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OC Register: Joe Maddon wants Angels pitchers to adjust in key situations


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TEMPE, Ariz. — One of the themes of Joe Maddon’s comments this spring is how disappointed he was in the pitch selection of a handful of his pitchers last year.

The good news is that’s one of the easiest things to fix.

“Stuff and ability is there,” Maddon said. “It’s execution, selectivity, sequencing, whatever you want to call it. But the stuff is definitely good enough.”

Throughout the spring, as Maddon has talked about each of his pitchers, he’s come back to this theme, notably with Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and Ty Buttrey.

Maddon said their performance can go to a higher level simply by changing the way they attack hitters.

Part of the problem last year, Maddon said, was that the analytic details the pitchers were given were too complex to be really useful. He said about a month into the season they simplified it, and they’ve continued to do so in their planning for this year.

“I’ve seen how it’s been broken down,” Maddon said. “It’s more streamlined, more direct, and more dugout friendly.”

Maddon also pointed out that last year’s results may have been much better if they’d had more than just one month of baseball left once they realized it needed to change. The Angels had a 5.41 ERA in the first 32 games and a 4.74 ERA in the last 28.

“There just wasn’t enough time,” he said. “I didn’t like it at the beginning. I wanted to make it different, and it started to become different.”

Beyond the issue of the information given to the pitchers, Maddon said he’d like the pitchers to feel more freedom to depart from that information if they feel better about throwing something else.

He said he wants the pitchers “to do the math and not just use a calculator … I don’t want you to be the passenger all the time. I want you to drive the car.”

Maddon believes that was a particular issue last year when the game was on the line, and pitchers may have been doing something without conviction.

Consider this statistic: Last season in low-leverage situations, the Angels allowed the fourth-lowest OPS in the majors. In high-leverage situations, they were 18th.

With the bases empty, the opponents’ OPS ranked 18th, but with runners in scoring position it was 24th. With two outs and runners in scoring position, it was 30th.

In short, when the Angels most needed to make the right pitch and execute it correctly, they failed.

That is where Maddon wants to see improvement, more so than getting any more velocity or movement or spin.

“The stuff is definitely good enough,” Maddon said. “It’s going to be a matter of confident execution of what we’re trying to do, and with that these guys can be very successful. I like our group a lot. I know everybody says the same things this time of year. I get it. But I’m watching these guys very closely, and I like it.”

RENGIFO IN OUTFIELD

Luis Rengifo got the start in left field for Wednesday’s game. He had never played a big-league regular-season game in the outfield, although he did work out there last season.

Maddon said it’s all part of the plan to continue to add defensive versatility to a player who has already made such a positive impression with the “mental and physical spot that he’s in,” Maddon said.

Maddon said he had had outfield coach Bruce Hines work with Rengifo daily on his defense, bunting and whatever else they feel could add to his game.

“If he nails this stuff down, this guy becomes really valuable,” Maddon said of Rengifo. “Then you can start drawing comparisons to Chone Figgins or Tony Phillips or Mark McLemore or Ben Zobrist. It’s all within his abilities. When you’re a switch-hitter who can play shortstop and do all these other things, that’s a pretty valuable player in today’s game.”

ALSO

Shohei Ohtani will pitch next against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday at Glendale. Ohtani and Andrew Heaney are both scheduled to pitch that day, and the Angels had been undecided which one would pitch in the big-league game…

Max Stassi was in the lineup at DH again Wednesday. Stassi, who is working back from hip surgery, still hasn’t been behind the plate in a Cactus League game, although he has done extensive catching work in drills and in the bullpen. Maddon said Stassi will catch in a game “very shortly.” He is expected to be ready to catch by Opening Day.

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So one thing I don't think I've really ever fully understood is how much is the responsibility of the catcher? And is it me or do some pitchers just do whatever the catcher wants and some dictate what they're going to do themselves?  I think I know the answer to this - but it would be nice to know this information specifically for each pitcher.  I imagine it also depends on how long a guy has been in the league.  You hear some guys say... "So and so just put the right fingers down."  I also it depends on how much respect a catcher carries.  I  mean, what happens to a young pitcher who shakes off Yadier?

 

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12 minutes ago, True Grich said:

So one thing I don't think I've really ever fully understood is how much is the responsibility of the catcher? And is it me or do some pitchers just do whatever the catcher wants and some dictate what they're going to do themselves?  I think I know the answer to this - but it would be nice to know this information specifically for each pitcher.  I imagine it also depends on how long a guy has been in the league.  You hear some guys say... "So and so just put the right fingers down."  I also it depends on how much respect a catcher carries.  I  mean, what happens to a young pitcher who shakes off Yadier?

 

I agree. It depends upon talent and experience. We all remember Nuke LaLoosh. It's a tandem, but I think most of the responsibility has to go to the pitcher. Ultimately, he has to have the confidence in the quality and location.

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35 minutes ago, True Grich said:

So one thing I don't think I've really ever fully understood is how much is the responsibility of the catcher? And is it me or do some pitchers just do whatever the catcher wants and some dictate what they're going to do themselves?  I think I know the answer to this - but it would be nice to know this information specifically for each pitcher.  I imagine it also depends on how long a guy has been in the league.  You hear some guys say... "So and so just put the right fingers down."  I also it depends on how much respect a catcher carries.  I  mean, what happens to a young pitcher who shakes off Yadier?

 

Both should study the opposing team and work out a game plan for each batter. During the game, they need to discuss how each batter is responding and what pitches are working. Needs to be ongoing and consensual with regards to pitch calling.

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1 hour ago, Torridd said:

I agree. It depends upon talent and experience. We all remember Nuke LaLoosh. It's a tandem, but I think most of the responsibility has to go to the pitcher. Ultimately, he has to have the confidence in the quality and location.

 

1 hour ago, Mark PT said:

Both should study the opposing team and work out a game plan for each batter. During the game, they need to discuss how each batter is responding and what pitches are working. Needs to be ongoing and consensual with regards to pitch calling.

Thanks.

I pretty much know all that.  I'd really be interested in an insider's perspective on how this actually works.  More specifically how each Angels pitcher goes through this process.  I assume it's different for each one.  Does the pitcher always have the final say? 

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1 hour ago, True Grich said:

So one thing I don't think I've really ever fully understood is how much is the responsibility of the catcher? And is it me or do some pitchers just do whatever the catcher wants and some dictate what they're going to do themselves?  I think I know the answer to this - but it would be nice to know this information specifically for each pitcher.  I imagine it also depends on how long a guy has been in the league.  You hear some guys say... "So and so just put the right fingers down."  I also it depends on how much respect a catcher carries.  I  mean, what happens to a young pitcher who shakes off Yadier?

 

 

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15 minutes ago, True Grich said:

 

Thanks.

I pretty much know all that.  I'd really be interested in an insider's perspective on how this actually works.  More specifically how each Angels pitcher goes through this process.  I assume it's different for each one.  Does the pitcher always have the final say? 

I would think so, but it depends on who's running the game. Is it like the scene above in Bull Durham in which the catcher is definitely running it? Who knows? If Costner hadn't opened his mouth, he may have gotten him out with the curveball.

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1 hour ago, Torridd said:

I would think so, but it depends on who's running the game. Is it like the scene above in Bull Durham in which the catcher is definitely running it? Who knows? If Costner hadn't opened his mouth, he may have gotten him out with the curveball.

Its a lefty, everyone knows that you always announce your presence with authority.

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