Games » Minnesota TwinsSep27
Up 'n' smoked
The Kansas City Star
In the first inning Sean O’Sullivan had Minnesota Twins leadoff hitter Denard Span 1-2. Salvador Perez gave Sean the sign, set up down and in and then tapped his mitt on the ground. That’s the catcher’s way of asking the pitcher to keep the pitch down, maybe even bounce it. Sean left it up, but Span didn’t do anything with the mistake, grounding out 4-3.
But an interesting moment nevertheless because Sean missed his spot and he missed it up. So I started paying attention to that, and, to me, Sean was up in the zone too much, but mainly getting away with it.
In fact, nine of the 15 outs O’Sullivan recorded were in the air. Most of the time, pitchers want hitters to keep the ball on the ground because the only way to hit a grounder for extra bases is right down a line and it takes at least three singles to score a run.
So Sean was getting the ball hit in the air, but the ball doesn’t carry real well in the Twins’ new stadium, so damage was kept to a minimum, until the fifth inning. (By the way, the pitch Chris Parmelee hit in second was actually down, but it was down to a lefty and they actually like it there…it’s always something, isn’t it?)
So O’Sullivan was up in the zone more than he should’ve been and gave up back to back triples in the fifth. That should’ve scored three runs, but a great play by Mitch Maier, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez to cut down Ben Revere at the plate kept it to two. O’Sullivan came back out for the sixth, got a few more pitches up and left with the bases loaded and nobody out.
Vin Mazzaro came in, got one more pitch up and out over the plate and that was the ball game, grand slam, drive home safely.
You don’t always have to see the other team get hits or score runs to know there’s a problem and one of the signs of trouble on its way are pitches up in the zone.
• In the second inning the Royals had one out, Salvador Perez on third and Mike Moustakas on second. One down, runner on third is a time you’ll often see the ‘contact play.’ The runner on third heads for home on contact. It’s a calculated gamble that the ball won’t be hit hard right at an infielder and in this case it wasn’t. It was hit soft (by Lorenzo Cain) right at an infielder and Salvador scored.
• Mike Moustakas made a mistake on the same play. Lorenzo Cain’s soft grounder to the Twins third baseman, Danny Valencia , was so weak Valencia had no play at the plate or at first. So Valencia took the third option, third. Moose had come over to third from second, but rounded third too far and allowed shortstop Trevor Plouffe to sneak in behind him. Valencia, having no play anywhere else, threw behind Mike at third and nailed him. Let’s hope Moose remembers this play and puts it in his bag of defensive tricks for future use.
• After Mitch Maier struck out swinging in the first, he turned and said something to the umpire. If the hitter strikes out looking and then talks to the umpire, he’s probably complaining about the call. If the hitter strikes out swinging and talks to the umpire, he’s probably asking if he just swung at a strike. Handy information for the next at-bat.
• They showed Doug Sisson on top of the dugout step positioning the Royals outfielders. I’ve mentioned it before, but Doug has to stand in the same spot all the time. He uses the background to determine where the outfielders are standing and when they’re on the road, has to find landmarks in the home team’s park to position his players.
• Speaking of outfield positioning: to lead off the sixth inning, Danny Valencia hit a flare into the “Bermuda Triangle” behind first base. It’s called that because balls get lost there. It’s the spot that’s too deep for the first baseman, too shallow for right fielder and too far away for the second baseman.
• That ball dropping made me realize we haven’t seen too many of those fall in this season. Jeff Francoeur plays shallow and gets to a lot of those, Alex Gordon comes forward really well and Alcides Escobar and Chris Getz go back well. Moustakas and Hosmer are also pretty good going after pop flies in foul territory. That’s a lot of balls that haven’t dropped this season.
• Moose is not missing his pitch these days. Mitch Maier says that’s what separates the stars from everybody else: when they get a hittable pitch, they don’t take it, they don’t foul it off, they hit it.
• I asked Moustakas if his hitting surge (he’s up to .260 after being at .182 on August 19) was due to something new in his swing or getting back to where he was before. He said getting back to where he was before. Swings get screwed up bit by bit, not all at once, so it’s often hard to find your way back to where you were when you were swinging good. As Clint Hurdle once said, “You didn’t get in trouble in one day, you’re not getting out of trouble in one day.”
• One of the things that screw up a swing or an average is chasing bad pitches. When I first started playing, I thought good hitters hit everything. They don’t. Bad hitters try to hit everything: in, out, up, down, fast and slow. As a result, they’re timing is a mess and they often miss hittable pitches when they get them. Good hitters don’t swing at very much (usually mistakes in their zone), but what they do swing at, they hit very well.
• What I just described also helps explain what’s changed for Alex Gordon: in the past, he was swinging at tough pitches and getting himself out. Now he’s waiting for his pitch and when he gets it, he’s ready.
• Don’t rely too much on technology: MLB’s “Gameday” (a very useful tool) identified the pitch Johnny Giavotella hit for a double in the 1st inning as a changeup. It was a slider.
• During the 14 previous games played before this one, the starting pitchers put up a 2.77 ERA and the Royals went 11-3. Let’s you know what this club might be able to do with good starting pitching.
• Tough offensive game for Jarrod Dyson: speed does you no good when you strike out or hit fly balls. Dice needs to slap it on the ground and beat feet. 2 Ks and three fly outs won’t work.
• As noted before, lots of games are lost between the fifth and eighth innings. The starter is tired and the game has not reached the back end of the bullpen (setup-man and closer). A gassed starter and middle relief can send a game south in a hurry.
Speaking of going south in a hurry
One more game and the 2012 season is over. Wonder what I’ll do with my free time. OK, I wonder what I’ll do with my free time after watching all the playoff baseball.