Games » Minnesota TwinsJul14
Throw strikes, someone might have a heart attack
Tommy Lasorda used to have a bit he’d do with young pitchers: he’d pull them aside and ask what would happen if a batter got a hit, but dropped dead from a heart attack halfway down to first. The pitcher would say something like, “We’d call 911?” Sure, but what would happen in the baseball game? After all, the game’s still going on.
“We’d tag the guy and he’d be out?”
“That’s right, we’d tag the guy and he’d be out.” Now Tommy would ask what would happen if a guy walked and halfway down to first he dropped dead from a heart attack. “The other team gets to send out a pinch runner?”
“That’s right, the other team gets to send out a pinch runner. So remember this: once you walk a guy there is no way on God’s green Earth to stop him from reaching first.! So throw strikes, someone might have a heart attack.”
Last night, four of the seven walks Royals pitchers issued scored and the Royals lost by four. The Royals are second in the American League in walks issued. Walks are corrosive, they take a long time, they’re depressing and there’s nothing your defense can do to help you. Speed may kill, but walks are suicide.
Some pitching coach, I don’t remember who, was watching his guy on the mound throw pitches up and out of the zone. He was wondering aloud what to tell the guy to help him get the ball down: shorten his stride so his arm had time to catch up? Make sure he got his hand on top of the ball so he was throwing in a downward plane? Slow down his mechanics to get everything back in synch?
A player, listening to all these complicated mechanical solutions said, “Why don’t you tell him to aim lower?” The pitching coach figured what the hell, went out and said try aiming lower, the pitcher said OK and immediately started throwing strikes.
This story ran through my mind when Blake Wood was throwing everything high. Dude, at some point, aim lower.
Now some good pitching
It doesn’t seem like much now, but in the 2nd inning Bruce Chen saved the Royals a run with good pitching. Delmon Young led off the inning with a double and Bruce got the next batter, Trevor Plouffe, to ground out to Mike Moustakas. By getting the batter to hit the ball to third, Bruce kept the runner at second from advancing. A single followed, Young couldn’t score from second and a pop up and fly ball later, Chen was out of the inning without giving up the run.
Runner on second, nobody out is one of the most interesting games within a game you can watch. If the batter hits the ball to the right side, he won the game. If the pitcher makes him hit it to short or third, the pitcher won the game.
And speaking of third: Mike Moustakas got a ton of ground balls last night. When a pitcher doesn’t have much velocity, he’ll put pressure on the corner infielders because a lot of batters will pull the ball.
100% of your mind
Doug Sisson suggested I pay attention to the quality of the pitch after a pitcher goes over to first three times. He said it usually wasn’t a very good pitch and he’s right. The runner splits the pitcher’s attention. Pitching coaches will tell you that when a pitcher goes to first he should do it with 100% concentration. The same thing applies when he throws home: do it with full concentration. Bad things start to happen when pitcher is throwing to first or home with 40% of his mind elsewhere.
In the first inning, Chen, threw over to first eight times to keep Alexi Casilla from stealing and walked Joe Mauer in the process. So now Bruce had Casilla at second and Mauer at first.
The running game still has an effect even when a team doesn’t run. So much of this stuff can’t be measured: how many fastballs does a hitter get because the guy on first might take off? How many hits does a batter get because a month ago he laid down a bunt and now the third baseman is forced to cheat in? How many errors are made in the outfield because the other team takes the extra base and fielders get in a hurry?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you can’t just look at one number and think you know what’s going on. Everything affects everything.
An impressive walk
How good is Eric Hosmer going to be? Here’s an indication: in the first inning Francisco Liriano started him off with a slider that broke down out of the zone and Hosmer swung and missed. Liriano threw the same pitch again, and again Hosmer swung and missed. Liriano threw it a third time and Hosmer didn’t swing. After Hos swung and missed those first two sliders, Liriano threw it four more times, trying to get Eric to chase.
Hosmer wouldn’t and that’s a sharp learning curve. Hosmer walked and that led to two runs when Liriano threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded.
Speaking of Hosmer
The big play in the last game before the break was Eric Hosmer’s attempted steal of third. Brandon Inge attempted to block him off the bag and the umpire called Hosmer out. That’s one of the problems with a headfirst slide: you expose your fingers, hands and wrists to injury (you can also take a knee to the head, which I’ve managed), all of which is bad enough, but when you come in headfirst, fielders are comfortable blocking you off the bag.
Come in spikes up and nobody’s dropping a knee. You might start a fight, but you won’t get blocked off the bag.
Another bad call
I thought the scorekeeper blew it when he called Alcides Escobar’s hit in the 9th inning a single. Michael Cuddyer never touched the ball and it was clear it kicked sideways when it hit. A bad hop in the outfield is the same as a bad hop in the infield, it should’ve been a double.
Before they let you be a scorekeeper, maybe they ought to make you play a few games. On the other hand, I sucked in the field and didn’t think anything was a routine play so I’d probably score everything a hit.