Games » Oakland AthleticsJun16
The Royals let the A's relax
Well here’s some expert baseball analysis: when you strike out 16 times you’re probably going to lose a ball game. Add the three outs that the Royals made in the air and that’s 6 1/3 innings in which the A’s got to catch fly balls or to watch people trudge back to the dugout. That’s not enough pressure on the defense. When you hit a ball in the air one guy has to do one thing, when you hit a ball on the ground two guys have to do three things and when you strike out all those guys get to relax.
The Royals’ game plan is to pressure the defense. Steal bases, go first to third, lay down bunts or put the runner in motion, all to make sure the other side doesn’t get to stand where they usually stand and do what they usually do.
The plan is to make the other team uncomfortable. Make the other team do unusual things. Force the other team to make the plays. Sixteen outs that force the other side to do nothing more than watch, isn’t part of the plan.
Sometimes it’s the other guy
The temptation for fans is to conclude the Royals sucked, or at least sucked in this game. As a team, they’re second in the league in hitting. Three games ago they scored nine runs. They didn’t all forget how to hit since Sunday.
Gio Gonzalez has a 2.69 ERA. Catching a good pitcher on a good day can make your offense look pretty flat. Just remember, different pitcher, different game. Whenever a reliever comes into a game the tide might turn, or it might get worse.
Joey Devine started the 7th with an error and a walk, but then struck out the side. Michael Wuertz got smoked four times and three went for doubles. The Wuertz inning is a reminder that an offense that looked dead can come alive in a heartbeat when the right (or wrong) pitcher takes the mound.
So the Royals deserve some criticism. It’s hard to be competitive with 16 strikeouts. But keep this in mind: sometimes it’s the other guy.
And sometimes it’s you
The pitchers didn’t make it any easier on the offense with four walks and one hit batter. Two of the walks scored. Unless the pitchers are working around a hitter for strategic reasons, that’s something they should be able to control, but didn’t. A 6-4 ballgame is different from 8-4. Knock out the two runs they gave away and the Royals would’ve had the tying run at the plate five times in the last two innings. The tying run at the plate changes the defense and the pitches thrown. Keep the tying run on deck or, better yet, in the dugout and the pitcher can be as aggressive as he likes.
A key rule to being competitive: don’t help the other team.
A moving story
In the course of writing something about Jeff Francoeur, I asked Kevin Seitzer for the Royals hitting stats. One of the numbers Kevin keeps is “hard-hit outs.” Kevin says a hitter really has to lean on one to get a “hard-hit out,” and that means Jeff Francoeur has leaned on a few. Frenchy leads the team in that category.
It’s really hard to hit, so when you really nail one, it’s extremely frustrating to have it caught. Just watch Billy Butler. Billy slams the bat down and looks disgusted, Frenchy takes it like a veteran. You know you’re going to get some flares to fall in and rob a few hits yourself, so it’s all part of the game.
(Although when we talked about the “it all evens out” concept, Francoeur made an interesting distinction: it always seems like the laser beam you hit into the shortstop’s glove comes with the bases loaded in a tie game and the flare falls when you’re down by six with the bases empty. I think he’s right.)
Anyway, when you’re in a funk and everything you hit on the screws winds up in someone’s glove, what can you do?
Move in the box.
Russ Morman, current AAA hitting coach for the Giants, laid that one on me. For whatever reason you’re hitting lanes are resulting in outs. Move up or back in the box and change those lanes. This is something fans can watch for if you really pay attention.
Russ told me he once smoked a line drive just to the left of the opposition shortstop. The next at-bat the shortstop was standing right where that line drive had gone. That told Russ he was getting the same pitch again: that location, at that velocity, plus Russ’s bat speed equaled a ball to that spot.
Russ called time and stepped out as if he’d missed a sign and asked for the signs again. (The batter or runner makes a rolling motion with a finger, as in “rollover those signs again.”) When Russ stepped back in, he was in slightly different position in the box. The next line drive was just to the right of the shortstop.
Changing where he stood changed the hitting lanes. Some hitters (Tony Gywnn was one) never want to move in the box: it’s part of their comfort zone. Other hitters move around depending on the situation. And lots of hitters move up in the box while bunting (it helps the ball stay fair).
So, if you’re looking for one more thing to watch at the ball park, try the hitters’ feet. You may be moved.