Archive for July, 2011

Explaining Matt Tolbert’s Baserunning Gaffe

July 16, 2011

After Matt Capps blew his seventh save of the season against the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, the Twins attempted to rally against Royals closer Joakim Soria. Still down 2-1, they were able to get runners on first and third with one out and Luke Hughes pinch-hitting for Jason Repko.

Hughes didn’t do very much with his chance, as all he managed was a weak grounder that only made it halfway to the pitcher’s mound. To many fans’ shock, Tolbert came running home and was thrown out by Soria by about 5 steps.

What we witnessed is typically known as the “contact” play. Basically, the runner at third base is supposed to come home as soon as the hitter makes contact. You may have noticed also that the Royals defense had the corners in to cut down Tolbert at home, and the middle infielders were slightly in but also playing at double play depth.

This play is risky (as we saw yesterday), but it has its benefits as well. If an infielder bobbles a ball hit directly at him, or has to make a diving stop, Tolbert likely scores. Also, a hard hit grounder to the 1st or 3rd baseman could become a double play, but by sacrificing the runner at home, it extends the game for at least one more hitter. Besides, the offense would still have runners on 1st and 2nd base. Even with two outs and losing the runner at 3rd base, you still have a runner in scoring position (albeit 90 feet further from home) and that’s a better situation than having the defense turn the double play and end the game on your team.

Yesterday’s game, we witnessed a little bit of a gray area when it comes to this type of play. Hughes’ grounder was hit so softly that Tolbert probably could have gone back to 3rd base, and if you see replays of Tolbert running home, you can see him hesitate briefly as if he wanted to do just that. In hindsight, the ball was hit so weakly that the Royals were likely only going to get one out regardless of what Tolbert did. He had to make a split-second decision, and he chose to stick with the play that was put on.

Even with Tolbert being thrown out at home, Tsuyoshi Nishioka was up next and had a chance to tie the game but failed as he grounded out to shortstop. There’s no guarantees, but with Nishioka mostly looking overmatched this season at the plate, I’m not really sure that having runners at 2nd and 3rd with two outs would have made much of a difference than 1st and 2nd with two outs.

Edit: The contact play was put on in Saturday’s game as well with similar results. After Michael Cuddyer singled to put the Twins up 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th inning, Delmon Young came to the plate with Cuddyer at 1st and Joe Mauer at 3rd with one out. Young hit a chopper to 3rd base, and Mauer was coming home to help prevent the Royals from turning a double play. 3rd baseman Mike Moustakas threw home, and Mauer was caught in a rundown long enough for Cuddyer to get to 3rd base and for Young to make it into 2nd before being tagged out at home by pitcher Aaron Crow. Just like the night before, the next batter (yesterday Nishioka, today Danny Valencia) grounded out to end the inning.


The Price of a Baseball

July 12, 2011

How much is a baseball worth to you?

As a kid, I would always bring my baseball glove to games, in the hopes of snagging a foul ball. My family rarely sat in the outfield, so home runs weren’t usually an option for me, but we’d always try to sit either behind home plate in the upper deck, or by 1st/3rd base in the lower level of the Metrodome.

I did come close two times, prior to working with the Twins. The first time, I was about 12-ish when we were near the right field corner where the giant Kemp’s Land o’ Lakes’ milk jug would stand in later years, and we were watching the away team’s batting practice (can’t remember which team it was). One of their coaches was down the right field line, hitting fly balls to the outfielders. Well, one poor hit with his fungo bat sent a wayward baseball up to where myself and two of my siblings were standing. Unfortunately for my brother and I (the ones that played softball at the time), our sister was in between where the ball would land and where we stood. Instead of moving out of the way for one of us, she attempted the awkward keep-her-body-as-far-away-as-possible-while-still-trying-to-reach-the-ball-with-her-glove shuffle. The ball ended up bouncing two seats away from her and went back onto the field.


TK Should Stay

July 11, 2011

Over the past few days, we saw Bert Blyleven take a leave of absence. Former Twins manager Tom Kelly took his place in the broadcast booth, and I have to join the many fans among me in saying that TK left a good impression on us. Now, this is a pipe dream, but I want Kelly to continue doing color commentary.

The duo of Dick Bremer and Bert can be interesting at times, but I can’t help but feel like we get the same commentary every single game. It’s gotten to the point where a friend of mine started a Dick ‘n’ Bert drinking game, which may or may not have the potential to kill you. Granted, TK had the same ability with his constant use of “diamond cutter” (a batted ball that went up the middle and into center field, thus “cutting the baseball diamond in half”) and calling everyone by their first names given to them at birth (Richard Bremer, Anthony Pierzynski), but at least these nuances happened less frequently than Bert telling a pitcher to keep the ball down, mentioning a pitcher throws a “slider, almost like a little cutter,” and a hitter’s hack “tommy-hawked” the ball into the outfield.


To Buy Or Make A Closer?

July 7, 2011

In the past few days, we’ve seen Matt Capps add a little more excitement to some Twins games than what we would want out of our team’s closer. He blew the save and lost the game on Saturday against the Brewers, and then nearly blew two more saves if it wasn’t for him being bailed out by Glen Perkins on Sunday and Tuesday.

Despite his struggles, Ron Gardenhire has made it publicly known that he will stick with Capps as the closer, even through these struggles. However, I think it’s safe to say that Perkins could become the team’s third closer this season if Capps continues to have shaky outings in save situations.

Back when he was first acquired, Capps was lauded as being a “proven closer” by general manager Bill Smith. Basically, he had success in the past as a closer, and could be trusted with the job. The Twins felt that Capps was a safer bet than sticking with Jon Rauch – a guy who had been given the closing role in the first place because he himself had experience in the past as a closer – or going with a surging Jesse Crain – who was touted as a future closer when he was young.


Life As An Usher: An Off-The-Field Odyssey

July 1, 2011

As we all know, I work at Target Field as an usher in Section 238. It’s certainly an enjoyable job, as I get to interact with people every day and I get to watch most of every single Twins home game. Now, most of these interactions are mundane and rarely warrant sharing – after all, what fun is it if I told you stories of how I gave directions to the Town Ball Tavern? – but this homestand has been interesting to say the least. The following is a collection of things that have happened over the past few home games.