Games » Chicago White SoxJul13
What could go wrong?
The Kansas City Star
The second half of the season started on a Friday the 13th — what could go wrong? Turns out, quite a bit: Bruce Chen could give up six earned runs in 4 2/3 thirds innings, Jonathan Broxton could blow a save in the top of the ninth, Jarrod Dyson could get picked off second base in the bottom of the ninth and the Royals could walk 10 batters and three of them could score.
It was that kind of night.
First inning: Chen is not getting the borderline calls and when he is forced into the strike zone, bad things can happen. Chen walks one and gives up two home runs before getting out of the first inning. His pitch count is 31. Chen has thrown two innings worth of pitches in the first inning. This will matter later in the game.
Second inning: Mike Moustakas homers. With two outs and two strikes, Salvador Perez shows a mature approach to an at-bat: he takes the pitch the other way and doubles. Lorenzo Cain then drives in Perez. Cain advances on a wild pitch and this will allow him to score on an Alex Gordon single. Good base running has put two runs on the board.
Third inning: His pitch count already high, Chen throws 10 pitches to Alex Rios. Rios doubles, and even though he does not score, the damage is done: Bruce Chen uses 75 pitches to get through three innings. Chen will be lucky to throw five.
Fifth inning: Chen does not make it out of the fifth. He gives up a three-run homer on his 110th pitch. The home run is hit by Dayan Viciedo, a right-hander. Ned Yost has right-hander Kelvin Herrera warming in the pen, but does not have him face Viciedo. After the game, Yost admits he managed with his heart and not his head, hoping to get Chen through five innings with a lead and a shot at the win.
Seventh inning: Billy Butler singles on a hard line drive to right field. It gets to Alex Rios on one hop and Rios seems to briefly consider attempting to throw Butler out at first. Paul Konerko, however, isn’t covering first base. So Rios throws the ball to second. (Don’t be surprised if the two White Sox players talk about this situation and make an attempt to throw Billy out at first base later in the series.)
Ninth inning; The offense covers Ned’s decision and the Royals have a one-run lead going into the top of the ninth. Jonathan Broxton comes in for the save. Kevin Youkilis singles and then Broxton throws eight straight balls — at least according to the umpire. The two walks push Youkilis to third. Neither walk scores, but they still do damage. Youkilis crosses home plate on A.J. Pierzynskis single, and only another Jeff Francoeur outfield assist prevents a second run from scoring. Frenchy’s throw is wide of the plate on the first-base side, and Salvador Perez makes an outstanding catch and tag to cut down the runner at the plate.
In the bottom of the inning Billy Butler has an infield single — see? I told you it was weird night — and the pitcher throws the ball away, sending Butler to second. Jarrod Dyson is sent out to pinch run. After the game Ned Yost was questioned about not bunting in this situation (damned if you do, etc.), but Yost said the plan was to take three shots with Yuniesky Betancourt, Mike Moustakas and jeff Francoeur coming to the plate.
Unfortunately the Royals only get two shots because Dyson is picked off. After Betancourt lines out, it appears Dyson is thinking about stealing third and is caught by an “inside move.” The pitcher lifts his foot and whirls — perfectly legal — and Jarrod is caught leaning the wrong way.
Twelfth inning: Tim Collins walks Viciedo, and Viciedo eventually scores. The Royals answer when Jeff Francoeur doubles, is moved to third base by a Lorenzo Cain single and scores on an Alex Gordon ground ball. The Royals offense, which has come in for some criticism lately, battles back throughout the game.
Fourteenth inning: Everett Teaford issues the final walk of the evening to Gordon Beckham. Alejandro De Aza singles, Beckham goes first to third and scores on a Kevin Youkilis sacrifice fly. Youkilis saw 14 pitches and won the battle. White Sox win 9-8.
The Thursday workout
The Royals held a brief workout on Thursday afternoon and I got a chance to ask Kevin Seitzer the offensive game plan for the next three months. His answer? “Score more runs.”
Specifically, Kevin thinks the team needs to get more out of Jeff Francoeur and Eric Hosmer. The adjustment the two hitters have been asked to make is remarkably similar: lay off the inside “paint.” That’s baseball slang for pitches right on the inside corner of the plate.
Nobody can hit the entire width of home plate effectively. Try to hit everything — inside, outside, up, down, fast and slow — and you’ll hit very little. Hitters have to give away part of the plate to hit the remainder effectively. The Royals want Hos and Frenchy to spit on the inside pitch in order to the pitches out over the plate more consistently. It doesn’t mean they’ll never pull a baseball. They’ll both get off-speed pitches up in the zone or fastballs that run in on their hands. But that will happen naturally; it shouldn’t be part of their game plan.
You might think the team wouldn’t want the opposition to know this, but it really doesn’t matter. Tony Gywnn wrote two books saying he was looking for pitches on the outer half and still got them in games. When Seitzer was playing he said everyone knew he was going to lay off the stuff inside, but still got pitches to hit out over the plate.
Pitchers are not perfect. Pitchers make mistakes and good hitters wait for them.
But Kevin thinks Jeff and Eric aren’t waiting for one of those mistakes. They’re swinging at “pitcher’s pitches” on the inside corner, then having to battle while down in the count. None of this is new. Francoeur was using the same approach last season and had one of his best years in the major leagues. Both Francoeur and Hosmer know what they need to do — heck, I know I need to lay off the press box cookies — but the hard part is doing it.
Stay tuned to see if Hosmer and Francoeur lay off the inside fastball — and I lay off the oatmeal raisins.
In two blinks of an eye
Blink your eyes twice as quick as you can. That’s how long it takes a 90 mph fastball to leave a pitcher’s hand and hit the catcher’s mitt. So if you’re wondering why Jeff Francoeur and Eric Hosmer have trouble laying off certain pitches, remember, it all happens pretty fast.
You have to train yourself through repetition; I swing at this, I don’t swing at that. Hitters have to recognize arm angles, release points, the way the ball leaves the hand, spin and movement. Meanwhile, pitchers are doing everything they can to disguise those things. And it all happens in two blinks of an eye.
Every once in a while, Kevin Seitzer gives me a look at the inside stats he keeps for himself and the team. I get to write about a few of the highlights and point out some interesting things that may surprise or at least entertain you, for instance:
The team leaders in hard-hit outs (basically, at’em balls) are Eric Hosmer (22), Billy Butler (19), Jeff Francoeur (15) and Chris Getz (12). No other players are in double figures.
The team leaders in 8+ pitch plate appearances are Gordon (13) and Butler (12).
The team leaders in quality plate appearances (hit, walk, hard-hit out, 8+ pitch plate appearance, etc. — basically a “good” at-bat) — are Getz (.478), Butler (.468), Gordon (.423), Bourgeois (.417), Hosmer (.408), Escobar (.404) Perez (.404) and Pena (.401). Anything above .400 is considered excellent. The team as a whole is at .397 so they’d like to get that number up at least a bit.
All-Star Game triples
When’s the last time you saw three triples in one game in Kauffman Stadium? Last Tuesday night, if you were paying attention. As I suspected and Doug Sisson confirmed, All-Star teams do not have time to go over a pitching game plan. Everyone is pretty much on their own.
So when right-handed hitters Rafael Furcal and Ryan Braun got fastballs away and Pablo Sandoval (hitting from the left side) got a curve ball on the inner half, right fielder Jose Bautista was not playing where those pitches would be hit; down the right field line.
Makes you appreciate good defense when you see it. Or at least it should.