Games » Minnesota TwinsApr27
The Kansas City Star
It started in the first inning — Eric Hosmer made a sliding catch of an attempted bunt. Then Alex Gordon went up and over the wall to bring back a home run. Jarrod Dyson made a sliding catch in center. Alcides Escobar made two outstanding plays — ranging to the right-field side of second base to rob a hit and going up and over a base stealer while making the catch and tag. Brayan Pena came out from behind home plate to get an out on a difficult sacrifice bunt. And Jeff Francoeur made a sliding catch in right, then doubled up a runner caught off base.
The Royals also turned two more double plays and prevented a run in the 6th inning with a perfectly executed relay from the left field wall — Gordon to Escobar to Pena — that forced the runner to stop at third.
With the possible exception of opening day — and the wind was a factor — the Royals have generally played good to outstanding defense. My belief that this team is better than teams in the recent past is mainly based on their improved abilities on the defensive side of the ball.
And Salvador Perez is yet to play an inning.
I’ve heard a variety of numbers — all large — about how often leadoff walks score. Let’s just leave it at this: leadoff walks score more often than George Clooney. Everett Teaford issued two and both came around to score.
Teaford was using a variety of arm angles — a trick he picked up from Bruce Chen last season.
You may have noticed Brayan Pena run Teaford off a pop fly. It was out in front of the mound and Teaford had a better angle than Brayan. Pop flies are affected by “infield drift” — the tendency to move back toward the mound as they come down. (The ball has just barely been clipped by the bat and is spinning very fast, so they come down in a curving motion.) So why not let Teaford catch the ball if it’s moving toward him and away from Pena?
Because nobody trusts a pitcher. They’re not out there all the time and — as Jason Kendall put it — for the most part, they’re non-athletes. (Hey, he said it. I didn’t.) Jason then said any pitcher who disagreed, could come find him.
Joe Mauer beat a shift in the 3rd inning, taking the ball to left field. A reader asked me if the shifts the Royals are starting to use have worked. I’ve seen hitters beat them and I’ve seen hitters beat by them. I asked around and apparently the sample size is still too small to give a definitive answer. But if the shifts are working and the Royals have evidence, why would they let anybody else know?
In the 2nd inning Brayan Pena walked to the plate with two outs. Mike Moustakas had made an out on the second pitch he saw and Yuniesky Betancourt did the same. So Brayan could be selfish and do whatever he could to have a good plate appearance or he could put the team first and take some pitches. Brayan took some pitches. A veteran pitcher — and Carl Pavano matches that description — will recognize the situation and groove a couple strikes to get ahead. Carl did, but after taking two strikes, Pena still got a hit. The same thing happened to Brayan in the 4th: Pavano had only thrown six pitches to get two outs and Brayan once again took a couple strikes so Everett Teaford could get some rest between innings. It may look like a lousy at-bat to fans that don’t know any better, but knowledgeable observers appreciate a player who puts his team before himself.
Why his teammates love Mitch Maier
Same thing. In Thursday’s game against Cleveland, Mitch came to the plate in the second inning with two outs. The pitcher had only used three pitches to get them, so Mitch stood there and took pitches. He saw six and eventually walked. Maier also recently gave up two at-bats in attempts to move a runner from second to third.
Mitch doesn’t get to play regularly and, like all players, would like to make a good impression when he gets on the field. Being willing to give up that chance in an effort to help his team is a big deal. So maybe he’s made that good impression after all.
A grain of salt
Speaking of Thursday’s game: one of the questions I get asked most often is what I do when the team is on the road and the game’s not on TV. I listen to the radio. If the announcers say something that makes me believe I need to see a play, I watch that play later on MLB.com. (They don’t post them until after the game is over.)
I tried to bribe Ryan Lefebvre to say “That was an outstanding defensive play!” so I’d know when to score one, but he wasn’t buying. So that brings me to my main point: take the scoring in the Polk system with a grain of salt. If you’re into sabermetrics, a grain of salt the size of your average Shetland pony.
Some great plays go completely unnoticed. Alex Gordon has turned doubles down the line into singles with hustle, a great route and a strong arm. Keeping the double play in order is not always noticed by fans, but it is by ballplayers. If the radio guys don’t mention it, I may not know it happened. So individual plays can get missed, but the larger pattern of play won’t. I wouldn’t swear on a stack of Bibles that I recorded the precise right number of outstanding plays for Eric Hosmer in 2011, but the pattern was unmistakable. He was saving his teammates far more errors than Billy Butler did in 2010.
One mental mistake doesn’t mean anything. A pattern of mental mistakes does.
So if you hate the point totals or the subjectivity of the system, ignore both. Look for patterns of play instead. They can tell you some very interesting things.