Games » Cleveland IndiansSep4
Two pitching decisions
To understand what happened in Sunday afternoon’s game, it might help to look at Saturday night’s game, so here we go.
A reader asked me a question and I thought it was a good one, so I took it straight to Royals manager Ned Yost. Saturday night, the Royals had a four-run lead going into the ninth inning. The Cleveland Indians had Carlos Santana (a switch-hitter), Jim Thome (a lefthander) and Jack Hannahan (a lefthander) due up. So why did Ned bring in right-handed reliever Greg Holland instead of left-hander reliever Tim Collins?
Ned said he had Collins and Holland warming up in the bullpen in the eighth inning, and if Luke Hochevar, the Royals’ starter, had put a runner on base, he would have made a move. But because Luke was cruising (he went 1-2-3 against Jerad Head, Ezequiel Carrera and Kosuke Fukudome in the eighth), Ned never made the move. Luke finished the inning at 117 pitches, and when it came time to bring in a reliever, Ned went with the most consistent arm he had, which was Holland.
Tim Collins has given up a lot of walks, and if he got two runners on in the ninth, then Yost would have had to use closer Joakim Soria. A game that’s in the bag becomes an emergency. Using Holland for one inning doesn’t prevent him from being used the next day, so Ned decided to drop the hammer. “When you’ve got ’em down, stomp on ’em.”
Sunday’s game showed the wisdom of Saturday’s decision.
Sunday’s starter, Jeff Francis, did not pitch great, but he left the game after five innings and the Royals trailed the Indians 4-1. That’s not where you want to be, but it’s not an impossible climb, either. This time, Ned did go to Tim Collins, and Tim did what he’s been doing. Collins walked the first batter, struck out the second and walked the third.
Collins has pitched 59 innings this eason, walking 43 batters (which is very bad) and striking out 51 (which is very good). This makes Tim the baseball version of a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get. And that means it can be hard to use him when a game is on the line.
This time it may not have seemed as if the game was on the line, but Tim’s two walks scored in front of the home run that Jesse Chavez gave up to Shelley Duncan. (Technically, both walks did not score, but Carlos Santana hit into a fielder’s choice and first baseman Eric Hosmer went for the lead runner. Santana just replaced the previously walked Asdrubal Cabrera.) Two inning later, Chavez walked Santana to get to Duncan, who homered again. Three walks scored (kind of), and the Royals rallied and still lost by three runs.
So to get us back where we started: Ned Yost did not use Tim Collins Saturday night because he was afraid that Tim would do what he did Sunday afternoon.
• Chris Getz again had some low throws from shortstop (apparently he owes Eric Hosmer two steak dinners after Hosmer bailed him out). After the game, Chris said he probably should have thrown from over the top when he’s at short. Shortstops use a variety of arm slots, and in the last two games Chris has struggled to find the right slot for the right play. The exception would be charging a dribbler. There’s no time on that play, and infielders have to throw with a low arm angle.
• Mitch Maier got on the board with an outfield assist. The Royals have thrown 23 runners out at the plate this season. (24 according to the newspaper this morning.) Either way, this is really unusual. Throwing someone out at the plate is hard. So many things have to go right. According to Robert Ford on 610 AM (he’s who I listen to on the drive home from the game), the only team that has thrown out more runners at the plate was the 1974 Montreal Expos (if I’m remembering what he said correctly). So if you’re a Royals fan, enjoy it. You’re seeing something special this season.
• That play at the plate involved another throw from right field, and — if you’ve been following along — you know Brayan Pena has struggled with that play. (There’s a video on this site that explains why.) Basically, if the throw pulls the catcher to the first-base side of home plate, the catcher can lose the plate’s location. He’s looking to right and the runner is approaching from his left, the catcher’s blind spot.
Brayan has had two plays in which he received the ball from the right, turned to tag the runner, but was on the wrong side of the plate (the first-base side) and tagged high while the runner got a foot in. Brayan told me he was going to solve the problem by diving back to the corner of the plate for the tag. That’s what he did on this play. Unfortunately, the runner, Carlos Santana, had not arrived yet, and Brayan’s dive had him lying in front of home plate. Bottom line: It was ugly, but it worked.
• Speaking of tags, Jeff Francis picked off a runner, threw to Hosmer and Hosmer threw to Johnny Giavotella, who was covering second base. Johnny got the ball in plenty of time, but he made the mistake of staying behind the base and reaching out for the tag (which was the same basic problem Pena had). The runner, Jason Donald, got in under the tag. After the game, I asked Gio what he would do differently next time . Johnny said he would come out in front of second base (on the first-base side). That way, he would force the action in front of the base, not at the base. Johnny also said that when someone slides head-first (as Donald did), it makes it a lot easier to block that runner off the bag.
OK, somebody apologize to Mitch
After the game, I was giving Mitch Maier a hard time about climbing the fence down the right-field line but missing the catch. “It was a beautiful play. You were just nowhere near the ball.” I told him. Jeff Francoeur said he would like to see me try to make that play.
I think we’ve established that I can’t run, jump or catch. And if I could, I probably wouldn’t be going anywhere near a wall at high speed. After the game, I saw a replay and Mitch just barely missed that ball, then bounced backward off the wall and caught the rebounding ball (it hit the top of the padding) on the way down. So it may have been the most athletic play I’ve seen all year that didn’t result in an out.
If you’re with the team and you read this, tell Mitch I’m sorry. (Plus, he’s bigger than me, and I want to stay on his good side.)
On the Royals’ last road trip, when Jeff Francoeur got picked off on the first-and-third move, he took off for second base and Melky Cabrera took off for home plate. At the time, I said Melky broke at the right time because the pitcher threw the ball to second, which meant that the ball was as far as possible from home plate.
Royals first-base coach Doug Sisson told me I had it wrong. In that situation, the coaches want the runner to break on the first infielder’s throw. So in that case, Melky should have waited until the shortstop threw the ball back to first (assuming Frenchy was sharp enough to get in a rundown).
That would have put the ball in the hands of the first baseman (who usually has the worst arm on the infield), facing away from home plate. Melky’s timing put the ball in the hands of shortstop, (who usually has the best arm on the infield), facing toward home.