Games » Chicago White SoxAug13
One Walk Too Many
The Royals lead the American League in walks. The Royals walked eight batters in this game. (One was intentional and one might have been one of those “we’re working around you” jobs, but I’m not in the mood to be charitable.) The winning run was a walk that scored. The walk that scored was driven in by a bases-loaded…wait for it…WALK!
Hey, I’m no genius, but if the Royals want to be better, throw some strikes. That seems pretty fundamental. When you get beat by walks, you’re literally giving the game away: Here, you take it, apparently we don’t want it.
Clint Hurdle story alert: I’m watching a game in Tidewater and Clint’s got a pitcher on the mound who’s just been given a three-run lead. Of course, he responds by walking the first two guys in the next inning. Hurdle comes out of the dugout and I can tell he’s steaming. He gets to the mound and it was very clear this kid was getting a major ass-chewing.
Clint goes back to the dugout and the very next pitch is ball one. I now get to see something I’d never seen before or since: a manager sprinting to the mound. Clint looked like he’d gotten a particularly good start out of the blocks in the 100-meter dash and got to the mound in record time. No words, just stuck out his hand for the ball.
After the game he was still smoking. I asked if that was a case of the pitcher being unable to throw strikes or unwilling to throw strikes. Clint said, “Can’t or won’t, neither one’s acceptable.” After Saturday night’s game, I know just how he felt.
The hardest inning again
Hey, remember what I said about the 7th being the hardest inning in yesterday’s post? Let’s all go reread that because the 7th is where it all blew up in this game. Luke Hochevar was not able to get the ball to the back end of the bullpen and it’s kind of revealing the Aaron Crow is no longer the back end of the bullpen. (Haven’t heard anyone suggest Crow be made a starter in a while.)
Ned Yost told me Crow was never anointed the 8th-inning set-up man; it’s always been mix and match. I’m guessing Holland wasn’t available after throwing two innings the night before and I don’t know about Louis Coleman or any other reliever’s status.
But the point is, the 7th is that bridge inning between a starter falling short and best part of a bullpen.
Billy Butler had a terrific at-bat in the 5th inning. The Sox had just intentionally walked Melky Cabrera to get to Billy. This is always a bit of a slap in the face, and the hitter has to keep his emotions under control. If he walks to the plate intent on showing the other team they made a mistake, that can translate into a big swing and a big out.
Maybe that’s why Peavy was throwing Butler nothing but sliders for most of the at-bat. If Billy’s trying to crush the ball, he’d be out in front and vulnerable to off-speed. But Billy seemed to have sights set on right field, with the bases loaded, a single would do plenty of damage.
Butler got a slider for a called strike, a slider he fouled off, took two more sliders that were off the plate (the key to the at-bat), fouled off a cutter and finally singled to right field on fifth slider he saw. A great at-bat in a big spot.
Sisson calls it
I was reminded of one of Doug Sisson’s pearls of wisdom during this game (and I’ve mentioned this before): anytime the pitcher comes over to first three times, watch the quality of the next pitch to the plate. Jake Peavy tried to pick off Johnny Giavotella three times, and when he finally got around to throwing one home, Salvadore Perez got a pitch up and doubled.
Saturday night the Royals faced pitcher Zach Stewart for the first time. When the Royals see a new pitcher, you might see a base runner take a one-way lead at first base. That means the runner is out there with no intention of breaking for second; he’s heading back to first. The idea is to intentionally draw a throw with a big lead so Doug Sisson can study the pitcher’s motion.
Doug is looking for a “key” (the first motion that indicates whether a pitcher is going home or coming over to first). So don’t get irritated when the opposing pitcher keeps throwing over to first, it’s actually giving the Royals valuable information.
A big catcher
Salvador Perez is 6’ 3”, 230 pounds, big for a catcher. There are good things about big catchers (big target) and bad things about big catchers (too big to get into blocking position quickly). Perez doesn’t seem to have that problem, but big catchers are also hard on their knees.
If Perez is going to have a long career behind the plate, maintaining his weight would seem to be a consideration. Remember the number “230” and see what weight he comes in at in spring training. That might tell you how long we’ll get to watch Perez behind the plate.
Who’s the backup?
OK, Salvador is the guy, but once Matt Treanor is available, who’s the backup? You’d think they’d want a veteran to help Perez with the game plan and catching technique, but they’ve got a manager who caught (although he might be a little busy) and a bench coach who caught and Jason Kendall lurking around.
I recently watched Matt Treanor go over the game plan for attacking hitters with Manny Pina during a pregame meeting. Who will the Royals want going over the game plan with Salvador Perez?
Don’t look at me, I just work here
According to Ron Polk’s system for measuring positive contributions to a baseball team, only Melky Cabrera has contributed more than Alcides Escobar to the Royals this season. That’s right, Esky has moved up to number two in player evaluations. That means one of three things:
Ron Polk’s system is messed up (look at his resume and it seems unlikely).
I’m bad at running the system (a much more likely bet).
Or we need to think about why Esky is rated so highly. (I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going with number three.)
This is one of the things I like most about Polk’s system: It’s forced me to think about the game in different ways. It doesn’t mean it’s the only or even the best way to think about players, but it pushes you to examine what you think and why you think it. I just keep my nose to the grindstone, watch every game and put in the numbers. I’m often quite surprised at the results, but then, instead of thinking, “This didn’t come out the way I expected, there must be a flaw” I think “Why didn’t it come out the way I expected?”
That’s when you reach some interesting conclusions, like: the system favors people who play. Being good, but hurt, doesn’t help the team very much. Look who’s on the top of the system: the four guys who have played their position from Opening Day on.
The system favors people who contribute in multiple ways. Billy Butler plays half the game and didn’t score many defensive points when he did play; the system takes that into account. Billy has a total of 15 base running points, he doesn’t help you much on the base paths and the system is pointing that out. Billy’s value is at the plate, and since he’s been hitting more home runs, his value has pushed him ahead of a few players he was trailing.
Getting back to Escobar, his value is mainly on defense, and Ron Polk’s system allows us to consider what a Gold Glove level shortstop does for a team. Other than the catcher, he handles more balls than anybody. The system is telling us going beyond the routine and getting your team extra outs is worth a lot.
Has Alcides Escobar contributed more to the Royals than anyone but Melky Cabrera? Actually, I don’t know and anyone who comes to a different conclusion won’t get a huge argument from me. But any system that makes you rethink your beliefs can’t be all bad.