How good was Jake Peavy on Monday night?
He was so good that Sox fans finally got to hear a well-worn line used in praise of their own pitcher:
“You have to tip your hat to Peavy,” said Royals outfielder Scott Podsednik. “He threw the ball well. He mixed his pitches well, had command of both sides of the plate and kept us off-balance all night.”
There’s an obvious disclaimer that his seven shutout innings came against the Royals, but every indication was that he was on his game. Pitchf/x tells half the story: He didn’t dick around. His average fastball cracked 92 m.p.h., and he hammered the Royals with cutters and sliders way more than he got cute with curves and changeups.
But more importantly, he hit his spots. A.J. Pierzynski didn’t have to move his mitt much, and when he did, it was rarely in the wrong direction. When he issued his lone walk to Chris Getz, the pitches out of the strike zone were just low. He was routinely missing by half a plate or more in previous starts, and there was very little of that on Monday.
That’s the Peavy that can succeed in the American League. The question is whether he’ll be here to stay. His next start is against Toronto, and Peavy failed to hold a pair of two-run leads against the Blue Jays the first time around. That should provide a nice basis for comparison.
While participating in the BBTN Live Chat at ESPN.com on Monday night, Royals Authority blogger Craig Brown dropped an interesting line:
The possibility that Miguel Olivo could catch back to back Cy Young award winners blows my mind.
Olivo took the majority of the starts behind the plate for Kansas City last year, where Zack Greinke picked up his hardware. Now Olivo is starting for the Colorado Rockies and catching Ubaldo Jimenez, who is 6-0 with an 0.87 ERA after striking out 13 Padres on Monday, and has a no-hitter under his belt already.
It’s funny to Royals fans because Olivo was somebody considered much stronger than he was smart. And yet whatever deficiencies he has understanding the intricacies of the game, it’s not enough to drag down elite pitchers.
This prompted me to look back through the newspaper archives to see what his reputation was with the Sox. As it turns out, it fluctuated based on 1) his experience, 2) his offense, and 3) his success rate in throwing out basestealers. Kenny Williams gave him some extra time in the minors to “work on his game-calling,” when he was blocked by an out-of-options Josh Paul. Olivo ended up starting 114 games that year, although he had Sandy Alomar Jr. there to help him with handling the staff. When he went into a slump at the plate, Jerry Manuel made sure to talk about how great of a job he was doing behind it. When he was traded, part of the reported reason was that the Sox didn’t feel confident in his abilities to work with a championship-caliber pitching staff.
Anyway, I bring up Olivo because Tyler Flowers is encountering the same thing. His ability to call a game and work with pitchers was praised when the rest of his defensive skills were very raw. Now that A.J. Pierzynski’s contract is coming up, it’s like Flowers just learned that catchers use fingers to tell the pitcher what to throw.
Given that the basis for judgment is so unreliable, I would ignore all references to “game-calling” unless pitchers call him out or refuse to work with him. I’m sure that some catchers inspire more confidence in a pitching staff than others, but it’s impossible to sort it out except in extreme cases. Most of the time it’s a political football of scouting reports, and it’ll be interesting to see how many times that facet of Flowers’ game changes over the coming months and years.
Mark Kotsay is now 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position after coming up empty in two at-bats on Monday, including a too-shallow fly with the bases loaded and one out. He and Juan Pierre are 1-for-34 combined. That shouldn’t be possible, but it is.
The horribly unclutch and unable to play part-time Jim Thome? 5-for-15 with a homer and three walks.
Minor league roundup:
- Huntsville 5, Birmingham 4 (Game 1, 7 innings)
- Brent Morel hit his first Double-A homer, part of a 1-for-3, two-RBI day.
- Charlie Shirek is on a roll. He allowed two runs (one earned) on eight hits over six innings. No walks, six strikeouts.
- Huntsville 4, Birmingham 3 (Game 2, 7 innings)
- Morel and Christian Marrero each went 1-for-3.
- John Shelby went 2-for-4 with a double.
- Frederick 6, Winston-Salem 5
- Nevin Griffith, meet regression: 4 2/3 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.
- Dan Remenowsky threw two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out two.
- Jon Gilmore and Brandon Short each went 1-for-5 with an RBI. Gilmore struck out once, Short thrice.
- Justin Greene singled, walked and struck out twice.
- Kannapolis 3, Lexington 2
- Trayce Thompson went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBI.
- Nick Ciolli hit a solo homer for the other run, and also struck out twice in four at-bats.
- Kyle Colligan went 1-for-3 with a walk; golden sombrero for Brady Shoemaker.
- Ryan Buch struck out a batter over a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.