Games » Detroit TigersOct2
The Alcides Escobar show
The Kansas City Star
The system we use on this website to measure a player’s contribution to his team says that Billy Butler has contributed more to the 2012 Kansas City Royals than any of his teammates. A .313 batting average, .370 on-base percentage,.511 slugging percentage, 29 home runs and 107 RBIs is a pretty good argument.
But if anyone wanted to make the case that Alcides Escobar was the best player on the Royals, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time arguing — and this game could be Exhibit A.
Alcides opened the scoring with a home run in the first inning and picked up two more hits in his next three at-bats. He also drove in another run … and stole a base … and helped turn a double play. Heck, if the game had gone on long enough, he might have cured cancer and won the lottery. He was having that kind of night.
And I haven’t even talked about the two ridiculous plays he made on defense. In the eighth inning, Escobar went back on the grass, caught the ball, jumped, spun around and threw out Detroit’s Avisail Garcia. You have to the see play to realize how good it was.
Esky made another diving stop in the ninth inning and jumped up to throw out Bryan Holaday. After watching Esky for two years, it is a measure of how much I’ve come to expect out of him that I thought the ninth-inning play was merely terrific. After what he did in the eighth inning, I thought, “Sure, he’ll pull this play off in the ninth.” He’s that good.
So Billy Butler or Alcides Escobar — either one could be player of the year. And Alex Gordon hasn’t been too shabby, either.
• Jeremy Guthrie won his final start of the season and once again showed the ability to pitch out of trouble. In the third inning he had given up two runs, had the bases loaded with one out and ran the count to 3-0 on Delmon Young. Guthrie threw two strikes and then got Young to pop up on the infield. A good defensive play by Tony Abreu and a bad base-running play by Prince Fielder resulted in a double play, and Guthrie got out of the inning.
• After the game, manager Ned Yost said that pitchers who minimize damage and get themselves out of trouble have the ability to continue to make pitches under stress. They don’t let the game speed up on them. They stay calm and focused.
• After the third inning, pitching coach Dave Eiland suggested a small adjustment in Guthrie’s motion. Guthrie needed to get the ball out of his glove sooner, which allowed his arm to be on time. If a pitcher gets his body too far out in front, he throws uphill because his arm never catches up to his body. If a pitcher gets the arm on time, he can throw downhill and keep the ball low in the zone.
• Guthrie made the adjustment and pitched three more scoreless innings.
• In the first inning, Irving Falu was in on grass with Ramon Santiago at the plate. Watch the third baseman and he will show you by his positioning if the hitter is likely to bunt. With two strikes on Santiago, Falu was playing back and with Miguel Cabrera at the plate. Falu was playing waaay back.
• With two strikes, one of the Detroit hitters sliced a ball into the stands and it banged off an empty seat. Fans want souvenirs, but they might not like getting one at 100 mph. If you’re in the stands down low, pay attention all the time, but pay even better attention when the hitter has two strikes. He will wait as long as he can and sometimes use an emergency hack to foul off nasty borderline pitches.
• Detroit center fielder Quintin Berry broke back on an Alex Gordon fly ball, then reversed field and came forward to make the catch. That’s much better than the reverse, coming in and then breaking back to make the catch. Moving forward is easier, and a ball that drops is a single, not extra bases. If you’re going to make a mistake, make it in front of you.
• Billy Butler cost Falu an error when he missed a short-hop throw from third. Billy then cost himself an error when he muffed a throw that didn’t bounce. I’ve counted 71 outstanding defensive plays by Eric Hosmer this season and most of those are scoops of bad throws by teammates. First basemen make everyone on the infield better or worse.
• In the seventh, Escobar was ruled safe on a ball that got away from Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder. Alcides feinted toward second base then walked back to first. No one on the Detroit team seemed to notice Esky’s move, and no one made an attempt to tag him.
• Jeff Francoeur added an insurance run with a 424-foot home run in the eighth inning. That was 424 feet on a cool night when the ball didn’t carry. That’s a lot of feet in October.
• It’s official: The Royals were better this year. The Royals won their 72nd game Tuesday — one more than last season.
How to tell when a base-runner is cheating
If you’re watching a game on TV and they show the runner at first base, check his eyes. If they are darting back and forth, he is probably doing what any self-respecting ballplayer would do. He’s cheating.
It’s not against any rule, but the other team doesn’t like it when a player steals signs from the catcher. Of course, when one of your players does it, he’s a smart ballplayer.
Some runners peek in toward home plate to steal signs. If the catcher has his knees too far apart, the runner can see the signs. (With a runner on second base they use a more complicated system.) Runners, especially base-stealers, want to know what pitch is being thrown because it’s easier to steal a base on an off-speed pitch than a fastball.
A non-base-stealer might not like to look into the plate for fear that the pitcher will pick him off while he’s looking the wrong direction. And just to make it more complicated, what if the catcher is intentionally letting the runner see the signs in order to bait the runner into going? If the catcher knows a base-runner peeks, he and the pitcher could switch up the signs.
(The Royals have told first baseman Eric Hosmer to give them a heads-up if he can see the Royals catcher’s signs. That way, they coaches can signal to the catcher to hold his knees closer together.)
Limping toward the finish line
Eric Hosmer is hurt, Mike Moustakas is hurt and Jarrod Dyson is banged up. In fact, hardly anybody feels great at this point in the season. The other day, I wondered what would happen if the Royals had made the playoffs and faced another month of baseball.
According to Jeff Francoeur, being in the playoffs give players a boost of adrenaline just when they need it most. Guys are so excited about participating in postseason play that they forget the nicks and bruises and get a second wind as they head into October.
Frenchy may have a point. None of the Detroit Tigers looked tired Monday night.