Judging the Royals

The Royals longest game of the year

Updated: 2013-09-06T02:10:30Z

By LEE JUDGE

The Kansas City Star

Over 400 pitches were thrown, 107 batters came to the plate, 29 position players were used, 14 pitchers went to the mound, there were 30 hits, 22 strikeouts and 13 runs scored. Four hours and 17 minutes after it started, the Royals longest game of the year was over—Mike Moustakas hit the first walk-off home run of his career and the Royals beat the Mariners 7-6 in 13 innings.

A couple pitches before his game winner Moustakas hit another deep drive that went foul. Fans got excited, but if you watch the hitter, he’ll tell you what you want to know. The guy who hit the ball has the best view of it as it travels down the line. If the hitter starts running, the ball has a chance of staying fair. If the guy at the plate just stands and watches—and that’s what Moose did—the ball is going foul. And if you want to know if a fly ball is a home run, watch the outfielder. If the outfielder takes off for the fence, then start to jog, he’s either going to catch it or the ball is gone.

This one was gone; 368 feet’s worth.

The Royals are now 73-67 with 22 games left to play. Friday they play the first of 12 games against the two teams who lead them in the division standings: Detroit and Cleveland. In his post-game press conference Ned Yost said the Royals are now entering a "real interesting stretch" of games. Here’s a Mike Moustakas quote from Bob Dutton’s game story:

"We’re right in this thing," Moustakas said. "There are still games to be played, and there’s still room to be made up. We’re going to grind this thing all the way down to the end. Whatever happens, happens." The Royals beat the Mariners and take the series. The first game against the Tigers starts at 7:10 on Friday.

Game notes

• Coming into this game lefties had hit .327 off starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. They’d also hit 16 home runs in 388 at-bats. That explains why the Mariners stacked their lineup with left-handed hitters. At the start of the game the only guy hitting from the right side was catcher Henry Blanco.

• Guthrie did not have his best stuff and got whacked around for four innings, giving up five runs in the process. He then managed to get through the fifth and the sixth without further damage. Ned Yost thought those innings were the key to the game—Guthrie got the ball to the bullpen while the Royals still had a chance to win. Give up another run and the Royals don’t get to extra innings.

• Ned also thought that was important for Friday’s game: James Shields is throwing and should be able to go deep in the game. The Royals did not have to use Luke Hochevar or Wade Davis in this one. Yost also thought Will Smith would be available, but some of the relievers have now thrown three days in a row and might need a day off.

• Salvador Perez took another ball off the mask, stayed in the game temporarily, but eventually came out off the field in the fifth inning. After the game I heard a caller on the Royals post-game show ask why the team doesn’t insist that Perez wear a hockey-style mask; the caller assumed those masks offer more protection. According to former catcher Jason Kendall they don’t; apparently they have less padding than the old-style mask.

• There were 22 strikeouts total and most of them came after the sixth inning. Give the pitchers credit, but lighting conditions did not help the hitters—they were fighting shadows as the game progressed. I’ve been told pitchers should throw fastballs when the shadows fall between the mound and home plate and I’ve also heard they should throw breaking pitches. A while ago I asked Bruce Chen what pitchers should throw when the lighting conditions make hitting tough and he said the main thing was working quick: get as many outs as you can while the hitters struggle to see the ball.

• Ned Yost was asked about the wild swings this team has taken—good and bad streaks—and Ned said that happens with young teams; they’re still learning how to be consistent. Part of being consistent is having a routine: show up at the same time and do the same stuff to get ready. Guys like Alex Gordon are very regimented in their game preparation; younger guys might be all over the place.

When they talk about "learning how to win", this is part of what they’re talking about.

Situational hitting

Wednesday night Eric Hosmer came to the plate with two outs and the score tied; Mariners 4, Royals 4. Hosmer got a 1-1 slider and drove the ball to the warning track, but right fielder Franklin Gutierrerz made the catch in front of the right-field scoreboard, 387 feet away.

Thursday morning Hosmer said he was loading up and trying to do damage in that situation; almost hitting the ball out of the park in the eighth inning of a tie game was not a fluke. If there were no outs Hosmer would have been trying to get on, if there had been a runner on Eric would have been trying to move him, but with two outs Hosmer was looking to go long; either drive the ball out of the park or put himself in scoring position by plugging a gap and hitting a double.

The trick is waiting for the right pitch. Get into a favorable count—or at least one in which you think you know what’s coming—and get the bat head out in front. Guess wrong and you’ll look foolish, guess right and you’ll be a hero. When Hosmer hit the ball, the crowd went wild; they thought it was out—did he?

Nope.

Eric said you have to hit a ball just right to get it out of Kauffman Stadium. Hit a fly ball, get too much air under it and it won’t carry over the fence. The ball needs to be hit on a rising, line-drive trajectory. The only way to hit a cheap home run at the K is by scraping a foul pole; hit it right down the line. And 330 feet plus ain’t all that cheap.

Different parks, different results

So Eric Hosmer hit a fly ball pretty close to 387 feet and all he got was an F9 in the scorebook. What if he’d hit the same ball in New York? It’s 314 feet down the right-field line in Yankee Stadium; hit a ball 315 feet and you’ve got homer. Guys in New York are pimping home runs that wouldn’t be much more than long fly balls in Kansas City.

Take a quick internet tour and it looks like Hosmer’s fly ball would have probably been a home run in Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota, or Chicago (no matter which field he hit it in). Hosmer’s fly ball would have also left the field had it been hit in Pittsburgh or Houston. The difference in ballparks means you can’t compare numbers straight across the board, which is why some of the metric guys are trying to adjust numbers based on where those numbers are put up. Hosmer and Mike Moustakas (who heard the discussion and chimed in) pointed out that 20 home runs in the High A ball California League isn’t all that good, but if you hit 20 in some of the leagues back east, you’re having a monster year. It’s not just home runs that count; where you hit them also matters.

Different parks, different results.

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