Noted dumb dumb Harold Reynolds made it a point to harp on the supposed troubles Yasmani Grandal and Clayton Kershaw were having with selecting pitches in the NLDS, but a talk with Grandal about that situation, along with stuff about framing, revealed something entirely different.
Between Clayton Kershaw’s two starts in the National League division series, catcher Yasmani Grandal trudged out to the mound nearly a dozen times. It appeared the two were having trouble communicating.
Not so, Grandal maintained. They were merely taking every possible precaution to prevent Washington’s baserunners at second from stealing their signs. The two men again formed a battery Sunday for Game 2 of the NLCS and hardly required midfield conventions at Wrigley Field. Grandal said that was because no one reached second base. Only one Chicago Cub got halfway home throughout the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory.
For additional evidence, Grandal pointed to Saturday’s eighth inning, when Ben Zobrist led off with a double against Joe Blanton and Blanton stretched the count to 3-and-0 against Addison Russell.
“All the sudden, Russell is not taking good swings at sliders, looking like he’s looking for a fastball and in a certain location,” Grandal said. “Did we know Zobrist had the signs and was doing something for it? Yeah, we did. That’s why we do it.”
When the opponent gets a man to second, it becomes Grandal’s priority to ensure he cannot relay what is coming to the hitter, perhaps particularly when Kershaw is pitching.
“We are literally paranoid when it comes to men on second and they are trying to get signs,” Grandal said. “We know who is getting the signs. We know what they’re doing. We know what they do to get it. In the playoffs, one relayed sign could mean the difference between winning the World Series and not getting there.
“That’s why we have four or five different sets of signs, and we’re constantly changing.”
Asked how he interpreted criticism of his handling of Kershaw during the last round, Grandal said he was aware of it but did not care. “We won,” he said. “That’s all I care about.”
Probably the appropriate amount to care about something driven by Harold, and while it certainly looked bad at the time, I can imagine them (especially Kershaw) being paranoid about sign stealing after the mess with the Cardinals previously.
Perhaps more interesting was that Grandal believes Ben Zobrist had their signs at second base during Game 1. Zobrist, unsurprisingly, denies doing any such thing.
This is hilarious….umm…no I was not stealing signs. Glad you think my baseball IQ is that high. https://t.co/2XMFmQJS5i
— Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) October 18, 2016
I mean, even if he did have the signs, it’s not like he’s gonna say he did. Regardless, unlike the people who didn’t read what he said think, Grandal wasn’t complaining, he was simply pointing out aspects of the game not everybody sees and explained the communication going on.
Grandal also provided some insight into working the umpire to get calls, and how it involves more than just receiving itself.
Grandal framed several borderline pitches Sunday into called strikes. Asked how he did it, he described constant conversation with the home-plate umpire, Eric Cooper. He regularly checked to make sure Cooper could see the pitches. Grandal likes to set up his target late; Cooper wanted it early. Grandal adjusted. In the eighth inning, Cooper touched Grandal on the shoulder twice when he set up high for Kenley Jansen cutters.
“I can’t really see,” Grandal said the umpire told him.
Again, he adjusted.
This is something noted Cubs fan, traitor to Dodgers Digest, and general blog person Mike Petriello noted on Twitter…
Does framing matter? Let's look at outside-zone called strikes this postseason between Grandal & Martin (who isn't bad!) and… oh. Oh, my. pic.twitter.com/bpJJrRZBFC
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 17, 2016
…and then wrote an article about.
If we look at the postseason numbers for “percentage of called strikes on pitches that were borderline or outside the zone,” we see that Grandal has done very well — though Roberto Perez and Willson Contreras are flashing skills as well. Again, this is showing “close pitches,” not “umpire mistakes.”
Highest percentage of “close call” pitches turned into called strikes
11 percent — Grandal (61 pitches)
11 percent — Perez (38)
10.8 percent — Contreras (29)
10.1 percent — Jose Lobaton (28)
9.6 percent — Martin (40)
8.7 percent — Sandy Leon (23)
8.4 percent — Posey (37)
8.2 percent — Jonathan Lucroy (19)
7.1 percent — David Ross (17)
4.6 percent — Pedro Severino (10)
Not bad for the worst catcher in the history of baseball or whatever.
As far as Clayton Kershaw goes, no matter how much people keep writing about the playoff narrative being over already, we know that’s not the case until he probably wins multiple World Series because that’s how people are. However, Dave Roberts and Andrew Friedman took the reasonable stance by just not believing in that crap to begin with.
It was Kershaw’s first scoreless outing in 13 postseason starts and another nail in the coffin for his reputation as a poor October performer.
“It should. It should,” Roberts said. “I know he’s tired of hearing about it. It’s unfair. For us, I don’t think we care. What this guy has done is digging deep and I can’t say enough about Clayton Kershaw.”
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ baseball boss, never believed the history lesson in the first place.
“I just never bought the narrative,” he said. “There’s no one else I’d rather have on the mound than Clayton Kershaw. In a game in February, March, May, October, November, it doesn’t matter the month, there’s no pitcher in baseball I’d rather have on the mound.”
Of course, if Javier Baez gets that ball last game just a bit cleaner, we’re talking about a completely different reaction, which is telling in terms of how results alone will drive the narrative one way or the other. Hell, Kershaw himself said he had a “mini-stroke” watching that ball until it fell into the glove of Joc Pederson.
“He’s not gonna trust me anymore if guys keep hitting the ball like that,” Kershaw said. “That was scary there. I thought that ball had a chance to get out of there. I missed my spot bad, right over the middle of the plate.
“Off the bat, I thought something bad. I kind of had a mini-stroke right there.”
I mean it turned Rick Honeycutt into a ballerina…
…and it left Dave Roberts in stunned silence that later came out as maniacal laughter, so it’s understandable.
Kenley Jansen is one of the breakout stars of the playoffs for the Dodgers, even if we already knew as much. There’s been a lot made about his increased workload, but Kenley’s been preparing for it.
After flying into Chicago on Friday afternoon, he was running outdoors and lifting weights indoors at Wrigley Field.
“That’s how you recover,” Jansen said. “That’s what I’ll be doing – doing a lot of running. That kind of makes me feel like I’m not sore out there.”
He credited Dodgers strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for outlining a workout plan during the offseason that includes plenty of running. Jansen stuck to it throughout the year.
“When we have a day off I do a lot of running and lifting and stick with the program,” said he during an on-field interview with Jon Morosi on MLB Network. “I recover quick on it.”
It also brings up the fact that he’s a free agent after this season, and throwing so much seems to be risking his health, but Kenley is mainly focused on winning.
“Listen, at the end of the day, you can money in the game, but you want to get a ring,” Jansen said. “Here we are, we have an opportunity right now to win a ring. That’s all I’m thinking about, to win a World Series. That’s all I care about. I don’t care about the future. I just care about winning a World Series ring.”
Honeycutt smiled when Jansen’s words were relayed to him.
“It’s really the motto of this team this whole year, the ability to not be selfish,” Honeycutt said.
Those are, of course, the type of players you generally want to give your money to.
Oh yeah, and there’s this story about how Ned Colletti signing Brandon League pissed Kenley off.
Some players believe that Jansen was unhappy the Dodgers even considered such a deal. Jansen said no, he just wanted the front office to tell him what was happening. It still bothers him that after he underwent a procedure to address an irregular heartbeat in Oct. 2012, former GM Ned Colletti signed Brandon League as a free agent.
“I wasn’t disappointed (by the proposed Chapman trade),” Jansen said. “I just told Andrew, ‘Be honest with me, with what you’re going to do.’
“I feel like I was missing that earlier in my career when I went down with my heart and they put another closer in there. They told me I was still going to be the closer, but signed Brandon League. Right there, I felt my trust was kind of shaken. If you’re honest with me, I have much respect for you. At the end of day, all I’m trying to do is help the team win.”
It pissed everybody off, Kenley.