Games » Minnesota TwinsSep13
How things are connected
The Kansas City Star
One of the recurring themes on this website is how things are connected in ways that might not be apparent when looking at a box score. Tuesday night’s game had several excellent examples.
For instance: Starter Bruce Chen’s pitching made the Minnesota Twins’ coaches bring their infield in to cut off a run at the plate in the third inning.
Bringing the infield in is a semi-desperation move. It puts (I’ve read) about 100 points on the hitter’s average because the infielders have less range laterally (and if 100 points isn’t correct, it’s in the ballpark). By bringing the infielders in, the other team acknowledges it can’t afford to give up another run. Accordingly, the move often is reserved for late in a game.
The fact that Minnesota had its infield in when the Twins trailed by only two runs in the bottom of the third is a good indication of what the Twins’ coaches thought of Chen’s stuff. They weren’t sure the Twins could score three runs in the remaining six innings … and they were right. So infield in early can tell you how the opposition pitcher is throwing.
The fact that the Minnesota infield was in is also connected to the Royals’ reputation for running the bases. Back in April, first-base coach Doug Sisson told me this was part of the Royals’ plan to establish an identity as aggressive base runners. That would make opposing pitchers throw more fastballs and pitch out of the slide step and make opposing defenses pinch the middle infielders and rush throws. Melky Cabrera was on third base because of the last one.
Alex Gordon led off the third with a home run and after that Melky slapped the ball down the left-field line. Melky never hesitated rounding first, even though the ball was not going to get very deep into left. On the other hand, Joe Benson, the Twins’ left fielder, was going to field the ball going away from second base (one of the cues for advancing to the next base). Benson got in a rush and when that happens, the bottom half gets out in front of the top half and the release point gets messed up. Benson sailed the throw into short right field and Melky was on third. The Royals base running caused an E-7.
Here’s another connection: Billy Butler’s lack of foot speed cost Eric Hosmer a hit. With the Twins’ infield in, Minnesota starter Carl Pavano walked Billy. Now the Twins’ coaches decided to keep the corners in and put their shortstop and second baseman at double-play depth. (Which is kinda weird. They had nobody out, and playing for two up the middle is conceding the run at third. Maybe the Twins planned to let Billy chase a bad pitch, and when he wouldn’t, decided to go for two.) Hosmer hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Trevor Plouffe’s right, and Plouffe dived to knock it down. No way Plouffe gets Hosmer at first, so he went to second and forced out Billy. One player’s running speed hurts another player’s average.
And here’s one more: In the first inning, the Twins’ Ben Revere served a single into left and then took off for second. Catcher Salvador Perez gunned him down … but second baseman Johnny Giavotella dropped the ball. A second baseman’s glove makes a catcher’s arm look worse than it is.
Because things are connected.
Giavotella, Hosmer and Carbrera all made outstanding plays on fly balls and made Bruce Chen look a little better than he was … but Chen still was really good.
After the game, I walked up to Mike Moustakas and asked, “How does it feel to hit a ball 400 feet?” Moose pointed out that he actually hit the ball 410 feet, 6 inches. I told Moose that I couldn’t be happier for him and then asked how that home run changed his next at-bat.
“He started me off with a change-up,” Moose said. Right. In Moose’s first at-bat, Pavano threw four sinking fastballs, and the fourth one left the yard. Pavano has been around, so Mike was not getting another fastball until Pavano had set it up with another pitch. So in the next at bat, Pavano threw a change, a sinker and a splitter. See ya. Moose struck out.
I told Moose that when Clint Hurdle was the hitting coach for the Rockies, any Colorado player who hit a home run in batting practice had to hit the next pitch to the opposite field or get fined 50 cents. (I asked why the players would care about half a buck, and Clint said, “They’re competitive, they don’t like to lose.”) Moose said he might have to adopt the policy. If you go yard, don’t expect to see the same sequence in your next at-bat.
If you watched this game on TV, you saw the team give Mike the silent treatment after he hit that home run. They pretended that they hadn’t noticed that Moose had just hit a moon shot. Once they thought he had had enough, they were all over him, pounding on him and congratulating him.
To me, that’s a big deal. This team is 63-86, fighting to stay out of last place in the division and they still are having fun playing baseball. I get the impression that they all think better times are coming and what’s going on now is temporary.
When I asked Mitch Maier if he wanted to come back to the Royals next season, despite the reduction in his playing time this season, he said, yes, absolutely. Mitch said he could see what was going on with this team and wanted to be here when it started winning consistently. Jeff Francoeur said pretty much the same thing to me. They all believe good times are around the corner and want to be here when they arrive.
Joe Mauer shows what Hosmer’s worth
The Twins’ Joe Mauer was playing first base and failed to handle a throw in the dirt. He juggled the ball and finally dropped it and stuck his shortstop with an E-6. I’ve gotten so used to Eric Hosmer handling those throws that it was kind of shocking to see one butchered. But it was a good reminder of what Hosmer is worth.
A whole bunch of those outstanding plays that Hosmer has listed under his player profile would have been errors without his ability to scoop bad throws. (Sisson says Hosmer is a shortstop who happens to play first base.)
It’s a technicality
After Melky Cabrera hit that double in the third inning, there was an announcement in the press box that it was the first time in baseball history that all three outfielders on one team had hit 40 doubles in a season. Later, they announced that technically it wasn’t true: Melky hit one of his doubles while serving as a designated hitter.
Well, technically I don’t care. It’s still pretty amazing. I told Frenchy about the technicality and he said, “He’ll get another one.” So don’t be surprised if you see another dugout celebration when it happens.