Games » Chicago White SoxAug14
How Jeff Francis can win a Cy Young
Can Jeff Francis get a do-over? If baseball had mulligans, Jeff Francis would win a Cy Young. I don’t know what the numbers are after this game, but during the game Ryan Lefebvre and Jeff Montgomery pointed out that Jeff has a 9.36 ERA in the first inning and a 3.78 ERA after that. Francis did nothing to break up that first-inning pattern in this game, giving up four runs. (From here on in, pay close attention to Jeff’s first inning.)
Francis also continued the pattern of Royals pitchers giving away too many free passes, hitting Alexi Ramirez in the first inning and walking him in the second, just to make sure Paul Konerko had a runner on when he came to the plate.
One of the theories when facing really good hitters is to assume the really good hitters will get their hits (hence, the ‘really good hitter’ label). The idea is to get the people in front of them and behind them and limit the damage the really good hitter can do. Ramirez was on four times and Konerko never made an out, so this “limit the damage” theory never worked out. Francis got his pitch count elevated and left the game before finishing the fourth.
OK, what else?
Mitch Maier made the same mistake as Melky Cabrera and threw to third, taking the double play out of order in the fourth inning. I’ll ask Mitch about it, but he’s the second-scariest guy in the clubhouse: (Jason Kendall wins hands down). Mitch usually sits quietly in his clubhouse chair before the games start with a half-smile on his face, but you get the feeling that if baseball hadn’t worked out, being a leg-breaker for a Detroit loan shark might’ve been his second career choice.
And don’t tell Mitch I said that.
Brayan Pena kind of did that thing where he stands up when he wants a high pitch. I asked John Gibbons if he liked that and he said it didn’t bother him. When Ned Yost was asked about it, he said they were trying to break Brayan of the habit. (Clearly, you don’t always get the same answer to the same question.) And isn’t telling him not to do it enough to break Brayan of the habit?
The White Sox have nine outfield assists, the Royals have 40 (got that from Ryan and Monty, too). Enjoy it Royals fans, you’re seeing a great demonstration of outfield arms.
As I’ve previously mentioned, if you see Nate Adcock warming up, it’s not good. The starter is having a meltdown and Ned is going to long relief.
The scorekeeper was on the spot when the first hit of the game came off a bad hop. Billy Butler hit the ball right down the first-base line and it came up on Brent Lillibridge. As always, things aren’t as cut and dried as they seem. Scorekeepers make calls and people immediately get in their face about changing the call and often they do. (It’s really not all that scientific.) Jeff Francoeur (the man with the personality of your average Golden Retriever) immediately took the scorekeeper off the hook by doubling down the line.
The catcher’s mitt
A reader asked about Salvador Perez and what he was doing with his mitt before the pitch was delivered and here’s the answer: the catcher sets the target after giving the signs, but once the pitcher goes into his motion, the catcher relaxes his receiving hand.
It’s an effort to keep the hand soft and not stiff. (Hold your hand out in the receiving position for a while and you’ll see what I mean.) If you have the Ned Yost tape on catching (I do) made in the last century, you’d see Ned explaining that the catcher makes a ¼ counter clockwise turn with his mitt when the pitcher is in the windup.
The idea is (or was) to have the mitt in a “halfway position,” back of the hand pointed toward third. This meant the catcher only had to rotate halfway to receive a high pitch (palm down) and halfway to receive a low pitch (palm up).
Interestingly enough, catchers no longer do this, convinced that if they receive the ball palm up the umpire won’t give them the call. That means they’re trying to catch balls down and in to right handers palm down, which is a great way to miss the ball or break a thumb.
The game evolves.
How you become a better ball player
OK, I’ve forgotten the guy’s name, but there was this relief pitcher that played for the Chicago Cubs back when the Brooklyn Dodgers still existed. The Dodgers would come to town and kick the stuffing out of the Cubs and this guy would sit in the pen and admire them.
He’d think, “They never miss the cutoff man, they always get their bunts down, they’re always taking the extra base … wouldn’t it be great to play for a team like that?” Sure enough, he gets traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers.
He sits in the Brooklyn pen during the first game, never gets the call and afterward, showers and dresses. He comes around the corner in his suit and tie (lets you know how old this story is) and is confronted by Pee Wee Reese, holding two cold beers and wearing nothing but a jock strap, “Where the @#@% you going?”
“No, it’s not.” Reese hands him a beer and leads him around the corner where the entire team in various states of undress and inebriation is discussing that day’s game. They were talking about the fine details: “hit the relay man on the glove side” kind of stuff. The relief pitcher thought, “This is why they’re so good.”
When he pitched for my men’s senior league team, I asked former Royal Danny Jackson about this and he confirmed it: he’d never been on a good team that didn’t hang out, or a bad one that did. Hanging out is where you learn the game.
And that brings us (finally) to the 2011 Royals.
It’s actually harder to learn baseball these days. The players don’t have long train trips with nothing to do but talk about the game. They don’t even have to talk with each other on today’s short plane flights. Everyone’s got an iPad or an iPod or a iDon’tCarePad or Pod and they can sit there with their headphones in and watch their own personal movie if they choose to. But while they’re doing that they’re not learning the game.
When Jason Kendall got back from his short rehab stint, he told me he was playing with kids fresh out of high school. When they’d practice situational hitting and worked on hit and runs, they’d ask, “Mr. Kendall, why do you keep hitting grounders to the second baseman?”
Jason’s response generally came in two parts: A.) “If you call Mr. Kendall again, I’ll kill you” and B.) “Are you kidding me? If you’re a right-handed hitter and the runner takes off, who’s probably going to cover? The second-baseman. Learn to hit a 37-hopper that direction and you can get a hit and have runners on first and third.”
Jason said so many of these kids are playing on tournament teams and trying to get noticed by putting up numbers, they haven’t learned the game. They haven’t learned to be a team player or how to win. (And if you wonder why Ron Polk thinks a sac bunt is worth two points, there’s your answer.) Prospects no longer spend year after year in the minors learning the game. Fans want to see the kids they’ve heard about and owners want to cash in on all that signing bonus money they’ve spent. So there’s the bad news: the Royals have an infield made up entirely of kids who haven’t learned all the finer points of the game. That’s going to show. (Think Johnny Giavotella’s behind the back attempt to get a runner Sunday: highly entertaining, but unlikely to work and he got lucky that Billy Butler stopped the ball. Otherwise the runner would’ve been on second.)
The good news is the kids are highly talented and they’ve got some veterans around to steer them in the right direction. That’s why it’s a big deal when I see Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas or anybody else back in the far corner of the clubhouse, having a beverage and talking about the game.
It’s how you become a better ball player.