Games » Washington NationalsJun21
Bruce Chen only gave up three hits in this game. Unfortunately, two of them bounced off the Washington Monument. Nevertheless, it was a quality start and evidence that the Royals could do worse (and have) than leaving Bruce in the rotation.
Livan Hernandez was even better. When a smart pitcher gets a strike called on the outside corner, he’ll throw another one even farther outside. You gave me that pitch, will you give me this one?
Home plate umpire Jerry Layne was consistently calling pitches just outside for strikes. The Royals hitters didn’t adjust (six strikeouts looking). At some point, you’ve got to quit complaining and do something…like crowd the plate, make that outside pitch hittable and force a pitcher who tops out in the mid-80s to come inside.
There’s a reason it’s called a game of adjustments.
According to my scorebook, Bruce’s home runs were given up on 1-0 and 3-1 counts. Hitters are trying to eliminate pitches, pitchers are trying to keep them in play.
OK, here’s what that means: hitters can’t hit everything. Up, down, in, out, fast, slow. If they try to hit all that, their timing will be off. (Try going to the batting cages, hit in the “fast” cage until you’re comfortable, then go to the “slow” and tell me what your first swing looks like.)
So, to maintain their timing, hitters need to be selective and look for a pitch that’s within that timing. Most hitters are looking fastball (not all the time, but most of the time). So if they can get a pitcher into a count where the pitcher needs to throw a strike (usually 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1 and 3-2) and the only thing the pitcher can throw for a strike is a fastball, the hitter is in business.
Pitchers want to do the opposite. If they’re ahead in the count and don’t need to throw a strike, they can still throw all their pitches to any part of the zone, including the part that isn’t a strike.
When Bruce falls behind, he may not have the stuff to just blow it by a hitter who knows what’s coming. So Bruce needs to pitch ahead — otherwise the Washington Monument is in danger.
At some point soon, I’d like to write more extensively about the, “Oh, why did we ever get rid of John Buck and Miguel Olivo?” movement. The short answer is they couldn’t play defense. Kendall has blocked dozens and dozens of pitches that kept runners from scoring or out of scoring position. He’s a veteran hitter who has productive at-bats even when he’s not getting hits (he drove in the only run in this game, laid down a bunt and hit a ball hard, but at someone…four trips to the plate, three good at-bats and a zero in the hit column).
Obsessing about offensive numbers and ignoring what a guy does defensively is no way to analyze players.
Forcing someone into an outstanding play…
Chen picked off a runner and forced Billy Butler into an outstanding play. When a runner is definitely picked and decides to try to beat the throw to second, the first baseman has to move toward the pitcher. If he doesn’t, he’ll catch the ball and be in line with the runner, making for a difficult throw. The runner will try to make it even more difficult by running toward the glove of whomever is covering, hoping to get in the line of the throw and get hit in the back.
Billy did his part, moving toward Chen. Bruce’s throw was off to the right and up, forcing Billy to leap in the air to snare it. In a way, this actually helped. Right-handed first basemen have a harder job because they have to turn their body and reset their feet to throw to second. The off-line throw got Billy in the air, which allowed him to reset his feet quickly and make a tough play look easy.
Later, Nyjer Morgan forced Yuniesky Betancourt into another outstanding play. On a 4-6-3 double play ball, Morgan got to Betancourt so fast Yuniesky was forced to invent a play.
There was no time for normal footwork. If Betancourt had attempted that, Morgan would’ve upended him, so Yuniesky just jumped over him and then made an incredibly athletic throw to first, running to his left and throwing back across his body.
Give Yuniesky credit: in one way or another, he’s always entertaining.
Alberto Callaspo’s pickoff…
When a batter misses or pulls the bat back on a bunt, the catcher will often try to pick off the runner. The runner is trying to get a good jump and may have taken a step too far. Alberto did.