Games » Minnesota TwinsJun9
Ron Polk’s evaluation system encourages you to pay attention to the things you can control. Even in a 6-2 loss like this, if you break it down, you can see where the game was given away.
Aviles at second…
The only people who think baseball is a slow game are people who have never been on the field. Calculations are going on in between every pitch, and once the ball is in play, it can be moving at 100 mph. In fact, the game moves so fast, it’s a reaction sport. There’s no time to think once the ball is on its way. All the options have to be considered before the pitch.
Right now, Mike Aviles is working on developing the necessary reactions at second base. You can see he has the athletic ability to play the spot, but the timing and footwork of the double play don’t appear to be there yet. He’s still learning the position, and that came back to bite him in the fifth inning.
Delmon Young hit the ball to Yuniesky Betancourt with runners on first and second. It wasn’t a double play ball (I don’t know Young’s time in the 40, but if you’re playing left field for the Twins, I’m guessing it’s pretty good). Aviles appeared to be thinking there was a chance to turn two. Yuniesky fed him the ball for the forceout. Mike was stepping back toward left field to keep the base between him and the sliding runner as protection and came off the bag too soon. That led to the extra run I mentioned earlier.
Recognizing what’s possible and making the correct play is part of learning a position. Ned Yost says learning a new one can take up to a year, and I believe him. I’ve been playing for 20 and haven’t learned one yet.
Since we’re talking about Aviles, theoretically, the leadoff hitter has speed and a good on-base percentage. The 2-hole hitter should then be a lefty who can pull or a right-hander who can go the other way. This allows them to take advantage of the hole created on the right side by the first baseman holding the runner, or, if the leadoff man gets to second, the 2-hole hitter can hit the ball to the right side to move the runner over.
A 2-hole hitter who takes a couple of pitches to allow the preceding runner to steal then hits a routine 4-3 to move the runner to third, has just had a great at-bat.
The 2-hole is not a great spot for someone who wants to jump the first fastball he sees. I imagine this is why Yost thought Jason Kendall would be a better fit behind Scott Podsednik than Aviles. Mike is a young hitter who might be better served by being allowed to swing away.
Grounding into double plays — Billy Butler leads the league with 17. When we set up this system, I asked Ron Polk about penalizing a hitter who grounded into a double play. He disagreed with that. His reasoning was that a hitter who grounds into a double play has done the right thing (hit the ball hard and low), and it just didn’t work out.
Ron said they had stats that showed ground balls turned into something positive over 40 percent of the time: a hit, an error or moving a runner. He didn’t want to penalize a player for playing the game the right way.
So if you want Billy’s .323 average (partly that high because he keeps the ball out of the air), you have to live with the double plays. You can’t have it both ways.
The same thing applies to hits: If you want your pitchers to throw strikes, you’ve got to live with the hits. The smart coach encourages a high-percentage approach (hit the ball hard and low and throw strikes) and then lives with the times that approach doesn’t work out.
Bad coaches (and fans) want it both ways: Hit the ball hard and low, but don’t ground into double plays, throw strikes, but don’t give up hits. It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to pick an approach BEFORE you know the results and then live with whatever happens.
Kind of like marriage.