Brian Bannister was knocked out of his start Friday night after allowing five runs to the Oakland Athletics in the fourth inning. What happened? Well, it certainly didn’t help that Bannister threw only 20 of 36 pitches in that inning for strikes. He walked Tommy Everidge and Adam Kennedy, both of whom came around to score. But aside from that, did Bannister’s “numbers behind numbers” fail him?
He allowed seven balls in play in the inning: five ground balls, one line drive, and one fly ball. So in that sense, he got what he wanted–70 percent ground balls. That’s good, right? Did they hit the ball too hard on the ground? Did he just get unlucky? Or was he trumped by, as Dayton Moore puts it, the “other factors” of the defense behind him? Let’s take a look.
Batted ball #1: a sharp ground ball single scoots between second baseman Alberto Callaspo and first baseman Billy Butler into right field. This one was hit pretty solidly.
Batted ball #2: a bouncing ground ball fielded by first baseman Billy Butler at the edge of the grass, toss to Bannister coming over for the out. Well-executed defense, but a typical ground ball out on the infield.
Batted ball #3: a line drive out straight to center fielder Josh Anderson. The ball was hit right on the nose but Bannister got a little lucky with this one.
Batted ball #4: a three-hop ground ball single past the shortstop side of second base and into center field. Why was Betancourt positioned so far into the hole that he couldn’t even come close to this one?
Batted ball #5: a fly ball double off the wall in right field. This was a change-up down but right over the middle of the plate, and Cliff Pennington hit it hard and deep. Blame Bannister for this one.
Batted ball #6: a two-hop ground ball single cut off by second baseman Alberto Callaspo on the shortstop side of second base. Callaspo’s throw was unable to beat a speedy Rajai Davis at first. Once again, Betancourt is playing deep in the hole and can’t seem to range over to get this one, although it looked like he could have made the play on the ball and the throw to first on Davis if he’d called Callaspo off. On both this ball and the Ellis single it looked like Callaspo was running about twice as fast to the ball as Betancourt.
Batted ball #7: a two-hop ground ball single past shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in the hole between short and third and into left field.
Betancourt can’t field balls hit up the middle on the shortstop side of second base, even if the second baseman can reach them. He can’t field balls hit into the hole. I must be missing some of those “other factors” like defensive positioning and what not, although I’m not sure what positioning gives you problems with balls up the middle and in the hole.
I don’t watch as many games as Dayton Moore’s scouts or Willie Bloomquist’s memory, though, so you should draw your own conclusions.