Games » Cleveland IndiansSep21
Luis Mendoza's strong start
The Kansas City Star
Friday night Luis Mendoza threw six innings, gave up two earned runs and collected his eighth win. After the game Ned Yost said Mendoza’s curve was a bit flat, but his two-seam fastball was working well. Luis was a little more specific: he said he was throwing his four-seam fastball (straight) inside to hitters and his two-seamer (moving) when he wanted to go outside. It looked like Luis was fully recovered from strep throat.
Although the Cleveland Indians looked a little ill.
Before the game began Mike Moustakas stepped over and said hi to Cleveland’s third base coach, Steve Smith. It’s important to have good conversationalists on the corners. If the third baseman and third base coach enjoy each other’s company, the games go faster.
In the second inning with the score 1-1, Brayan Pena on second and David Lough on first, Irving Falu chased a 3-1 pitch out of the zone. Falu looked disgusted with himself, but an unintended benefit of going to a full count with two down was Brayan Pena getting a head start on the next pitch. Falu singled and Pena scored easily.
Lough went first to third and for some reason, Falu broke for second. The ball was cut off and Falu was trapped between bases. I don’t know why Irving broke for second, but I’ll try to find out tomorrow.
I’d give Falu a mental mistake, but if there’s some reason I have to take it back, I’ll have a problem doing so. The web site still believes Billy Butler has 101 RBIs even though we’ve been trying to eliminate two runs batted in for the past week.
In the 3rd inning Michael Brantley singled with Asdrubal Cabrera on second and Jarrod Dyson, playing centerfield, did not throw the ball home. Jarrod just flipped it back to the infield and the reason for doing so takes some explaining.
Why Dyson was in the game
Alex Gordon banged up his throwing hand on that slide at home plate the other night and Ned Yost wanted to give him a day off. Salvador Perez has taken a foul tip off his throwing hand and a couple off his glove side thumb. Perez has been playing through it, but now that the Royals are playing a non-contender, Ned feels like he can rest some starters and give others a look. (Perez might take this whole series off.)
To sit Gordon, Ned had to play Jarrod Dyson (his throwing arm is still less than 100%) or Jason Bourgeois. Coming into the game, Cleveland’s starting pitcher, Justin Masterson, had been dinged for a .294 average by lefties and a .231 average by righties. (Plus Dyson was 2-4 off him.)
If you run Dyson out there, he might have to make a throw. If you go with Bourgeois, you know he’s going to have to face Masterson, probably three times.
As soon as Dyson threw the ball, everyone on the field knew he wasn’t 100 percent. That’s why Alex Gordon came in late in the game. When Gordon went to left and Lough shifted to center, the Royals had a one-run lead. They could hope to get by with Dyson early and with a three-run lead, but with the score 4-3 and the Indians now aware Dyson arm was still a bit short of normal, Ned decided to get his best arms on the field.
Yost wants Gordon and Perez to be as healthy as possible for the Detroit series. After damaging the White Sox’s chances by taking two out of three, Yost wants to play as well as possible against Detroit. He feels it’s the fair thing to do.
One last game note
- Dyson’s legs still worked fine, and Jarrod went first to third on a ball hit to shallow left. He might be the only Royal player who could have pulled that off. The extra base paid off when Mike Moustakas hit a sac fly to right field.
Lough in left
Friday night, David Lough played left field. Friday afternoon, he was practicing. Outfield coach Rusty Kuntz had a bag of balls and a fungo bat and hit balls off every conceivable surface in Kauffman Stadium’s left field corner. David was fielding the balls while Rusty went over possible scenarios.
Balls that hit in the corner’s curve will ricochet back toward center field, so David has to shade toward that side. Balls that hit off the bullpen gate can do a couple of things: if they’re bouncing, they’ll hit the mesh and drop straight down, if they’re rolling, they’ll hit the bottom pad and come off hard. Balls can also hit the vertical pads in the gate or the pad that runs along the top. Misjudge a ball by a few inches and David could end up too close or too far away from the wall. Those are only a couple possibilities, and Kauffman is considered a fairly “clean” stadium (not a lot of weird angles or surfaces).
Lough also has to deal with being a left-handed thrower in left field. That means he’ll get better glove coverage toward the line, but have to reset his feet every time he throws to second. Either that or use a full spin to come around with some momentum toward his target. (Gordon, being right-handed, can catch the ball on the backhand side and is automatically in a good throwing position.)
The discussion of right- vs. left-handed throwers led Rusty into an explanation of Alex Gordon’s quick release on throws from the outfield. Alex was trained as an infielder. Infield throws are “short and quick.” (Picture taking the ball out of the glove and cocking the arm immediately — like a quarterback throwing a football.) Most outfielders throw “long and strong.” (They take the ball out of the glove, let the arm drop down to its full length and then bring it up into throwing position — like a pitcher delivering a pitch.)
According to Rusty, Alex gets away with this short-arm throwing motion because of his arm strength. Ask most outfielders to shorten their arm motion, and they’d feel like they had nothing on the throw. Ask Alex to lengthen his motion, and he’d feel like it was taking forever to deliver the ball.
If all this seems overly complicated — good. Nothing is as simple as these guys make it look. And good luck to David Lough out in left.
(This was written Friday afternoon. Friday night Lough played left field well, making two diving grabs. He never had to deal with a ball off the wall.)
Dyson and the stolen base
There seemed to be quite a bit of interest in the timing of Jarrod Dyson’s stolen base Thursday night. I got a chance to ask Rusty Kuntz about it Friday afternoon. When Dyson came on to pinch run, Rusty asked him if he’d ever tried to steal a base off White Sox reliever Jesse Crain.
“Not that I remember.”
Rusty told Jarrod that he wouldn’t forget Crain after this encounter, and he was about to earn his paycheck. Dyson wanted to see Crain’s move and saw two of them right away. Crain was delivering the ball to home plate in 1.1 seconds. 1.3 is quick enough to stop most base stealers. To further complicate the situation, Crain was also quick to first. Rusty said that most pitchers get the ball to first base on a pickoff throw in about one second flat. Crain was getting the ball over to first in eight to nine tenths of a second.
Here’s another factor: Crain has a “balk” move. He moves his shoulder in a manner that indicates he’s throwing the ball home and then comes over to first. (“Balk moves” are pick-off moves that runners and base coaches believes are balks. Umpires disagree or they wouldn’t let the pitcher get away with them.)
Crain was also holding the ball in the stretch and slide stepping. Basically, after Dyson saw a couple of pick-off moves, he wanted to go on every pitch, but a pitcher who was adept at frustrating base stealers was frustrating Dyson.
At one point, after Crain had made several quick pick-off throws, first baseman Adam Dunn turned to Rusty and said, “He’s got a better chance of picking off me than Dyce.” Dunn had a point: first baseman can get fooled just like a runner. If the first baseman falls for a balk move and assumes the pitcher is going home and squares up to the plate, he can find himself in an awkward position when the pitcher throws a laser beam at his feet.
So if you’re wondering why Jarrod Dyson didn’t steal second base sooner — he was trying. And a pitcher with a deep bag of tricks was trying to stop him.
Francoeur vs. Bourgeois
In the 4th inning of Thursday’s game with nobody out, Gordon Beckham on first and Alexei Ramirez on second, Alejandro De Aza hit a fly ball to right center field. Jason Bourgeois and Jeff Francoeur closed on the ball, and Bourgeois caught it.
And that was probably the wrong play.
Francouer has the stronger arm (and reputation) and would have caught the ball backhand on his throwing side. That meant Jeff would already be in a good throwing position. Bourgeois was moving to his left and caught the ball on his glove side. That meant Jason had to do some footwork to get in a good throwing position.
Because Bourgeois caught the ball, Ramirez was able to tag and get to third with one down. If Francoeur had caught the ball, it’s doubtful Ramirez would have challenged his arm. After the game Francoeur said he called for the ball, and Bourgeois said he never heard him. It’s a small moment that was soon made irrelevant; Ramirez got picked off third base by Salvador Perez.
But had Ramirez scored because he was able to advance to third with one out, the Royals would have been down by one going into the ninth, not tied. Small moments like getting the right guy to catch a fly ball can have big consequences.
Thursday night I noticed that Jeremy Guthrie would pause at the top of his windup every once in a while. It’s just one more way to disrupt a hitters timing. I asked Jeremy is there was any particular pattern (not that I could reveal it publicly) to when he used the pause. Guthrie said he hoped not.
I wondered if he would do it on off-speed only to get hitters out in front and he said, no, he’d use it on any pitch, which makes sense. If he doesn’t use it on any pitch, hitters will pick up the pattern and use it to decipher want’s coming next.
Guthrie only uses it a few times a game, but now when you see it, you’ll know what it is.