Games » Detroit TigersAug31
Why it's better to lose early than late
It looked as if the Tigers set an ambush for Nate Adcock, and it almost backfired. The Tigers went to the plate swinging early, probably convinced that Nate was going to come well into the zone in an effort to get ahead. They did nick him for a couple of runs, but his pitch count was so low, the Royals got 5 1/3 innings out Adcock in this emergency start. That meant Detroit did not get into a tired bullpen as early as they hoped, but when they eventually did, the game turned around.
I don’t know about anybody on the Royals, but I’d much rather get beat early than late. If you’re never in the game you just trot out the clichés: “Well, ya gotta tip your cap” or “It just wasn’t our day” and move on.
Getting beat late is much more depressing. It means that, even if things are going well the next day, you don’t feel comfortable. And teams that are looking for a reason to lose often find one.
The bullpen has been awfully good this season. This is what it feels like when they aren’t.
Some game stuff
• Billy Butler got thrown out at third trying to advance on a ball that dropped in. Hosmer’s single hung up, Billy couldn’t leave second right away and then made a late charge for third and was thrown out. That violates the ‘never make the first or third out at third’ rule of base running. There are exceptions (Doug Sisson has explained some of them to me), but this didn’t appear to be one.
• Eric Hosmer has hit 14 home runs. 10 of them either tied the game or gave the Royals a lead. So there are home runs and there are home runs. There are also players who specialize in the meaningless home run: down by seven in the 9th and they hit a solo-shot. People who look at the numbers without asking when those numbers were put up and what they meant are missing (as Chris Getz so eloquently put it) the “heartbeat of the game.”
• A lot of players did not graduate from college, Chris did not graduate from two colleges, so you can see how he comes up with this stuff.
The downside of the successful bunt or steal
We’ve talked a lot about the hidden benefits of the bunt and the steal (I still don’t think I’ve got some of you convinced), but this game provided a look at one of the drawbacks: you open a base. When Chris Getz got a two-out hit in the ninth inning, I was pretty sure he’d steal.
If I remember my delivery times correctly, Tiger closer Jose Valverde is slow to the plate. Like 1.7 slow. That means Getz has time to stop off at a Starbucks on his way down to second. In Tuesday’s game, Getz was going to have a very difficult time stealing because reliever Joaquin Benoit is a 1.2. (They have all this timed out, y’know. People aren’t running because they have a ‘good feeling.’)
OK, so two outs, down by one in the ninth, pitcher with a slow delivery time to the plate, base stealer on first: hit the after-burners, right? Get a man in scoring position and be one hit away instead of two. But opening up a base allows the opposition to work around a hitter. It gives them some room to work with.
After Chris stole second the Tigers worked around pinch-hitter Brayan Pena (in the game after Salvador Perez had to leave after a collision at the plate) and went after Alcides Escobar. Brayan was up on the left side, Esky would be up on the right (and has been scuffling), Valverde’s right handed, so an easy choice to make.
When you’re watching a game and you’re thinking about a steal or a bunt, remember to ask yourself who is on-deck or available off the bench, because the guy at the plate may not get to swing the bat.
Chris and I were walking out to the Little K to do a video on turning double plays and we started talking about his future. I asked if he’d consider becoming a utility player. Chris said no one had asked him to, but thought he could if it was required. He said he doesn’t have an arm like Esky’s, but the one he does have is good enough to make most of the plays he’d have to deal with.
As I wrote before, surprisingly, he said it was his feet he’d have to work on. Shortstops have less time and less room for error than second basemen, so the footwork has to be more precise.
If Getz did become a utility player he’d seem to have a lot going for him: solid defender, a base stealer, a guy who can get down a bunt, execute a hit and run or just give you an at-bat appropriate to the situation. And he’s pretty good with runners in scoring position, too.
Matt’s back with the Texas Rangers and I’m sorry to see him go. When you’re writing about baseball you develop go-to-guys in the clubhouse: guys you can always go to when you wanted to have a conversation about something that happened in the game.
When Matt figured out what I was doing (trying to write about the details of the game) he was on-board. Like most catchers, Matt thinks a great deal of what they do goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Treanor was always up front about making mistakes and had a sly sense of humor that made every encounter enjoyable. (If you saw him walking around with a hockey helmet on after he got knocked out, you know what I mean.)
I hope he does well in Texas.
Mike Moustakas and I can now talk hitting again. I told him I wasn’t going to talk to him about it anymore after watching him patiently answer questions about his slump night after night. It’s kind of like asking someone how they feel about the death of a loved one and then showing up every night to remind them that their loved one is still dead. (Chris Getz told me a story about Gordon Beckham agreeing to do a call-in radio show in Chicago, then going into a slump and having to constantly be reminded of his slump every time he did the radio show.)
So, I said, enough, I’m not going to add to that and told Mike I’d talk to him about it once he started hitting again. Mike’s slump ended earlier than statistics would indicate, he started making some hard outs before he started getting hits, and even then I still wouldn’t talk to him.
When you start to come out of a slump, you feel like it’s really fragile. The nightmare might be over, but you don’t want to talk about it and jinx yourself. So I said, “We’re still not talking. Just go get some.”
Moose knew exactly what I meant, laughed, fist-bumped me and walked off. But after a 14-game hitting streak and getting his average up a bit, I guess it’s safe to talk hitting with Moose again.
What a thrill for him, huh?