Games » Houston AstrosJun15
Twenty hits? Wow, that’s a lot. Every starter had at least one. Mike Aviles had four. David DeJesus had three. Billy Butler had three. Alberto Callaspo had three. I think Kevin Seitzer and Ned Yost snuck in the game and picked up some knocks. It took Jason Kendall until the eighth inning to get his. When hitters are going good, they’re getting pitches to hit and not missing them.
Jason has been scuffling lately, and what I’ve noticed is that he’s getting his pitch (which appears to be something out and up) and fouling it back or getting under it, which produces an easy fly ball to right. That means the barrel is under the ball, and that can happen for a variety of reasons.
If what I’m seeing is correct, I’m sure Jason and Seitzer are aware of it also. In his last at-bat, Jason got another pitch up and away, stayed on top of it and drove it hard and low through the right side.
“Staying on top” means his barrel never went below the ball. There is a philosophy that calls for a slight loop and upper-cutting the ball, but if you’re going to hit the ball in the air, you better be strong enough to hit it out.
(There is an exception to this: Wade Boggs advocated a slight uppercut, but when he did it in Fenway, he could bang the ball off the Monster instead of flying out to the opposite field.)
When a hitter’s swing is right, he knows what kind of pitch his swing is set up to handle: inside, outside, up or down. He waits for his pitch and doesn’t miss it. When a hitter’s going badly, he gets his pitch, misses it or fouls it back and is still up there, hoping for another mistake.
The Royals saw a lot of mistakes last night. Trying to pitch to them appeared to be one.
Mike’s error and Mitch’s pickoff…
Sometimes one player does something that affects a teammate negatively and it never shows in the box score.
Two examples: third inning. A ball is hit between Butler and Aviles, Butler starts to his right, but realizes it’s Mike’s play. Billy changes direction and heads back to cover first. This upsets the timing of the play. Mike comes up to throw and Billy’s not there yet. Mike has to double-pump, and the extra time that takes means it’s going to be close at first. Mike tries to put a little more on the throw to make up for the lost time, which means more arm speed, which changes the release point and the throw is buried for an error, all because Butler took one step to his right.
Fourth inning: Aviles is on second, Mitch Maier’s on first. The ball gets away from the Astros catcher. Mike takes off for third, Mitch sees Mike go and heads for second. The catcher, Quintero, gets on the ball quickly and Mike decides he can’t make it. He heads back to second, which hangs Mitch out to dry. The catcher goes for Mitch instead of Mike because it was a shorter throw. Maier did nothing wrong, but loses points for getting picked off.
The stolen base…
Far be it from me to disagree with Yost about the stolen base, but not too far, because I’m about to do it. Recently Ned said he didn’t want to steal unless the attempts were successful three out of four times.
The numbers I saw over the weekend showed the Royals had been successful 66.1 percent of the time this season. The American League average for successful stolen bases is 72.2 percent. A catcher who throws out one out of three base stealers is considered excellent.
So here’s the part I don’t get: If you have an option that’s successful 66.1 percent of the time, but that’s not good enough, what are you doing instead? Is swinging away successful 66.1 percent of the time? Is the hit and run? The bunt?
And how about the successes that aren’t measurable: How many hits does a base-stealing team get because they see more fastballs? How many times does a grounder go through because the defense is pinched up the middle to cover second?
Even when a steal fails, it accomplishes something. It tells the other team you’ll run, it puts more pressure on the defense and changes its positioning, it makes the pitcher slide step and splits his concentration, it rushes the catcher and gets the hitter more fastballs.
When I read the “Moneyball” philosophy, I thought it sounded like a great way to win 90 games, go to the playoffs and lose in the first round (check Oakland’s record). Waiting around for walks and home runs might work in the regular season, but in the playoffs, sooner or later you’re going to run into a good pitcher on his game. When that happens, you better know how to score runs without a lot of hits, and stolen bases are part of the formula.
Plus, they’re fun.