Games » Boston Red SoxJul27
Strengths and limitations
Every team, every player and every human being has strengths and limitations. The smart team, player or human being spends as much time as possible in areas of strength and as little time as possible in areas of limitation. Last night the Royals spent way too much time in an area of limitation.
(By the way, the “strengths and limitations” format we use in our mid-season and end of the season evaluations comes directly from Tim Bogar, Boston Red Sox third base coach. It’s a really useful way to think about players: none of them are perfect, all of them have strengths. Last night Bogie got smoked by a Dustin Pedroia line drive in foul territory, I sent him an email and he called after the game. Tim is fine, he took it off the forearm and we’ll get together next month when the Red Sox come to town. In fact I plan to take him out and get him hammered after each game and see if we can get a few bad decisions at third base while he’s here. I don’t like hanging out in bars and drinking with ballplayers, but let’s face it, I’m a team player.)
So where was I?
Oh, yeah, strengths and limitations. The Red Sox strength is high-scoring slugfests. They want to take a lot of pitches, walk or get into hitting counts and then put the hurt on you. The Royals have to throw strike one, pitch ahead and force them to swing early. (You might get away with a pitch in the middle of the plate 0-0 to David Ortiz, but throw it 3-1 when he’s looking for something to drive, like Chen did last night with the bases loaded, and you’ve got a good chance of giving up four runs in a hurry.)
The Royals offensive strength is speed. In a 1-1 game like Monday’s, speed and the ability to steal a base matters, but in a 12-5 game all that speed makes no difference. When you’re down by seven, you’re not stealing or taking the extra base.
If the Royals are going to split the series today, the game needs to be low scoring and it all starts with strike one.
Other game notes
On more than one occasion a Royals base runner couldn’t score from second on a base hit to left. The Green Monster is (according to the sign on the wall) 310 feet away from home. The foul pole on Kauffman is 330 and then the fence drops away sharply, so it can be quite a bit more. The short throw from left in Fenway probably changes all the old base running rules. When you can’t score from second, maybe it’s OK to make the first or third out at third. (Should’ve asked Bogie.)
Bogie did say, “The wall giveth, the wall taketh away.” Alex Gordon opened the game with a double that would’ve been a routine fly ball out in Kauffman. Balls that might be home runs any place else can be turned into singles. (And Bogie thought Gordon did a great job playing the wall last night.) Eric Hosmer is heating up and that’s helping Billy Butler. If Billy is protected by Hos he’ll get better pitches to hit. That’s just one of the things numbers don’t tell you: the effect of the lineup on batting average.
Alex Gordon made a base-running mistake when he tried to advance to third from second on a ball hit back to the pitcher. The runner has to make sure the pitcher doesn’t field the ball before taking off.
Chris Getz got a mental mistake when he tried to leave the field with two outs. It was a long inning, Mike Moustakas turned a line drive into a double play and Getz started to leave the field. For some reason I thought there two outs myself, but Chris gets paid more than I do to keep track of this kind of thing, so he gets the mental mistake, not me.
Third baseman Yamaica Navarro proved a point I try to make on a regular basis: Really good players make tough plays look routine. Put a regular guy (or a good athlete who seemed to be struggling last night) out there and you’ll see what I mean. Alex Gordon hit a pop fly in foul territory in the 9th inning and Navarro didn’t even wind up in the same area code. Pop flies slice back into fair territory and Navarro body slammed himself trying to catch the ball. This stuff ain’t as easy as they make it look.
Last Sunday I did the pregame show with Jeff Montgomery and he talked about two out walks. I asked if that was a product of the pitcher mentally easing up, thinking the inning was almost over. Monty agreed and said watch how many times a pitcher gets two outs and then goes 2-0. Bruce Chen did it in the third, but got away with it…of course, it was just about the only thing he got away with last night.
A fly ball landed in short right, surrounded by Jeff Francoeur, Chris Getz and Eric Hosmer. I’m not sure anybody could’ve caught it, but Jeff Francoeur had priority. The middle infielders have priority over the corners (they’ve got a better angle) and outfielders have priority over infielders (they’re coming forward). Nobody got there, but Frenchy had the best chance.
Ned Yost got Nate Adcock right back on the mound after a bad outing Tuesday. One of the things I’ve noticed with Ned is he tends to throw people right into the fire. A kid that comes up from the minors is often asked to play the day he arrives and a pitcher that has a bad outing is often asked to go right back out there. Probably better than letting a player stew for a week. Adcock responded with two runs in four innings, not a quality start, but close to a quality finish.
The Alex Gordon video
As you can see, we posted the video featuring Alex Gordon discussing the features of the left field corner in Kauffman Stadium. The video reminded me of two things:
1.) I’m old.
2.) I’ve been doing this a long time.
Even though this website is only in its second year, the first time I went out on a field and talked to professional players was 20 years ago. I’d gone to the Royals Fantasy Camp and met Clint Hurdle. He invited me out to Williamsport, Pennsylvania to visit his Double A team, the Williamsport Bills, part of the N.Y. Mets system at the time.
One night, right fielder Jeromy Burnitz made a great throw to nail a runner at the plate, so the next day I asked him where he was when he made the throw. We went to the spot and talked about what was going through his mind. Then Clint offered me the chance to duplicate the throw on video. The catcher at the plate was John Gibbons, currently the Royals bench coach. Back then he was the Mets roving catching instructor.
Needless to say, my arm was not capable of duplicating Jeromy’s throw. Clint also offered me the chance to hit a ball out of the park during BP. If I’d hit my best shot five feet further I could’ve said I had warning track power. I ran sprints with D.J. Dozier (he won) and had dinner with Tim Bogar after he caught the last out of a no-hitter. (I asked what it was like and he said, “I was ––— my pants.” According to Bogie there were a lot of guys out there thinking “Don’t hit it to me, don’t hit it to me.”)
After a week of hanging with the players I thought, “Boy, baseball fans would love to hear this stuff.” I had so much fun I’d visit Clint a couple times a summer and hang out with the players. One night in Toledo, Ohio, Clint’s pitching coach, Bob Apodaca (currently the Colorado Rockies pitching coach) said, “Do you have any idea how much the players like having you around?”
It really hadn’t occurred to me. Dak said they liked it because I always brought cookies (my wife would bake a couple of boxes worth because the guys in the minors had so little money). Bob also said they liked it because, “You ask good questions.”
Dak told me any player that had made it this far was a fabulous player, but were always being told what they had to do to make it to the big leagues. But even though their shortcomings were always being pointed out, Bob said they knew a lot of baseball and liked showing me what they knew.
When I took on this website I picked the Polk system because it gave some structure to the discussion and would force me to pay attention to the games. But the real goal was to duplicate the experience I’d had in the minors and try to bring that experience to fans. I had no idea if major league players would be as open about discussing and demonstrating their skills. As you can see from the Gordon video, I had nothing to worry about.
Except trying to climb walls, 30 years past my prime…and my prime wasn’t all that prime.
Anybody know where you get those performance enhancing drugs you hear about? I could use a little help…and a new left knee.
Alex Gordon climbs the walls
The Royals' Alex Gordon gives The Star's Lee Judge advice on climbing the left-field wall. July 26, 2011 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)