Games » Cleveland IndiansJul31
This might be the team
Well, the nonwaiver trading deadline passed Sunday afternoon, and pretty much everybody is still here. For those fans who were really paying attention and not just looking at the standings, that probably is good news. As Jeff Francoeur said, at some point you have to make a stand, quit playing for the future and say this is the team.
This last week showed that attitude might not be such a bad thing. When the Royals got good starting pitching, they showed they could play with the Red Sox and Indians. Danny Duffy couldn’t make it through six innings to qualify for a quality start Sunday (it might have been because of pitch selection more than stuff), but Royals manager Ned Yost got him out of the game before things went bad and went to the pen early. (Tomorrow is an off day, so everybody should be OK for Tuesday.)
I imagine the Royals still will look for starting pitching, but with the possible exception of second base and catcher (Johnny Giavotella might be called up to see what he can do, and with Jason Kendall not coming back next season, the Royals will have to decide what the long-term plan is behind the plate), this might be the team.
We not only could do worse. We have.
Matt was in the dugout Sunday and had a smile on his face (so I was right, he clearly doesn’t remember what happened). But Matt must have seen a replay of the play that knocked him out of Saturday’s because Treanor said he thought it was a clean play and Cleveland base runner Matt LaPorta did nothing wrong. Treanor agreed that he had straddled the base line and gave LaPorta no place to go. Treanor is on a seven-day concussion disabled list, but when Chris Getz got hit in the back of the head with a throw last season, Getz was out much longer.
These days, team doctors have much more sophisticated tests for the after-effects of a concussion, and even though Chris said he felt better, he couldn’t pass some of those tests. Matt probably will have to go through some of the same stuff, and returning to the field is a little scarier for a catcher than a second baseman. You can go all season and not take a shot to the head while playing second. How long can a catcher go without a foul tip to the mask?
(I haven’t played catcher much. Just enough to admire those that do. But the first time I took a foul tip to the mask, it was amazing. It had all the head-snapping impact of a punch … and unfortunately I know what that feels like, too … but with none of the bone-on-skin feel. It’s kind of like getting nailed with a heavy pillow in a pillow fight. When I described it to Clint Hurdle, a former catcher, he said, “Yeah, that’ll rearrange your furniture.”)
Let’s hope Matt’s furniture is back in place soon.
Is Duffy starting to read?
Danny picked off two runners in this game. As I’ve mentioned before, a “reader” is a left-handed pitcher who can lift his foot and then decide whether to throw to first base or home plate. If Duffy is developing this skill, it would improve his ability to control the running game. When he first came up, Danny took 1.7 seconds to get the ball to the plate, which doesn’t leave enough time for a catcher to throw a runner out. The ability to read would slow those runners down.
We’ve got a video coming with Eric Hosmer demonstrating what he has to do when a runner is picked off. In at least one instance in Sunday’s game, Hos probably threw the ball too soon to second base.
When you’re the guy with the ball in a rundown, you want to hold the ball up in plain sight and sprint at the runner. You’ve got to get the runner going full speed so he can’t change direction (failure to do this is when a bad rundown usually starts). The receiver gets on the same side of the base path as the thrower and away from the base (you don’t want to be reaching for a chest-high throw while the runner slides in underneath you). The receiver says, “Now!” and the thrower makes the flip.
Hos threw too soon, and the runner was able to change direction, which meant the play required two throws instead of one. Throwing too soon is a natural reaction at first. The runner breaks and it feels as if you’re waiting forever to get the ball from the pitcher and you want to get it on its way as soon as possible.
Sometimes too soon.
Duffy failed to cover first base on a ball hit to his left (his mental mistake). He got caught spectating and was late to the bag when Hosmer couldn’t get there. I couldn’t tell from the TV coverage, but it looked as though Danny got no help from catcher Brayan Pena. The catcher’s job is to point to first base and yell, “Get over!” That reminds the pitcher of his responsibility, and it didn’t look as though Brayan did it.
Melky Cabrera may have cost the Royals a run in the eighth inning. He was on second base, Alex Gordon was on third and the batter, Billy Butler, smoked a ball into right field. Alex tagged and turned it into a sacrifice fly. Melky didn’t go back to second and tag (the usual move when there are no outs) and didn’t advance to third.
Of course, after that, Eric Hosmer hit a line drive into center, and Melky would have scored had he moved up earlier. I didn’t score a mental mistake in this case because Billy’s line drive to right wasn’t a sure thing to advance Cabrera. The ball was in the gap, and the Cleveland right fielder was moving slightly forward. If the ball had been driving the outfielder deep, tagging would have been the right thing for sure. (I’ll put it on my list of stuff to ask about on Tuesday.)
Here’s a pitch pattern you can watch for. Eric Hosmer had a 1-1 count (as I recall), got a fastball low and away, dove to the outside corner, put a good swing on it and fouled it back. When that happens, you can just about bet the ranch-style dressing that the next pitch will be up and in.
Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona must have gone to the same school of pitching where I flunked, because that was where his next pitch was. Once Carmona straightened Hos up, I was betting on another pitch down and away. Carmona missed on the next pitch, but he did better on the 2-2 count, striking out Hosmer down and away.
Anytime a pitcher comes up and in, look for the next pitch to be low and away, and vice versa. If a cartoonist sitting on his couch knows this, what keeps hitters from diving right back out there? Well, some do (Jason Kendall comes to mind), but others cannot convince themselves to put their heads in the same general vicinity as the last pitch. Then low and away looks unreachable.
And once in a while, some pitcher doubles up on a location, just to keep hitters honest. Games with games.
More pitching fundamentals from a guy who can’t throw 70 mph
We’ve talked in-out, how about fast-slow? I can’t remember who was hitting (maybe Asdrubal Cabrera), but I think it was in the ninth inning against Joakim Soria. Anyway, Joakim wants to get guys to speed up their bats and then drop that slow curve on them. So Joakim established fastball and was ready to go off-speed, but here’s the key. Whoever was hitting had not swung the bat. He took those fastballs for strikes. So is the hitter really set up? Is he going to be out in front on something slower, or is that the reason he took those fastballs? Is he just waiting for that off-speed pitch?
Like I said, games within games are what makes games so enjoyable.