Monday, October 31, 2016

Holding the Ball

I don’t watch a lot of games on television. For any number of reasons, most of the times I catch the Sox are radio broadcasts, gameday simulations, or live in the park. I certainly don’t catch many Cubs games on television. So I had no idea of the magnitude of this Lester case of the yips. I knew he didn’t like to throw the ball to first. I didn’t know that he NEVER threw to first.

How does this work?

Just watching his one game last night, I was beyond frustrated. I can’t imagine being a Cubs fan and having to watch it happen 30 times a year. A guy reaches first, and he takes his lead halfway there, and steals second on the first pitch. How did that not drive fans, players, management, everyone beyond crazy?

I remember watching Rickey Henderson when he was with the Sox. Now, this was 2002 Henderson, not 1982 Henderson. But, you could tell he still terrorized pitchers just by taking a lead at first. Their concentration was gone. The batter became secondary to them. They’d keep throwing over. And over. And over. They’d throw high fastballs to at least give the catcher a shot at throwing him out. Everything the pitcher did was based on a reaction to Henderson being on first. I would sit there watching him wondering just how he wasn’t named the MVP every year from 1981-1986. He changed the game.

With Lester on the mound, every runner at first base is Rickey Henderson. In his prime.

How is this not a huge problem for the Cubs?

Are teams just not as equipped to take advantage of it as I think they are? I remember a playoff series back in the day against the Angels and Yankees. The Angels realized that Bernie Williams had no arm. So, they were going first to third every time he had the ball in his hands. Or, second to home on every hit. They made a mockery of him. I remember thinking “this is it.” He’s going to be a weakness for the Yankees from here on in. But, it never really worked that way. I guess David Ortiz doesn’t go first to third no matter who’s in centerfield. 

So, is that what’s saving Lester? Do you need at least some speed to steal second, even with a 15’ lead? Are the Cubs able to compensate for it because they know the guy’s running? If you know he’s running, a pitchout is probably more effective. Or, do they have other tricks up their sleeves? After all, they did throw a runner out at second last night. So, not everyone can steal off Lester in any situation.

But, geez, why not? And how can the rest of the team just not beat him with a stick? 

At some point doesn’t he have to throw something over there? Even if it gets away, the guy was getting to second either way. What’s the harm? Maybe Rizzo knocks the ball down and can make a play at second. Maybe by sheer luck it goes right to Rizzo? Don’t you have to at least try something? Because I don’t understand how what he’s been doing isn’t a huge problem.

Of course, he did win his World Series start last night.

Without throwing to first.

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