Games » Oakland AthleticsJul17
Dan Quisenberry once told me a pitcher had two choices: light up the radar gun or hit the mitt. In the first inning of this game Bruce Chen did neither and gave up three runs. To his credit, Bruce made an adjustment, kept the ball down unless he wanted to go up and then went up out of the zone. Chen gave his team a chance to win and that’s about all you can ask from a guy thrown into a starter’s role.
Velocity’s effect on pitch selection
After Bruce Chen threw about 270 pitches in the first inning, I expected Royals hitters to take some pitches to give him a rest. Scott Podsednik struck out looking on four pitches, so I figured Jason Kendall would take at least one strike, if not two. He took five pitches and walked. In his second at-bat with a runner on third, Kendall got a pitch up in the zone and hit a sac fly. In his fourth at-bat he worked his way back from an 0-2 count for another walk.
So with the tying run in scoring position and two outs in the 9th, I didn’t mind seeing Jason at the plate. He’s a professional hitter who knows what the situation calls for and he’s been on a hot streak. So why did he end the game striking out on a pitch up out of the zone?
Blink your eyes twice and that’s the reaction time on a 90-mph fastball. The A’s closer, Andrew Bailey, was throwing in the upper 90s (what’s that — a blink and a half?). When a guy throws that hard, you have to start your swing sooner, and as a result you’ll get fooled more often. Bailey didn’t hit the mitt in this at-bat, but at 99mph he did light up the radar gun.
I’ve mentioned that Yuniesky doesn’t always seem to pay attention to who’s running and this was one of those times. Rajai Davis hit what appeared to be a routine grounder. Betancourt moved to it smoothly, caught it smoothly and then smoothly buried the throw.
He took his time during the transition, may have realized it was going to be closer than he thought and rushed the throw. When you speed your arm up, the release point changes. Through repetition your brain knows how long you need to hold onto the ball before releasing, but because your arm is going faster, that amount of time is now wrong, causing you to spike the ball into the ground. Butler didn’t help him much with the short hop.
Everybody was running on Coco Crisp’s arm. Podsednik went for a triple, Betancourt stretched a single into a double and Alberto Callaspo and Mitch Maier moved up on a ball that was right at his feet. I think Sluggerr went first to third on him. I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the last Royals base runner take advantage of Coco’s arm. Watch for that anytime he’s got the ball.
Mitch Maier made a nice sliding catch in right and Jason Kendall backed up first (I know he’s supposed to, but a lot of catchers don’t) when Yuniesky Betancourt launched a Scud missile over Butler’s head.
The throw was so high I think Jason signaled for a fair catch. It prevented the runner from taking second, It doesn’t show up in a scorebook or register in sabermetrics (unless someone’s keeping an overheated-catcher-who-never-the-less-does-his-job-and-hustles-into-position-even-when-it-doesn’t-seem-necessary stat that I’m unaware of), but it’s the kind of play that other ballplayers recognize and appreciate.
In that heat, I’d be hallucinating after five innings of catching, not sprinting down the line to back up first. (Of course, thinking I could catch five innings is hallucinating.)
Billy Butler led off the eighth with a walk. I was surprised Ned Yost didn’t use a pinch runner. To me, that’s what the bench is there for: better match-ups in the last three innings. Billy’s probably had his last at-bat. A faster runner, say Bloomquist, can steal a base, go first to third, score on a double or try to break up the double play Jose Guillen hit into.
(To be fair, you would not only need to take out the pivot man, but tie him up, handcuff him and put him in a sleeper hold to make sure Jose was safe, but heck, I’d pay to see that.)
It’s not the first time Yost has neglected to use a pinch runner late, but there may be a reason I’m a cartoonist and he’s a major league manager.