ALDS Game 1 Notes and Random Musings

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So after the most exciting game in the history of baseball – more on that later in tonight's notes – we have the "hangover" game that starts the ALDS. I have thoughts as to why it worked so well and what baseball could do to make more of these.

The other games in the postseason haven't been compelling, and yes, they weren't close, but that's not the only reason. The speed that the Royals introduce to every game can make a game more interesting.

As I prepare to watch my Royals the Tiger-Oriole game has turned into a game needing a mercy killing as the Tiger bullpen has just been notified that we're not wasting any more pitchers on this mess. Coke is serving up batting practice. It isn't compelling except in a car crash kind of way.

I am concerned that the Royals may have a hard time after such an emotional win.

Top of First

Escobar swings at a way outside offspeed pitch and makes a terrible strikeout.
Aoki – groundball up the middle for a single to center.
Cain – first pitch – breaking ball – swing and line out to third base.
Hosmer – at bat terminated by a pick off play that nailed Aoki. The running game can cost you opportunity and extend a pitcher's night. Hopefully that doesn't happen tonight. The inning is over.
0-0

Bottom of First

From a statistical point of view, I seriously doubt that a running game would help most teams. I'm pretty sure it doesn't help the Royals quite as much as the media and the Royals believe it does. The speed probably helps the Royals much more on defense than it does on offense. What it does for the game, is, however quite amazing.

Vargas takes the mound.

Kalhoun – Ball that went 9 feet up the wall and was brought back by Cain on the first pitch. One out. Speed took away in the top of the first, it gave back in the bottom.
Trout – pop up to shallow left, caught by Gordon.
Pujols – Fly to about 12 feet shy of the track in dead center caught by Cain. Only nine pitches in that first inning. A truly scary shot by Calhoun, but a 1-2-3 inning. Getting the pop out and the fly out is actually encouraging.

Top of second (0-0)

More on the speed. The game in Baltimore just ended at three hours and forty two minutes. It was fifty eight minutes shorter than the greatest game ever, by ratio it was 20% shorter, but by value of excitement it was not comparable at all.

Hosmer versus Weaver – walk on five pitches.
Butler – GIDP to Pujols. Terrible check swing. Hosmer tried to take out Aybar, but Aybar isn't stupid. He had time.
Gordon – Fly out to Hamilton in shallow LF.

Weaver has faced the minimum.

Bottom of second (0-0)

So, should baseball do anything to promote speed? I don't know. But I do know that the Royals are the only team really trying to go this route. I also know that they've been here for a while and they've been here before and it hasn't worked. Why is it working better this time? I have a big part of the reason: run scoring is at its lowest level in decades. They've also paired the running game with a contact hitting approach. They are the opposite of a three true outcomes team (three true outcomes is HR, BB, K). They hit fewer HR, they draw fewer walks, they strikeout the least. So, can – or should – baseball encourage more of this? I think they should. Think about the battle of philosophies.

Tuesday night was not just about a battle of two teams – it was a battle between three true outcomes and contact. It was a battle between a team that want walks and three run home runs and a team that knows it can't do these things so it has to do something else. The percentages do favor the A's, but they favor them by less than they have for a long time.

Baseball and the media would have you believe that more runs might be needed. I would submit that they can have more runs and still encourage running.

TNT screwed up my watching by NOT telling me that the game was now shifting to TBS. I wondered how I got so much out.

So there are now two outs and no one on versus Vargas. Kendrick grounded out; Freese flied out.

Aybar – Cain makes a wonderful sliding catch to stop a single from happening.

Top of third 0-0

Need to take the dog out.

Back. Perez batting – strikeout swinging – at least on a pitch in the zone.
Infante – strikeout swinging on another offspeed pitch.
Moustakas – shift is on even after Oakland – draws a walk, the Royals second in less than three innings against Weaver. I take that as a good sign, but I've seen the Royals spoil five walk performances.
Escobar – (Ianetta throws to first from catchers spot on first pitch) – apparently Scoscia is serious about throwing over – that's two throws with Moose on first. And that's three throws to first. It could be a long game. I have some suggestions for that, too. Throws to first are not interesting. Escobar doubles over Hamilton's head and Moose scores immediately following the third throw to first. 1-0.
Aoki – groundball to Aybar.

End of 2 1/2 has the Royals up 1-0.

Bottom of the third

So, the throws to bases which are boring and really slow down the best parts of the game do threaten to make the running game less interesting. I think that throws to bases should be limited. I am hardly the first to propose this, but I think that for each throw to the bases past three during any individual at bat should result in a penalty ball being called. It is absolutely true that many throws to bases do slow the running game. That isn't why I hate the throws to the bases. It's the effect it has on the game's excitement. I think the threat of a throw to the bases should exist, but lazy throws that just delay the game should be discouraged.

Hamilton versus Vargas- Shift works. Escobar catches a soft liner just to the left of second base without moving a step.

Cron – groundball to Moose for second out.

Ianetta – home run to left field – straight away. (1-1) Hanging change up 81mph middle of plate just above the belt.

Calhoun – ground ball to Hosmer.

1-1. Vargas does give up HR's that's part of who he is, but thankfully no one was on.

Top of 4th

So, I also think that speed is encouraged by encouraging contact over waiting for a pitch to drive. I think home runs can be exciting, but the game that goes with them is not exciting. It's a matter of waiting for the ticking bomb that will eventually go off – or will not. I have thoughts about that, too – not that anyone should care, but they'll come, too.

I think HR's per team should probably come down toward about 110-120 or so. But I think total run scoring should stay about the same.

Cain – swinging strikeout on seven pitches – six were in the strike zone, by the way. Weaver changes speeds and angles very well.

Hosmer – one hopper to Aybar.

Butler – ground ball to Aybar.

Bottom of 4th

63 pitches by Weaver through 4 innings of work. Not thinking the Angel bullpen will be easy, but better things will happen if the Royals can get into it in the first game and make it work. That's less of a factor in postseason play due to all the extra days off, but if you just give them another day off they'll never tire and they'll be ready for work in a game much earlier later in the series.

So, how does one discourage home runs a bit more without diminishing total offense? That's a good question. Perhaps a larger or heavier bat would go a way to solving that problem? Maybe a deader ball? I'm not sure, but I'd trade a deader ball for a livelier game.

Trout – pops out to Infante in very shallow centerfield.

Pujols – ground out to Moose.

Kendrick – strikeout swinging.

46 pitches through four innings for Vargas. That's some pretty sharp economy. It's really helped by the fact that he has thrown a lot of strikes and even the ones that haven't been strikes have been pretty close.

Top of 5th still 1-1

So, as far as the bats being larger, this shouldn't be seen as bad. If it makes home runs harder to get that will encourage contact. Strikeouts are probably the third least interesting thing in the game. Less interesting are walks and throws to bases by pitches. But lots of strikeouts make the game less interesting. I think more contact, fewer walks and strikeouts would actually lead to similar offensive levels once the contact game was re-established.

Gordon – double to left center field. Trout didn't really have a chance at the ball but a better read might have held Gordon to a single. I doubt it on the replay though.

Perez – got a gift of a call on the third ball to get to 3-2. Drives one to the wall in left field; Hamilton caught it but fell down. So Gordon advances to third base.

Infante – sac fly to right center. Trout runs down one that looked like it could be a gapper, but it is deep enough to score Alex Gordon. 2-1.

Moustakas- hard ground ball to the shortstop who is shifted to the first base side of second base. three outs.

Royals lead 2-1. Weaver has now thrown 81 pitches, by the way.

Bottom of fifth

I remember the game of my youth. It didn't have nearly as many home runs or strikeouts as we have today. Yet, total scoring was about the same. It may be true that baseball actually need to do nothing. That success by teams like the Royals playing the contact game may actually push baseball in that direction as other teams adopt the model. I think that may be wishful thinking. More on that to come…

Freese – home run to the same place that Ianetta hit his home run. 2-2.

Vargas threw a fastball that stayed out over too much of the plate.

Aybar – bunted to Hosmer. Hosmer had to make diving tag, but he made it.

Hamilton – ground ball to Infante who was in his regular position in the shift while Moose was in shallow right field.

Cron – slow roller to Infante that has to be bare handed and underhanded to Hosmer, close but they got him.

2-2.

Vargas has made 60 pitches and only 3 were bad. But 2 were tattooed for home runs.

Top of sixth

I guess some teams might be interested in the Royals model. But the problem is that defense deteriorates earliest of all major baseball skills. Speed based skills seem to be at their peak in most players rookie seasons. This means that the defense, contact, baserunning model is one that must be continually replenished. I suppose some lower revenue teams might think that interesting as you would not be signing too many free agents, but the only way to do that was with the international signings and draft bonuses. Since those are now being capped, that's going to make it hard to just build a monster farm system, though.

Escobar – swinging strikeout on a high pitch. He got a double earlier, but I'm wondering if he just guesses at Weaver? That's two bad strikeouts on pitches that he didn't seem to be able to see.

Aoki – strikeout swinging right after the announcer makes a point of saying that he was very difficult to strikeout.

Cain – classic medium fly to center field.

2-2

Bottom of sixth

92 pitches by Weaver. The Royals will at least see the Angel bullpen. That's not a guarantee of anything, but I prefer that to letting Weaver throw 8+ innings.

Ianetta – strikeout swinging. A pitch low and away got the man who hit a homerun in the third inning.

Calhoun – groundball on a high pitch through the hole between second and first into right field.

Trout – Herrera warming – Vargas pops him up Aoki catches the ball in shallow right field.

Pujols – during Trout's AB – Vargas threw to first twice – 3-0 count, announcers mention career .434 with 3-0. Vargas gets a 88mph fastball called for 3-1, but then walks him on an 89mph fastball outside. Walk.

Yost emerges from the dugout. Ventura is not up. Herrera is.

Vargas the left hander will pitch to Kendrick it is decided.

Kendrick – 0/2 with one K – ball hit to wall in right centerfield caught by Aoki. Vargas gives a big pump of fist and the threat is over.

Top of seventh 2-2

Pitch count is quite irrelevant for Vargas as I think his night is over after 79 pitches. The way I see it, that pitch to Kendrick was pretty bad and Kendrick hit it really hard. He's now struggling with command and if he misses over the plate and misses the zone (as he now is) he could cost a lot more than a solo shot.

Weaver had his best inning in the sixth. So even though he is at 92 pitches I expect him to pitch the seventh.

Hosmer – skies one toward the line in right. Medium fly out to Calhoun.

Butler – hits a fly to Calhoun and it is caught.

Gordon – first pitch pop out to Freese.

Well, given the ease of Weaver's seventh, I now worry that Yost will either (A) stick with Vargas or (B) go to someone other than Herrera, Davis or Holland. Weaver's 100th pitch was popped up by Gordon. Weaver has been his best the last two innings. I think Vargas could be okay, still. The decision really could go either way.

Side note: Gordon just looks like he is pressing now. Someone needs to whisper to him to just play his game. He does not have to carry a team and can't do that anyway.

Bottom of seventh (2-2)

Both teams have three hits.

Announcers are saying that Yost should go to Herrera.

Herrera is in the game. Announcers are mentioning the last time that Herrera gave a HR was in 2013. I don't officially believe in jinxes, but that just seems bad.

Freese against Herrera – walk on five pitches.

And Herrera gets removed with something wrong with his hand. That is awful.

Finnegan to pitch.

Aybar with runner on first versus Finnegan – Beckham in to run for Freese. Aybar sacrifice bunts to Finnegan, Finnegan throws a nice throw to first.

Hamilton – ground ball to Infante, advancing Beckham to third base.

Cron – Yost to mound. Going to Wade Davis? It is Davis to face Cron – Ball to the track, Aoki takes a great circle route but gets there. Was there wind? Who knows? Eyes were on it all the way and he looked it into the glove. It was on the first pitch, too. I think Davis could go a ways now, maybe into ninth a bit if tied.

Top of 8th still 2-2.

I'm pretty concerned that if we don't get a lead that extra innings could be darn deflating.

Joe Smith pitching for Angels. Beckham in game at 3rd for Freese. Wonder if they'll let Smith pitch to more than just Perez? Smith should be great against righties, but lefties?

Not as big a platoon difference as I would have thought.

Perez – swinging strikeout. Tried to check, but failed on a pitch inside.

Infante – medium flyball to centerfield.

Moustakas – (Smith against LHB .238/.333/.353, that's not bad) no shift here, first time tonight, does that mean that he is throwing a lot to the outer half against Moose? -skied to right center. end of inning as Trout catches it.

Bottom of 8th still 2-2.

Davis stays in.

Ianetta – lead off walk. Top of order coming up and a lead off walk. Ugh.

Calhoun – probable bunting situation – squared, and I thought he went on first pitch, that was a strike. Bad call. It would help if Davis were in the zone at all. Bunt POP to Moustakas. Sacrifice failed. Squared four times. I think on a 3-1 count that's just a questionable call.

Trout – ball bounced, wild pitch – didn't go far, but Perez could not find the ball. Iannetta to second base. walk.

Pujols – pop up to shallow right center field caught by Infante.
last pitch was dangerous, but Davis got away with it.

Kendrick – struck out swinging on another pitch that looked dangerous, but at 98mph, it worked.

Top of 9th still 2-2

Twelve straight Royals retired since Gordon's double in the fifth. Only six hits total over the first eight innings.

Huston Street in to pitch for Angels.

Escobar – struck out swinging on the low and away pitch.

Aoki – fly out to Hamilton on second pitch.

Cain – Groundball to Pujols, close at the bag, but Pujols got there first.

Bottom of 9th still 2-2.

Again thinking the Angels have a clear advantage on this game. Herrera getting hurt made it bad. I think Yost made a questionable, but not awful, call going to Herrera when Finnegan was dealing. It's not that the next hitter wouldn't be worse with Davis, he would, but with Herrera already spent that puts the Royals in a difficult spot where we will have to use a pitcher Ned doesn't trust in extras. It really should be Jason Frasor, but apparently Ned thinks Tim Collins is better than Frasor as he has Collins warming alongside Holland. That's much worse than lifting Finnegan if that's his choice. We'll see what happens.. But Ned really can't be blamed when no Royals have been on since the fifth inning.

Collins pitching? Wow, that's bad.

Beckham hitting – Hit by Pitch.

Aybar – sac bunt Collins throws to Infante covering. Beckham to second.

Hamilton – struck out swinging. Swung at two pitches way out of the zone. Only one pitch was even close.

Yost to mound. Is Holland going to pitch to Cron?

Nope, it's Frasor.

Cron against Frasor – The announcers think Crow pitched well for the Royals. Didn't they watch the Royals? Walk. Ugh.

Iannetta – ground ball to Infante.

To the tenth. 2-2

Ned's frenzy and short bullpen has left us with just Holland and a bunch of starters out there. I didn't hate any of the decisions at the time (and didn't know that Ned went with just 11 pitchers. I like the idea, but if you only have 11 that leaves you tight when Herrera gets hurt.

Tenth inning.

Jepsen is coming in to pitch for the Angels.

Hosmer – strikeout swinging. Didn't swing at the only pitch that was in the zone. Threw two high then one in the zone; then one down toward the dirt.

Butler – walk – Gore in to pinch run.

Gordon – on second pitch Gore easily advanced to second Stolen base. Gordon then intentionally walked.

Perez – line out to medium depth center field.

Infante – pop foul caught by Pujols

Bottom of tenth versus Danny Duffy.

Calhoun – single in front of Gordon in left.

Trout – grounded to hole, Escobar makes nice play to get Calhoun at second base, but that's all they can get as Trout reaches on a fielder's choice.

Pujols – popped up half way to first base caught in foul ground by Hosmer.

Kendrick – foul tip strikeout held by Perez.

Duffy looked awesome. Wonder if twitter exploded on this move? Given the bullpen usage it seems not a terrible one. I probably would have stayed with Frasor, but this game is shaping up to maybe go very long now. In a situation like that going to a guy who might give you four innings now might make some sense.

Top of 11th

Fernando Salas in to pitch

Moustakas -it seems like yesterday he walked and scored the first run… oh, it now was yesterday. It's midnight in the central time zone as MOOSE HITS A HOME RUN! (3-2)

The Royals first postseason blast comes from the bat of their most maligned hitter over the right field high wall and over Calhoun who was playing a carom that never came.

Escobar – skies one into extremely shallow left field – gripped by Aybar.

Aoki – medium fly center field caught by Trout.

I hope I was wrong about a long long game now.

Cain – ground ball to Kendrick and Holland is on the way.

Bottom of 11th

Well, with Holland coming in, I got to wonder about this. If he gives up one run we have the following left in our bullpen: Guthrie, Ventura, Shields. This might call for Colon to pitch if Holland gives up one run.

Dyson in to CF, Cain in to RF.

Holland to pitch.

Beckham – strikes out swinging on a pitch in dirt.

Aybar – strikeout swinging, called without third base umpire, Scoscia is angry, but I think he went. Announcers disagree with me… and on replay, well, I think he did check.

Hamilton – skied to Moose! Game is over. Amazing.

Royals win 3-2. Ned used every bullet in his gun. I hope he can reload before tomorrow. But having a win in Anaheim really gives the Royals a great chance in this series.

Love this game. Twenty three innings in the last two games and it's just as tight as it can be. The Royals really couldn't hit much tonight. But the Angels couldn't really hit either. Eight total hits in an 11 inning game.

The team defense after some pretty iffy games in September has apparently re-emerged in the postseason. I also love that Vargas had a nice outing.

So, with Duffy's usage in relief it appears that maybe Ned will not start him at all in this series. Given an 11 man staff that might well be best.

And after another four hour game I'm done for the night. The great ride continues.

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Author: Charles Winters

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