Games » San Diego PadresJun27
Learning to let the other guy lose
In the world of golf, a “grinder” is a guy who isn’t spectacular, but he is steady … and he’s steady all day long.
Here’s how the grinder beats you (according to a John Feinstein book I was reading): You go out to play the grinder knowing you’re a much better golfer. On the first hole, the grinder shoots par and you shoot par. On the second hole, he shoots par and you shoot par. Third hole, same thing.
At some point, you decide this has gone on long enough (remember, you know you’re better) and you decide to go over the water. As Mr. Feinstein put it: if you could make it over the water, you’d do it all the time. So now you get wet and you’re a stroke down. To make up for this embarrassment, you decide to go through the trees. Mr. Feinstein once again: if you could make it through the trees, you’d do it all the time. Now you’re two strokes down. Bad decision follows bad decision and you walk off the course a loser, nine strokes behind this average golfer.
So what does this have to do with last night’s game?
Consistent winners learn to let the other guy lose. A generation raised on ESPN highlights and sports movies that end with Robert Redford circling the bases while lights explode, has a screwed up idea of how you win. If you have to come up with some miracle shot at the buzzer, you’re in trouble. Winners grind away. They throw strikes and let you get yourself out. They run the bases aggressively and let you throw the ball away. They refuse to swing at bad pitches and let you paint yourself in a corner.
When Eric Hosmer decided to make a throw over to third to get an advancing runner in the in the fourth inning, it was like a golfer deciding to go through the trees: it was a risky and unnecessary move that cost the team.
Hosmer is a very bright kid and he’s going to be a winner — as soon as he learns to let the other guy lose.
Before the Royals left for this road trip I asked Eric if he was hitting the ball to left field on purpose (he had a couple hits go that way Sunday) and he said yes. Hitting the ball the other way fixes a lot of problems. First, it makes you wait longer. That means you swing at better pitches because you’ve got a better idea of where they’re going to end up.
Hos has been getting himself out by chasing bad pitches (the ‘let the guy get himself out’ concept) and going opposite field should help with that. It also improves a hitter’s mechanics: you keep your front side closed longer. Eric hit a bomb to left in this game, but it got swallowed by Petco. On another field, that shot would’ve been out.
Keep watching to see if he sticks with this approach. If he pulls the ball, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s abandoned it. In fact, the idea is to look for a pitch away and then adjust to pitches in. (You can’t do the opposite.) But you should see some balls to left on a semi-regular basis.
Y’know when you see Alcides Escobar go out on the grass, stop a ball backhand, turn and fire a laser beam across the infield? Y’know what’s really impressive about that play? Eric Hosmer. (Apparently I’m doing the “All Hosmer All The Time” game notes.)
It occurred to me that Esky must really be bringing it when he lets that ball go. So I asked Alcides if he’d ever been on a gun and he said no. I asked Hos how hard he thought Alcides was throwing at his best: “I don’t know, 96?”
So think of that: when Hosmer scoops one out of the dirt, he’s handling a major-league fastball … and he’s not wearing catcher’s gear.
Finally, some non-Hosmer game notes
Disappointing game last night, but don’t miss the fact that the Royals pitchers gave up two legit runs over nine innings. Also, in more pitcher-related news, pay attention to the pitcher’s spot in the order: it decides a lot.
In the first two trips through the order, the Royals did a good job of clearing the pitcher’s spot. That means they don’t make the final out in the 8-hole and have an almost sure out to lead off the next inning. Although, making it to the 9-hole in the 6th, cost Jeff Francis some innings on the mound.
The Royals had the tying run on third and it was getting late, so Ned Yost sent Billy Butler up to pinch hit in Jeff’s spot. That Butler AB shows the problem with Billy: almost anybody else (present company excluded) turns the ball he hit up the middle, into an infield single and the tying run scores.
Billy can really hit, but that’s about all he can do.
A beautiful sight
One of the prettiest things a hitter can ever see is a fielder running away from the ball he just hit. In the third inning, Chris Getz pulled off one of the best hit and runs you’ll ever see. Here’s what made it so special: the middle infielders signal each other on every pitch with a runner on first. (You can watch for this when you’re at the park: they’ll shield their mouths with their gloves and say ‘you’…open mouth…or ‘me’…closed mouth…to decide who’s covering the bag if the runner takes off.)
So Melky Cabrera breaks and the short stop covered. That’s because the pitcher was throwing a curveball and the defense figured the left-handed Getz would be out in front and pull it to the second baseman, who was staying home.
Either short broke too soon, and Chris saw it, or Chris was smart enough to figure out that if the pitch was a curve, the hole at short would be open. Either way, he waited and served a routine grounder right through the hole that the shortstop was running away from…a beautiful sight.
Read the comments
Here’s the way I work: I watch the game and score it, both in a baseball scorebook and using Ron Polk’s system. While that happens, I take notes. If the team’s here I then go down to the clubhouse and talk to the players about certain plays and their view of them. When they’re on the road, I go back to material I haven’t used yet.
I put the numbers into the electronic grid and look at my notes, thinking about what I should use from that game (and I always have more notes than I can use … thank you, Jesus). So I finish writing up my notes and send them in to the web editors for any corrections or editing and then posting.
I usually don’t get to bed until 1:30 and then get up around 6 a.m. and, yes, that’s not nearly enough sleep. (Is it normal to hallucinate when you’re not on drugs?) Anyway, sometime the next morning I usually think of something I should have included. Or one of you will ask a very good question about something they saw in the previous night’s game.
So read the comments. That’s where I put the stuff I forgot or additional material that was prompted by a reader. There’s some pretty good stuff in there and it’s often not mine.