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Would you pitch to Aaron Judge with first base open during a late-inning tie?

Most of the time, you can only laugh when a Joe Fan screams that they could do a better job than their favorite team’s head coach or manager. It’s an irrational stance.

Most of the time. Because there are those moments when a manager does something which leaves everyone watching convinced that, yep, any Joe could do better.

One of those moments occurred Monday night when Angels manager Mike Scioscia had to consider the title question. Tie game. Eighth inning. Man on second. First base open. Aaron Judge up.

Well, would you?

Scioscia said “Sure” and Judge said “Thanks.”

The Yankees would go on to win by the margin provided by Judge’s blast, 5-3.

After spending a few minutes repeating “Why?” to myself, I tried to look at things from Scioscia’s point of view. He must be aware that Judge is hitting baseballs harder and farther than anyone this season. With Mike Trout on the shelf, Judge is the game’s best (healthy) batter right now. Of course, Scioscia is aware. And he intentionally walked Didi Gregorius a few innings earlier — a decision that backfired when Chase Headley followed with a two-out RBI single that scored Judge from second — so it’s not like he is against the practice. 

But after Aaron Hicks’ one-out double, you knew something strange was afoot as Scioscia went to his closer, Bud Norris, to face Judge. Why bring in a new pitcher if you’re just going to inten–wait.

They’re gonna pitch to him?!

It seemed like my bewilderment was overblown after the first two pitches from Norris: a couple of cutters that were in the left-handed batter’s box.

Norris’ third pitch, another cutter, was, uh, not located well. Something like that.

Judge AB

Give credit to Judge for actually smashing that pitch — I wouldn’t be writing here and many Angels fans wouldn’t be calling for Scioscia’s job if the mammoth rookie simply popped out. But this was an easily avoidable result.

After the game, Scioscia admitted that the pitch was not in the right location. The fact that it was even in the home plate circle was an oversight, really. However, Scioscia continued his postgame presser with this response when asked if he gave any thought to walking the MVP candidate.

“Yeah, definitely there is, yeah. But I think with a base open and with Bud being able to move the ball and spin it, you hope that you can get him to expand a little bit, and he never really, never got there and left the one pitch over the plate.”

With a base open, we thought we could get him to expand his zone? My brain needs to be rebooted.

By the way, Judge has swung at 24.8 percent of pitches outside the zone this season, a very respectable rate for a slugger who was swinging at more than a third of all such pitches just last year. But given that Scioscia is still a big proponent of the bunt, I know he’s not aware of those numbers.

Walk Judge, take your chances with Matt Holliday. He is having a better-than-expected season, but Judge is having a better-than-everybody-else season. Heck, Holliday even has a higher O-swing percentage (26.0). 

Alas, Scioscia decided to chance it and hope that his pitcher wouldn’t make a mistake pitch. He did. But it’s not Norris’ mistake that decided Monday’s game. It was made possible only because of a greater mistake from his manager, one that I don’t think Joe Fan out there would have committed. For one moment, anyone could have been a better manager for the L.A. Angels than Mike Scioscia.

Too Bad It’s Only Spring Training, Because That Means We Will Never Know How Far This Miguel Cabrera Home Run Traveled

February 25, 2013 Leave a comment

That meteor over Russia has nothing on this celestial event.

It didn’t quite go over the tiki bar as the color analyst suggested, but one thing is known:  Ball go far.

“The ball nearly landed in the players’ parking lot behind the stadium. A bartender at one of the tiki bars along the left-field concourse said the ball hit the back fence behind the bar, about 100 feet beyond the left-field fence.”

My official guess —  using an actual tape measure, Google Maps’ satellite view of the stadium, the park’s dimensions and a careful eye on what that ball soared over as it exited the stadium — is 445 feet. That feels extremely conservative. Alas, we will never know the official footage because most teams don’t do homer measurements in spring training, which is just lazy.

More amazing to me than just this sheer show of force is how Cabrera hit that ball. Watch the replay of Cabrera’s swing from the first-base dugout at the 0:45 mark. That pitch is up by his letters and doesn’t allow him to extend his arms. Look at just far he has to pull his hands in to get to that ball.

So, Cabrera faced a pitch above the strike zone, cutting into his body, that kind of handcuffed him. And he hit it into Georgia.

I’d say he’s ready for the regular season.

Madison Bumgarner Records Giants’ First Home Run At Home In 28 Days. But Of Course!

And the Giants’ third-base coach finally gets some love at home!

The San Fransisco Giants are not exactly Earl Weaver’s dream team. Forget about playing for the three-run home; any home run is reason to celebrate in San Fran. This is painfully true for Giants fans at AT&T Park this season. Heading into Tuesday night’s matchup versus the Astros, the G’s had played 16 home games in the past 28 days without hitting one over the fence. It made for the longest such streak in 22 years. And then … it ended, thanks to starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner’s first career home run. Clip here.

Wow. With plenty of room to spare.

When you have built up such a home run drought, it makes a lot of sense somehow that a pitcher would be the one to come to the rescue. That’s baseball. Shawn Estes actually called the Bumgarner shot before the game on CSN Bay Area, and the homer led to Giants commentators nicknaming the lefty “The Bumbino.” So awful, it’s great.

Visitors hit 14 home runs at AT&T during the Giants’ power outage. Brandon Belt homered for San Fran later in the game. With the monkey off their collective backs, Houston better take cover on Wednesday; the Giants will probably go back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Twice. In the same inning.

Oh, by the way, Bumgarner went 7.2 innings, struck out 12 and won his third consecutive start. But that’s not what’s most important.