Games » Los Angeles AngelsApr7
The pitching change
The Kansas City Star
When I started managing amateur ball, I quickly realized I had no clue about handling pitchers. Fortunately, I knew Clint Hurdle and Bob Apodaca (the Colorado Rockies pitching coach), so I asked for advice. They helped me a lot, but one of their rules for a pitching change helped more than any other: “Better an inning too soon than an inning too late. Better a batter too soon than a batter too late. Better a pitch too soon than a pitch too late.”
Managers are supposed to get what they can out of a pitcher, then pull them before disaster strikes. Waiting until the lead is gone and then making a move is not good managing. There may be times when a manager’s best option is to stick with his starter, but I’ve spent a lot more time kicking myself over moves I didn’t make than moves I made.
What we’ve seen in the first two games of the 2012 season is Royals manager Ned Yost pulling his starting pitchers before disaster struck. He did it with Bruce Chen in game one and again in this game with Luke Hochevar. Luke gave the Royals another quality start, but when the Angels got two runners on in the seventh inning, Ned changed pitchers. And that follows another Hurdle-Apodaca rule: “Never let your starter struggle after the fifth.” The starter is tired by then and will have trouble making adjustments.
I don’t know if this is how Yost will manage the rest of the season, but I understand why he made the pitching changes he did in the first two games.
Context is everything
It didn’t surprise me that Yost used Greg Holland and Jonathan Broxton in a non-save situation. The Royals lost a tough one the night before, and Yost may have felt the need to step on the Angels’ throats in the eighth and ninth innings. The Royals didn’t want to start the season by getting swept by the Angels — or losing two tough games. The opportunity for a win was there, so they took it.
It’s not an accident
A co-worker who reads this site regularly came up to me the other day and said he had finally read my bio posted in the “About” section. He said he had no idea I had managed more than 500 games with a team made up of mainly former college players (along with a few pros sprinkled in). That was where I developed an approach to the game that I still prefer to this day.
I liked pitching and defense (just like everybody else), but as a manager, I really fell in love with speed. Speed shows up at the park every day, and it helps in just about every phase of the game. When you’re standing in the third-base coach’s box, speed gives you options.
That’s why I like Chris Getz. He’s fast and versatile. He is the kind of player I would want on my team, and he showed why in the eighth inning of this game. Yost sent Getz out to play defense in the bottom of the seventh. (By the way: Interesting move. You put offense in the lineup when you’re behind and defense on the field when you’re ahead. Does that mean Ned Yost thinks Chris is a better defender than Yuniesky Betancourt? I have no idea, but keep watching for that substitution pattern.)
Anyway, Chris led off the eighth inning with a double, then stole third base with one out. The throw sailed into left field, and the Royals got an insurance run. That insurance run meant when the Angels’ Bobby Abreu came to the plate in the ninth inning, he was not the tying run. And that meant Jonathan Broxton could pitch to Abreu any way he liked. No matter what Abreu did, he couldn’t tie the game with one swing.
Speed kills — and it also wins quite a few ball games.
And before the Getz-haters start in, sure, his run didn’t mean any more than any other run the Royals scored. But home runs always get attention — nobody will miss what Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas did — it’s just nice to appreciate speed manufacturing a big run late in the game.
• I would love to ask Yost this one: Was Getz also inserted in the lineup because the Angels had already used lefty reliever Hisanori Takahashi? The only other left-hander in the Angels pen was Scott Downs, and he’s being used primarily as a set-up man. If Yost felt that the Angels wouldn’t use their set-up man unless they had a lead, then his managing guaranteed Getz an at-bat against a right-handed pitcher.
• Angels catcher Bobby Wilson made a nice play by going after the trailing runner when Jeff Francoeur and Yuniesky Betancourt were trying to advance on a wild pitch. The trailing runner has to make sure the lead runner is really going. Yuni got a worse jump than Frenchy, and Wilson made a smart decision.
• Royals pitcher Humberto Quintero has shown he likes to attempt pickoffs at first base. I hope he pays attention to who he has playing there when Hosmer takes a day off.
• Quintero has also shown good work habits. He blocks pitches without runner on base. Blocking every pitch in the dirt is more work, but it simplifies the thought process. Over the course of 162 games, it’s easy to occasionally lose track of the situation.
• I’m sure I would love Albert Pujols if he played in Kansas City, but he doesn’t. Pujols ran through a stop sign and got thrown out at the plate by Alex Gordon. Then Pujols whined about it. In the eighth inning he got called out on strikes and whined about that. Holland actually had him struck out on a previous pitch, but Pujols got the call. I don’t remember Holland whining — he just threw another strike.
• One last thing: in the eighth inning Erick Aybar got straightened up by a pitch up and in. Whenever that happens, look for the next pitch to be low and away. If it’s not, you may see a batter get drilled when he dives to cover that outside corner.