Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Zipa-Dee-Boo-Day

Late in last night’s languidly-paced game, Yuda reminded me of something I had said yesterday, that teams that make the West-Coast trip don't show the lag during the first game. They're getting by on adrenaline. Where the fatigue shows up is the second night. And boy, did it. It was a cavalcade of errors in a game I'm pretty confident we could have won had our collective heads not been up our undercarriages.GET UP!!!

Despite some late competition from an unlikely, but-oh-so-predictable source, Brian Schneider was the hands-down winner of the Lame Duck for his two ghastly errors -- one in the field, one on the bases.

With the score tied at two in the fifth, the Dodgers had two on with two out. Chris Sabo Jason Phillips, who didn't touch starter Zach Day, pulled a double down the left-field line. Ryan Church got to it quickly, picked it up on the track, fired a strike to Cristian Guzman who relayed perfectly to Schneider at the plate. It was a hard, accurate throw, right to Schneider's glove, a split second before the runner got there. OUT at the plate! Or so I thought. After Schneider fell back, you could see the ball rolling away from him, behind the plate. The runner got back up, retagged the plate, just to be safe, while Schneider rolled around.

That's a play that he absolutely has to make. He didn't have to reach for the throw -- it was a better strike than any of the 90 pitches or so that Day threw. He did have to worry about the barreling runner, but that's the catcher's job. (I know, I know... easy for me to say sitting behind the safety of my monitor) If he holds on to that ball, only one run scores that inning, and the rest of the game plays out completely different.

The more egregious sin came in the 7th. Schneider battled hard and earned a well-fought leadoff walk. Guzman got on base (again!) pushing Schneid to second and Carlos Baerga came to the plate. He lofted a soft little flair that landed equidistant between CF and RF -- pretty clearly a hit. Schneider didn't read the ball off the bat and hesitated. By the time he got to third base, the third base coach, Dave Huppert (throw him a bone), threw up the stop sign. He absolutely has to score there.

Schneider held at third and Guzman rounded second to head towards third. Halfway there, he saw the shoulda-scored Schneider and stopped. He was dead. Milton Bradley's angry throw came to second, Guzman was out, and the inning would be wasted. Obviously Guzman deserves some of the blame. Regardless of the brain-dead nature of your teammate, you can't afford an out there. It's just inexcusable.

That being said, Schneider deserves most of the blame (with an assist to Huppert). He completely misjudged the ball. He should have had a much better jump on the obvious hit. Further, and I'm sure you'll correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure LA would NOT have thrown through to the plate in that situation -- unless it was an absolute certainty that they had him at the plate. Most likely, the throw would have been cut off to help keep the would-be tying run at second, especially with zero outs. b, a side-arming lefty, came in and eviscerated Brad Wilkerson and Nick Johnson with his slider. End of Rally.

And... I've been thinking about this a while, and here's as good a place as any to say it... If Schneider's defensive rep is so great and everyone raves about how well he works with the pitchers, why are all the pitches called from the dugout? He's certainly got a cannon, and he's good at blocking pitches, but isn't part of a catcher's true value from the pitch-calling aspect? Do they not trust him? Does he not make good choices? Or is Randy St. Claire a control freak?


Other Too-Long Ramblings

Zach Day looked helpless. And as I said in yesterday's thread, that was his audition to stay in the rotation. He failed. He is extremely maddening as a pitcher, because the hitters rarely make solid contact. Most aren't able to get under the heavy downward action on his sinker and just tap it to the infield. But, he just can't consistently throw strikes. His stuff is good, but not so good that he can blow it by a hitter when he's down 3-1 in the count. He falls behind and they rip sinkers into the outfield, or he just puts the batters on himself. He skates on the edge, with the help of the double-play grounder. But, if he didn't walk so many batters in the first place, he wouldn't need that as the first item out of his bag of tricks.

With Tony Armas almost set (probably early next week sez Barry), Day's in the bullpen. Conventional Wisdom says frequent work makes a sinkerballer better, but I'm not sure that that's Day's problem. His sinker is pretty deadly, and I can't remember the last time he actually popped a batter up. His problem is throwing strikes. And I'm not sure that being in the bullpen will affect that one way or another. Still, I'd love to see him adapt and turn into a GIDP-inducing machine -- the kind of pitcher you bring in in the 6th inning when your starters put too many runners on base and you really need a DP. Frank's just gotta optimize his usage. I'm not holding my breath.

Luis Ayala pitched two innings and looked decent. We really need him to be right.

John Rauch, despite that two-run double, pitched great, too.

Jose Guillen was the offense early in the game. But, he made another one of the team's mental errors, being thrown out trying to advance to third on a grounder to the third baseman (!?) In certain situations, I wish players would be more aggressive with that move when the ball's hit to short, but I can't figure for the life of me what he was thinking here. (Did he think there was a force?) Had he just stayed on second, he would've scored anyway on Schneider's ensuing single. C'est La Vie.


WTF Frank Senior Moment

The problem with Frank is that if you give him toys, he'll play with him. That's fine if it's GI Joes or a Hula Hoop. He'll play with them til the sun goes down (or he falls asleep, whichever comes first). The problem is that Jim Bowden gave him a loaded gun. Frank played Russian Roulette in the 7th and got away with it. He wouldn't in the ninth.

That loaded gun's name? I.E. Chavez.

In the seventh, down by two, Inning-Endy Chavez, official outfield punching bag of Capitol Punishment, was on-deck, ready to hit for the pitcher. After the first two runners got on, Frank apparently decided he no longer needed Endy's superior on-base abilities -- the tying runs were already on base. Instead he went to his slugger off the bench, his Candy Maldonado, Carlos Baerga "El Cadáver".

In the 9th, the same situation arose. Cristian Guzman reached base (again!) and the pitcher was due up. Who comes up? Our old comic foil: Mr. Chavez.

Endy needs to get on. That's the only reason he's batting in this situation instead of one of our sluggers on the bench like Jeffrey Hammonds or Gary Bennett.

First pitch: Ball!

Second pitch: Ball!

Third pitch: Called Strike!

Me: What? Endy showing patience? Taking pitches? Looking in command?

Fourth pitch: 6-4-3, rally over. Inning practically ended.

Me: @#$@#$@# YOU!

For someone supposedly so fast, he sure as hell didn't make that a very close play at first.

Of course, an infield instructor couldn't have hit a fungo more perfectly while practicing DPs either.

Current Road Trip Stats:
1-1. Goal: 4-5

We'll have some work to do.

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