Games » Colorado RockiesJul2
What Brayan Pena's catcher's mitt says about Kyle Davies' pitching
On Friday, I wrote that fans should watch the catcher’s glove closely when the game is on TV. Saturday night, I decided to follow my own advice, and it was quickly clear that Royals starter Kyle Davies was in trouble. Bryan Pena’s glove was moving a lot (which meant Kyle was missing his spots), and Pena’s glove was mainly moving up (which meant that the Colorado hitters were going to tee off).
During this series the Royals are pinching the gaps (positioning the outfielders closer together) in order to keep the ball in front of them. Coors Field has a huge outfield. Balls in the air really travel, and a ball in the gap can roll a long way before anyone can get to it. Pinching the gaps can cut off those balls, but if a ball goes down the first- or third-base line, the outfielder in that corner now has a really long way to go before fielding the ball.
Being up in the zone cost Davies six runs in the third inning, and the Royals spent the rest of the night chasing the Rockies.
This one’s a judgment call, so I could be wrong. With a runner on second and nobody out, The Rockies’ Ty Wigginton hit a fly ball to right field. The Royals’ Jeff Francoeur played it off the scoreboard and threw to second base, going after Wigginton. It would have been the right call with one or two outs, but it was the wrong call with nobody out.
It was Wigginton’s job to move the runner over to third base, so when the ball was hit to right field, the runner, Seth Smith, was going back to second to tag. Smith couldn’t take off until he was sure Frenchy wasn’t going to catch the ball, so that meant he was going to get a late break. That meant Frenchy should have hit the cutoff man, Chris Getz, who was in position to make the throw home. Replays showed that Smith was just rounding third at that point, so Getz would have had an excellent chance to throw him out.
That’s a lot of thinking to do when your hair’s on fire and your brain is screaming at you to get the ball in, but that’s why you have to go over the possibilities in your head and know beforehand where you’re going with the ball. The runner had to tag. Frenchy probably should have known he would get a lousy jump going home.
The second mental mistake was Brayan Pena’s. He didn’t run hard on his second-inning double to right field. He was watching the ball and going less than all out, probably assuming he had hit a home run. Brayan probably wasn’t going to be able to turn the hit into a triple, but it was the right time to try, if the opportunity presented itself (one out, ball to the fence in right). But not running hard out of the batter’s box made sure he never got the chance.
A very good sign
Later that same inning, Alcides Escobar walked and it showed how far he has come as a hitter. Esky is now letting the ball travel deeper and is taking it the other way, which helps him with pitch selection. With Pena on second, two men out and first base open, the Rockies pitcher, Greg Reynolds, tried to get Esky to chase pitches just off the plate.
If Esky gets anxious and chases a bad pitch, he probably makes an out to end the inning. Then the pitcher’s spot, with Kyle Davies hitting, would have led off the third inning, which is just what the Rockies wanted. Esky wouldn’t chase the pitch, Reynolds fell behind, and instead of grooving one, decided to put Esky on base. That brought Kyle to the plate to end the second inning with a strikeout instead of leading off the third inning with a strikeout.
The Royals scored a run in the third with two outs, so without Escobar’s patience in the second, that run probably doesn’t score in the third.
A couple of strikeouts
Let’s go back to Kyle Davies’ strikeout in the second. You can tell what Chris Getz thinks of a pitcher by the first strike the pitcher throws. (Don’t worry. We’ll get back to Kyle.) If Getz if confidant he can get the pitcher in play, he doesn’t mind taking a strike. If he thinks the pitcher is really tough, he doesn’t want to fall behind.
Now back to Kyle. He could learn a lesson from this approach. If you’re a pitcher who is hitting for the first time in a long time, every pitcher you face is tough, so don’t fall behind. Kyle took the two best pitches he was going to see, two fastballs on the outside corner of the plate, and then had to swing at a curve.
As you heard yesterday from Danny Duffy, pitchers don’t want to walk other pitchers. It would seem like a good idea to look for a hittable fastball on the first pitch and, if you get it, turn on the fan.
The other strikeout worth noting was the one by Alcides Escobar’ that ended the eighth inning. Esky threw his bat and then his helmet. He wasn’t mad about the pitch he struck out on. He was mad about the previous pitch. Esky thought that pitch was down and out of the zone, but the umpire called it a strike and the count went to 1-2. When the Rockies pitcher threw the same pitch, Esky felt as though he had to swing, not because it was a strike, but because the umpire was calling it a strike. The thrown equipment was the way a player tells an umpire, “You made me strike out with your lousy strike zone.”
Frankly, I was kind of surprised the umpire didn’t send his own message by confronting Escobar. Letting it go was the right thing to do, but these days a lot of umpires will get in a player’s face or worse over tossing a helmet.
Chris Getz once told me that when he’s receiving throws from Brayan Pena on an attempted steal, he has to come out in front of second base because Brayan’s throws tail into the runner. That happened Saturday night when the Rockies’ Chris Iannetta stole second in the third inning. The throw tailed into the runner, Escobar tried to keep the ball on the infield and got flipped for his efforts.
On the other hand, Brayan made three nice blocks of pitches in the dirt with a runner on third, saving a run each time.
Who needs an umpire?
In the fifth inning, Royals reliever Tim Collins made an outstanding play when he got off the mound in a hurry, picked up Greg Reynolds’ sacrifice bunt and threw out Chris Ianetta at third base. Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas made the tag by laying it on the runner, picking it back up immediately and showing the ball to the umpire. That made me think of a conversation Moustakas and I had before the Royals hit the road.
Moustakas had put a tag on a runner coming into third and kept it there. The runner came off the bag, and Mike got the out. I asked Moose it he had “helped” the runner come off the bag. It’s one school of thought: Lay the tag on, apply some pressure and, as Frank White says, “help the runner get where he’s going.”
I like the idea of a rookie knowing enough to cheat, but unfortunately, Mike said that wasn’t what he was doing. Even though Mike is apparently honest, the real reason is still interesting. When Mike thinks a runner is going to be out, he drops the glove, makes the tag and then gets the ball back up to show the umpire. Moose doesn’t want a runner who is out to have the chance to knock the ball out of his glove.
But if Mike thinks the runner will be safe, he keeps the tag on. Maybe something goofy will happen in his favor, like the runner sliding past the bag or a pop-up slide that has the runner come off the base (which is what happened on the play I mentioned). So just watch the way Mike applies the tag and you will have a good idea of whether the runner is safe.
Is Chris Getz a better clutch hitter than Billy Butler?
Wow. I bet that one woke you up. As someone recently pointed out to me, the correct answer to almost any complex question is, “It depends.” (You also can go with “I don’t know,” but people don’t like to say that.)
Saturday morning, The Star ran the Royals’ averages with runners in scoring position. Getz was hitting .365 with runners in scoring position. Butler was hitting .288 in those situations. So that’s it. Case closed. Seventy-seven points is quite a gap, and that means we have our answer, right?
Not really. No one number explains everything. How big was the sample size? Were the numbers put up against the same pitchers? Were the numbers put up against the same pitcher on the same day? Who was batting behind Billy? Who was batting behind Getz? Did they offer protection or did the pitchers feel as though they could work around Billy and go right after Getz? Did the team want Billy to expand his zone and Getz to remain selective? How about the defenses on the field? How about the field itself? What were the conditions?
I could go on, and I think I have, but the point is that you can never look at one number and know everything. Forming a worthwhile opinion takes lots of time and lots of observation, and yet people still make pronouncements about a player based on a stat or two.