In St. Louis the Royals’ bats were in a deep freeze; last night in Milwaukee the Royals’ bats were smoking hot. On Monday night against the Brewers the Royals put up 13 hits and eight runs. Everyone in the starting lineup — with exception of pitcher Edinson Volquez — had at least one hit. Alex Rios and Omar Infante had two each.
When a team goes off like that someone is sure to say that hitting is contagious. I guess it’s a theory, but it’s a theory that doesn’t make a lot of sense. It doesn’t seem logical that one hitter sees another hitter get a hit and then thinks: “Hey, it hadn’t occurred to me before, but I’d like to do that!”
When an entire team slumps or an entire team gets hot at the same time, what’s the common factor? If you said the pitchers they face, give yourself a pat on the back.
The St. Louis Cardinals have the lowest team ERA in baseball; the Milwaukee Brewers are 28th in that category. The Cardinals have given up the fewest runs; only two teams have given up more runs than the Brewers. The Cardinals are third in quality starts; the Brewers are 27th. So it’s not too hard to figure out why the Royals were cold in St. Louis but hot in Milwaukee.
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And the same pattern continued over the nine innings of Monday night’s game. Kyle Lohse started the game for the Brewers, threw five innings, gave up five runs and this morning has an ERA of 6.44. Lohse was followed by Neal Cotts, and he threw one inning, got whacked around to the tune of four hits and two more runs, and this morning Cotts’ ERA is 4.61. In six innings with two scuffling pitchers on the mound, the Royals put nine hits, three walks and seven runs on the scoreboard.
But for the final three innings of Monday night’s game, the Royals faced Michael Blazek (1.27 ERA) and former Royal Will Smith (1.59 ERA) and suddenly their bats cooled down. Four hits, no walks and one run over the final three innings.
This ain’t rocket science; when you face good pitching you’re going to look bad at the plate. When you face pitchers who aren’t so good, you’re going to get hot — or at least you better; that’s where you pick up wins and build up your numbers.
So remember: Hitting probably isn’t contagious, but bad pitching definitely is.
Why Holland got hit … maybe
According the website FanGraphs, Greg Holland has been throwing his fastball at an average speed of 93.3 mph this season, down from a career average of 95.6 mph. On Monday night Holland’s fastball was thrown at a low of 92 and a high of 95, so at times he was throwing his fastball harder than his 2015 average velocity.
But to the untrained eye (and I’ve got two of them) Holland’s command was off; he’d throw a couple of good sliders to get ahead and then hang one.
After the game Ned Yost said it was “rust” because Holland hadn’t pitched in six days. So despite getting whacked around Monday night — five batters faced and zero outs — you will probably see Holland more, not less.
Omar Infante, Raul Mondesi Jr. and second base
Omar Infante is currently hitting .210, and despite the fact that he might actually start the All-Star Game (which shows you how badly MLB messed up that thing), the Royals appear to be thinking about who their second baseman of the future might be. So some people are putting 2 and 2 together after the Royals announced minor-league prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. will start playing some second base.
Mondesi has been playing shortstop, and I used to believe that if you had the range, glove and arm to play shortstop, you could handle just about any position on the field — with the exception of catcher.
And then I watched a whole lot of baseball.
Back when Mike Aviles was with the Royals they tried to put him at second base, and Mike had his problems, especially when turning double plays. During a double play, shortstops get to come across second base facing first base and they see the runner coming at them. They know when the runner will arrive and what they’re going to have to do to keep from getting blown up.
Second basemen don’t have that luxury; they’ve generally got their back to the runner and they have to rely on their inner clock to tell them when they should hang in there and try to turn two and when they should bail out to keep from being injured.
And you don’t develop that inner clock overnight.
At times it appeared that Aviles was giving up on double plays that could have been turned, and at the major-league level you can’t give away those outs. So maybe Mondesi is the answer at second base and maybe he isn’t. Time — and his inner clock — will tell.
I just got back from St. Louis, and if you haven’t been there to see a ballgame, I can report that it’s pretty cool to sit in Busch Stadium, look beyond the center-field fence and see a skyline that includes the Gateway Arch.
But then the game ends.
Downtown ballparks seem like a really good idea until you see 45,000 people try to leave downtown St. Louis at the same time. Traffic jams are everywhere and people are driving home a few inches at a time. I like downtown ballparks as much as anyone, but if I were in one of those massive traffic jams, I might have a different point of view. A downtown stadium would have some advantages, but ease of parking and traffic flow are not on that list.
Be happy with what you got, Kansas City.