Braves 5, Mariners 4 - the Tao of Pulling-the-String

Now, there's a closer...


=== Craig Kimbrel ===

Is a baseball monstrosity, with his career strikeouts per nine in the majors at ... wait for it ... 15.4.  He has a preposterous 103 strikeouts in 60 MLB innings pitched, and an average fastball speed of 95.9 miles per hour.

But in the 9th, down by one, Brendan Ryan turned one of those sizzling fastballs around for a line-drive single, and Ryan went to second base on a wild pitch ... 1 out, tying run in scoring position.   In a vacuum (forget who the pitcher and hitter and runner are), the M's winning chances were now 25%.  ... meaning that their chances of tying the game were close to 50%.


The M's three best hitters, all left hand bats, are up.  Scary situation.  Tough save.  The blown save is right out there on second base, wearing a mustache that was in vogue, say, two hundred years ago.

Guess what Craig Kimbrel threw on the first pitch to LH Adam Kennedy?  

You guessed it.  An 85 mph slider.  Called strike one.  (Then the 95 fastball had to look 105, and Kennedy STARTED!! his at-bat down in the count, 0-2.)

OK, Kennedy out.  Man in scoring position, the great Justin Smoak at the plate, game on the line.  Guess what Kimbrel threw, first pitch?   You got it.  86 slider.  Called strike, down 0-1.

Second pitch, also an 86 slider, popup, game over.



Hey, do you want to see a real closer, how his pitch splits look, when he has a great FB and a great slider?  Here are Kimbrel's tendencies by pitch count.


You probably missed it, but Brandon League closed this whole subject about a week ago.  Mike Blowers relayed League's sentiments during a broadcast.

Blowers said that League said, "They all know what I'm going to throw.  But if I execute, they can't stop it."

I have no use for an athlete who refuses to think during competition.  None at all.  

That one statement right there, "They know, but if I execute, they can't stop it," that captures the opposite of everything I stand for, in sports and in life.  Some people talk with you, and some people talk at you.  It's just a lot easier to talk at people, eh?

I hate watching the man pitch.  I may start changing the channel, on principle.   It takes a deep-down, soul-burning arrogance to truly believe that other people's ideas -- such as the batter's, just for example -- don't matter.


Just to illustrate the importance of this life principle:  shall I give you a list of history's villains?  And how thoroughly they enjoyed being the only ones who got to talk?  You think Josef Stalin didn't enjoy that?

A healthy universe runs on the concept of equals exchanging ideas with one another.  First one being acts, and then the other being interacts.  The Tao manifests itself in everything, down to the smallest mosquito.

We've got to listen!  Sarah Palin's fans, and Hillary Clinton's, have to start listening to each other before we burn this place down.

Erik Bedard carefully considers the batter's ideas before exchanging baseball energy with him.  Felix Hernandez does (though somewhat subconsciously).  Michael Pineda does.

Brandon League thinks that he just needs to say it a little better, and then nobody will need to talk, but him.  That's why the dude has such a terrible lifetime ERA.


Craig Kimbrel knew that Adam Kennedy was super jacked up -- turbo'ed against fastballs but on tilt against sliders.  

Soft stuff to agressive hitters, hard stuff to passive ones.  The Dennis Eckersley Law of Closing.  Read the hitter, and exploit his state of mind.

Kimbrel listened to his dance partners at the plate, and then he detonated them.


=== Michael Pineda ===

He looked to me like he was throwing free and easy.  Not a lot of wiggling the arm, not a lot of tugging the right sleeve.  Loose shoulders.  Fast tempo, good rhythm.

Here's his velocity scatterchart.  It looks great.


I'll give you the short version:  he lived on the black all night.  You could look it up.

In the 7th inning, the feeble Dan Uggla up, Pineda had two gorgeous low-away sliders juuuuusssssssst! barely break off the zone -- strikes in anybody's book, but Uggla had quit on the whole at-bat, and the ump called them balls.

If you then look up the following, 5-pitch walk to Hinske, you'll came away with a wild-and-wonderful Lesson Learned:  Michael Pineda just doesn't give in to hitters.  Every pitch the man throws is on the corners.  I mean, 1-run lead, man on, nobody out, and EVERY pitch is spotted?

Two on, 1 out, a 2-1 count to Nate McClouth, Pineda threw a slider that got parsecs' worth of the strike zone.  A simple blown call changed the count from 2-2 (and game over, McClouth) to 3-1, and then a fastball that was one ball's width off the black was the third walk.


No excuses, but imagine the Alternate Reality in which one or two of those four pitches, the ump had raised that fist, "Stteeeeee!" ... the M's probably win that ballgame.

The point isn't that the M's got jobbed.  The point is that sometimes, you walk away from a decisive win with --- > a sense of complete well-being.  When, in reality, the difference was a couple of strike calls in just the right places.


The Mariners have decided not to skip turns with Bedard and Pineda.  Rather, they'll use off days and pitch counts to keep them fresh.

Nobody on the planet has a scientific answer (you can't isolate the variables, especially for Bedard and Pineda specifically).  The M's judgment differs from mine, but .... their judgment is based on a lot more experience than I have.

On Monday and Tuesday night, the first evidence came in on their side.   Erik Bedard and Michael Pineda looked as strong as horses.




PositivePauly's picture

...and the Strike 3 call on Kennedy in the bottom of the 9th was in the exact same location as Ball 4 to Heyward. The ump's strikezone was BRUTAL last night - and I'm surprised I wasn't kicked out by the ushers for letting him know it: "WOW, UMP! WEREN'T YOU VALEDICTORIAN AT THE HELLEN KELLER SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND!!!".
He might've even blown the call of Heyward being Terrance Long'd by Ichi, but I haven't seen the video (and had too many tomahawk choppers standing in front of me blocking my view of the plate).
I don't know how little league managers do it - the one thing that really raises my ire is bad umpiring (and as I discovered w/my son's team this year, it's deplorable at that level). I think Pineda was a little affected by it, though. He was noticeably disturbed in his body language between a lot of those ball 4 calls. I got home too late to edit and post photos from the game, but I snagged a couple that were quite telling of how Pineda was battling.


The ump DID blow the Heyward call.
I've had to admit that while it seems consistent that M's pitchers get jobbed by the umpires, even allowing for reasonably flexible strike zones by umpires, the M's have had a number of other kinds of calls (non-balls-and-strikes) go their way as well.

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