Games » Baltimore OriolesAug10
Why pitching's like real estate
The Kansas City Star
Pitched balls have three qualities: velocity, movement and location. Ask which of the three is most important and most pitchers will tell you it’s location. Location, location, location — just like real estate. After the game Ned Yost said that Luke Hochevar struggled to locate his secondary pitches and the Royals paid the price.
After Thursday’s win Ned Yost said the Royals have the pitching they need, they just need the pitching to be more consistent. Hochevar threw five and a third innings, hit two batters, gave up two walks, three home runs and seven earned runs. This pitching performance was not what the Royals need.
Miguel Gonzales throws a split-change, which is a changeup thrown by splitting the fingers further apart. Change ups should be thrown with the same arm-speed as a fastball, but with a less efficient grip. Burying the ball back in the hand or splitting the first two fingers will allow the pitcher to throw with the same motion, but takes something off the ball.
In the first inning, Gonzalez threw the split-change to Mike Moustakas in a 2-1 count. This was meaningful because 2-1 is usually a fastball count. Throwing something off-speed in a fastball count means hitters can’t count on getting a fastball when they expect it. Guys who can throw off-speed in fastball counts are a step above the guys who can’t.
J.J. Hardy popped up on the infield and both Chris Getz and Eric Hosmer called for the ball. They bumped in to each other, but Hosmer held on. Getz actually had priority. Pop fly priority goes this way: guys coming in have priority over guys going back. Guys in the middle have priority over guys on the corners. The centerfielder can call off anybody, any outfielder can call off any infielder, short and second can call off first and third, short can call off second and any infielder can call off the catcher.
I didn’t mention the pitcher because at this level of baseball, they want the pitchers — who aren’t on the field as much — to just get out of the way.
Billy Butler got a 2-1 fastball in his first at-bat and took it for a strike. I’ve got no idea what Billy was thinking, but the 2-1 change to Moose might make a hitter less sure he’s getting something hard when he expects it.
In an 0-2 count, Hochevar was trying to pitch to that up-and-in hole many lefties have in swing. Luke missed his spot and Wilson doubled.
In the third inning Hochevar hit Adam Jones with a pitch, a 77-mph curve. The fans booed, but ballplayers know if they get hit intentionally, it will be by a fastball about 20 mph faster. If the pitcher is sending a message, he wants it to hurt.
One of the ways players get back at a pitcher who hits them is by stealing a base soon after they get drilled. The idea is to make the hit by pitch hurt the pitcher as well. When Hochevar lifts his knee all the way up it takes a while to get the ball to home plate. Unfortunately for Adam Jones, he tried to steal when Hochevar “quick stepped.” (It’s somewhere between a slide step and lifting the knee all the way.) That got the ball to Salvador Perez faster and Sal threw out Jones.
As I’ve mentioned before, Brayan Pena sometimes gets his hand slightly on the side of the ball when throwing to the bases and that makes the ball tail to the right side. Perez keeps his fingers on top of the ball and that makes his throws straight.
Last season, Perez was so quick on his throws he bumped into the home plate umpire on more than one occasion. Apparently, word went out that Perez was really quick for a big guy and umpires needed to stay out of his way and make sure they didn’t interfere with his throws.
The 6th inning made sure the Royals weren’t coming back, and Hochevar doubled the damage by walking Matt Weiters and hitting Wilson Betemit. It’s bad to hang a curve, it’s worse to do it after giving the opposition a couple of free runners.
In the 7th, Jeff Francoeur doubled, but only after Nick Markakis missed a foul pop up. Markakis was approaching the wall running down the left field line and missed the catch. Some guys get distracted when approaching the wall, which is why we should appreciate Alex Gordon slamming into Kauffman’s wall hard enough to leave a sweaty outline in the padding.
Frenchy doubled to the right center, a good sign since he’s been working on getting a pitch out over the plate. Jeff then made a base-running mistake, trying to get to third with one down. That can be the right thing to do if the score were closer, but in this case, down by six in the seventh, it’s a mental mistake.
Move him over/drive him in
(This situation has come a couple times recently and it’s worth knowing that there are a couple ways of approaching it.)
Runner on second, no outs, one run matters: baseball fundamentals say the man at the plate should try to hit the ball to the right side of the infield and move the runner over to third base. That means the runner will be able to score without benefit of a hit and the opposition may have to bring their infield in an attempt to cut the run down at the plate.
But there are times the third base coach will signal the hitter to forget moving the runner over and instead try to drive him in. Say your six-hole hitter is much better than the two hitters that follow. Your best shot may be having the sixth hitter try to drive the run in immediately, rather than moving the runner up and leaving the RBI-job to weaker hitters. Or you’re too far down to make it worth giving up an out to move a runner 90 feet.
One of the first things you learn when hanging out with the people who play the game at this level: there are almost always exceptions to every rule.
In case you missed it
Pitching coach Dave Eiland was on Joel Goldberg’s pregame show talking about changes some of the Royals pitchers have made that might account for their recent success. Dave said Luis Mendoza has added a cutter to go along with his sinker. Having both pitches means Luis can pitch to both sides of the plate: one runs in on righties, one runs away.
(Of course, a pitcher can have too many pitches. That means they don’t throw some of them enough to command them and — as I once heard an old pitching coach say — in what situation do you want to throw your fourth-best pitch?)
Eiland has also helped Jeremy Guthrie add a slight inward turn to his delivery. It keeps the ball hidden longer and helps Guthrie get his weight back, but inward turns can make a pitcher slow to the plate. Guthrie seems to use the same quick step I described earlier, so it may not be a problem.
Still, it’s always good to remember there’s an up and downside to every adjustment: more pitches may affect command of the ball, inward turns might make you slow to the plate. Every adjustment has its price, so there are no simple answers.