Games » Cleveland IndiansAug28
A comfortable 0 for 4
So we’re playing in a Men’s Senior League game and my second baseman pops up to short. He comes into the dugout, sits next to me and says, “That pitcher’s got nuthin’.” I then asked him if that was so, why he was in the dugout. And that story leads me to Bruce Chen: he’s the Rodney Dangerfield of pitchers. He gets no respect.
Ozzie Guillen has a conniption fit when the White Sox lose to Bruce. (I actually have no idea what a conniption fit is, but my Mom warned me about them.) After the game Alex Gordon admitted that nobody around the league considers Chen an ace, but look who’s got a 3.94 ERA, has won twice as often as he’s lost (10-5) and is sticking it teams trying to make the playoffs.
Just like the pitcher my second baseman thought so little of, Bruce Chen does not impress you with his stuff. He doesn’t throw in the upper 90s, he doesn’t have a pitch you’d describe as nasty, he just knows how to pitch.
Hitters go back to the dugout knowing they can hit Bruce Chen, but they’re just not doing it. And that’s what major league players mean by a ‘comfortable 0 for 4’. You never feel overmatched…until you look at the scoreboard.
Sunday, Bruce Chen won his fifth game in a row.
Frank White & Ryan Lefebvre said Justin Masterson throws a heavy sinker and I know just what they mean. Danny Jackson, who played for my amateur team, threw the same kind of pitch and when I’d play catch with him, it felt like he was throwing me a shot put. Then I’d throw the ball back and it would appear that I’d thrown a Stay Puft marshmallow. There must be some scientific explanation for it, but I don’t know what it is.
In the first inning the Royals put Alex Gordon in motion on a 3-2 count with Melky Cabrera at the plate. The downside of this move can be a line drive double play, the upside, staying out of a groundball double play or going first to third on a base hit. The manager needs to trust the batter at the plate to not swing at ball four or strike out on a fastball. If the hitter strikes out on something off-speed, the runner has a good chance to steal the base. (By the way, Melky walked.)
Hard to tell on TV, but it appeared the Indians were playing a deep outfield. Over the series we saw several flares fall between the infield and a charging outfielder and a couple of balls that appeared to be doubles off the bat held to singles. This is the baseball version of football’s “prevent defense.” Play deep and keep the action in front of you, force the other team to get three or more hits to score a run. But just like football, you can get burned by letting too much fall in front of you for too long.
Just to make my defense of the stolen base look bad, Jeff Francoeur has decided to get thrown out at every opportunity. (You’re killing me, Frenchy.) This time he became one of the few human beings on earth to get caught by the fake-to-third-throw-to-first pickoff move. Melky was on third and probably did the right thing by breaking for home. You’re most likely screwed no matter what, so if there’s going to be a misplay, it might as well be at home so you can score a run.
Oh, and Melky probably broke at the right time, also (I’ll ask Doug Sisson when he gets back). Cabrera took off when the pitcher threw to second which puts the ball as far away from home as possible. It still didn’t work, but it was better than standing there watching Frenchy get run down.
In the top of the 4th, Melky Cabrera came up with one out and runners on first and second. Melky hit a hard grounder to the first base side. Whether he did it intentionally or not, Alex Gordon, who was on first, did a good job blocking out Matt LaPorta. Alex stopped and waited for the grounder to roll through, screening La Porta. Look for this play in the future from heads up base runners: they’ll intentionally slow down in front of a fielder and screen him from the ball as long as possible.
Kauffman Stadium may rob hitters of home runs, but the dimensions can give hitters more doubles. If I heard right, four of the Royals are among the top seven hitters in the league when it comes to doubles and as a team, the Royals are second in doubles to the Boston Red Sox. And some of that can be attributed to a more athletic lineup that has more speed and runs the bases well.
Jim Thome is 41 years old and they were talking about how much stretching he has to do to get ready for a game. That reminded me of George Brett. The winter before he retired George and I hit together once a week. (Turned out he mainly needed someone to unclog the pitching machine while he hit.) He told me he thought it might be his last season and I asked why, he could still hit better than a whole lot of other people in the big leagues. George said at his age it took him hours to get ready to play and hours of treatment after he played. He was tired of it. So, assuming he’s not hurting the Royals, enjoy Jim Thome’s career while it lasts. He’s getting near the end.
After two outs were made on four pitches in the top of the 8th, Johnny Giavotella swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded out. This would usually be considered bad baseball: someone’s got to take some pitches to keep the opposition from having an easy inning. It’s not as bad if the other team is already into their pen (you’re not trying to build up a starter’s pitch count), but it did force Bruce Chen to go back to the mound in the bottom of the 8th without much of a breather.
Jeff Francoeur made an error, but it wasn’t like he dropped a pop-up. He was in full stride, racing back on a line drive, looked back into the sun and the ball hit him in the heel of the glove. It was definitely an error, but not an easy play.
Wow, lucky Ned didn’t waste Greg Holland last night, huh? (If you can’t beat ‘em, switch sides and hope nobody notices.)
You were right, I was wrong
I recently posted a piece about the odds of scoring a run by having Jeff Francoeur steal third and Johnny Giavotella swing away vs. leaving Francoeur where he was and letting Giavotella and Salvador Perez swing away. I said it was a no-brainer and several readers disagreed.
You were right, I was wrong. (I’ve been married 27 years so I’ve had lots of practice saying that.) I turned the problem over to a friend of mine who taught statistics and probability, he did the math and the odds were closer than I realized. Stealing and hitting away was still a better bet, but not by as much as I thought. My friend also added some advice we should all remember: there are far too many factors in reality to totally depend on math. The people, situation and conditions involved will change the equation. It’s easy to go to Fangraphs or any other website featuring metrics and get an overall answer to a question, but the coaches and players have the best idea of what the odds actually are in any given situation.
In the future, I’ll try to stay out of the more complicated cases of odds and probability unless I hire a math-inclined Sherpa to guide me through the numerical wilderness.
But I’ve got this piece on sacrifice bunts I’ve been working on…