Games » Washington NationalsJun22
Anthony Lerew did the best he could with what he had. He threw strikes and worked quick, but when he missed his location, he didn’t have enough velocity or movement to get away with it.
Once again, the umpire was giving pitches off the plate, but Brian Runge was more inconsistent about it than Jerry Layne had been in the previous game. This zone had hitters confused and forced them to swing at some marginal pitches when they got to two strikes.
Jason Kendall ended the game by popping up one of those marginal pitches with the tying run in scoring position, but he may have felt he needed to swing, considering the wandering strike zone.
Jason also got a pitch to hit earlier in the at-bat, but fouled it off. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Kendall seems to be in a phase of getting under the ball. Popping up the pitch away can be caused by a number of things, but bottom line, the barrel’s under the ball at contact. Even a slight weight shift forward too soon can collapse the bat head (think of pulling the bottom block out of a stack of blocks) and start the bat on a looping path.
More on Kendall…
If John Buck and Miguel Olivo have better offensive numbers than Jason Kendall, does that mean the Royals made a mistake in letting them go? Only if you ignore about two-thirds of what a catcher does.
I’ll give you an example: The Colorado Rockies came here for three games in May, and Olivo played in two of them. He was one for three in game one with a walk and two for four in game two with a triple and an RBI. That’s a .428 batting average, a .500 on-base percentage and a .714 slugging percentage.
Who wouldn’t want that out of their catcher? Anyone who was paying attention to what he did on defense.
In the eighth inning of the first game with runners on the corners, the pitcher threw a wild pitch. Funny thing: If the catcher makes a bad effort on a ball in the dirt, it’s a passed ball. If he makes a REALLY bad effort, it’s a wild pitch. This was a really bad effort: A lazy attempt to glove the ball without moving his body. Not a first for Olivo.
A run scored and the runner on first moved up to second. Another single, and once again it was runners on first and third. Olivo then had a passed ball. Another run scored, and another runner down to second. Next came a 4-3, the runner on second moved to third and then scored on a sacrifice fly.
In two games, Olivo put up nice offensive numbers while driving in one and letting in two. That’s not winning baseball. Sure, it was only two games, but it was a familiar pattern to anyone who paid attention to what he did when he was here.
Buck and Olivo were below-average defensive catchers. I’m fairly certain that the people in the Royals’ front office also own calculators, and I’m guessing they concluded that Buck and Olivo didn’t supply enough offense to make up for what they were doing on defense.
This season, the Royals have won at least four games by one run after Kendall blocked a pitch in the dirt with a runner on third. He’s also blocked dozens of other pitches that kept runners from scoring or runners out of scoring position. If the current trend continues, this year the Royals will have about 30 fewer wild pitches than last year.
Kendall’s ability to block pitches also allows the pitchers to throw their best stuff without fear that it will wind up at the backstop.
None of this registers if all you care about is offense. Focusing on one set of numbers and then jumping to a conclusion is a bad way to analyze ballplayers, and it’s an especially bad way to analyze Jason Kendall.
One more thing…
If the fact that Olivo caught a Cy Young winner last year and appears to be catching another Cy Young winner this year means he’s better than I think, how come that brilliance doesn’t seem to help all the other pitchers he handles?
Maybe Zack Greinke and Ubaldo Jimenez are good no matter who catches them.