Games » Detroit TigersSep20
Pick your poison
The Kansas City Star
The Royals stole zero bases in this game and scored 10 runs. The two numbers are not totally unrelated. Before the game, first-base coach Doug Sisson told me that, in response to the Royals’ aggressive base running this season, almost all opposing pitchers had lowered their delivery times to home plate. Pitchers who at the beginning of the season were getting the ball home in 1.5 seconds (a time lots of guys can steal on) are now down to 1.3 seconds (a time a lot of guys can’t steal on).
Detroit’s pitchers are no exception. But those faster delivery times mean that more hittable pitches are delivered to the plate. The pitchers throw more fastballs. They throw more pitches out of the slide step, which can cause the ball to rise in the zone (the pitcher’s bottom half gets out in front of the pitcher’s top half). And more pitches are delivered after pickoff attempts, which disrupt a pitcher’s rhythm.
So Detroit may have stopped the Royals from stealing bases Tuesday night, but they couldn’t stop them from collecting 16 hits — including a double and three home runs — five walks, 10 runs and a victory.
Because the Tigers had to pick their poison.
As far as your fastball will take you
I spent some time talking to pitcher Everett Teaford before the game (more on that later) and he talked about the difference between relieving and starting. There were several differences, but the one that struck me while watching this game was this: Relievers have to give their best stuff right now. Starters like to keep something in reserve.
His first time through the opponent’s batting order, a starter sometimes will try to get away with throwing one pitch, usually a fastball. He might throw different versions of that fastball, but he would like to save something for the second and third trips through the order. You could really see this with Royals starter Luis Mendoza.
His first time through the Tigers’ batting order (if I counted right), Mendoza threw 33 pitches. Four were sliders, three were changes and one was a curveball. When he faced Austin Jackson for a second time, Mendoza threw Jackson three sliders in that at-bat alone.
So one more way to decipher how a pitcher is throwing would be this: How quickly does he have to go to his secondary pitches? Even if there are no runs on the board, he might be in trouble. Many pitchers, if they are doing great, will stay with the fastball as long as possible. Teaford said that If he’s struggling, he may have to throw the kitchen sink at the first batter.
The fact that Mendoza could go through the Tigers’ order once while throwing mainly fastballs was a good sign.
• Around 27,000 fans on a Tuesday night when the Royals weren’t giving anything away is a good sign that people are catching on to this team.
• Sisson also said the Detroit outfield throws well. It occurred to me to check for left-handed throwers on the diamond (there weren’t any). As we discussed earlier, lefties’ throws tend to tail to their throwing sides. That’s just one more thing to be aware of when watching a game or sending a runner home.
• Detroit right fielder Magglio Ordonez plays deep, and so does left fielder Delmon Young. Center fielder Austin Jackson plays shallow. Doug said that the more athletic an outfielder is, the shallower he tends to play. Guys with bad wheels want to keep the ball in front of them.
• Doug also said that Alex Avila, Detroit’s catcher, throws well.
• I asked Mike Moustakas about that play on Sunday when third base was left uncovered and Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez was able to advance an extra base on a ball hit to Alex Gordon. If third had been covered, Ramirez would have been a pretty easy out to end the inning. Then A.J. Pierzynski never would have come to the plate to hit a three-run home run.
Moose said he’s got the bag on balls hit from left-center field all the way to the right-field line. On balls hit from the left-center gap to the left-field line he is the cutoff man in the middle of the infield (Hosmer doesn’t have time to get there), and the shortstop takes third. (There may be exceptions to this on some plays, but this is the way it generally works.)
• On the play described above (a possible play at third or home), the pitcher heads straight for the third-base dugout, then breaks to backup third or home, depending on where the throw goes.
• Delmon Young dropped an easy pop fly, and I’m pretty sure what happened. (Trust me, if you want to know how pop flies get dropped, I’m your guy.) Delmon was slowing down when he dropped the ball. If an outfielder isn’t careful, he will slow down on his heels, and that makes his head bounce. You have to slow down on the balls of your feet to keep a clear view of the ball.
• If you don’t plan on bringing a stopwatch to the game to time a pitcher’s deliveries home, just use this rule of thumb: The higher the leg kick, the slower the delivery. This is why a lot of hard throwers are slow to the plate. The high leg kick generates power. It is also why Boston’s Tim Wakefield is quick to the plate (1.2 seconds). No high kick is necessary on a knuckleball.
• Don’t be surprised if Jeff Francoeur goes into funk for a while. I asked Frenchy whether he was going to swing out his rear end (not the word I used but I don’t know if they’ll edit “ass”) until he got his 20th home run. Frenchy has 20 stolen bases, so I figured he would like to be a 20-20 guy.
Frenchy started laughing and said, “Probably.” He said he wanted to hit .280, and it looks as though he’ll do that. Whatever happens, he’s happy with the year he’s had.
• Detroit’s Ramon Santiago led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. First baseman Eric Hosmer looked into the Royals’ dugout and held up his arms, crossed at the wrist. That signal was a question: “Do you want me to play behind the runner?”
The score was 10-2, and the answer was yes, play behind the runner. (To indicate that, someone on the bench makes the same signal back to Hos.) Eric then yelled at reliever Blake Wood and showed him the same sign. That means, “Don’t throw over. I won’t be there.” Tomorrow, I plan to make a video with Brayan Pena that shows some of the signs a catcher uses to communicate with the pitcher.
Hit me with your best shot
“Frenchy, how hard are those punches you throw when you’re pummeling a teammate after a walk-off hit?”
“Want me to show you?”
I said yes, and Frenchy hit me in the right bicep. It was pretty hard (Frenchy’s got big knuckles) and felt just short of a real punch. “That’s how hard we punch,” he said.
So I went to batting practice, hung out for a couple of hours and went into the bathroom to check my arm. Back in the clubhouse, I told Francoeur, “Hey, Frenchy, no bruise.”
We then began to argue about whether Frenchy went easy on me or I took his best shot. I offered to show him what cartoonist do to celebrate, but we would have to wait until the end of the season. I didn’t want to put him on the DL.
A bag of cookies appeared in the press box, and I just wanted to thank whoever sent them (and I suspect Larry). They won’t go to waste. (Although I couldn’t get Chris Getz to try one. “Now that I’m not playing that much, I have to watch that stuff,” he said. I told him I wasn’t playing at all and planned to eat a dozen.)
Last home game
I’ve gotten to know a lot of these guys pretty well, and I’ve enjoyed my time with them. On Wednesday, I have to say goodbye. The Royals finish the season on the road, and I finish on my couch.
It’s always weird to say goodbye to ballplayers. You never know whether they will come back next season. But this group has a better chance than most. Think of this: When was the last time that the Royals who played the final game of a season were all there to play on the next Opening Day?
This might be the team.