Judging the Royals

You know things are bad when Chris Getz is ejected

Updated: 2013-05-26T14:36:33Z

By LEE JUDGE

The Kansas City Star

Chris Getz is a very mellow dude. Good news or bad, Getzie keeps a pretty even keel. So when Chris loses it and gets tossed from a ballgame, you know things are pretty bad. The play that made Chris go off happened in the fifth inning: the Angels were up 1-0, there was one down and the Royals had runners at first and third. The one thing Chris couldn’t do was hit into a double-play. A single, a fly ball to the outfield or an infield dribbler and the score would be tied.

Getz had already lined out twice, so even though he had nothing to show for it, he was hitting the ball well. The count moved to 1-2. Before a hitter gets to two strikes he can be selective; he can try to hit a certain pitch in a certain zone—get a ball up in the zone and drive it to the outfield. After two strikes, a hitter has to swing at anything close; he can’t choose where he hits it. Getz pulled a 1-2 changeup to Howie Kendrick at second base and the Angels second baseman started a 4-6-3 double play while Mike Moustakas was trying to score from third. The Angels got the first out at second and then tried for the inning-ending second out at first.

Guess who the first-base umpire was—Marty Foster. That’s the same guy who blew a call Friday night involving Getz and base runner Mike Trout.

Foster called Getz out and Getz disagreed—but didn’t get tossed immediately. In fact Chris was back on the field for the top of the sixth. So what happened between the top of the sixth and the top of the seventh when Elliot Johnson replaced Getz?

These days there are TVs right outside most teams’ dugouts. A guy who thinks he got screwed on a call can go check the replay or some of his teammates might do it for him. So by the bottom of the sixth Chris had a much stronger opinion about the call Foster made and said something from the dugout. (Yes, I know what he said and no, I’m not telling.) Foster ejected Getz.

In the clubhouse afterwards, Chris said it was "all tied together." Bad calls, the team scuffling (the Royals lost their 15th game in their last 19 and fell four under for the first time this year) and—even though he didn’t say this—I’m guessing lining out twice when you’re hitting .208 and fighting for playing time didn’t help. I’d say things couldn’t get worse, but if the umpire rotation stays on track, guess who’s behind home plate tomorrow.

Marty Foster.

Safe or out?

Chris Getz initial impression was that he was safe on the disputed double play. The play ended the inning so there was no immediate replay in the press box and I didn’t see a replay the next half-inning. Then at one point I looked up, saw the tail end of the replay and my initial impression was the same as Getzie’s—safe.

On the way out of the park I asked two of the TV guys what they’d seen and they said it was bang-bang, it could have gone either way, but they thought Getz was out. I watched the replay on the internet, hit pause and got lucky with the timing: it appeared that Getz had his foot on first base when the ball was still in the air, which is probably why Chris decided to give Marty Foster a piece of his mind and Foster decided to give Getz the boot.

Game notes

First inning: Jeremy Guthrie threw a 2-0 fastball to Mike Trout who hit it deep into the left-center gap, where it was caught. Guthrie then threw a 2-1 fastball to Albert Pujols, who hit a line drive to shortstop Alcides Escobar. Hard-hit outs tell you something and I wondered if Guthrie had his good stuff Saturday. In this case, those hard-hit outs tell you not to jump to conclusions: despite an ugly line—seven and a third innings pitched, six earned runs—Guthrie had a no-hitter going until the sixth.

Chris Getz started the bottom of the first with a line shot to the Angels second baseman, Howie Kendrick—more on that in a moment.

Second inning: Mike Moustakas made a difficult throw from foul territory to retire Kendrick, 5-3. The Royals have not played nearly as well defensively as everyone thought they would, but this play and several from Friday night showed how good they can be on defense. The Royals are scuffling offensively and it’s important that players do not take their at-bats on the field with them. Stand there thinking about the weak dribbler you hit to make an out with the bases loaded, and someone is going to eat you alive with a hot shot you didn’t anticipate.

If you saw that Eric Hosmer had a sacrifice bunt in the second inning, relax—he was trying to bunt for a hit. Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo was playing back and slight toward short, Hos spotted that and laid one down. At this point there’s some feeling that guys need to forget about trying to do something big at the plate; just find a way to get on base and keep the line moving. That’s what Hosmer attempted to do.

Third inning: Switch-hitting catcher Hank Conger hit a changeup to the right side and Chris Getz was right there. If a pitcher can hit his spots, Chris can look in, see that a changeup is coming and move to his left as the pitch is delivered—the hitter is likely to pull the ball. If a pitcher can’t hit his spots the infielders can’t adjust with the pitch; nobody knows where it’s going. So a pitcher with bad control actually gets worse defense behind him—like he doesn’t have enough problems.

If you saw that Mike Moustakas was caught stealing in the bottom of the third, here’s the explanation—it was a missed hit and run. You can usually spot them because the runner will look in toward home plate on the way to second base. After the game Ned Yost said he was trying to get something started: a runner in motion opens up holes on the infield because people have to move to cover the base. But to take advantage of those holes you need to swing the bat. George Kottaras didn’t and Mike was thrown out.

Chris Getz ended the third with another sharp line-out to second base. Getz lined out in the first inning on an 87-MPH fastball. When that happens the defense will sometimes put the defender who caught the ball in the exact same place and have the pitcher throw the exact same pitch in order to get the exact same results—Billy Buckner tried; the second fastball was 88. When that happens—lining out to the same spot on the same pitch—the hitter can change things up by moving in the box. Now that 87 or 88-MPH fastball goes someplace other than right at the defender.

Fourth inning: Guthrie walked Mike Trout, he stole second base, the throw bounced into centerfield, Trout got up and went to third and scored on an Albert Pujols groundout. The moral of the story is clear: quit walking Mike Trout.

In the bottom half of the fourth Alcides Escobar singled and Buckner tried to pick him off five times. The crowd booed Buckner, but the call to go over to first base comes from the dugout. The pitcher has no choice—he has to throw over. It didn’t help, Esky advanced to third on a wild pitch and stolen base, but never made it home.

Sixth and seventh innings: Hank Conger homered in the sixth, Josh Hamilton did it in the seventh. Both guys did it to the opposite field. When a single run can hurt you late in a game, pitchers will often stay on the outside part of the plate. They figure if they’re going to get beat, make the other team beat them with three singles the other way. Unfortunately, Conger and Hamilton are strong dudes and could beat Guthrie with home runs the other way.

Eighth inning: Going into the eighth the Royals were down by three and while three runs seems like a lot these days, it still seemed possible. Coming out of the eighth they were down by seven and the only thing that seemed possible was playing the last inning and a half quickly and getting home early—Saturday night’s off in baseball are a rarity.

Final score, Angels 7, Royals 0.

Is competition always a good thing?

It depends.

If you’re not sure of your position on the team or whether you’ll be in the lineup tomorrow, it might make you work harder, eat right and go to bed on time—all good things. But it also might make you press once you get on the field: a walk isn’t good enough; you need to get some hits. A single isn’t good enough; it needs to be a double. If you go first to third maybe you’ll impress the manager. If you miss the cutoff man, but throw a guy out, maybe you’ll be in there the next day.

A guy who knows his manager will stick with him after an 0-fer can relax—but it’s a delicate balance. Relax too much, think it doesn’t matter if you hustle or throw away at-bats and a little competition might do you good.

It just depends on the guy and the situation.

Why Eric Hosmer got picked off Friday night

It always looks bad: there’s a left-handed pitcher on the mound, the runner on first base breaks for second, but the pitcher throws over to first and picks him off. Even though it looks bad, it might not be a bad play on the base runner’s part. Sometimes the base runner is going on "first movement." With some lefties the difference between delivering the ball to home plate and throwing over to first base is very hard to detect. Coaches will study video to find a "key" (something physical that gives away the pitcher’s intentions), but if they can’t find a key, base runners might resort to gambling: they go on the "first movement" the pitcher makes. Most pitchers can’t change direction: if they start home, they’re going home. A few left-handed pitchers are "readers" (they can lift their front foot, hang there, read the runner and decide where to throw the ball), but you don’t see those guys every day and word gets around on which pitchers can read.

Friday night Eric Hosmer got picked off by lefty Jason Vargas, Saturday morning I asked Hosmer if he was going on first movement—he was. Hos gestured to his right (Jarrod Dyson lockers next to him) and said: "He can wait and read the pitch; with my speed I have to gamble a little more." So it wasn’t bad base running that got Eric Hosmer picked off: he placed a bet and lost.

Just how fast is Jarrod Dyson?

Since I brought it up: just how fast is Jarrod? Well, the average major league base stealer takes 3.4 seconds to steal second base. If you’re real fast—say Chris Getz fast—you can do it in 3.2 seconds. So is Dyson faster than that? Is he a 3.1?

According to base running coach Rusty Kuntz, Dyson can do it in 3.0 flat. Rusty told me there are maybe five guys in the league with that kind of speed. Dyson is so fast he doesn’t have to go on first movement or the second one. Jarrod can actually wait for the pitcher to lift his leg and stride toward home, then break.

You can see why the Royals want to have that kind of speed out on the field, not limping around the clubhouse after he went after an uncatchable ball. Jarrod Dyson’s speed changes the game, but he’s got to be healthy to use it.

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