Well, that was bound to happen sooner rather than later. Frankly, I’m surprised Blake Wood hasn’t coughed up more leads. Thursday was only the fourth blown “save” in 40 appearances this year.
(I put save in quotes because we all know Wood isn’t the closer, so it’s not up to him to earn the save. Although by pitching late and in close games, he often enters the game in save situations. Thus, the blown save stat.)
A couple of things stood out to me about his appearance:
– That was only the third time all year Wood appeared in three consecutive games. The other time was way back in Trey Hillman’s last game and carried into Ned Yost’s first two games in charge. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Wood gave up two hits and a run in blowing a lead in that third game.
To be fair, it wasn’t like he had been overworked the previous two appearances. He threw 10 pitches on Tuesday and just two pitches on Wednesday. Still, something has to be said for getting a pitcher up three days in a row, warming him up in the bullpen and then bringing into a game. There’s a certain amount of stress involved in this routine, pitch counts be damned.
— In the match-up against Asdrubal Cabrera (which tied the game), Wood threw eight pitches – all fastballs. The fastest was clocked at 98 mph and the slowest was 96 mph. These eight pitches were essentially identical. The result was predictable.
For some reason, Yost trusts Wood in these high leverage situations like the one we saw on Thursday. Here are the Royals leaders in Leverage Index who are currently on the roster according to Baseball Prospectus:
Joakim Soria – 1.97
Jesse Chavez – 1.68
Blake Wood – 1.44
Bryan Bullington – 1.01
In many ways, it’s good to see Soria at the top of the list. It underscores the importance of the closer – something I have mocked in the past. Of Soria’s 35 saves, 19 have been of the one run variety while eight have been in games with two run margins. Pretty tight.
It’s a little surprising to see Chavez so high. However in his seven appearances, he’s entered with the game tied twice, with the Royals ahead by one or two runs three times and with the team down by a run twice. He’s not coming into the game in blowouts. That’s not going to end well, either. Chavez just doesn’t possess the command to be reliable late in close games.
And Bullington is now in the rotation.
Yost doesn’t have a ton of options in the bullpen. Maybe that’s why he keeps turning to Wood.
By the time Yost turned to Dusty Hughes (who couldn’t get the left handed hitting Travis Hafner out) and by the time the inning was over, a three run lead turned into a two run deficit. Ballgame.
It’s too bad because Kyle Davies awesome through seven innings. Not being able to see the game (not on TV? What’s up with that? Maybe that’s a good thing… The Indians commit five errors, but win with seven runs over the last two innings? It’s possible I would have chucked my Boulevard through the screen.) but knowing Davies threw only 84 pitches entering the eighth and had surrendered only four hits, it was probably the correct call by Yost to send him back to the mound. According to Pitch f/x, his velocity was fine at that point and he had been effectively changing speeds all evening. Plus, as the fact he didn’t walk a batter all evening will attest, he was working in the zone.
And with the current state of the Royals bullpen, why not see if Davies can go eight before turning it over to Soria in the ninth?
Unfortunately, when Davies got into hot water, Yost didn’t have a reliable Plan B waiting in the bullpen.
— Yuniesky Betancourt came to the plate four times and saw a grand total of nine pitches. Stop with the “Betancourt is pretty good” talk. Please.
Yes, it’s great he’s hitting for power. That’s something no one saw coming this year. And his home runs have been timely – seven of his 12 have given the Royals the lead or tied the game. There have been times where I have been surprised at his ability to deliver in key situations. Although I think Betancourt’s positive moments stand out because they’re infrequent and expectations couldn’t be much lower to start. When the D student turns in an A paper, it kind of gets noticed.
What I fail to understand is how certain people around the Royals seem to delight in pointing out his offensive “excellence” while ignoring the fact his .290 OBP is the fifth lowest in the league this year and he continues to exhibit next to no discipline at the plate. Last night was Exhibit A. The guy goes up there hacking, with no feel for the situation and with no ability to employ strategic situational hitting.
However, his defense is still in the bottom of the league among shortstops. And don’t forget to factor Betancourt’s defense into his overall performance on the season. He remains terrible by any metric you choose – UZR, +/- – you name it. According to the Fielding Bible’s plus/minus system, Betancourt is currently a -9 on fielding plays. Not good. Especially for a shortstop. Going a step further, the Bible has Betancourt at -7 for runs saved with his glove. Again, not good. That ranks him 32nd out of 35 shortstops. Plus, his double play efficiency has really declined this year. After converting about 62% of all double play opportunities over the last couple of seasons, he’s converting roughly 45% of all double play opportunities. That ranks him 35th.
Of course, looking at (less than) a single season while using defensive metrics is sketchy. Those in the know say you need to look at at least three seasons of defensive data before you draw a conclusion.
Going back to 2008, Betancourt has ranked dead last in the AL among shortstops in UZR. My eyes see a lack of mobility and range. While Betancourt can occasionally make a stellar play, for every one Web Gem, he neglects three or four makable fielding chances. The numbers back this up.
Focus on the big picture.