Thursday, September 17, 2015

One throw made, one not

Wednesday's was a bad loss for the Twins in many ways. Rain delay at the start, early deficit, rally to take the lead, cough the lead up in the ninth, rally to tie, get the first two on in the 10th and strand both of them ... it all added up to an opportunity to gain on a playoff spot wasted.

There are several plays and players who could be commented on here, but I shall limit myself to two similar plays -- two closers who had to get off the bound, field a soft-hit ball and make a throw to first base. This is an aspect of pitching that seems lost on many power pitchers, and both Bruce Rondon of the Tigers and Kevin Jepsen of the Twins are power pitchers.

Jepsen's play came first. The leadoff batter in the top of the ninth, Victor Martinez, hit a dribbler to the third base side of the mound. V-Mart is one of the slowest runners in the American League -- he's old, he wasn't fast when young, he's a former catcher and he's had knee injuries. But Jepsen reacted to the dribbler as if it were Byron Buxton, or at least Danny Santana, heading to first base. He barehanded the ball and made a spinning, off-balance throw to first.

It's no surprise that he bounced the throw. The wonder is that he didn't heave it down the right field line or into the camera well. I will concede that Joe Mauer probably should have been able to handle the throw anyway, but no official scorer is going to charge the first baseman with an error on a bouncing throw. Martinez was credited with a single, which is a gift to the DH. In my view, Jepsen, confronted with the need to make an unforeseen play, panicked. And that started the two-run ninth.

Rondon had his chance in the bottom of the inning, when Buxton was asked to sacrifice. Unlike Jepsen, Rondon knew ahead of time that he was probably going to have to make a play. Buxton's bunt wasn't great, and Rondon didn't make a great throw -- he lobbed the ball to first, and Buxton made it a closer play than it should have been. But Rondon did get his out, uncomfortable as he appeared in the role.

It has long been my observation that most power pitchers are poor fielders, and it has long been my contention that, aside from the difficulty of bunting fastballs in the upper 90s, forcing such pitchers to get off the mound and make plays would be a fruitful strategy. This applies to both Jepsen and Rondon. But on Wednesday, Rondon made his play. Jepsen didn't.

1 comment:

  1. Winnable game. Failures all the way around.