Games » Tampa Bay RaysAug10
Analyzing a meltdown
In a weird way, the whole thing started when Melky Cabrera hit his three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning. Suddenly, it wasn’t a save situation. Suddenly, Joakim Soria was sitting down and Aaron Crow was getting up. Suddenly, the Royals went from an intense, one-run ball game to a game that seemed to be in the bag. Melky was so relaxed he was joking and clowning on his way out to centerfield for the bottom of the ninth.
Funny thing about baseball, though: You can’t run out the clock. Unlike football or basketball or hockey or soccer or any other sport with a clock, there never is a situation in baseball in which you can say, “There just isn’t enough time for them to catch us.”
Keep getting hits, and you have all the time in the world. And the Rays kept getting hits.
Second-guessers will say Royals manager Ned Yost should have stuck with Soria. First-guessers, too. I had my doubts about the last-second switch, but Ned said after the game that Crow had enough time to warm up. Especially after Ned sent Greg Holland out to stall with a few warmup pitches of his own. And there are a lot of closers (I don’t know whether Soria is one) who have the reputation of pitching poorly when it isn’t a save situation. Plus, Ned said that with an afternoon game looming on Thursday, he wanted to save Soria if he could.
On the other hand, wins have been hard to come by in St. Petersburg. You don’t know that you will need Soria the next day, and there’s a bird in your hand. You might want to close your fist. Still, Ned was managing by the book when he went with Crow, and whether you agree with the book or not, it can’t be called a mistake. But Melky’s ninth-inning decision can be called a mistake.
With the Rays’ Matt Joyce on second base and Johnny Damon on first, Tampa Bay batter Evan Longoria singled to center field. Your box score says “double,” but that was wishful thinking on the part of the Tampa Bay scorekeeper. Melky’s throw came into third base instead of second, and Longoria advanced, taking the double play out of order.
The next batter, Ben Zobrist, then hit a chopper to second baseman Johnny Giavotella. It didn’t look as though it was hit hard enough to be a double-play ball, but Johnny should have been able to force Longoria at second if Longoria had still been at first. Then the ball that the next batter, Casey Kotchman, hit, which pulled Giavotella to his right, would have been an easy force of Zobrist at second instead of a failed throw to first.
And then Soria’s strikeout of B.J. Upton would have been the third out instead of the second, and we would all be talking about Salvador Perez, the new Royals’ catcher, instead of analyzing a meltdown.
Let’s talk about Salvador Perez
Let me expand on that: Salvador Perez’s arm changes things for the Royals infielders and opposition base runners. First, Royals infielders better be heads-up because Perez likes to pick off runners. In this game, they were. Third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer got points for tough picks and tags. Perez’s pick-off of Sam Fuld in the eighth inning got the Royals out of a jam, and his pick of Casey Kotchman in the fourth did the same thing.
Perez’s arm means that opposing runners may have to take shorter leads, which means more runners caught stealing, fewer runners going first to third or second to home or breaking up double plays. His size makes more pitches look like strikes. The Matt Treanor video on the website explains how pitches caught between the shin guards are more likely to be called strikes. So wider shin guards equals more strikes.
The drawback to size can be a difficulty getting into the correct blocking or throwing position quickly. This hampered John Buck when Buck caught for the Royals, but if Perez has this problem, I sure couldn’t spot it in this game. I’m no expert, but Perez seemed to receive the ball quietly without the exaggerated jerking around of someone who was trying to pull the ball back into the strike zone, which probably makes an umpire mad.
I don’t know about Perez’s ability to call a game, but I will ask around. One drawback that catchers who throw well sometimes have is they want to show off their arms and call for too many fastballs. I didn’t notice that with Perez, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
But before we put him in the Hall of Fame …
People get a little nuts about new players. I heard someone was comparing Johnny Giavotella with Dustin Pedroia. Could we let him play two weeks before we give him the MVP trophy? Veteran observers say you need to see a guy play 40 to 50 games to get an idea of what you have on your hands.
It took Alex Gordon four years.
A slider gets slammed
Royals starter Felipe Paulino gave up a home run on a flat slider and that reminded me of Jim Palmer. Palmer once said more balls had been hit farther on bad sliders than on any other pitch. According to Jim, a hung curve is at least a change of speeds, and lots of hung curves get popped up.
A bad slider is pretty much a mediocre fastball. Paulino’s previous pitch was a 95 mph fastball. The slider that left the park was 88 mph and didn’t move much at all … until Matt Joyce hit it.
Just like they drew it up
Whenever the timing seems right, I’m going to post the Royals’ pregame schedule. Included in that schedule is their batting-practice routine, and within that routine is a situational hitting round. During that round, the hitter is asked to “get him over” and “get him in.” The idea is to hit the ball to the right side to get a runner on second base to third and then hit a ball in the air (or, if the infield’s back, on the ground up the middle) to get the run in.
In the fifth inning, Alcides Escobar led off with a double, Alex Gordon got him to third with a deep fly ball to center and Melky Cabrera got him in when he golfed a low pitch to right field for a sacrifice fly. On a night with an ending that pretty much sucked, you might as well try to enjoy this demonstration of excellent situational hitting.
But Melky still needed to throw the ball to second.
A play from Tuesday night
When Eric Hosmer stole second off Tampa Bay starter James Shields on Tuesday night, it was the first time anyone stole a base off Shields all season. If Hos had been thrown out, I’m sure somebody would have been happy to say, “What are the Royals doing? Don’t they know you can’t steal off James Shields?”
Had these critics been alive in 1953, they might have said, “What’s Edmund Hillary doing? Doesn’t he know you can’t climb Mount Everest?” Statistically, neither attempt makes sense, but just because something hasn’t been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done.