Re: Lackey's error--two thoughts
posted at 5/11/2013 9:39 AM EDT
Back to the first thought. Yes, yes, earned runs are based primarily on whether the team at bat earned those runs rather than was given them. But let's not kid ourselves, a pitcher's ERA is one of his most prized or, in a bad year, despised possessions, and he definitely benefits when runs caused by errors are discounted. That said, I agree it wouldn't make sense to call runs caused by pitcher's errors earned runs.
On the second thought, I went back and rewatched Lackey's play about a dozen times and do think he would benefit from some practice.
Here's why. He has a pitching motion that causes his right foot to cross over his body and move it to the left (as he is looking at home plate) as he completes his delivery. Very off balance, but Buchholz does the same thing, and so does Doubront except as a lefty his body moves to the right. Lester and Dempster, a righty and a lefty, on the other hand, finish balanced and facing the plate because their pitching leg (left for Lester, right for Dempster) doesn't cross over at the end of the delivery.
On this particular play, the Twins batter hit a perfect one hopper right back to Lackey, except that it wasn't perfect for him because, even though the ball was hit to the first base side, it was on Lackey's pitching hand side because of the way his right leg crosses over.
This means he had to reach back to his right with his left glove hand to snag the ball, which he did. That snag forced him to turn more to his right (clockwise) in order to be able to throw to second base, which for righties is an unnatural motion. Almost as bad, he was on the mound, not on level ground, which meant that he was now throwing slightly uphill. And he was on the first base side of the mound, which tilted his body slightly to the right as he was throwing it. Unsurprisingly, his throw went to the right. I would argue that a one hopper to his glove side would have resulted in a double play because, even though he would still have been on the mound, it would have been a more natural turn (counterclockwise for a righty) and throw.
So again I say Lackey could benefit from practicing that particular motion as most pitchers probably could. Plus the throw to second is usually a high payoff play because it almost always is the beginning of a possible double play.
The problem, however, is how to practice. Actually, where, when and how. Let's assume the where and the when can be figured out, but the how is a problem.
Every pitcher's motion is designed to produce a lot of full body torque while at the same time insuring the motion is repeatable. That is so difficult that even the best starters can have bad games. Adding on the additional movements to make a good throw to second, as useful as that might be, could compromise the pitching motion. Better, I think, to hope the pitcher can set himself and made a good throw without practicing. Or maybe let him practice the turn (clockwise) and throw off the bullpen mound without the pitch beforehand.