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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pickoff Moves, Bedtime Edition

Vlad Finds Bat, Carries Team: Angels 4, Blue Jays 3

Let us get the obvious out of the way first: Vlad won this one all but singlehandedly with his four RBIs on a pair of homers, and this despite Jon Garland's presence on the mound. One of the big reasons why is one of Toronto's big weaknesses this season, their league-leading proclivity for hitting into double plays — 55 at the start of the game, and 58 at the end of it. What's even more incredible is that starter Jon Garland got only one of those three; rookie Jose Arredondo and Scot Shields got the other two, and both in outings that made me mighty nervous. Nevertheless, it's pretty clear that Jose's going to get a lot of chances until he Peter Principles his way out of the high leverage situations, and that's mainly because Mike Scioscia's other options have hardly proven themselves bulletproof.

Similarly to the two other relievers, Frankie's save was scary, involving a line out to left that Anderson somehow caught up with, but not as scary as Tuesday's save (i.e., no bases-loaded jam). With that, the Angels win a series at the Rogers Centre for the first time since 2002, and though this team doesn't seem to have the same kind of mojo that one did, it does look like a postseason run is still a good prospect.

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Dusty Baker, Still Wrong About Walks: Dodgers 5, Reds 2

Dusty isn't dumber, but his bosses are

Back in 2004, Dusty Baker was already working his way out of Chicago with his insane drivel that passed for Veteran Baseball Knowledge, some of which went like this:
"I think walks are overrated unless you can run. If you get a walk and put the pitcher in a stretch, that helps, but the guy who walks and can't run, most of the time he's clogging up the bases for somebody who can run."
In the ensuing period, I have yet to read or hear of any comment from Baker retracting this piece of anti-knowledge. As then, his pitcher gave up walks, and as then, they played a key role in the opposition scoring. In the second, James Loney walked and eventually scored; and in the fourth, a two-out walk to Andre Ethier allowed the inning to continue while setting the stage for a scoring wild pitch during Russell Martin's at bat.

Nevertheless, in some fairness to Baker, I should also mention that the Reds are 14th in offensive strikeouts, ninth in walks, and ninth in runs scored, a figure they no doubt arrive at because they're also hitting .268 with runners in scoring position, good for sixth place. That is, they are following the Angels mold of "get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in", though with somewhat limited success.

The Dodgers didn't exactly wreck Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto — after all, he only gave up a pair of earned runs — but his own defense really lost the game for him, one on the aforesaid wild pitch, and another on his own throwing error in the fifth on a pitchout. Hiroki Kuroda pitched eight innings, an amazing feat considering the flags were flying straight out toward right field thanks to an 18 MPH wind blowing through most of the first six innings. Russell Martin surveyed the net Dodger offense, and wasn't all that impressed:

“We didn’t really produce that many runs. But when a team makes mistakes, you’ve got to capitalize,” Martin said. “Sometimes you’re going to win when the other team kind of gives you the game, and tonight was one of those nights.”
I should also mention Chin-Lung Hu's wonderful suicide squeeze that not only brought in Matt Kemp from third, but allowed Hu to reach. It's a pity they didn't rule it an infield single.

The Reds leave town all bloodied; they haven't won a series at Dodger Stadium since 2004.

Update: Good point by DT commenter dzzrtRatt:

So... I wouldn't want to be Ned right now trying to figure out what to do about Andruw.

You couldn't have a better contrast. In Anaheim, with Andruw, we lose two of three and look feeble. In LA with Ethier-Kemp-Pierre, we sweep. Sure, ANA has better pitching. But it couldn't be clearer: We don't need Jones unless he's going to produce at 2006 and previous levels, and he just isn't.

Update 2: Man, and I almost forgot: how about that last play by Blake DeWitt? He made a running grab of Adam Dunn's grounder in front of the shortstop and threw it to first past second base. Not even Adrian Beltre at his peak makes that play. What a jaw-dropper.

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Roster And Other Notes

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Arredondo actually pitched pretty well, all things considered. The two hits were not exactly of the line drive variety. He threw a couple of nasty pitches to strike out Rolen, and did induce the DP grounder. Both of those hits are probably outs at Angel Stadium, and any other park with a natural surface (i.e., everywhere except Toronto, Minnesota and Tampa Bay).
Not only did Washburn get mauled, but according to both Washburn and catcher Jamie Burke, Washburn had his good stuff last night. The only pitch he made a mistake with was Thames' grandslam, which he admitted caught too much of the plate. But otherwise, hey, he hit his spots and made his pitches.

Of course, having gotten his wish to pitch to a non-Japanese catcher, Washburn couldn't blame his shitty results on his catcher this time. The inmates are now running the asylum in Seattle, where a replacement level starter can whine about the team's starting catcher and be rewarded with the team saying they will do what they can to accommodate him.

And of course, after the game the Mariners DFA Cha Seung Baek, who is actually pitching better than Washburn and offers every reason to believe he will continue to be better than Washburn.

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