Games » Boston Red SoxMay29
I was thinking of writing about Royals pitchers throwing more strikes and the corresponding rise in outstanding defensive plays. Five walks and three errors on routine plays ended that plan.
Betancourt misplayed a double play ball when he couldn’t find the handle, Aviles got caught backing up and letting the ball play him, and Tejeda missed Butler’s flip when he took his eye off the ball to find first base.
Ask a manager if he’d trade away any outstanding defensive plays for all the routine ones and he’d jump at the chance. Russ Morman once told me about a scouting report that said a player was “capable of the great play, but struggles with the routine one.” Russ pointed out that the vast majority of plays are routine and making a great one once in awhile doesn’t even things out.
Making the routine play routine is a matter of practice, repetition and focus: doing the same thing over and over in the same way. Drop your arm slot and the release point changes. Back up instead of moving forward and your balance is off. Try to do the second thing (in the Tejeda’s error, finding the base) before you do the first thing (catching the ball) and you miss an easy out.
Defense should be as boring and conservative as a pair of brown wingtips. Get a groundball, get an out. Get a fly ball, get an out. Offensive is where you want to push it and try to force the other team into attempting great plays.
And great plays, by definition, are low percentage plays: they don’t work out most of the time. Former Royals outfielder Tom Poquette once told a group of us that he hoped we never made a great play, because great plays happen when everything’s screwed up and you have no choice but to attempt one.
So the next time you see the Royals put up a boring, conservative, 1-2-3 inning on defense, remind yourself: that’s winning baseball.
I’ve heard one of the knocks against Jason Kendall is his slugging percentage (he hasn’t hit a home run this year). On the other hand, he’s blocked at least five pitches in the dirt with a runner on third. When it comes to the scoreboard, how is that different than hitting a home run?
You can either put runs on the board or keep them off, it amounts to the same thing. The problem with keeping them off is that offense is easier to measure and gets more attention. A good offensive player can have bad days or hit the ball hard and still make outs. A good defender is good pretty much every day.
Anyone who saw Victor Martinez give up a couple runs the other night when he blocked pitches like he was auditioning for the part of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz ought to be able to recognize what Jason Kendall means to this team.
Moving the runner over
When I started using this system, I called Tom Polk to make sure I was scoring categories correctly. He told me that moving the runner over from second with nobody out was reserved for batters that made an out, but deserved some recognition for playing the game the right way.
Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer keeps the same stat, but also gives credit to the batter who gets a hit while moving the runner over. It’s too late to change the way I’m scoring at this point, but I think I agree with Kevin. If you do two good things, don’t you deserve two kinds of credit?