Playoff information I didn’t tweet

Some things what I've noticed, but haven't shared...

If I wasn’t lazy I’d have my laptop up and running every night and tweet about stuff I’m seeing in the playoffs, but you get what you pay for and so far nobody has offered to pay me to share my thoughts on Twitter.

(The bidding is now officially open and if anyone offers me a six-pack of Bud Light and a bottle of Crown Royal to get busy, I’ll let you know.)

Just to whet your appetite, here are a couple examples of stuff I’d tweet if properly motivated and/or inebriated.

Why pitchers are looking in their hats

These days every big league player is provided with what looks like a 3 x 5 card which tells them how to position themselves and what pitches to throw. This is being done because baseball is now being run by anal retentive front offices who want to control everything because they no longer trust players to make good decisions.

(Having been out on the town with some of those players, the front office guys might have a point.)

Nevertheless, I just looked up anal retentive on the internet, so take a look and see if this sounds like anyone you work for:

“An anal retentive person is a person who pays such attention to detail it becomes an obsession and may be an annoyance to others.”

I’ve asked old-school players about this and most of them hate what’s going on. In their minds part of being a good ballplayer was knowing where to stand and what pitch to throw and they wouldn’t want some front-office “suit” to make those decisions for them.

One of those players was dumbfounded – a word I don’t think I’ve ever used before – when a pitcher looked into his hat, realized he had the wrong card and wanted to get the right one before he threw a pitch.

The new-school players don’t seem to mind this as much and one of the reasons for that is following the cards covers their ass:

“Hey, I threw the pitch you wanted me to throw, if it got hit into GA that’s on you.”

Pitchers are looking into their hats because that’s where they keep those cards and they’re reminding themselves of what pitch they’re supposed to throw next.

And if J.A. Happ’s card told him to start Carlos Correa with a high fastball in the 11th inning of last night’s Yankee-Astros game, he needs a new card.

How too many first-pitch fastballs can backfire

Happ faced three batters and started all of them with a first-pitch fastball and that’s the kind of thing hitters pay attention to.

During the 2019 regular season when the Astros put the first pitch in play they hit .329 and slugged .602; when Carlos Correa put the first pitch in play he hit .409 and slugged .636. Give big league hitters a fastball when they expect one and they have an outstanding chance of doing damage.

Watch for counts where a fastball is the go-to pitch – 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1 and depending on the situation, 3-2 – and pay attention to how often the pitcher throws something off-speed instead. If a pitcher shows he’ll do that, it keeps hitters from sitting on fastballs.

But if a pitcher is going to insist on throwing fastballs in fastball counts, those fastballs better have outstanding velocity, movement or location or – even better – all three.

When pitchers sit too long

In the final game of the Rays-Astros series, Houston hitters saw 25 pitches and scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Pitchers appreciate the run support, but also feel like sitting too long can hurt their stuff when they go back out to the mound.

After watching a very long bottom of the first, in the top of the second Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole – who was pretty much lights out the rest of the evening – gave up a home run on (you guessed it) a first-pitch fastball to Eric Sogard.

When a pitcher sits a while, pay attention to what happens when he comes back to the mound.

How going to the bullpen too often can backfire

Pitchers will tell you they don’t have their best stuff every night and until they throw to a big league hitter they’re not sure how good their stuff actually is. They might think they’re slider is working until they throw one to a hitter and see it bounce off the head of a beer vendor working in General Admission.

Nobody – including the pitcher – knows what they’re going to have on any given night.

That being the case, every time a manager goes to his bullpen his odds increase of finding a pitcher who doesn’t have his good stuff that night.

During last night’s Yankee game manager Aaron Boone said he had a boatload of pitchers available and the next night off so he could use all of them if he needed to.

Boone pulled his starter early and used eight relievers so it looked like he was managing his ass off, but two of those relievers – Adam Ottavino and Happ – didn’t have it and both gave up big home runs; one to tie the game the other to lose it.  

Keep an eye on what happens when a manager goes to the pen over and over again. It’s the way a lot of people are managing right now, but it can bite you in the ass.

Who isn’t going to their bullpen

OK, admittedly that subhead is awkward as hell, but that kind of thing happens when you’re trying to use “who, what, when, where and how” in your subheads for symmetry’s sake.

Let’s all try to get over it and move on.

One of the reasons some people didn’t like the Washington Nationals playoff chances was their bullpen; dead-last in the National League when it comes to ERA. But their starters had the second-best ERA in the league.

Now that they’re in the finishing stretch, the Nationals can try to minimize their bullpen’s exposure and get extra innings from those starters.  

During the regular season Anibal Sanchez averaged just under six innings a start, in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cardinals he gave the Nationals 7 2/3s. Max Scherzer averaged just over 6 1/3 innings per start, in Game 2 against the Cards he gave the Nationals seven.

A couple extra outs may not seem like a lot, but they help the Nationals avoid those middle relievers who tend to shit the bed (and yes, that’s an actual baseball term) when given too many chances.

During the regular season Stephen Strasburg averaged about 6 1/3 innings per start and it will be a big deal if he can go deeper in tonight’s game.

Where I exaggerated

At the beginning of this piece.

I was just kidding when I said I’d start tweeting baseball stuff for a six-pack of Bud Light and a bottle of Crown Royal.

I’d want two bottles at least.