Game Nine Recap

Dave · April 13, 2010 at 9:31 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yay, 3-6. So this is what it feels like to win on a non-Felix day.

Milton needed that. The team needed that. Everyone needed that. Welcome to Seattle, Mr. Bradley. Do that more often and you can make a nice little home for yourself here.

Brett Anderson is tremendous. If I had to start a franchise with any pitcher in baseball, Brett Anderson would be in the discussion for the guy I would take. I’d probably end up with Felix or Lincecum or Greinke, but I’d seriously consider Anderson. He’s that good. For all the problems the offense has had, facing him twice in the last five days hasn’t helped.

Doug Fister showed what can happen when you throw strikes in a pitchers park, especially when facing a bad offense. He challenged the A’s, commanded his change-up, and generally pitched pretty well. He won’t be able to do that regularly, but it was a nice performance anyway.

Nice to see Figgins hitting the ball hard three times off of left-handed pitchers, who have traditionally given him problems, but that caught stealing in the 7th inning was bad. Yes, Kurt Suzuki made a remarkable play to catch the ball and get back in position to throw him out, but there’s no reason for Figgins to take off until he’s sure the ball got away from Suzuki. There’s no chance that Suzuki’s going to be able to track the ball down and throw him out once it gets by him and goes to the backstop, so getting a good jump doesn’t matter. On that play, you’re either going to be out by a couple of steps if he caught it or safe without a throw if he didn’t. Already in scoring position, wisdom is the better part of valor, and that was not a wise play by Figgins.

I’ve given Mike Sweeney a lot of crap the first week, so let me just say this – he had two really good, important at-bats tonight. In his first nine trips to the plate this year, he saw a total of 23 pitches, and hacked his way into a lot of easy outs. In his last two at-bats tonight, he saw 12 pitches, drawing a couple of walks, and giving the team chances to score runs. The second walk came against Brad Ziegler, a side-arming right-hander who just destroys right-handed hitters. It’s obvious that I don’t think Sweeney brings enough to the table to be worth the roster spot on this team, but when you hear announcers talk about professional at-bats, those two trips to the plate were what they mean. I tip my hat to Sweeney to him for those last two walks.

Comments

60 Responses to “Game Nine Recap”

  1. mj42083 on April 13th, 2010 9:37 pm

    Glad to see a victory. Offense still needs work, but we have to start somewhere :)

  2. greymstreet on April 13th, 2010 9:39 pm

    Reading this recap is like reviewing your evening on twitter in longer form. :-)

    Both worth it

  3. luckyscrubs on April 13th, 2010 9:40 pm

    Nothing ever comes easy for this team, but when they win it sure is satisfying. Fister did exactly what he needed to do, and it’s nice to see Milton make such a positive impression at home. Whoohooo!

  4. kbarnhouse on April 13th, 2010 9:42 pm

    Well done. Feels good when the ball club wins, and Fister has a good night. I’ll go to sleep happy tonight.

  5. CCW on April 13th, 2010 9:43 pm

    Right on. Great way to win when you’re feeling down.

  6. rthomson on April 13th, 2010 9:46 pm

    Great post except I have to disagree with your analysis on Figgins. The only way for Suzuki to throw him out was to cartwheel and throw a strike right on the bag. If the throw was anywhere else he would’ve been safe. With one out in a 0-0 game I’d take him at third where he can score on a sac fly. It just happened to be one of those plays where you have to tip your hat to the other team…

  7. Dave on April 13th, 2010 9:49 pm

    He was out by a lot. It wasn’t that close.

  8. Jeff Nye on April 13th, 2010 9:53 pm

    You don’t improve your chances of scoring by enough with a success to offset the possibility of using up the most valuable currency in baseball, the out. Particularly late in the game.

    It’s just a bad risk to take in that situation.

  9. ppl on April 13th, 2010 9:57 pm

    This was what we needed last night. But we can still win the series. The elation of the fickle fanbase can shift back to a totally negative outlook tommorow even it is a one-run extra innings loss.

  10. spankystout on April 13th, 2010 10:00 pm

    They won with power?!?! Its a festivus miracle!

  11. hoser on April 13th, 2010 10:02 pm

    From the sound of the call, M Sweeney got a lot of the fly ball in the second. It didn’t go out, but didn’t seem like a pop-up either. Is there a point where a long fly ball that is caught is still a creditable effort?

  12. pinball1973 on April 13th, 2010 10:03 pm

    Well, it’s better than losing. A lot. It still doesn’t feel like we’re playing like winners.
    A baby step forward, at best.

    C’mon and make me eat these words of doubt, Ichiro & all the M’s!

  13. mattlock on April 13th, 2010 10:07 pm

    I wouldn’t bet the farm on the M’s tonight.

    Hey Dave, say this more. :D

  14. Chris_From_Bothell on April 13th, 2010 10:15 pm

    hoser: From where I was (infield seats in the 100s, first base side), Sweeney’s fly ball in the 2nd only needed another 6 or 7 feet. It was caught pretty far back on the warning track.

    And not only did he drive in the runs tonight, Uncle Miltie got a good roar of approval from the crowd on that throw to the plate a little later in the game. Not a bad arm on him.

  15. Snuffleupagus on April 13th, 2010 10:34 pm

    I’d disagree on Figgins.

    I think he makes it safe solidly if any part of Suzuki hits the ground. He was counting on a skid or a slide of some sort. We have to admit that his ability to not hit the ground at all was pretty impressive. In that sense I don’t think Figgins needed the ball to get past him to make it to third at all.

  16. Breadbaker on April 13th, 2010 10:35 pm

    Just back from the game.

    No, Sweeney’s second inning fly ball really didn’t have all that much on it.

    Fister did a nice job of throwing strikes and keeping ahead of the hitters. He basically treated the A’s the way a lot of opposing pitchers treat the M’s at Safeco. We kept comparing his pitch count to Anderson’s and wondering when was the last time a non-Felix Mariner pitcher had thrown significantly fewer pitches than a good opponent.

    Milton’s double, I thought, was his Popeye moment. His first at-bat he had hit a long fly to the deepest part of the park, then he just laced the double and there were cheers and suddenly, kapow. His throw to save a run was perfect (we were really hoping they’d send him just to test Milton; he’d have been out by 25 feet). And the swing on the homer was classic.

    Aardsma was just good enough. Two walks, mein gott.

    A beautiful night for baseball and we were sitting with some really nice people who knew their stuff.

  17. henryv on April 13th, 2010 10:43 pm

    What I find especially enjoyable and ironic about this game was that we beat the A’s the exact way that they try to win.

    A young, underrated pitcher under team control pitched very well, and an old, maligned slugger signed in the off-season hit a 3-run home run after a very smart walk.

    I mean, if you just described the game with that paragraph, you would have been sure the A’s won.

  18. NNeelix on April 13th, 2010 10:50 pm

    Nice to see the M’s get a win, I am breathing a bit easier tonight. We knew April was going to be tough but I wasn’t prepared to see us start 2-6. For some reason 3-6 sounds a hell of a lot better then 2-7.

    On another note Lee pitched a 63 pitch bull pen session and it sounds like he did pretty well. Looks like they have him pegged to start as early as May 1st or 2nd pending the appeal outcome. This begs the question, can the M’s take Lee off the DL before he is physically ready to get the suspension out of the way and get him back in the rotation sooner?

  19. TrojanMariner1 on April 13th, 2010 10:50 pm

    I understand why statistically Figgins made a poor decision, but Kurt Suzuki’s play was amazing. Anything less than spectacular and Chone would be sitting at 3rd with one out. I think the Mariner’s aggressive running will pay off more when they aren’t looking at him behind the plate.

  20. allenwu on April 13th, 2010 11:01 pm

    If we were playing teams like the Yankees and Redsox, with their aging (posada) or bad-armed (martinez) catchers, aggressive base running would really pay off.

  21. gnaztee on April 13th, 2010 11:09 pm

    Your assessment of Figgins’ decision is off the mark a bit, for a couple of reasons. First, runners always look to advance on a ball in the dirt (not a pitch to the backstop, but any ball where the catcher is leaving his feet). Some watch the flight of the ball for down-angle and break when they assess it will be in the dirt (this is difficult to read). Others watch the catcher’s movements – if he begins to drop to his knees or has to leave his feet, this is when the runner breaks. It has nothing to do with anticipating a ball to the backstop. This is an aggressive, but not unusual, way to get an extra base at all levels of baseball.

    Second, with one out, this is the ideal time to try to get to 3B on such a play. With nobody out, a bunt or ball to the right side can move runner to 3B, and a fly ball gets him in, so no reason to push it. With two outs, runner scores from 2B on hit anyway, so no reason to push it. With one out, getting to 3B is optimal as a fly ball or, in certain situations, mostly early, a ground ball can score the runner. Aggressiveness will change based on outs and score, and this was about the most ideal time to try to take 3B on a ball in dirt. And as others have said, a throw even a couple of feet off the mark and Figgie is safe, good play.

  22. Dave on April 13th, 2010 11:12 pm

    The ball wasn’t in the dirt. It was just wide of the plate. If it was in the dirt, no problem – the expectation of a bounce and the time lost by Suzuki picking it up gives Figgins time to make it safely. But that ball wasn’t anywhere close to bouncing – it was just two feet outside. The only options were Suzuki catches it or it goes to the backstop. There were no other alternatives.

    It was a bad read by Figgins.

  23. gnaztee on April 13th, 2010 11:16 pm

    Again, like I said, some players choose to (or are taught to) read the catcher’s movement on the pitch. Once the runner sees the catcher diving it’s generally a safe bet the ball will be too tough to handle to make a good throw. If he leaves after the ball hits the glove or bounces, it’s too late. It’s not a bad read, but as with any play in baseball there is some risk it won’t work out. In this case it didn’t because Suzuki made a tremendous play.

  24. shortbus on April 13th, 2010 11:20 pm

    What bugged me about the Suzuki play was not just the unwise decision leading to an out…but the fact that Rob Johnson doesn’t make that play in a hundred attempts. Moreover…tonight Johnson turned a very catchable ball that was low but not in the dirt into a “wild pitch.” Frustrating.

  25. The_Waco_Kid on April 13th, 2010 11:21 pm

    Agreed 100% with this post. The Figgins point was slightly nit-picky, but true.

  26. Techno_Viking- on April 13th, 2010 11:23 pm

    Yeah I’m going to have to agree on this one. Absolutely everything would have to go perfect on that play for him to be out. The fact he jumps way outside the strikezone to actually grab it, stays on his feet the whole time, and fires literally a perfect throw to third is ridiculous and I don’t think its a bad read by Figgins.

  27. IwearMsHats on April 13th, 2010 11:27 pm

    This is weird, the link to the “game six” recap on twitter leads to the game nine recap. Hmmmm!

  28. RustyJohn on April 13th, 2010 11:27 pm

    I’m just glad for a win no matter how they obtained it. I’m thinking of wearing a latex glove to work in honor of Fister’s fine performance.

  29. spankystout on April 13th, 2010 11:43 pm

    When you are aggressive you will look brilliaint when it works, and regretful if it doesn’t. I’m all for Figgins and Ichiro running like newly released cheetahs. (I know the 75% SB break even rule) Just remember that second base is in scoring position!

  30. NBarnes on April 14th, 2010 1:18 am

    Nice line put up by Fister. 8 innings with 4 Ks and only 3 hits? Is this the M’s defense in action?

  31. spankystout on April 14th, 2010 2:23 am

    Can we dub Eric Byrnes the ‘hyperactive golden retriever’?

  32. DaveValleDrinkNight on April 14th, 2010 3:10 am

    Whatever the projections for Fister over a season,(not good) this is the kind of game that can turn a club around.

    You can’t argue with your 7th starter and the club malcontent bringing one home for you.

  33. LongTimeFan on April 14th, 2010 6:23 am

    This game perfectly showcased how defense can win games for the Mariners. All the game recaps are focusing on the Bradley homerun and Fister’s pitching line, but the real story was the defense. There were at least a half-dozen web gems in this game including some very nice DPs, great plays by all four infielders, and a terrific throw home by Bradley to save a run. If you prevent the other team from scoring, eventually the only remaining option is for the team to win, no matter how poor the offense is and the Mariners will eventually start hitting.

    To be honest, Lopez has impressed me at third base. He’s no Beltre, and he did have another unfortunate error, but he also made some very good plays.

  34. Mekias on April 14th, 2010 7:06 am

    I think Figgins attempt to take third right there was a brilliant play. That pitch was way off the plate and Figgins knew that Suzuki, even if he caught it, wouldn’t be in a position to throw. It was just an unbelievable play by Suzuki. He wasn’t out by a lot either. He got tagged maybe 8 inches from the bag and that was only because the throw was absolutely perfect.

    That play was the reason why Figgy is always one of the best at baserunning. I agree, it was frustrating that he got caught but it was a much higher percentage play than trying to steal a base.

  35. Paul B on April 14th, 2010 7:34 am

    This lineup still has 4 big holes in it. Which will continue to stop rallies.

    Shortstop: not going to be changed, so it is what it is.

    Catcher: Might get fixed when Moore starts to hit and earns more playing time.

    DH: Has been beaten to death. Still a problem.

    1B: I’m not sold on Kotchman yet. He hasn’t looked as woeful as I feared, I’ve seen him get the ball in the air and go the opposite way at times. But whether he will hit enough to be useful? His GB/FB so far is 1.44 which is lower than any other year in his career. So maybe that is a positive sign, or maybe it is SSS.

  36. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2010 7:36 am

    Suzuki only made that play because he spent time in Cirque De Soleil when he was in the minors– he’s used to doing a somersault, hanging from a rope, spinning and firing a bullet that hits the big toe of a sliding Figgins, 90 feet away. They practiced that everytday in A ball.

    Truly, it was an awesome play by Suzuki, fueled largely by the plague of misfortune the Mariners wear like a dirt cloud hovering over Pigpen.

    Or maybe Figgins was doing his best Charlie Brown, getting a running start to kick 3rd base, and Suzuki snatched it away at the last second in a perfect impression of Lucy. “AAAAAaaaahhhhh! (thump)”

    And Dave, I agree that Sweeney looked good his last two at bats but more credit goes to Ziegler in the 8th inning– Sweeney’s feat that inning was being spry enough to jump over a couple of balls in the dirt that almost hit his feet (which I suppose is a good at bat because he made Ziegler throw more pitches, rather than just let the first one hit him and take first base).

    Either way, the important thing is– it’s a happy day in Muddville.

    (While as I’ve been pleading, I think it’s too early to cast the Mariners as over-rated, is it okay to selectively use 9 games to determine that Milton Bradley is gonna go for almost 40 homers this year! Is there leeway in Comparison Bias for predicting good outcomes, versus bads ones? Please? There’s gotta be a difference between Comparison Bias in regards to gloom and joy! We have Sweeney! He weights our happiness by +9 HAR- hugs above replacement)

  37. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2010 7:42 am

    Did anyone else see the picture of Griffey hugging Bradley after his homer? Bradley looks annoyed by the hug, or in pain.

    “Leave me alone!”

  38. Willmore2000 on April 14th, 2010 7:47 am

    I know they will hit eventually, but it’s kind of depressing to look up the team stats page and see 6 guys below the Bill Bergen line.

  39. Chris_From_Bothell on April 14th, 2010 8:00 am

    This game perfectly showcased how defense can win games for the Mariners. All the game recaps are focusing on the Bradley homerun and Fister’s pitching line, but the real story was the defense.

    Oh, c’mon. Fister did an awesome job throwing strikes and trusting his defense, but are you seriously saying the Ms defense last night prevented 3 to 4 runs? I’d like to see some math to back that one up.

    I understand the defense fetish around these parts, but please. Last I checked, Bradley didn’t hit that ball into the right field seats with his glove.

  40. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2010 8:12 am

    Chris-
    So the M’s don’t get credit for a shutout? Last I checked, holding a team scoreless is literally “preventing runs”. And The Fist doesn’t throw 8 innings of 3 hit ball because of his amazing stuff and dominance at the MLB level.

    The Bradley throw to home alone prevented a run (not just that run, but people will see that throw, and the one where he almost got Davis the night before, and that will prevent plenty of runs).

    Math is hard to give you, ’cause if we don’t make certain plays the entire shape of the game changes, and who knows who scores and who doesn’t.

    Like the Jack Wilson play deep behind Lopez. That’s a guy on base with 90% of the shortstops in MLB.

    The deception in baseball is that individual performances win games, thanks to ESPN highlights. Most often it’s the outs (or not) that don’t make anyone’s replay reel that were the body of a win or defeat.

    And a shutout is a shutout. Good fielding and good pitching. Or as some like to call it– Defense.

  41. brokejumper on April 14th, 2010 8:12 am

    Professional hitting? Whatever…. The power of the Sweeney showed itself last night but it wasn’t hitting.

    Bradley jogged politely around the bases, Jose Lopez and pinch-runner Eric Brynes in front of him. When Bradley’s spike hit home plate, he clasped his hands in a prayerful thanks and shook them at the sky. He then handed out high-fives which ran a high risk of injuring the recipient. A huge hug from Mike Sweeney came at the top of the dugout steps. A postgame beer shower followed in the back of the clubhouse.

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/baseball/archives/201738.asp

  42. sgreen13 on April 14th, 2010 9:06 am

    The difference in this game is we actually had some men on base. 9 hits, 3 BB, 1 via the error, that’s going to lead to some stress on the pitcher. Still playing the waiting game on seeing Ichiro and Figgins on base together, but with two on you knew that Bradley was going to get some hittable pitches, and fortunately for us tonight he got all of one. I’d love to see the damage he can do with Ichiro and Figgins on hitting in the 3/4 hole.

    A win is a win, and I’ll take this one. Can’t see expecting this from Fister against some of the more potent offensive teams, but I’m hopeful that his confidence (especially at home) will continue to grow and he can be a solid middle to back of the rotation guy.

    Pitch to your defense, throw strikes and keep the count low. 6-7 innings of <4 run ball out of any starter other than Felix is going to keep the M's in a lot of games. This team could go .500 or better in those types of starts (provided the offense can score 3-5 runs a game), add in Felix's win totals, and eventually Lee/Bedard we should be in decent shape.

  43. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2010 9:14 am

    Brokejumper-
    Few heard Sweeney whisper in Milton’s ear after the hug:

    “There’s way more where that came from…”

    And Milton’s reply:
    “There’s more of those too…” pointing to where the ball hit in the right field bleachers

  44. Drew Garret on April 14th, 2010 9:54 am

    Doug Fister was outstanding. Last nights strike zone seemed to float a little… especially with the low fast ball. He was getting the bottom of the zone with the overhand curve. Rob Johnson does a great job keeping the pitcher focused. That was a gem of a performance.

  45. Rick L on April 14th, 2010 10:04 am

    So two thirds of Bradley’s hits are home runs. If he continues to get a hit every ten at-bats, and if he bats 420 times this season… oh, never mind.

  46. LongTimeFan on April 14th, 2010 10:04 am

    Chris,

    I never said the Mariners prevented X number of runs, the point is that they did not allow the Athletics to score any runs, so they didn’t need a three-run homer to win it, they simply needed to score more than zero times and they win. Fister is no ace, so the performance last night had much to do with guys making exceptional plays behind him that led to outs which meant shorter innings, fewer baserunners, and no Athletics crossing home plate. If the other team never scores, you will eventually win the game. This is a fairly basic concept, but difficult to execute and it worked to perfection for the Mariners last night. In my opinion, this was the best defensive performance of the short season and hopefully a trend that will develop throughout the year.

  47. Chris_From_Bothell on April 14th, 2010 10:07 am

    MrZDevotee – Yes, a shutout is a shutout, and yes, it worked last night because Fister showed the way for this pitching staff (be aggressive, throw strikes, low pitch count, trust the defense). But while Bradley’s throw likely saved a run, and Wilson’s play behind Lopez from out of nowhere was huge, I don’t think that was 3 to 4 runs’ worth of run prevention last night.

    I suppose it’s quibbling, after a certain point. It’s just minorly sad sometimes that with all the trouble this team has had driving in runs in the first week, and how much Bradley needed to come up big on offense, when the Ms finally win one for the first time in a while, there’s still a crowd here whose first instinct is “yay! defense!”.

  48. Paul B on April 14th, 2010 10:18 am

    It’s just minorly sad sometimes

    You cheer for what you have.

  49. henryv on April 14th, 2010 10:37 am

    And Milton’s reply:
    “There’s more of those too…” pointing to where the ball hit in the right field bleachers

    Probably, given Milton’s power numbers from the left hand side of the plate… Unfortunately that is also where he has a tendency to strike out the most…

  50. Drew Garret on April 14th, 2010 10:40 am

    Didn’t Lopez air mail a ball and two batters later we ended up with a runner on third with one out? Fister picthed out of that jam.

  51. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2010 10:47 am

    Chris-
    I suppose it’s because we tend to take the offense for granted (meaning, we think we know what to expect there). With this lineup, we all went… “Hmmm, okay, so how ELSE can we win games.” And defense and pitching are where we’ve rested our hopes.

    I for one am HUGELY happy for Milton. And the offense. (6 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings against a really good young starter!) I’m a big fan of Bradley. I think getting him for Silva will go down as one of the least talked about, but biggest trades Z made. We got rid of a huge albatross contract (note: Silva is about to miss his next start with a “sore shoulder”), and got back a good on-base guy with some power. Basically, trading contracts.

    I like Bradley’s grump factor. I think it’s hilarious that he flipped off the Rangers fans (he’s gonna get hazed everywhere, and more than any other guy on the team– so, it’s not like the fans are minding their own business and Bradley goes off on them unprovoked).

    He gives the team an edginess we’ve missed (ditto: Lee’s spring training head shot).

    And I love 3 run shots to right field (and hard hit doubles in the corner earlier in the game). I think guys are on the cusp of stopping the “I’m gonna take care of this slump” thinking, and will likely start simply doing what they do best and not worrying about the outcome so much. That’s when I think we’ll see the 3-5 runs a game we’re hoping for.

    (Read somewhere that Wak had a sit down with Bradley after the Texas incident and he confessed he was trying too hard to redeem himself, every at bat, every moment. That’s when Wak sat him a game, and moved him from the cleanup spot.)

  52. nikmarinersfan on April 14th, 2010 11:03 am

    I disagree with your Figgens comment. Baserunners are taught to read the ball in dirt or a ball WAY off the plate like this one was. It was actually a great read by Figgins. I think if you ask any coach, they say Figgins was doing what he is suppose to be doing. Suzuki made an unreal play and great throw while off balance. 99/100 times he doesn’t make that throw.

    As Ron Burgandy would say, agree to disagree……..but Figgins was right.

  53. Chris_From_Bothell on April 14th, 2010 11:08 am

    I think guys are on the cusp of stopping the “I’m gonna take care of this slump” thinking, and will likely start simply doing what they do best and not worrying about the outcome so much. That’s when I think we’ll see the 3-5 runs a game we’re hoping for.

    I can definitely agree with that. I have this vague feeling that the series against Baltimore next week is going to be hilarious to watch, in a good way, if hitters get relaxed and have patient and productive at-bats. Then we can get back to Ichi and Figgy on base every half an hour and opposing pitchers who are up to 70 pitches by the 3rd inning. :)

  54. Jake N. on April 14th, 2010 12:22 pm

    Does anyone remeber Fister’s Curve being that good? I thought that really looked like a plus pitch. How does one go about evaluating a pitch used like that in a game to determin its value using pitch FX?

  55. meckaneck on April 14th, 2010 12:57 pm

    I just wanted to add that I was at the game last night, and there was a lot to get down about, but Fister pitched the game of his life. The group in 118 was getting really pissed for him! Thank God Milton and his .085 stepped up! Go M’s!

  56. Paul B on April 14th, 2010 1:45 pm

    I for one will not be sorry to see the A’s go away for awhile. Which they will, after tonight’s game.

  57. Kazinski on April 14th, 2010 1:56 pm

    Milton also understands regression to the mean:

    “If you keep working hard, talent is going to surpass bad luck.”

    Of course he could have added the corollary: Talent will also overwhelm good luck no matter how hard you work.

  58. Gomez on April 14th, 2010 5:05 pm

    One item of note for the peanut gallery on the Figgins/Suzuki play: Dave was a catcher in HS, so he may know an extra thing or two about what it takes for a baserunner to wisely take off for 3rd on a catcher taking a wide pitch.

    Figgins should have waited for the ball to physically get by Kurt before taking off, because he would have easily been safe if that ball got by him… but if Kurt hangs onto it he is dead meat because he’s not getting much of a jump on the forthcoming throw.

  59. gnaztee on April 16th, 2010 9:04 am

    One item of note for the peanut gallery on the Figgins/Suzuki play: Dave was a catcher in HS, so he may know an extra thing or two about what it takes for a baserunner to wisely take off for 3rd on a catcher taking a wide pitch.

    Figgins should have waited for the ball to physically get by Kurt before taking off, because he would have easily been safe if that ball got by him… but if Kurt hangs onto it he is dead meat because he’s not getting much of a jump on the forthcoming throw.

    I don’t want this to sound harsh (as I apparently did in an earlier comment thread), so please don’t misread my tone. I also am not trying to sound like I think I know everything…I don’t come here to argue, I thoroughly enjoy the useful information and dialogue.

    That being said, I’ve coached the game for 15+ years (no, not little league…I’m a college coach and I’ve worked for both USA Baseball and Major League Baseball International), and the idea that Figgins’ play was a bad one is incorrect. I’ve stated why in previous comments, so I’ll try not to go into too much detail, but something to add is that Dave and other commenters assume that there are only two outcomes to Suzuki’s effort on the pitch: he either catches it or it goes to the backstop. This is not accurate. In fact, the play that Figgins is anticipating (like he would a ball in the dirt) is in-between. What if Suzuki knocks the ball straight down to the ground? What if Suzuki knocks the ball five feet in front of the plate? If Figgins waits to see what the ball does, he will not make it to 3B even if it’s on the ground. However, if he reads the catcher lunging or blocking on an abnormally bad pitch he gets a couple of extra steps toward 3B that are usually the difference in being safe. With one out, the baserunners are trying to get to 3B, it is the ideal situation to be aggressive between 2b/3b.

    Two more things: regarding the risk/reward in that situation, any comment that the reward doesn’t outweigh the risk is impossible to make. There are no statistics (that I’m aware of, and if they exist I’d love to see them…I mean that sincerely as it might change the way I view this play) that quantify runners taking the extra base on bad pitches that are blocked by catchers. They go down as wild pitches or even passed balls in the scorebook. This is not the same as a steal, so risk is different. And while I can’t definitively quantify this, at my level baserunners are almost always successful on this type of play (we’ve been thrown out once in two seasons out of probably three dozen attempts). The only times we see it unsuccessful are when the catcher has the good fortune to have the ball bounce straight into his glove or when the runner waits to see what the ball does before taking off.

    Regarding people who played high school baseball as having some kind of insight (this is not to knock Dave, as he didn’t throw this out there), let me say that it is a very rare high school player indeed who has a clue about the nuances of the game. This is a play that you just don’t see that often in HS ball, and it’s rarely even taught or emphasized by HS coaches (often too many basics to focus on in practice first). This idea came up in an earlier post on USSM about Kotchman’s bat speed and made me chuckle (the opinion of someone who had been a standout HS baseball player used as some sort of evidence). Even guys at the highest levels of ability don’t always understand the game that well (Joe Morgan comes to mind…he almost single-handedly makes the casual baseball fan dumber). The HS kids we see when recruiting know next to nothing in terms of playing the game, and so their experiences as HS players are fairly useless in evaluating many of finer areas of the game.

    Again, I’m not trying to sound condescending. I don’t think I’m smarter than anyone here or anything, but Figgins’ play was a good read that simply didn’t work out.

  60. jonw on April 16th, 2010 2:33 pm

    Man, League way to make me eat my words when I was questioning the effectiveness of your pitches yesterday. You will not hear that drivel coming from my mouth (key board) again. Color me convinced and welcome to the M’s.

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