Michael Saunders is back in the line-up today after getting much needed day off. The rest of the line-up is pretty similar to yesterday. Jesus Montero is back in there after a tough game yesterday.
I watched yesterday’s final play with Montero at the plate several times yesterday. Yes, he stretched with the wrong foot. Yes, he looked awkward. Is it a routine play? No. Routine plays are something that happen often. Asking a catcher to act like a first baseman at home and field a ball that bounces while keeping his foot on the plate is anything but routine.
I will rarely reference my baseball experience because NAIA baseball is nothing like what these guys are doing. But as someone who was converted from second base to catcher, I can tell you that the plays at the plate were absolutely the toughest plays to learn and become comfortable with it, whether it was a force or tag play. It’s something that is difficult to practice and something that doesn’t happen enough games to become completely comfortable with.
Also, you are clad in all that gear which makes movement difficult, you have the worst possible glove for taking a throw that is low or high and there is little time to adjust on throws from the infield. You are taught to get to the front left corner of the plate, keeping the back of your feet on the plate and then adjust from there. On force plays, one thing that is difficult is the feel. There is no base to anchor your foot against like a base, particularly when you stretch. It’s difficult to feel the plate under your spikes because it’s flat. And it’s not as if Montero practices stretching for a shot hop at the plate daily.
After watching the replays, I think Montero had to stretch and get the ball early. If he stays back to wait for the ball to get to him, Kipnis looked like he would beat the throw. Feel to disagree. That’s what I saw.
That being said, a player that is a little more athletic probably makes that play. And that’s the issue with Montero. It also seems that in certain defensive situations that he’s not used to, he tends to panic a little, forgetting what he’s taught. I often wonder, what if anything Montero learned at the lower levels with the Yankees. It seems as if the Mariners are trying to break a lot of bad habits that Montero came with. Did the Yankees allow these fundamental flaws, or was Montero just stubborn and continued to do things his way. Eric Wedge admitted that breaking these habits is tough because in the heat of the game and in key situations, players will tend to revert what is comfortable and they are used to.
Anyway, you can think what you want about that play. I’m far from a Montero apologist. And most of you know I’m hyper-critical of catchers. But I’m not going to crush him for failing to make that play. I don’t believe that play was as simple as some people think and anything but routine.
The Mariners loaded up on lefties in the line-up against Cleveland right-hander Justin Masterson. While most hitters have struggled with the lanky Masterson, he has been more effective against right-handed hitters. Are they huge split differences? No, but enough to make a few line-up quick changes.
In the small sample size department, Justin Smoak (4×7, 2B) and Kyle Seager (4×6, 2B) are a combined 8-for-13 (.615) vs. Masterson, but but the rest of the Mariners active players are a combined 4-for-60 (.067) with 13 strikeouts vs. the Indians right-hander.