting the ball the other way. It just didn’t seem that hard. “I’ve got three guys I’d like you to talk to,” Clint said. If a hitter has pulled the ball all his life, the timing of going opposite field can be a mystery. Apparently my bat was slow enough to make me a natural opposite-field hitter.
In last night’s game, TV analyst Frank White mentioned that Esky seemed to be fouling fewer pitches off. That’s another good sign. Cal Ripken once said that when he was going good, he fouled fewer pitches off. When he swung the bat, he squared the ball up. Whatever we’re seeing with Escobar and however long it lasts, he’s at least showing that he can improve.
The first step is admitting you have a problem
Hitting and pitching coaches often leave guys alone until the approach they used to get to the big leagues is no longer working. The figuring goes like this: Somehow he got here, and lots of Hall of Famers had unorthodox approaches. Who am I to say he can’t make this work? (Plus, “fixing” a guy who’s going good and putting him in a slump is not so hot for a coach’s reputation.) So basically, the coach waits until the guy’s scuffling and a little desperate.
(I also think that’s the way most religions work.)
At that point, the player is willing to listen and change. The approach that was good enough through high school, college ball and the minors ain’t cutting it in the big leagues. The worst part for the coach and player is that the player almost always gets worse before he gets better. Doing things in a new way is uncomfortable, and the results rarely come easily.
Jeff Francoeur went through this in spring training. Seitzer was talking about some changes, and Frenchy was scuffling at first. Kevin asked Frenchy to hang in there and said that when they start putting spring training stats on baseball cards, we’ll start worrying about spring training results.
And by the way, Francoeur absolutely smoked two balls last night, lining out twice to center field. Hitting poorly and not getting hits is not the same thing.
The eyes have it
If you’re watching on TV and Chris Getz is at the plate, pay attention to his eyes. He will quickly glance at third base or first base to see where the opposing defense is playing and whether it’s possible to bunt for a hit. Whichever direction he looks, that’s where the bunt will go if the corner is back.
One last thing
Watch Melky Cabrera take a pitch. He watches it all the way into the catcher’s glove. The winter before George Brett retired, I got to hit with him once a week. (It took me awhile, but I figured out I was there to unjam the pitching machine while George hit … but it was worth it.) I listened to what George had to say as if it were going on stone tablets.
Anyway, the first thing George had me do was watch the ball without swinging. Just see the ball come out of the pitching machine and watch its flight. I had to turn my head with the ball and follow it into the netting behind me. There were two reasons for this. One, you can’t see the ball if your head isn’t down. And two, if I took that pitch, I would have a better chance of getting the call.
George said that when you follow the ball all the way into the catcher’s mitt, it looks as though you saw it really well, but spit on it … and that might convince an umpire that the pitch wasn’t really that good.
Interesting game, isn’t it?