Games » Seattle MarinersJul17
Two bad starts in a row
The Kansas City Star
Monday night, Jonathan Sanchez went an inning and a third. Tuesday night, Ryan Verdugo went a third of an inning further. Starts like these can chew up a bullpen quickly. Fortunately, Louis Coleman and Everett Teaford saved the pen from being used after the Sanchez start. After Verdugo was pulled in this game, manager Ned Yost went through Vin Mazzaro, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow and Greg Holland.
The Royals need Bruce Chen to eat up some innings tonight.
First inning: Verdugo got two quick outs to start the game. Dustin Ackley grounded out, and Ichiro Suzuki popped up, but Verdugo threw Ichiro a 3-1 fastball to get the pop up. Here’s the problem: 3-1 is a fastball count.
A fastball count is a count in which the pitcher needs to throw a strike and a fastball is his best chance of doing so. So a hitter looks for fastballs in counts like 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 and 3-1, and if he gets the fastball he’s expecting, he can lean on it pretty good.
So Verdugo got away with throwing Ichiro a fastball in a fastball count, but here are the results of all the balls put in play when a fastball was thrown in fastball count Tuesday night against the Mariners: single, single, line out, single, homer, line out, fly out, double and a fly out. Including Ichiro’s pop fly, that’s 5 for 10 with two line outs. I would do the slugging percentage, but my calculator began to smoke.
Generally speaking, a pitcher either needs to stay out of fastball counts, throw something other than a fastball in those counts or throw a helluva fastball in those counts.
In the bottom of the first, Eric Hosmer — who has said part of his recent hitting problems has been missing his pitch — got a 92-mph four-seam fastball down the middle. Hosmer fouled it back, missing his pitch. But then Eric got himself back into a fastball count and drove a 3-1 two-seamer down the left-field line for a double.
Second inning: Ryan Verdugo was a step late covering first base against Justin Ackley and paid the price. Ackley eventually scored because what should have been the third out of the inning was only the second. Giving the other teams four outs in an inning is often fatal. Verdugo never made it out of the second.
Fourth inning: Ichiro Suzuki hit a high chopper to Mike Moustakas, and Moose made the catch, a quick ball transfer from glove to hand, and threw out Ichiro. Afterward, Mike said infielders need to be very aware of who is running before the ball is put in play. You have to know how much time you have, and Mike said he knew he didn’t have much on the Ichiro play. Just grab it and gun it.
Fifth inning: Vin Mazzaro gave up two of those fastball-in-fastball-count hits, a single to Miguel Olivo and a home run to Michael Saunders. As always, pay attention to what a pitcher does after a home run. After Saunders’ homer, fans saw Mazzaro start to nibble. Mazzaro walked the No. 9 hitter, Brendan Ryan, hitting .186, at the beginning of the game.
Ryan eventually scored, and these three tack-on runs proved to be the difference in the game. Mariners win 9-6.
Leftovers from Monday night’s game
Teaford’s walks: If you look at the box score from Monday night’s relief appearance, you will see that Everett Teaford walked two batters in five innings. But to understand why, you need to look at where and when the walks were issued. In the seventh inning with one out, Teaford walked right-handed hitter Jesus Montero. Switch-hitting Justin Smoak and left-handed Kyle Seager were on deck.
With two outs in ninth inning, Teaford went after Montero, and Montero doubled (maybe that’s why he was walked in the seventh). With a man in scoring position and first base open, Teaford worked around Smoak (who had lined out in his previous at-bat) to get to Seager once again.
After the game, Teaford told me he was being careful in the seventh, but definitely working around Smoak in the ninth. Just remember: All walks are not the same.
Moustakas dekes: In the eighth inning, Jeff Francoeur threw out Michael Saunders when he tried to go from first base to third. Mike Moustakas “deked” Saunders (short for decoy), but unless the runner slows up or comes in standing, has the deke really accomplished anything?
I talked with Moose about that before Moose left the clubhouse Monday night. Mike pointed out that this is the major leagues, and there was a base coach right behind his deke, signaling slide and which side of the base the runner should aim for. But base-runners often take their cues from the infielder covering the bag. They should be looking at their coach, but just in case they aren’t, infielders deke.
Pitching to Suzuki: I asked Everett Teaford about pitching to Ichiro Suzuki. Teaf said he thought a pitcher needed to get in on Ichiro, at least at first. Start by pitching him away, and Ichiro will hit the inside half of the ball with authority. Once you jam Ichiro and force him to get the bat head out early, you might get away with a pitch on the outer half.
By the numbers
Before each series, the Royals pass out stat sheets that show what each opposition hitter has done against each Royals pitcher and what each Royals hitter has done against each opposition hitter. So how significant is it that Seattle’s Caper Wells is 0 for 1 against Louis Coleman?
According to Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, it takes about 10 at-bats before the numbers start to mean something, unless there’s a strong pattern demonstrated in fewer plate appearances. Zero for 4 means more if those four at-bats were strikeouts.
Seitzer shows up early every day and watches video of the opposing team’s starting pitcher. He watches the pitcher’s last two starts and looks for patterns. Are hitters being fooled by his slider? Does his fastball have some run to it? When does he throw his off-speed pitches?
Kevin prepares a report for the Royals’ hitters, but nothing replaces standing in the batter’s box and seeing the pitches live. Jeff Francoeur said it takes him about 10 plate appearances to get a sense of what a pitcher has and how he likes to work. So the numbers help, but you can’t tell everything from them.
Unless you’re looking at the Seattle Mariners’ numbers. It turns out Ichiro Suzuki is a pretty good hitter.