It’s simple really: I’ve gone to hundreds and hundreds of Ned Yost press conferences and if he talks about his pitcher getting the ball down in the zone, he’s talking about a win.
If Ned talks about a pitcher being up in the zone, he’s talking about a loss.
After Monday night’s game, guess what Ned Yost was talking about?
Johnny Cueto was up in the zone and the Toronto Blue Jays scored eight runs off him in two innings.
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Afterwards, Johnny said he could not make the adjustment necessary to get the ball down in the zone and that reminded me of a story.
Some years back a big league pitching coach had a pitcher on the mound with the same problem. He wondered aloud about what he should tell him to do: shorten his stride? Get the ball out of the glove sooner? Finish off his pitches?
A player was listening to the coach and asked: “Why don’t you just tell him to aim lower?”
The coach went to the mound, suggested the pitcher aim lower, the pitcher said OK and things were fixed.
And I truly believe that story shows just how little I know about pitching mechanics.
Get into the mechanics of delivering a baseball to home plate and it’s mind boggling.
The number of things that have to be done right and the number of things that can go wrong are astronomical. So there’s a good chance Johnny Cueto’s problem is a lot more complicated than just changing his focus, but that’s exactly what he tried to do when he asked Salvador Perez to set a lower target.
But if nothing else works; maybe Johnny should aim even lower.
The home plate umpire didn’t help
The last couple playoff games have featured some inconsistent ball/strike calling by home plate umpires. We’ve seen hitters — mostly Blue Jays — turn back to the umpire and complain about inconsistent strike zones.
After the game, Raul Ibanez said Johnny Cueto’s pitches were flat and when he did get them down in the zone, he couldn’t get a call. A pitcher can never blame a bad outing completely on an umpire, but in this case the umpire didn’t help.
Neither do emotions
Baseball is a weird sport: trying harder rarely helps. Over-throwing and over-swinging are two common mistakes.
Finding the right effort level and maintaining it is difficult, but when we see a player like Alex Gordon play the game without much emotion, we should recognize it for what it is: it’s not that Alex doesn’t care — someone who works as hard as Gordon cares passionately — it’s that Alex is keeping himself, his emotions and his effort under control.
So now pick the two Royals pitchers most likely to show emotions on the mound. If you said Yordano Ventura and Johnny Cueto you wouldn’t be far wrong. And you might want to throw Danny Duffy in there as well.
Guys who are emotional can be inconsistent. They let their emotions affect what they’re doing on the mound. Guys who are stoic have a better chance of being consistent.
Chris Young — Tuesday’s starter — is one of those pitchers who don’t show their emotions, and that gives him a better chance of success.
(And now that I’ve gone out on a limb and said that, he’ll probably punch a water cooler in the third inning.)