Games » Seattle MarinersSep8
How you give up an unearned run
With two outs in the 7th inning, Luke Hochevar gave up a single to Ichiro Suzuki. Easy to do, the guy’s pretty good, even in an off year. Normally a runner on first with two outs is not a huge emergency. Usually, the runner is still two hits away from scoring. Unfortunately for the Royals, Ichiro is kinda fast going to second and Luke is kinda slow going home.
I’ve been told Hochevar can have problems throwing strikes from the slide step, so that means he has to use a high-leg kick to stay in the zone. The Mariners own stopwatches, too, so Ichiro stole second and then third. (Yet another example of why all stats should be taken with a grain of salt: the bases were stolen because Hochevar is slow home, but they’ll go on Salvador Perez’ record.)
I don’t know what the Royals preach, but there is a school of thought that says don’t worry too much about the runner, do what you have to get the batter and the runner can’t hurt you. Luke actually did that and got Brendan Ryan, the batter at the plate while all this base stealing was going on, to hit a grounder to Alcides Escobar, which should have ended the inning.
On a fairly routine play, Esky did not get his hands out in front. When that happens, the hands are hard: when they’re out in front, they can give with the ball, when they’re back, they’ve got no place to go. Esky bobbled the ball, picked it up, threw in a rush and buried the throw. E6, run scored.
So it wasn’t the hit that hurt, it was A.) being slow to the plate and B.) having the hands in the wrong position. Take away that run and the leadoff walk that scored in front of Justin Smoak’s home run and the Royals have the tying run on third in the 9th inning.
Now that I think about it, the Royals gave up two unearned runs.
The ball got away when Ichiro stole second and Melky Cabrera did a nice job of backing the play up, otherwise Ichiro would’ve been on third a little sooner than he was.
Despite the walk that scored and not controlling Ichiro on the bases, Luke Hochevar pitched well again. He struck out nine. When you see a batter foul off pitch after pitch with two strikes, that can mean the pitcher does not have a put-away pitch. Luke had a couple of long at-bats, but seven of his nine strikeouts came on the slider and six of those were swinging. Sounds like a put away pitch to me.
Eric Hosmer is not that fast, and that’s according to Eric Hosmer. When I asked the base stealers what time they could beat when the pitcher goes home, Hos had the highest, 1.5. Despite that, he still steals bases. His success rate is 64% and the Royals are shooting for 75% overall, so he probably still needs work on when he goes. I’ll bring this up with Doug Sisson when the team returns.
Speaking of Doug, he told me that the Mariners play a deep outfield. It’s the baseball version of the “prevent defense.” Seattle is trying to force the opposition to get three singles to score a run. Watch for that positioning to come into play on balls that fall in between the infield and outfield, balls that are cut off in the gap preventing extra bases and runners taking the extra base when the ball is fielded deep.
Mike Moustakas, who also can beat a 1.5 delivery time, prefers not to steal. In this game he looked like he was having a hard time reading lefty Jason Vargas’ move and was sometimes headed back to first when Vargas went home.
With two outs, a steal is a common move, especially if you don’t mind seeing the hitter at the plate lead off the next inning. If it’s a weak hitter, the runner will sometimes stay put, knowing that getting thrown out can also screw up the next inning when the weak hitter leads off with an out.
With two outs in the 6th, Melky Cabrera stole second with Hosmer at the plate. If Melky gets thrown out, Hos leads off the 7th with a fresh count. If Melky’s safe, either Hos gets to hit with a runner in scoring position or they can walk Hosmer and face Jeff Francoeur with two runners on. They chose to go after Hosmer and he drove the run in.
Then when Hosmer stole second with two outs, Frenchy did not have a bat behind him that would force them to pitch to him. So with first open, they walked Jeff and went after Moose, lefty on lefty and Moose struck out.
A reader asked why I didn’t write about the play at the plate Wednesday afternoon in Oakland. The truth is I make no attempt to write about everything, I try to pick small moments of interest that teach us something about the game. But after watching several replays of Salvador Perez blocking the plate, the reader was right, I should’ve written about it.
To me, the most remarkable thing about the play was Sal’s left foot (once again). Perez does a phenomenal job of leaving that foot in place no matter where the rest of his body has to go to receive the ball. That foot is placed on the third base foul line in front of the plate. If you’ve watched the “Catcher’s Blind Spot” video on this website, you know that moving that foot can cause the catcher to lose position.
Perez didn’t move the foot despite having to go far to his right to receive the throw and getting run over when he came back for the tag. I can see why veteran catchers like Ned Yost and John Gibbons think this kid is special.
OK, here’s what I got wrong lately
As promised, Doug Sisson has responded to my emails while the Royals are on the road. Here’s what I got wrong lately: In the Sept. 6 game against Oakland I said the Johnny Giavotella made a mental mistake when he didn’t cover second on a ball hit to Yamaico Navarro.
Yamaico was playing third, got a grounder behind the bag and decided to go to second base for the force and third out of the inning, except nobody was covering second. I thought it was Johnny’s bag and so did Doug, but he said Eddie Rodriguez was telling Alcides Escobar it was his responsibility to cover the bag. So, no mental mistake for anyone until I can talk to Eddie Rodriguez. (Once again, a lesson in not jumping to conclusions.)
That lets Gio off the hook for a mental mistake on defense, but Doug said I missed a Giovatella mental mistake on offense: in the second inning of the same game Navarro came to the plate with Johnny on second and Salvador Perez on first. Yamaico hit the ball over the right fielder’s head, but for a while, it looked like the right fielder might catch the ball.
Perez advanced as far as he could (almost to second) and Gio came back to tag. I said that was good base running because that’s what I’d been taught: on a questionable catch with no outs, go back and tag, with one out take a lead and with two outs, haul the mail. Apparently, the Royals are playing a slightly more sophisticated game.
In that situation (no outs, questionable catch) they want the runner to stay off the base in his secondary lead. The logic goes this way: if the ball is caught deep, the runner still has time to get back to the bag, tag and advance to third. (And if this ball had been caught, that’s exactly what would’ve happened: the catch would’ve been on the warning track with the outfielder moving away from the infield.) If the ball is not caught, staying in the secondary lead allows the runner to score. So Johnny’s base running cost Navarro a double and an RBI and meant Navarro did not score himself later in the inning.
Bit by bit
OK, what you just read is at the heart of winning baseball. This is how teams get better. Good teams pay attention to tiny little details like how far the runner extends his lead on a fly ball to the outfield when there’s nobody down. Good teams know this situation will come up again and, if they learn from a past mistake, they can be better the next time it happens.
You also just got a look at the kind of thing that’s said during a Doug Sisson base-running session. What Doug just told me and I just told you, is also what Doug probably told Johnny Giavotella. This is how teams get better. I see Doug going over these situations with his runners on a consistent basis. It’ll be 3 p.m. on a boiling-hot day, the game’s four hours away and Doug and the runners are walking through situations from previous games. This is how you prepare to win. Bit by bit you improve.
I’ve told Doug and Seitz and Ned and Eddie and everybody else I’ve ever talked to, that they shouldn’t hesitate to correct me. I want to get this stuff right. I want to understand what I’m seeing and I want you to understand what you’re seeing.
Because of the mistake in Oakland, Johnny Giavotella is now a better base runner, I’m a better sports writer and you’re a better fan.
Bit by bit we improve.