After watching the first four games of the season, a common theme emerged, and after some research it appears to be a problem carried over from last year. This was a very revealing game about the Dawgs, bringing to light their weakness to lefty-heavy lineups and a chaotic infield.
When you face your crosstown rival, you're supposed to rise up, not grow cold. They've seen each other a lot the last few years after SU Baseball resurrected, and I don't know if the new Dawgs were in a rivalry game mindset. The SU roster is full of upperclassmen that came to play, knowing what was at stake. They had lefties last year, so this was not a new development.
UW and SU met four times in 2011, splitting the series 2-2. SU did the same then, taking the first game 4-2 and the second 6-4. The Dawgs then responded with an 11-0 thrashing and finished the Redhawks off 7-1 to draw even. Good for us, bad taste left in the mouth for them. Kincaid and co. might have had that in the back of their minds, no?
I decided to take a little foray into the SU stats vault, and see how they did against the Dawgs, specifically Kincaid last year. Guess what? Kincaid won the first game for SU in 2011, with a 3 RBI double to RF. The Dawgs only mustered up 2 runs in that game. Eery...
UW vs. SU 2011
Bookmark this glossary if new to baseball abbreviations; SK = Swinging Strikeout, LK = Looking Strikeout, (ball-strike). Not all charts had pitch counts.
3/8/2011 SU 4-2 UW
UW starters: cf Rogers; lf Meggs; rf Anselment; 3b Lamb; dh Peterson; 1b Scott; c Santy; 2b Reel; ss Afenir; p Clem
SU starting pitcher: RHP Dalton
Kincaid: 1-4 / 3 RBI winning runs in 3rd inning 2B
AB: AO LF (0-0), 2B RF (2-2), SK (2-2), AO LF (1-1)
4/5/2011 SU 6-4 UW
UW starters: rf Rogers; lf Meggs; 2b Lamb; 3b Scott; cf C. Brown; 1b Peterson; dh Anselment; c Santy; ss Afenir; p G. Brown
SU starting pitcher: UTL RHP Yardley - weird choice
Kincaid: 1-4 / 1 R / 1 BB
AB: AO CF, GO 2B, 1B up middle, AO CF, BB in 10th inning eventually scores as winning run
4/12/2011 UW 11-0 SU
UW starters: dh Wolfe; lf Meggs; 2b Lamb; 3b Scott; 1b Peterson; cf C. Brown; rf Anselment; c Wiggins; ss Afenir; p Brigham
SU starting pitcher: RHP Evasick
AB: AO CF, AO LF, 2B LF, AO CF
4/19/2011 UW 7-1 SU
UW starters: cf GardnerYoung; dh Rogers; 2b Lamb; 3b Scott; 1b Peterson; c Wiggins; rf Anselment; lf Meggs; ss Afenir; p Brigham
SU starting pitcher: RHP Howe
Kincaid: 1-4 / 1 SK
AB: AO LF (0-0), 1B RF (0-1), GO SS (1-0), SK (1-2)
Input that data into the SOS baseball translator and you get this:
Kincaid went 2-8 / 3 RBI / 1 R / 1 BB / 1 2B against the Dawgs and was a major factor in the 2 wins. How? One double and one walk won 2 games for his team. Timing is everything.
Kincaid only hit 3 balls into the infield, all year against UW. Besides his single up the middle, and ground outs to second and shortstop, he hit every ball to the outfield.
The Kincaid hit chart(including above ground balls): 1 BB / 2 K / 4 LF / 4 CF / 2 RF. He might not be able to pull the ball all the time, but he has power. Two strikeouts in 16 AB shows a good eye and pitch selection, confirmed with game tape from Wed.
The Redhawks didn't start a LHP, assumed to have no affect on the Dawgs starting lineup.
Santy started the first 2 losses, Wiggins the last 2 wins. This is big to me; Wiggins has started very slow this year, but helped provide offense last year over Santy it appears. Enough to be worth the defensive downgrade to Coach Meggs.
If you go by this year only, Santy is the better hitter so far. Wiggins has struggled at the plate.
UW started 3 different CF's and 2 RF's. The outfield appears locked in this year, good sign.
Anselement started if RF last year, but has been moved to C with RF Camporeale taking over the starting role. He appears stuck behind Santy and Wiggins at C, and left with only DH at-bats to fight for. With the outfield solidified, he has joined the infield/DH log jam. We have entirely too many designated hitters on this roster, and not nearly enough gloves. It's worrying.
Ray has taken over CF, and isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Has flashed a good glove with speed and is doing great batting lead-off.
Second base was an obvious problem spot for the Dawgs last year. When you take your starting 3B and move him to 2B, that's a problem.
There is an incredible amount of insight in the 2011 series between UW and SU. Four games spread throughout the season, against a LH hitter-heavy lineup. The infield starters are key throughout, and tell us that Coach Meggs has the same problem as last year; infield defense, especially when matching up against LH lineups on the right side, while still maintaining offensive balance. Combine this data with the game tape so far, and things become clearer....
Game 4 was the only game Pehl didn't start at 2B, so it could be a vs. LH lineup only situation. His bat is worth the risk defensively at 2B when we face heavy RH lineups, and the hope is that his bat will help get us the lead, and then slide him to 1B and sub in Ely to 2B to shore up the middle and preserve the lead late in the game. Welcome to Big Decision every manager is paid for: Do you start Offense first, or Defense? It's the chicken-or-the-egg argument of baseball, and the subject of the next analysis post, in regards to our infield situation. Offense this post, defense next. On to the game film to finish this one up first and help set the stage some more.
Game 4 Tape Breakdown
As stated in the game recap, the video feed was down due to wind for the 5-6h innings, and unfortunately the top half of the 6th was one of only 3 half-innings that produced runs.
If the Dawgs lineup doesn't produce 7+ runs and hit consistently they don't win; at least that is true for every game so far. Cold bats = losses at this point in time. When your pitching is going to give up runs assuredly with walks and wild pitches (hopefully they all get into mid-season form asap), the defense cannot make mistakes like they have and not hit; this is compounding the pitching mistakes into runs allowed, into losses. Small ball should be able to produce 3 runs a game; why did we only get one?
Our heart of the order didn't get our lead-off speedsters around to score when they did get on base, and we went 3-24 with our starting lineup. The 3-6, 8 and 9 hitters went 0-16. Let that sink in for a moment. The heart and end went frigid.
Ray, Meggs and Ely were the only starters with a hit, and they each also earned a walk, the other 3 of 5 BB total. Once again, the top is doing what they can early to get us going.
We left 10 runners stranded. Ouch. As Steve Sandmeyer, voice of the Diamond Dawgs, stated during the broadcast, "..this looks just like the 2011 team; same problem we had last year. We get plenty of base runners, we just can't bring them in." At least something close to that, that quote is from memory.
Coach Meggs used his 3 pinch-hitters to try and get things turned around near the end, but it was far too late. They had multiple chances to put up runs in each of the first 4 innings while there was still daylight, but after the lights came on in the 5th we only had 1 hit, a pinch-hit double by OF Brown to lead off the 7th inning. If you had any doubt that the cold, night air off the lake had an affect on the game, that little bit of information should put it to rest.
We had 0 stolen bases. Meggs really didn't have a chance to use any pinch-runners either. Speed made our whole offense go against SDSU, constantly attacking by putting the game motion. From the first pitch this game felt rigid and out of rhythm, and we were never on the attack or put pressure on the SU pitchers. For the most part, they just went out and pitched worry-free, never looking rattled or nervous.
I didn't think SU pitched that well at times, they were all over the place, hitting four Dawgs and only getting 5 K's while giving up 5 walks. SU either had great command, or no command. I was not at the game with a radar gun, but the tape is showing some good velocity. Cold night, slower swings, good velocity = swings and misses, and swing and miss we did A LOT. When we did make contact, we either got unlucky and hit a catch-able foul ball or hard shot right at a fielder with runners on, or else couldn't get the bunt down and/or execute hit-and-run's.
This was biggest inning of the night. It set the tone and SU rode it to an easy victory. Not much more to go on about afterwords. I will point the major points, especially the ones SU showed themselves to be head hunters with. Yes, SU beaned Pehl and Berry in scoring situations. I think they were retalitory, yes, but out guy Fisher didn't have one ounce of control with his release points. After the second batter of the game Kizer did have good control, yet he somehow managed to hit a batter every inning after we hit a SU batter. Yes, this is a rivalry; you will hit a batter before surrendering and subserviently acknowledging defeat by giving our best 2 hitters intentional walks. Screw respect, SU just beaned 'em and sent a message, one I dearly hope we respond to. Kizer beaned 4 UW hitters, and even if he himself came up to me and said they were accidents, I would tell him I wasn't born yesterday. I watched, he had command. Those were purposeful, and SU won because of them.
Top 1st - UW RHP Fisher .2 IP, RHP Kim .1 IP
UW starter RHP Fisher had a rough night. A local kid from Bellevue, he got the home opener start in front of family and friends, and he choked under the pressure. You could tell he was nervous, "paralysis by analysis." When you try to "aim" a pitch, as we pitchers call it, nothing just flows, your thinking way too much about trying to locate the pitch and your mechanics turn to crap, you don't throw as hard. When you don't throw as hard as you normally do, your entire windup that your muscles are trained to do (muscle memory is HUGE in baseball) gets out of sync. As a pitcher, from the moment you start your windup it needs to be smooth and fluid, with your arm following your body naturally without hesitation. When a pitcher is "aiming", he is hesitating for a split-second, trying to think about where his arm is and then force it to go where he thinks it needs to be for the pitch to go where he wants it to. That takes your arm out of rhythm with the rest of your body, and you will never throw strikes.
Bottom 1st - SU RHP Kizer
Ray: Kizer walked Ray in 5 pitches, second pitch fastball outside-corner strike, 4 balls high and way outside to LH batter, going through the RH batter box.
Meggs: RH batter HBP on first pitch, same exact spot. Runners 1B 2B
SU pitching coach conference w/pitcher, catcher, trying to settle Kizer down.
Lamb: Kizer stops trying to throw so hard, and in turn his upper body is now in sync with lower. Lamb wisely watches the first fastball for a strike, but the key here is that Kizer finally is able to get pitches over the inside half of the plate on LH batters now. Lamb swings at the next 2, missing them both for the quick K, and Kizer never looked back.
Berry: 3 pitches, SK
Pehl: HBP, bases loaded. This HBP actually helped SU, as it made a force out an any base available and Pehl was our last big bat to be afraid of. Smart bean job.
SU got through the heart of out lineup, with runners on, giving up no hits or runs. This cannot happen a lot if we want to win games.
Camporeale: I don't know if SU had some insider knowledge or what, because they played this out perfectly. With a runner on 2B SS Roberts is shading HARD up the middle, just on the 3B side of the Dawg runner and behind him only. Thing is, Campo is a RH bat, and the hole left between third and short was HUGE. All Campo had to do was hit the ball on the ground anywhere near that hole, and everyone would have been safe. Instead, he hits the ball right up the middle, normally a hit to his subconscious. SU SS Roberts only has to range to his left about 10 feet, fields the ball cleanly on the run and tosses out Campo with a running throw that looked smooth and easy. Campo didn't look at the fielders, he was too focused on trying to hit the ball, than to think about where he wanted to hit the ball. That will come with experience. Out 3.
Ely lead off the 2nd with a double, but made a horrible base running mistake, and was picked off handily. Kizer caught the entire field off guard, spinning around after lifting his leg straight up instead of going to home. He fooled both his SS and Ely, who both jumped towards third (SS to get back in defensive position) the moment Kizer lifted his leg up. Rookie mistake Ely, this is D-1 college ball now. You don't make even a lean towards third when your that far off second until the pitchers lead leg starts to move forward towards home plate. Kizer had to wait for his SS Roberts to head back towards second before making a throw, but me made a great play, beat Ely to second and applied the tag just in time.
Ray and Meggs singled to right and left respectively, Lamb flied out to CF, Berry got HBP with runners on 1B and 3B. Really? Twice in a row SU, and we wouldn't notice? No, SU laid down the gauntlet with hitting Berry here, and we just melted away. Not good, our hitters needed to respond and back their leader up. Pehl a SK, Campo a line drive out (one of those hard hit with runners in scoring position but right at someone) to LF and a bean job ends the threat, again.
Well wouldn't ya know, it happened again. Hendrickson for SU got beaned in the top half the 4th, and the very first batter for UW the next inning is HBP. Ely got on base, Wiggins got his walk. Forgione then bunted them over to 2B and 3B, the first small ball moment of the game, in the 4th...Ray grounded to 1B, a perfect spot if your going to hit an out in the infield, and our only run scores. Meggs then hits a can of corn to 2B, signaling dinner time and the Dawgs went home, too cold to care.