Games » San Diego PadresJun28
Sloppy defense gives away the game
The prevailing theory about the Royals lack of success is that it’s due to the starting pitching. That hasn’t been true the last two nights. Jeff Francis and Felipe Paulino gave the team every chance to win, but a shortage of offense and sloppy defense did the team in.
Last night the Royals gave up two runs unnecessarily: one was fairly obvious. With a runner on second, a fly ball was hit to Alex Gordon in left. With nobody out, if it looks like a fly ball to the outfield might be caught, the runner goes back to second to tag. If he doesn’t think he can advance (and it’s hard to advance to third on a fly ball to left because of the short throw), the runner bluffs the advance, just to force a throw in hopes of an error. Most of the time, this is a nothing play. It usually doesn’t work or change anything, but you do it, just like running out a routine grounder, just in case.
This time, it worked. Alex looked like he had a funny angle and his throw came out high. Third baseman Wilson Betemit jumped, but couldn’t come down with it, although he did appear to tip it. This is where the pitcher comes in. On this play the pitcher’s job is to back up third. Felipe Paulino did this, but might have been in the wrong position. (Hard to tell for sure on TV, so no mental mistake.)
The pitcher wants to get as close as possible to the dugout so he has room to adjust. Felipe may have been too close to Betemit, so when the ball got tipped, he had no reaction time to the new course of the ball. Felipe jumped up like he was going to have to knock the ball down and the ball actually went under him. Not a good looking play and it allowed the runner, who had no intention of advancing at all, to score when the ball went out of play.
The second run the defense gave away was a little less obvious (and I might be wrong about what happened, so take this with a grain of salt).
In the second inning with a runner on second, nobody out and the pitcher at the plate, a sacrifice bunt was obviously in order. The Royals defense had Betemit positioned in front of the bag, facing the pitcher. When the third baseman is in that position it’s usually because they want him to be able to crash in for the bunt or go back and cover third if he’s not needed to field the ball.
Ideally, the pitcher or catcher can pick up the bunt if it’s on the third base side and look to third to see if they have a play. The bunt was down and right in front of the plate. Clearly, Betemit would not be needed, but instead of getting back to the bag, he drifted forward, ending up around the mound. Matt Treanor got on the bunt right away and might have had a play at third, but Betemit wasn’t there and Treanor was going to have to hit Alcides Escobar on the run, a risky play. Treanor made the right decision and took the sure out at first, but the runner at third then scored on the next batter’s sacrifice fly.
Once again, without talking to the players it’s hard to nail Betemit with a mental mistake. It’s possible he was supposed to crash and Esky had third all along, but if he was crashing, he wasn’t crashing very hard.
These are the kind of mistakes we haven’t seen in a while. The Royals haven’t been winning much, but they haven’t been beating themselves much. Here’s hoping this is an aberration.
Felipe Paulino continues to make you wonder where the hell he’s been hiding all this time. Ryan Lefebvre had an interesting stat: in 40 career starts, Felipe’s team has scored 2 runs or less in 24 games… OK, now make that 25 games. No wonder his won-loss record doesn’t look so hot. I asked him about starting as opposed to relieving and he said he likes starting better, but he’ll do whatever they ask him to. (Same relationship I have with The Star.) As a reliever, he concentrates on two pitches; as a starter, he can throw all five, and he thinks that’s an advantage. He’s obviously strong enough to go deep into games and every time he does that he sets up the bullpen for the next couple days.
Adding and subtracting
I hadn’t noticed it before, but Paulino did a kind of weird swiping motion on his legs and upper body before delivering a pitch. He might have been ‘adding and subtracting.’ Some pitchers like to do this. They look at the sign (say it’s one finger for fastball) and add two by swiping some part of their uniform a couple times. This gets them to a slider (one plus two is three: three fingers is a slider). This way they can call their own game without making the catcher go through the signs again by shaking off. They can also subtract: one finger for fastball, minus one gets you to four, a changeup. Some guys like to do this and some catchers hate it: it’s hot, don’t make me do math. Everybody’s got to remember what part of the body is add and what part is subtract. I’ve seen some guys add and subtract on the same pitch: add two, minus one, we just went from fastball to slider and back to curveball.
Unfortunately, sometimes the only guy on the field who knows what the hell he’s throwing is the pitcher… and catchers like to be in on that sort of thing. I don’t know if what I saw Paulino doing was adding and subtracting, but I’ll put it on the list of things to ask about when the team gets home.
Matt Treanor’s hard-hit outs
Matt Treanor’s best offensive statistic is on-base percentage, but he’s one of the team leaders in hard-hit outs. This is one of the stats that Kevin Seitzer keeps (I’ve mentioned it in the past) and it’s well worth knowing. If a guy is hitting the ball hard, but hitting it at people, his average might look awful, but he’s actually having good at-bats. Treanor had a great one in the second inning: a 13-pitch at-bat that ended when he drove a single into left, scoring Jeff Francoeur.
One for the road
Just before they left on this trip, a reporter asked Ned Yost if the team was concerned because they didn’t have a very good road record. Yost said the team had no idea what its road record was and just came in every day, ready to play.
It’s been my experience that fans are much more concerned with things like ‘day games after night games played on turf when it’s over 80 degrees won-loss records.’ The players don’t pay much attention to that. A common question you get from players is ‘what day is it?’
They’re not dumb, they just don’t have to pay attention to the calendar, so they don’t. They’re not real sure of their won-loss record or what streak they’re currently on or how many games they are out of first. (Let them get closer to first and they’ll start paying attention.) Ned’s right, they just come in every day, knowing they have a game that they need to win.
One game at a time and one day at a time: not a bad way to live for anybody, ballplayers included.