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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Baserunning Blunders, Down Shields Doom Angels: Tigers 3, Angels 2

Scot Shields justifiably took the loss here, giving up the game-losing solo homer to Johnny Damon. Yet you wonder why he would have been in the game if the Angels had a lead going into the ninth. That might have been possible; the offense erased itself on the basepaths twice in this game. The first time was in the first when leadoff man Erick Aybar reached on a bunt single and then was caught stealing. But the second time was far more critical: with Hideki Matsui at second and Kendry Morales at first and Juan Rivera at the plate, Rivera plunked a single to left center. For the second time in a month (the previous time on April 15 in the Bronx), Matsui got gunned down at the plate to end an inning trying to score from second on a single.

I suppose you can understand it. Aggressive baserunning is a Mike Scioscia trademark, but it also presupposes having the players to execute it, and Matsui isn't really one. Certainly, he's not Chone Figgins, and you can see the collision between Scioscia's philosophy and the players Tony Reagins got him in the offseason.

I don't mean to pick on Matsui exclusively, but his position in the lineup somewhat forces my hand; he's one of the team leaders in on base events (hits, walks, and hit-by-pitches), which necessitates him running. In fact, going into the game — and in this order — the top four players in on-base events were Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui, and Kendry Morales, all of whom save for Hunter are unaccomplished runners. I doubt Scioscia will learn anything from this, and it's not really clear there was a lesson to learn anyway. Discretion may be the better part of scoring from second, but Scioscia will always say it's better to have run and lost. That's especially true with the horrifically slumping Mike Napoli due up behind Rivera.

None of this, of course, is to excuse Shields' incompetence today; he hasn't looked right at all this year, and that included spring training. Contract or no, I wouldn't be surprised to see the organization cut him loose if he can't right himself before the end of May.

ESPN BoxAngels recap

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Two comments: I didn't see the game, but the consensus over at HH is that Matsui was safe and the ump blew the call. Still, it wouldn't have been an issue with someone faster than Matsui (of if they - and specifically Dino Ebel - recognized that Matsui is a station-to-station baserunner).

With respect to "unaccomplished" base runners, did you really mean to suggest that Bobby Abreu, with 351 career steals, belongs in that category?
What I mean is that I don't think Abreu really has the kind of speed where you'd feel secure making that decision with a good outfield arm, at least not any more. Yes, he had 30 steals last year, but I dunno ... what I've seen this year is that he's more a skilled reader of pitchers more than a fast guy on the basepaths.
Couldn't believe Damon made as strong a throw as he did on Matsui, who looked safe, though no NFL ref would have overturned the call based on the available replays. A worse call was the 2-2 pitch on Cabrera in the first, where the umps called no swing even though the entire barrel of his bat was flush to the CF camera. His walk pushed Jackson to third, who then scored on the sac fly. Poor Kazmir.

I find that this blog tends to the pessimistic side, but I had very similar thoughts about Shields's future, though the Angels stuck with Speier until August last year. Let's see if Scioscia adopts that certain tone when the stuff is about to hit the fan.

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