Games » New York YankeesJul22
A lot happened in this game, not much of it good, so let’s get started.
“If you have an ‘A’ and ‘B’ game, sooner or later you’ll get caught playing your ‘B’ when you needed your ‘A.’ ”
That was Russ Morman, former Kansas City Royal and current pain in the neck, when asked why he played so intensely in a men’s amateur league. Russ’s point was that you need to play the game hard all the time, first pitch to last. That way, you would never get caught loafing.
Jose Guillen got caught playing his ‘B’ game. I’ve pointed out his tendency to loaf when he doesn’t think he has to run hard. In this game, it bit him like a junkyard dog (Actually, I’ve never met a junkyard dog — for all I know they’re a delight).
In the first inning with two outs, Billy Butler on third and Guillen on second, Wilson Betemit hit a ball into the left field corner. Betemit made the right decision to try for second. You try to stretch singles into doubles when you have two outs. If you stay at first, you’re still two hits away from scoring.
Unfortunately, while Wilson was doing the right thing, Jose wasn’t. He decided to jog home (I’ve seen parade floats moving faster). Betemit was tagged out before Guillen touched home plate. When you’re playing the New York Yankees, you can’t afford to give away runs over dumb stuff like this. I thought part of the problem with Trey Hillman was his acceptance of lazy baseball. I’ve been told by people who know a lot more than me that benching a major leaguer is counterproductive.
I’d give it a shot anyway.
Mike Aviles chose not to tag up at third with one down when Yuniesky Betancourt hit a flare just beyond second. Both Mike and Jose Guillen made mental mistakes in their base running. Mike’s mistake is tolerable, Jose’s isn’t.
It’s a fine line (and I think Mike got on the wrong side of it), but if you don’t think you can tag and score on a pop fly, the rule of thumb is to take a lead. If the ball’s dropped, you can head home. You could see Mike take a lead, start back to the bag, then extend the lead again.
I thought Mike should’ve tagged because Robinson Cano had taken charge of the ball. That meant an infielder going away from home plate (makes for a weak throw) was going to catch the ball instead of an outfielder headed towards home plate (makes for a strong throw). And even if the ball had dropped, the play was so far into the outfield that a fast runner might’ve had time to make it home, even if he was tagging.
Aviles, who plays hard, made a poor choice. Guillen, who doesn’t, made a worse one.
Podsednik played the ball off the wall extremely well to keep a runner from scoring (and later made a bad play to get eaten up by a line drive), Jason Kendall blocked a tough pitch in the dirt to keep a runner out of scoring position, Yuniesky had two difficult plays at short, and Billy Butler made an athletic play at first to grab a ball with his bare hand.
That was only necessary because he couldn’t make his mind up about fielding a bunt or covering the bag. Butler’s indecision hung the pitcher out to dry: if Billy fields the ball, the pitcher has to keep going to first. This was a first, but Billy broke even with an outstanding physical play and a mental mistake at the same time (actually, a lot of physically outstanding plays happen because someone made a mental mistake first.)
Fixing a hole
As I’ve said before, Rick Ankiel has a hole in his swing. (That’s a little unfair because ALL hitters have holes in their swings. The question: how big is the hole?)
Nobody covers the entire plate, at least not for long. Pitchers are looking for clues to the hole in a batter’s swing: a tall bat indicates a hitter with a loop in his swing (he has to drop the bat head to hit) and that hitter might have trouble with a high pitch. A flat bat indicates a hitter that might have trouble with a low pitch (he can get it, but because he doesn’t golf the ball, won’t lift it as often). A hitter with a closed stance has trouble with the pitch inside, a hitter with an open stance has trouble with the pitch away.
Rick has a tall bat and is “wrapped” (his hands are behind his shoulder). This usually means the hitter has a longer path to the ball and can be attacked up and in. You can see pitchers go after Ankiel hard up and in and then, once he tries to speed up to cover that hole, soft low and away.
This is not some special formula. This is how you pitch about everybody in some variation. It’s simply that right now the holes in Ankiel’s swing are more noticeable. (On the other hand, the last two times I wrote about the holes in his swing, Rick went out and ripped the ball. Pitchers make mistakes and that’s where Ankiel’s getting his hits: balls left out over the plate that are neither up and in or low and away. Here’s hoping he does it again.)
Nevertheless, I wondered whether Mitch Maier would be used in a key RBI situation in the eighth. He wasn’t and Ankiel struck out for the third straight time.