Games » Baltimore OriolesAug3
What Luke Hochevar's changed
“Execute quality pitches.” Luke Hochevar said that about 20 times during his postgame interview. What did you do tonight? “I executed quality pitches.” What are your goals for the rest of the year? “To execute quality pitches.” How can we achieve world peace? “Execute quality pitches.”
And he’s right (except for the bit about world peace that I made up), you can only play this game one pitch at a time. Hoch has said his thought process gets cluttered when he allows his mind to wander into other areas. When he concentrates on throwing the next pitch and nothing else, it all gets clear. Things must be quite a bit clearer since the All-Star break. Luke is executing quality pitches, his ERA is down and his wins are up.
Championships, playoffs or wins can only be achieved one pitch at a time. Big things are achieved by putting a lot of small things together. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…and a quality pitch.
Billy and backspin
Billy Butler crushed another home run in this game. Billy’s shot cleared the wall in center and broke the game open. Afterward he talked about the green light and backspin. He got the 3-0 green light and said he looked for a fastball in the middle of the plate and was only going to swing if he got it.
Anything with spin and he was going to spit on it.
Like I’ve already reported: Billy’s keeping his hands higher and that has him hitting down through the baseball. That’s creating rising backspin and the improved trajectory is carrying balls out. Y’know, any time a guy can hit a baseball 427 feet, maybe he’s already the right weight.
Before the game Mitch Maier and I talked about the Royals outfield and Mitch expressed admiration for what they’ve achieved (which is pretty cool, they’re keeping him on the bench). Along with a lot of other people, Mitch thinks this is the best outfield in the league. Mitch also thought the early work they do is paying off. (They come out early and throw to the bases before the first game of each series. Not all teams do this.)
Mitch said that meant when they had to make a throw in a game it had only been a couple of days at most since they last attempted that throw. Otherwise, it might be weeks between throws to home. Practice might not actually make perfect, but it’s made 20 runners out at home plate.
Brayan Pena’s arm angle
A reader said he’d noticed Brayan Pena throwing from a lower arm angle and asked me about it. I didn’t know, so I asked Brayan. He said his arm angle depends on the runner’s jump. Bad jump and Brayan has time to get his arm up and throw over the top. Good jump and Brayan’s more likely to throw three-quarters to hurry the throw.
Pena said he was “blessed” with a good defensive second baseman and Chris Getz was adept at coming out in front of the base, adjusting to the throw (lower arm angles tend to have more movement) and going back into the base line to make the tag.
I asked Eric Hosmer about those rundown plays after Danny Duffy picked a couple runners off and he told me something interesting: I wanted to know when he was supposed to make the throw down to second. Did they want to make two throws and get the runner heading back to first or did they want it done in one throw?
Hos said the timing of the throw was based on the runner’s head. If the runner was looking back at him, Hos was supposed to hold the ball up and chase him to the fielder receiving the throw. If the runner turned his head toward second it meant he was committed to the next base and it was time to make the throw.
Matt Treanor said he was considering going to a hockey-style mask when he returned. They offer more protection down the side of the face and can be kept on for more plays, but…they’re hotter than hell. The big fear on his return is foul tips straight back to the mask. There’s nothing a catcher can do about that and any blow to the head can be serious.
It’s always good to remember how dangerous this game can be. These guys can make it look easy, but pitches thrown in the upper 90s and line drives leaving a bat at over 100 mph can do some serious damage…and so can shoulders to the cheekbone.
It always slays me that a golfer can’t make a three-foot putt if someone is whispering 50 feet away. Ballplayers are dealing with 98 up and in while 30,000 people scream their lungs out.
Mitch Maier entertained me with the story of his pitching appearance in Boston. He canned the windup in the bullpen and decided to go from the stretch. They asked him if he wanted a” pitcher’s toe” (a piece of rubber that fits over the toe of the back foot and protects the toe of the shoe when it’s drug across the ground). Mitch said he was not a “dragger” and wasn’t sure if his back foot actually ever left the pitching rubber. While he was telling the story his teammates we’re giving him a hard time about having no follow-through. (Hey, Bob Gibson had his style, Mitch has got his.)
Mitch said he was fine in warmups, but things got freaky when a hitter stood in for the first time. His first two pitches missed by, um, let’s say “a lot,” but then he zeroed in and began to get close to the zone…or at least close enough to get hitters to swing.
He got comfortable enough to try a “backdoor” curve to David Ortiz and then began trying various grips randomly to see if he could get any movement. The “cutter” that broke Jason Varitek’s bat apparently surprised Mitch as much as it did Jason.
I told him he should retire with his 0.00 ERA, but I’d pay to see him do it again.
A short conversation about Eric Hosmer’s hair
“Hos, what’s up with the hair? You’ve had like six different hairdos since you’ve been here. See this?”
I point to my head, “Same haircut since 1981.”
“Ya gotta keep ‘em guessing.”
“So you’re telling me my wife would like it if I came home with a Mohawk?”
“She’d love it.”
Eric Hosmer may know baseball, but Eric Hosmer clearly does not know my wife.