Games » Cleveland IndiansJul29
Another quality start, another W
Last season, during a rain storm, Bob McClure and I sat in the dugout and talked about “quality starts.” It might seem simple (or simple-minded), but Bob said that, assuming you played clean defense, when the starter came out, the worst situation you could find yourself in was losing 3-0. A close game.
When the Royals get a quality start, they’ve got a good chance to win. A quality start means the game is low-scoring and it means it plays into the Royals’ strengths: a good bullpen, good defense and the ability to manufacture runs. Jeff Francis gave the team a quality start and the Royals won.
But scoring 12 runs doesn’t hurt either.
Drilling the wrong guy in the wrong way
According to the unwritten rules of baseball, Melky Cabrera deserved to get hit by a pitch. He stood and admired his grand slam for far too long. The usual punishment for showing up the pitcher is getting drilled in the ribs at the next appropriate opportunity.
Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who was getting beat like a rented mule, lost it and threw at the next batter, Billy Butler. Not only did he throw at Billy, he threw at Billy’s head. As Ned Yost said afterwards, that “isn’t cool.”
Lots of people were mad at Carrasco, including (I’d bet money) his teammates. Hitters do not appreciate their own pitchers inappropriately inviting retaliation when those pitchers don’t have to go to the plate themselves. There are times hitters confront their own pitchers and tell them to get their head out of their posteriors, they’re going to get a teammate hurt.
If Carrasco had done the right thing and drilled Cabrera when the opportunity came around, his teammates would’ve backed him wholeheartedly. Drilling the wrong guy in the wrong way forces his teammates to back him, but I’m guessing with great reluctance. Carrasco’s boneheaded move risked Billy’s health, forced his teammates into a possible brawl, chewed up the bullpen and got himself ejected and probably suspended.
Of course, the way he was pitching, he probably wasn’t going to be in there long enough to throw at Cabrera.
The umpires get it right
I haven’t been reluctant to criticize bad umpiring, but I thought they did an outstanding job in this situation. Home plate umpire Scott Barry immediately tossed Carrasco. That got an out-of-control player out of the game and gave the Royals less reason to fight: the guy who committed the crime had already been punished.
Umpire Laz Diaz got in front of the Royals and cooled them down, but I’m guessing none of the Royals thought the Indians would be OK with throwing at a guy’s head. There might be retaliation before the series is over, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the Indians say, “Hey, our guy was out of line and we know it.”
Stay tuned to see if the Royals feel like they have to do something about what happened.
A new Billy Butler?
Several people, including Ned Yost, have said that it would be better for the Royals if Billy Butler would sacrifice some average to hit for more power. To consistently hit for power, contact has to be made out in front. That gets the ball into the short part of the park. But making contact out in front means the hitter gets fooled more often.
Wait a bit longer and solid contact is more likely, but now the hitter is in the big part of the park, centerfield. (Of course, Billy’s strong enough to hit the ball out in the other short part of the park, dead right, it’s just harder to do.)
So are the last few games an aberration or are we seeing a new Billy Butler?
Keep watching to find out. (Geez, he crushed those balls, didn’t he?)
There’s only one solution
A while back Luke Hochevar and I had a conversation about his recent improvement on the mound and I asked if it was because of pitching inside. That’s what everyone’s been talking about since the All-Star break. Hoch said that was part of it, but the bigger issue was pitch execution. I wrote about this after we talked, but he said it again after Thursday’s win against the Red Sox and I thought it was worth revisiting.
Sports psychologist Harvery Dorfman worked with pitcher Greg Maddux. He said Maddux was the absolute best at implementing this idea: there are many problems a pitcher can have, a bad mound, lousy defense, the umpire squeezing him or a tough hitter at the plate.
But there’s only one solution: focus on the glove and throw a quality pitch.
Dorfman encouraged Maddux to count his quality pitches. It was the only thing Greg could control, it was the only thing that mattered. After a particularly rough outing in which Maddux had several questionable calls, a couple of errors and left the game with a lead that bullpen coughed up, Dorfman wondered what Greg’s reaction would be.
After the game he asked Maddux, “How was it out there?”
“72 out of 96.”
I’m making those numbers up because I can’t precisely remember the right numbers and can’t find the book, but the point is Maddux responded to the question perfectly. That’s how it was out there. That’s what he controlled, that’s what he was focused on.
This is exactly what Luke Hochevar is trying to do: focus on executing the next pitch. He told me that when he lets his mind wander into those other areas (umpires, defense, mound, etc.), his thoughts get cluttered. There’s too much to focus on. When he concentrates on the next pitch and only the next pitch, things become very simple.
So why doesn’t everyone pitch like that? Working with another, less mentally-disciplined pitcher, Dorfman asked him to take the same approach: complete focus on the next pitch. The guy had a good outing and after the game said to Harvey, “Man, it’s tiring to pitch that way!”
But it can’t be more tiring than losing.