Games » Boston Red SoxMay28
Like every other manager who ever has lived, I believed in controlling walks and errors. After running this system on the Royals for 49 games, I’ve changed my mind. Now I really believe in controlling walks and errors. I knew walks were bad, but I’m just beginning to appreciate how bad. Over and over again, I see them providing the margin of victory or defeat.
That margin is paper-thin. If you look at team records, you’ll see the best teams win about six out of ten games and the worst teams win about four. If you can control your walks and errors, and the other team doesn’t, you have an advantage that might lead to those two extra wins out of every ten you’re looking for.
If you wonder why the Royals are playing better these days, you could do worse than focusing on walks being down. In the pre-game show, Brian Bannister said the pitchers had a meeting to talk about walks and decided to be more aggressive and take their chances with balls put in play.
We’re seeing the results.
Heads-up base running
In the top of the seventh inning, Scott Podsednik broke a base running rule: when you’re at second base with less than two outs, you advance on groundballs hit at you or to your left. The third base coach even has a sign to remind the runner of this. Scott took off on a slowly hit grounder to third.
So this was very bad base running or very good base running because: if the ball is hit slowly enough and the third baseman has to stay in position to field it, all the runner has to do is beat the shortstop to third. There’s no one else that can possibly cover.
I chose to view this as very good base running. It’s not something you want everyone doing, only the runners with outstanding judgment.
When I started this project I knew there was every chance that the Royals might not be good and I was going to spend a lot of time talking about mistakes. I decided to look for the positives as often as I could. This is one.
Trying to do the right thing
One batter before the Podsednik trip to third, Mike Aviles tried to move him over. With a runner at second and nobody down, most of the time the hitter will try to hit the ball to the right side and move the runner to third.
Not all the time though: there is a sign to tell the hitter to go ahead and try to drive the runner in. This is most often used with the RBI guys, 3, 4 and 5. It’s also used when the manager doesn’t like the chances of the on-deck hitter getting the job done with one out and the runner on third.
OK, back to Aviles: he was clearly trying to move the runner over. DeJesus was on deck, he’s hot right now, so you like David’s chances of getting the runner in from third if Mike can get him there.
The pitcher, Ramon Ramirez, theoretically knows Aviles is trying to move the runner over, so he throws him what appears to be an outside pitch. That’s the pitch a right-hander is geared for: something away that can be hit to the right side of second. Like I said, the pitches appeared to be what Mike wanted, but they were breaking balls that dove out of the zone.
Ramirez got Aviles to 1-2, but Mike did a good job and still got the ball out to right. Unfortunately, he did a little too good a job and hit a soft line drive that was caught by J.D. Drew. Podsednik didn’t think he could advance to third, which led to him taking off on the 5-3 one batter later.
When people tell me baseball is boring, I tell them you just don’t know what to look for. In every game, no matter the score, there are fascinating situations like this. Everyone on the field knows the strategies and seeing who wins or loses these game-within-the-game battles is not only interesting, but often decides the outcome.
An L7 in the scorebook become a mini-drama worth observing.