Games » Arizona DiamondbacksMay19
Harder than it looks
The Kansas City Star
In the first inning Bruce Chen had runners on first and second and nobody out—and didn’t give up a run. In the second inning Bruce Chen had runners on first and third and nobody out—and didn’t give up a run. In the third inning Bruce Chen had two runners on and two outs—and didn’t give up a run. In the fourth inning Bruce Chen had runners on first and second and nobody out—and didn’t give up a run.
A 7-3 win might sound easy if you weren’t there—or didn’t pay attention if you were—but it was like that pretty much all night. The fifth and sixth innings were 1-2-3, but Bruce gave up two runs in the seventh—with a little help from his friends—and the Diamondbacks had the tying run on deck in the eighth.
After the game Ned Yost was asked when he finally felt safe and he said it was when Jeff Francoeur caught a fly ball for the final out of the game.
This one was harder than it looks.
Second inning: Jason Kubel doubled to lead off the inning. Paul Goldschmidt singled and Alex Gordon kept Kubel from scoring by charging the ball hard and having a reputation for throwing runners out. Gordon’s play won’t get noticed, but without it, Jarrod Dyson would not have had the opportunity to throw Kubel out at the plate.
Kubel tagged after Jarrod caught Ryan Roberts’ fly ball, but Dyson did a good job of getting behind the ball and coming forward as he made the catch. That gave his throw the momentum it needed. Dyce has taken some criticism for plays he didn’t make, but he did everything right on this one. (And never forget the play a catcher—Brayan Pena in this case—has to make on the other end. Catching the ball and applying the tag on a runner at home plate isn’t as easy as some people think.)
In the bottom of the second Chris Getz drove in the game’s first run with a two-out, two-strike RBI single, scoring Mike Moustakas from second base. Brayan Pena was thrown out attempting to go from first to third, so I asked Ned after the game if Brayan was intentionally drawing the throw to ensure Mike would be safe at home, but Ned said no, Brayan assumed the throw would go home to get Moustakas.
Third inning: Diamondbacks pitcher Ian Kennedy was extremely quick delivering the ball to home plate, at times under 1.2 seconds. That stopped the Royals from running, but it didn’t stop them from trotting: he gave up a home run to Billy Butler and another to Mike Moustakas. In fact, Kennedy gave up six earned runs in four and a third innings.
I know lots of people disagree, but the Royals believe a pitcher who delivers the ball that quickly to home plate pays by throwing more pitches up in the zone. They also believe the pitches have less on them.
Fifth inning: Before the game Eric Hosmer told me he likes the two-hole—more fastballs with Dyson on base in front of him and Butler on-deck behind him. I said being at the top of the order, the extra plate appearance doesn’t hurt either. Hosmer said, “You mean the extra knock.” I’m pretty sure Hosmer doesn’t need to go down to the minors to regain his confidence—he never lost it.
(He hit a line-drive RBI single in the fifth and absolutely crushed a ball—right at the second baseman—in the 6th. The ball was hit so hard it was in the second baseman’s glove before Eric finished his swing.)
Billy Butler found himself in a 3-0 count with Dyson on third and Hosmer on second. At times, Ned Yost likes to give power hitters the green light 3-0 and I figured this would be one of those times. So did Ian Kennedy. He threw a 3-0 change, Billy swung and missed, but Butler came back to hit a sacrifice fly for another RBI.
After Billy’s sac fly, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson brought in left-handed reliever Mike Zagurski. I know next to nothing about the Diamondbacks bullpen, but Zagurski had a 5.40 ERA. And that brings up an important point:
Managers have several strategies for the bullpen in mind, depending on the situation when the starter leaves. They usually have a set of guys they’ll use if they’re ahead and another set of guys they’ll use if they’re behind. Unless your best relievers need work, why waste quality innings on a game you’re likely to lose?
So—even though it drives some fans crazy—a manager might play for one run knowing that if they can grab a lead before the starter leaves the game, they’ll push the other manager into using the weaker part of his pen. I couldn’t say if that’s what happened with Zagurski, but it does happen.
Seventh inning: The Diamondbacks had one run in and another runner on second when Willie Bloomquist came to the plate. Willie singled, and the runner on second base, Ryan Roberts, headed for home. Jeff Francoeur came up throwing, but kept his throw to home low. That allowed Eric Hosmer to decoy Bloomquist by faking a catch of Frenchy’s throw. Bloomquist stayed at first and one pitch later, Aaron Hill grounded into a double play.
The double play was nice, but Francoeur and Hosmer’s good fundamentals made it possible.
Batting Average Ball in Play. That term has been thrown around recently while discussing Eric Hosmer. Eric’s BABIP is extremely low and several times people have described BABIP as measuring how “lucky” a hitter is. Hit a lot of balls at people—which Hosmer has done—and your BABIP will suffer.
But luck is only part of it: the harder you hit the ball, the luckier you’ll be. More three-hoppers will get through the infield. But then again, the opposite can also be true: if Jarrod Dyson hits the ball weakly, his foot speed can increase his BABIP. Throw in type of ball in play (grounder, fly ball, line drive), skill level of the defense and whatever other factors I forgot to include and it’s clear BABIP includes more than luck.
Moose on Hos
I asked Mike Moustakas what it mean to him that the Royals didn’t send him down when he struggled in 2011, “Everything.” Mike said it told him he belonged, he was a major-leaguer. I asked when things changed for the better and Moose said when he quit listening to all the critics and doubters. When he finally allowed himself to relax and go out and play the game, Mike’s natural talent took over. Mike thinks that’s exactly what his buddy, Eric Hosmer, needs to do.
Jason Kendall said the same thing: Hosmer needs to quit thinking and play. Jason pointed out that when Hosmer hit .293 in 2011, it wasn’t a fluke. Hosmer did it over most of a season. It wasn’t a September call-up having a hot month. Kendall said, “That kid’s going to be here 20 years.”
Moustakas thinks a trip to the minors wouldn’t help Eric’s confidence, it would hurt it. Looking at Hosmer’s numbers in Triple A, it’s hard to imagine he has anything left to prove down there. Mike makes another good point: “Anybody that’s here every night sees the same thing: He’s squaring up two or three balls a night, but not hitting into any luck.”
Moose is right. If you’ve been here watching Hosmer, it’s hard to disagree.
Ya gotta have a plan
Interleague play is coming and the Royals pitchers are preparing to go to the plate. If it’s at all feasible, the Royals will have them sacrifice bunt. But what if nobody’s on and the bunt isn’t in order?
The Royals pitchers will swing away, and—after listening to several of their game plans—it probably won’t be pretty. One plan is to look really bad on a breaking pitch (shouldn’t be a problem) and then look for it again. Another plan is to do nothing until the pitcher throws something off-speed away and then—as Everett Teaford put it—“filet” the ball the other way.
(Notice how the plans call for hitting an off-speed pitch? They figure those will match their bat speed.)
I suggested standing on top of the plate, hands over the zone, daring the pitcher to come inside. At least you know you’ll be getting a fastball. I don’t think anyone’s buying a strategy that has something in the mid-90s buzzing past within a few inches of their bodies. Although, Teaford—who will be up there left-handed—told me he’d rather face any right-hander, even one throwing in the upper nineties, than any left-hander. He knows that if a lefty throws a breaking pitch at him, his backside will depart the scene of the crime. Teaf knows how much his teammates will enjoy that moment and he’s trying to avoid the ridicule.
Speaking of which, if you get the chance, look into the Royals dugout when one of the pitchers is hitting. His teammates will all be hanging on the top rail, enjoying the moment. Every gruesome detail will be analyzed once the pitcher gets back to the dugout unless something bad happens—like the pitcher getting a hit.
Because they don’t know how to run the bases, either.
P.S. Teaford has come up with an abdominal strain that has him out for a while.