Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Notebook Dump (6.4.08)

Score: Birds 5, Twinks 3

Box Score

Record: 30-28, 2nd place, 1.5 back

Streak: Lost 1

It seems to me, and I do not have empirical data to support my claim so I am using my Dick Bremer system of deduction, is that the Orioles in recent memory seem to have a staff of pitchers that have fallen under the category of “effectively wild”. Daniel Cabrera is a prime example of this. In his career Cabrera has allowed 11% of the total 3,302 batters that he has faced to reach first with a walk. At the same time, he has struck out over 18% of that total too. His erratic tendencies have given the Twins fits. In his 2007 debut on April 3rd, Cabrera faced the Twins at the Metrodome and pitched a fairly solid seven innings as he struck out nine Twins and walked four. Although he gave up six hits, none were made with solid maple contact as 12 of the balls put in play were grounders, three were pop ups and just one line drive was hit. His walks were his ultimate detriment as two of those issued free passes were allowed to score – one on a Michael Cuddyer double-play and one following a Jason Bartlett doink to short-center. In addition to the walks, the Twins ran rampant on the basepaths, stealing four bases including Jason Tyner’s swipe of second that placed in position to score the winning run on Bartlett’s doink.

Similarly on June 10th, 2006, Cabrera squared off against a 2-7 Carlos Silva once again at the Metrodome. Cabrera cruised behind an early 3-0 lead thanks to a Miguel Tejada 3-run blast off of the Chief. Again, Cabrera racked up the walk total, walking six in five innings but struck out five and stranded numerous Twins base runners. In this outing, the Twins did not implement speed (Castro was the shortstop) and were undid by two double-plays to end the inning with runners in scoring position twice.

In order to combat these “effectively wild” pitchers, the winning formula seems to be patience and running coupled with well-timed hits. The patience helps raise the pitch count and the motion (especially on a pitcher like Cabrera who is easier to steal on than a blind Kwik Trip clerk) tends throw him off his game plan. On Tuesday night, the Twins faced Radhames Liz, a recent recall from triple-A Norfolk, who has a history of walks and strikeouts almost in the same mold as Cabrera. The Twins were unable to get their speedier players on base until after the sixth inning so running was not an option and to his credit, Liz was in the zone on a regular basis striking out four while walking just Joe Mauer in the 1st. The Twins did start to break him down in the 5th inning when they accumulated three of their four hits off of Liz (all doubles).

Even if the patience is a virtue plan was implemented, it was not followed through. For example, in the second inning, Delmon Young watched Liz begin Cuddyer and Jason Kubel with first pitch balls. Young, however, as he is wont to do on 54% of pitches seen, hacked and fouled off the first pitch that by pitch f/x account was well out of the strike zone. Instead of being 1-0, a count in which he hits .299/.368/.428 after on for his career, he was positioned at 0-1, a count in which he maintains a .260/.277/.347 average afterwards. Again, this goes back to the premise that you must make this type of pitcher labor deep in to counts. Paul Nauert, the home plate umpire, helped Liz expand the strike zone some more calling several strikes that pitch f/x designated as outside of the strike zone. One specifically was a fastball that was significantly outside on Delmon Young that was empathically called strike three and on FSN Bert Blyleven rejoiced by saying that was a “pitcher’s pitch” noting that it “painted the black”. (Lest I remind Bert that the black portion of the plate, by regulations, is not a strike).

The Twins will face Cabrera tonight and will have to employ the same techniques that proved successful in the previous few outings: patience and motion.