Games » Chicago White SoxSep24
Everett Teaford throws a fastball, a cutter, a curve, a change and the kitchen sink
The Kansas City Star
Last Wednesday, pitcher Everett Teaford and I sat in the Royals dugout and talked about this start. Teef said he was going to see how far his fastball would take him during the first trip through the White Sox batting order. Teaford has a straight four-seamer that he was going to try to use to hit corners and a cutter that runs into a righty. (MLB.com was identifying a pitch as a slider, which Everett didn’t list as one of his pitches, so maybe it misidentified his cutter.)
Teaford wanted to use the cutter to tie up or back-door right handers (“back-door” is when a breaking pitch is thrown outside and it comes into the zone at the very end of its flight). Then Teef wanted to run the cutter off the plate away to lefties or throw it in, make them give up on it and catch the inside corner.
After the first trip through the order, Teaford wanted to add his overhand curve and finally his changeup. That was if everything went according to plan and he was getting people out. If things were going badly, he was going to have to give up on rationing his pitches and throw the kitchen sink at Chicago right away.
By the second inning, Teef was throwing the kitchen sink.
He fell behind 2-0 to A.J. Pierzynski, threw a fastball and gave up a lead-off single. He then fell behind to Alex Rios and gave up a two-run home run. Pay attention to what a pitcher does after he gives up a bomb, it will tell you something about his confidence. Teaford walked Adam Dunn, currently hitting .162.
Everett then fell behind Dayan Viciedo, gave up another single, walked Brent Morel, struck out Gordon Beckham and then walked Juan Pierre. If you’ve been counting, that’s one too many base runners for the number of bases you have to work with, so Adam Dunn scored. The Morel and Pierre walks had pushed Viciedo to third base, and that turned an Alexei Ramirez fly out into a sacrifice fly. The White Sox earned two runs swinging the bat, but walks got them two more.
And throwing the kitchen sink at them didn’t seem to help. Friday’s game showed us what this Royals team looks like when it’s gets pitching, Saturday’s game showed us what it looks like when it doesn’t.
• Teaford said he was aware that he was facing the Sox in back-to-back starts. I asked whether that meant he would throw a different game against them and he said no. Establishing the fastball was what he did in his last start also. He said Jeff Francis advised him not to make an adjustment until the hitters showed him that he had to.
• The hitters showed him that he had to.
• Once again, the Royals ran on Pierre’s arm without paying the price when Melky Cabrera scored from second in the sixth inning.
At one point, Brent Morel had a big lead at second, but never took off. That reminded me of something Chris Getz told me right before the road trip: Getz said that if you’re going to steal third, you should do it right away. Do it before the pitcher gets focused on your presence. Earlier in the season, Royals first-base coach Doug Sisson told me that Eric Hosmer was drawing too much attention to himself by moving around a lot when he was at second base. Sis said the idea was to lull the pitcher to sleep and get a walking lead on your way to third.
• Chris and I agreed that putting on some kind of play right after a distraction was a good idea. If someone makes an error and is upset, take advantage of the distraction. Try to catch the defense on its heels while its focus is disturbed. In other words, steal right after a streaker hits the field.
• At one point, the Royals had their infield in, trying to cut off a run off at the plate in the eighth. That reminded me that I never answered a reader’s question about Ned Yost’s philosophy on bringing in the infield.
Ned said it all depends on the situation (stunning, huh?), and he would do it whenever he thought that run was meaningful and he wasn’t going to have a great chance to get it back. He ran through some scenarios, and one of them was to bring the defense in once the batter got to two strikes. At that point, a lot of hitters are just trying to put the ball in play, and the chance that they will really smoke a grounder between fielders goes down.
It goes back to spring training
I told Doug Sisson that the Royals seemed to be playing much better fundamental baseball than they did even two years ago. Doug gave Ned Yost credit. I’m pretty sure Sis has been around baseball since the Bronze Age, and he said the two best spring trainings he has ever seen were one run by Mike Scioscia and the other by Ned this spring.
Doug said the drills were meaningful — , not just some exercises that had to be checked off a list — and they actually accomplished something. He then invited me to come to spring training in 2012 to watch for myself.
I don’t know. Kansas City is so nice that time of year.
• If you see an umpire point at his watch when a runner is on second and there are two outs, he’s reminding the other umpires that they now have a time play on their hands. They need to know whether the runner crosses home plate before someone else is tagged out on the bases to end the inning.
• Doug Sisson confirmed that it sometimes is difficult to read the ball when a catch is made against those brightly lit, field-level scoreboards in Kauffman Stadium. Runners sometimes have to hang up while trying to figure out whether a ball was caught.
• Mike Moustakas was looking at my list of stuff to write about and saw the mention of the scoreboards. Moose said he had no idea what Doug and I were talking about. I called him a young punk and said just wait until his eyes got old and then he would know what Doug and I were talking about.
The sacrifice bunt revisited: a term paper
(I’m not really looking to start an argument, and I don’t really want to have one, but I wrote this a few weeks ago and never posted it. I figured I ought to explain why I think what I think. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with it, and I could be wrong, but for better or worse … enough qualifiers for you? … here it is.)
After I wrote that there are times I liked the bunt as a strategy, a reader sent me some numbers. Saying that there are times you like the bunt as a strategy sends a lot of metric guys into cardiac arrest. Their usual response is, “Don’t you know that a successful sacrifice bunt actually decreases the chances of scoring a run?”
My usual response is that all situations are not the same. The people involved would have to change those odds. In some cases, the chances of scoring a run would have to be higher than average. In others cases those odds would be lower. Bunt attempts also change defensive alignments and might result in base hits in later at-bats. But I decided to devote some thought to the numbers I was given. Here’s what I came up with.
The reason some people freak if you say the sac bunt can sometimes be the right strategy is this: From 1993 to 2010, with a runner on first and nobody out, an average of 0.941 runs scored. In that same period, with a runner on second and one out, an average of 0.721 runs scored. So case closed. Sacrifice bunts actually decrease the chances of a run scoring, right?
After thinking about it until my head hurt (and it couldn’t possibly be last night’s beer), I think that’s the wrong comparison.
Games move on. This is not a casino, where you can quit while you’re ahead and cash in your 0.941 runs. Something has to happen next, and managers have to place a bet on what that will be. They can’t say, “We’re just going to leave that runner on first with nobody out, put our 0.941 runs on the board and stop playing.”
The manager’s true choice is deciding what is more likely to happen next: a runner on second with one out or two runners on with no outs or no runners on with two outs or both runners in with no outs. (If there’s some combination I’m missing, sorry, but you get my point). In this casino, you have to place another bet.
So let’s take one scenario and try to figure out some odds. Nobody out, one-run game late, Mike Moustakas is on first and Chris Getz is facing a lefty he doesn’t hit very well. OK, the odds of Chris hitting a home run are just about zero, so forget playing that bet. Let’s say the lefty is a strike-throwing machine so Chris is also unlikely to walk. So throw his on-base percentage out the window. Now your choices are Chris swinging away or bunting. (I’m leaving out steals, it’s Moose, and let’s say the guy is unpredictable about throwing a fastball in a fastball count, so you don’t want to hit and run … hey, play along for the sake of the discussion).
Now let’s say the chance of Chris getting a hit against this lefty is 18 percent. So the chances that you will wind up with runners at first and second with no outs (a situation that results in 1.556 runs on average) or first and third with no outs (1.853 runs on average) aren’t that good. (I’m leaving out extra-base hits because it’s Chris). So anyway, let Chris swing away and 18 percent of the time you’ll wind up in a much better situation than a runner on first with no outs.
Eighty-two percent of the time you’ll probably wind up in a worse situation than a runner on second, one out. Chris grounds into a double play, two outs, nobody on (0.112 runs on average). Chris forces Moose, but beats the throw, runner on first one out (0.562 runs on average) or Chris hits into a fielder’s choice, Moose advances, but then you’re right back to the same result a sacrifice bunt would give you.
So (assuming you’re not asleep at this point), the manager’s real choice is not runner on first no outs vs. runner on second one out. The manager’s real choice in this particular situation is sacrifice bunt (which with a good bunter like Getz ought to work 95% of the time) to get to that average of 0.721 runs scored, or let Chris swing away which will result in a better situation 18 percent of the time and a worse situation around 82 percent of the time.
Obviously, different players with different skills would change all those odds. The point of this scenario was to create a plauisible situation in which a sacrifice bunt might look like a pretty decent strategy.
And I’m now going to attempt to balance my checkbook. Wish me luck.
When I ran these numbers by Chris Getz, just to make sure I was being accurate about his chances of getting a hit or laying a bunt down, he asked a very logical question: Did the 0.941 runs scored with a runner on first and no outs include runners who were bunted over?
I said I wouldn’t think so. How do you use that number to refute bunting as a strategy when bunting helped create the number?
My bad. That number does include runners who bunted over … and chalk one up for Getzie. He must have learned something before he dropped out of college.
(Now why do I get the feeling I’m going to be sorry that I brought this subject up?)