Games » Minnesota TwinsSep12
The argument continues
The Kansas City Star
Recently, a lot of people have expressed opinions about Luke Hochevar. Wednesday night’s game against the Twins probably won’t settle any arguments.
Luke won for the first time in a while, battled without his best stuff, but gave up five earned runs in five innings, two of them walks that scored.
When you go through Luke’s starts game by game, it’s clear he is about twice as likely to give you a good outing as a bad one, but the bad ones are so bad, they skew the overall numbers and provide ammunition for Hochevar’s critics.
Some people are up in arms about Hochevar’s disagreement with pitching coach Dave Eiland about the use of his cutter. Eiland thinks the cutter is having a negative effect on other pitches. Hochevar wants to keep the pitch and concentrate on eliminating its negative effects.
I couldn’t tell you who’s right, I don’t know enough about pitching, and I’ve never stood on the mound myself. Former Royals pitcher David Cone once said it didn’t matter what pitch he threw as long as he executed the pitch correctly.
An old pitching coach (whose name I can’t recall) once asked, “In what situation do you want to throw your fourth-best pitch?” If Luke has so many pitches, he can’t command all of them. That’s a problem. If he’s been tinkered with so much he’s confused, that’s also a problem.
Stay tuned. This isn’t over yet.
• In a 1-2 count, Hochevar hung a curve ball to Minnesota’s Denard Span. Span tripled, and Luke started the game with a runner on third and nobody out. Mike Moustakas made a nice play to freeze Span at third and then throw out Ben Revere at first base. Hochevar looked as though he might get the second out of the inning when he painted a fastball low and away on Josh Willingham but didn’t get the call. Willingham singled, and Hoch didn’t get away with the hung curve.
• In the third inning, Hochevar appeared to be nibbling at the edges of the strike zone. He gave up a single to Span and then walked the next three hitters. If you’re keeping count, that’s one more runner than there are bases. Hochevar walked in a run, one of the most helpless feelings in the world … or at least in the world of sports.
• According to sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman, good pitchers don’t avoid contact. They don’t allow contact. They force contact. That’s a mind-set that eludes many pitchers.
• The second Twins run of the inning came when Jamey Carroll hit a sacrifice fly to center fielder Lorenzo Cain. Ryan Doumit tagged third base and scored. I couldn’t tell whether it was intentional, but Mike Moustakas appeared to move into Doumit’s line of sight. This is an old third-baseman’s trick: stand in front of the runner and force him to look around you to see the catch. It may not result in an out, but slowing a runner by a step can’t hurt.
• Catchers have use a visual shorthand to communicate with the pitcher. That way they aren’t constantly out at the mound. After one of Luke’s walks, Salvador Perez touched his shoulder. That’s a signal to the pitcher that he’s “opening up.”
• If a right-handed pitcher’s glove side shoulder rotates open toward the first-base line too soon, that will drop the throwing side arm down, put the hand more on the side of the ball, not the top, and make the throwing arm late. The short version goes like this: The pitcher will miss up and in to right-handed hitters. That was where Hochevar was missing. That’s why Perez signaled to Luke that he was opening up.
• During all this non-strike throwing, at some point I believe manager Ned Yost got reliever Everett Teaford up in the bullpen. I haven’t talked with Ned, but it wouldn’t be the first time that Ned used a reliever to send a message to the guy on the mound: Start throwing strikes.
• The Royals offense opened up in the fifth inning. Eric Hosmer walked for the second time in the game (often an indication that the hitter is seeing the ball well). Johnny Giavotella singled. David Lough singled. Alcides Escobar singled. Alex Gordon singled. Billy Butler singled with a runner on third. Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas popped up. Then Lorenzo Cain picked them up with a two-out single.
• There are times when you can see what this lineup might become: nine guys who have a chance to hurt you. When a pitcher feels there is no break in the bottom third of the order, it becomes a very challenging game.
• With a runner on second base, Twins catcher Drew Butera set up away, then moved back inside. That might have been more about the runner on second base (Billy Butler) than the hitter at the plate. The runner on second might signal to the hitter what pitch is on its way (if he can decipher the sign sequence), but it’s much simpler to signal location. The runner just leans more on one foot than the other. The hitter sees the runner do that and knows where the catcher is setting up. At some point, the hitter has to concentrate on the pitcher, so a catcher who moves late can upset the scheme.
• After his offense gave him a 6-3 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, Hochevar needed a “shutdown” inning. If your side scores big and then the pitcher lets the other team come right back, it sends everybody the message that nothing is decided. The game is till up for grabs. Luke allowed the Twins to score two runs.
• At one point, Moustakas chased a single all the way down the left-field line, picked it up and flipped it to Gordon so he could throw the ball back to the infield. Here is what happened: They were playing the hitter to pull and had a left-handed shift on. The hitter went the other way, and Mike was smart enough to realize Alex wasn’t going to be where the ball was hit. Gordo also was shifted toward right field. That’s why Moose took off after the ball.
• Royals reliever Tim Collins threw a 93-mph fastball up and in to Revere and dumped the Twins right-fielder on his backside. The next pitch, predictably enough, was down and away. Not many hitters will lean out to hit a pitch after having one whizz by their heads. The guys who do get a lot of respect. The guys who don’t are human.
How to cheat while everyone is watching
I was watching a Royals game the other night, and the camera showed an opposing pitcher rubbing up a baseball. That reminded me of Dan Quisenberry. Quiz once showed me how some pitchers cheat. All it takes is nerve and a thick thumbnail.
When a pitcher gets a new ball and rubs it up, watch his thumbs. If one is arched up, the pitcher might be pulling the trick that Dan showed me: using a thumbnail to scrape and raise the baseball’s seams. Higher seams mean more wind resistance and a better break on a curve or slider.
It takes guts to throw a breaking pitch in a crucial situation and even more guts to cheat while everyone is watching.
Thursday night promises to run late (I’ve got some scheduling problems), but Il eventually will get the game notes and stats posted. It may mid-morning Friday before it happens, but it will happen eventually. I hope.