Games » New York YankeesMay4
Derek Jeter is really good
The Kansas City Star
The next time Derek Jeter comes to the plate, look at Alex Gordon. The Royals left fielder will be swung around toward left center and you’ll see a big gap between Alex and the left field line. The whole Royals outfield will be playing Derek Jeter to hit the ball the opposite way. The plan is to jam Jeter with fastballs on his hands. Jeter hits that pitch to right field and the Royals know this. If they get the pitch where they want it, Jeter won’t be able to extend his arms and he’ll hit weak grounders and fly balls to the right side — normally. Right now, the plan isn’t working and here’s why:
Derek Jeter is really good.
Not only is Derek Jeter really good, right now he’s a really good player who is also on fire. The Royals are making the pitches they want to make and Jeter’s still smoking the ball. Think about this: they’re throwing fastballs up and in, Jeter’s hitting the inside half of the ball and he’s hitting those balls hard.
I was told if Jeter pulled the ball that would probably be an off-speed pitch in a bad location. (Apparently this strategy is not a big secret, everybody pitches Jeter the same way and he knows it.) The double down the left field line against Danny Duffy Thursday night was a curveball. The home run against Bruce Chen last night was a curveball. You might wonder why they’re throwing hittable curves to Jeter if the game plan is to make him hit a fastball to the right side. Two reasons: 1.) They’re not supposed to be hittable, but if a Royals pitcher makes a mistake, Jeter isn’t missing it; 2.) They’ve thrown everything but the kitchen sink at him — and if they did he’d probably hit that for a double. Jeter’s getting hits on fastballs, change-ups and curves. Make a great pitch and he fights it off, make a mistake and he makes you pay.
Derek Jeter is really good.
The seventh inning
I asked Ned Yost if leaving Bruce Chen in for the 7th inning had to do with saving the bullpen. Royals starters have not been going deep in games and the pen is getting called in early almost every night. Ned said that was part of it — they’re always looking for quality innings out of a starter, but the main reason he left Bruce in the game was that Bruce was still pitching really well.
Chen gave up a home run in the first inning to Mark Teixeira — a cutter he wanted in on Teixeira’s hands that didn’t get in far enough. After that, Bruce settled down and matched CC Sabathia for the next six innings. Chen got through the 6th on six pitches, retiring Curtis Granderson, Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez with ease.
In the 7th Chen gave up a single to Cano, got two quick outs and then quickly gave up hits to Eduardo Nunez, Chris Stewart and Jeter. Ned said he thought Bruce was still rolling, wasn’t tired, but then gave up three runs in the space of eight pitches to a lineup that can do a lot of damage in a hurry.
Stealing third base
Jeff Francoeur’s attempted steal of third base Thursday night generated a lot of comments on the site, so Friday afternoon I asked some questions. I wanted to know what the Royals look for and when they think a steal of third is a good bet. I’m only dealing with a couple of the factors here, but the factors I’m dealing with are pretty interesting:
The pitcher is largely responsible for preventing a runner from stealing second base. The pitcher does this by throwing over to first, shortening the lead, varying the time he holds the ball in the set position and getting the ball to home plate in 1.4 seconds or less. As I’ve explained before, base stealers go from first to second in 3.4 seconds, catchers get the ball down to second base in 2.0 seconds, so the pitcher is the variable. (All these times are major league averages.)
Once a runner reaches second base, the middle infielders take most of the responsibility for preventing a steal of third. With a runner in scoring position, the pitcher needs to shift his focus almost completely to the plate — a hit might mean a run. As a result, pitchers tend to slow down their delivery — they’re not giving as much thought to the runner.
The middle infielders control the runner in two ways: shortening his lead and making sure his feet are not moving (at least in the direction of third base). If they think the runner’s lead is too big, they’ll run to the bag and force the runner back. Holding an open glove out to the side is the signal for the pitcher to throw the ball to second base.
If the middle infielders feel they’ve controlled the runner (short lead, feet stopped), they’ll break back to their position. That signals the pitcher that it’s safe to deliver the ball to home plate. When the infielders break, he throws home. But that delivery home often slows down. I’ve been timing pitchers lately and some deliver the ball to home plate in a glacial 1.8 seconds with a runner on second base.
Here are some more major league averages: a catcher takes 1.7 seconds to deliver a ball to third base, a runner with a slightly larger lead at second base takes 3.3 to get to third, so the pitcher needs to be 1.6 or over for an attempted steal of third base to makes sense. The best combination for a steal of third is one out, a right-handed hitter at the plate and a lefty with a big leg kick on the mound.
I don’t know how deep the Royals get into run expectancy, Francoeur’s base running history or any of the other numbers that have been discussed since Thursday night But if the score, number of outs, man at the plate and man on deck say attempt a steal of third — the Royals will go if the pitcher is delivering the ball to home plate in 1.6 seconds or more.
It’s pretty much based on what’s happening right now, tonight. So, if the pitcher was getting the ball to home plate in 1.5 seconds or less, it wasn’t a smart base running move on Francoeur’s part.
Get out your stopwatches.