Judging the Royals

Lee Judge breaks down the Royals, game by game.

Alex Gordon puts on a show

04/19/2014 1:06 AM

04/19/2014 1:06 AM

With two outs in the top of the fourth inning Minnesota designated hitter Josmil Pinto hit an 86-MPH fastball off the wall in left-center field. That part of the wall is 387 feet from home plate, so Pinto made the turn at first and headed for second base. After the game Ned Yost was asked if he was surprised Pinto tried to go to second and Ned said no—it was a legitimate double. You hit a ball off the wall in the gap, that’s a sure double.

Unless Alex Gordon is out there.

Even Alex thought Pinto was right to try for two: "You gotta run on that." Do you really want to settle for a

single

off the wall? In Kauffman Stadium?

If you saw the game you know what happened next; Gordon picked the ball up off the warning track and launched a throw to second base—Omar Infante made the tag, Pinto was out and Gordon had his 57th outfield assist. Two innings later Gordon made a catch off Joe Mauer that required him to bang into the left field wall—again. In Houston Alex made a diving catch in the 11th inning to save a ballgame. The next day Alex made another tumbling catch and came up throwing and made the play at the plate closer than anyone thought possible.

If he keeps this up Alex Gordon is going to have to clear space on his mantel for another Gold Glove; because Alex Gordon has been putting on a show.

Royals beat the Twins, 5-0.

Game notes

*Jason Vargas was pretty good as well: seven innings pitched, seven hits, one walk and no runs allowed. Aaron Crow and Louis Coleman threw a scoreless inning each.

*In the third inning Alcides Escobar doubled and then advanced to third base on Nori Aoki’s infield single. Aoki’s ball was hit to third baseman Trevor Plouffe and normally you can’t advance from second to third on a ball hit in front of you—

unless

the ball is hit so sharply or so softly that the third baseman is pulled away from the bag. Plouffe had to back up to field the ball and Esky scooted into the unoccupied base. That paid off almost immediately when Omar Infante hit another infield single, allowing Escobar to score. The heads up advance to third made it possible.

*Eric Hosmer followed the two infield singles with a sharp single to right, scoring Aoki from second base, but then Hosmer was caught in-between bases when Joe Mauer cut the throw that was headed for home plate. Later Hosmer said he saw the throw was coming in high and that usually means it can’t be cut off—you can advance safely. The only problem with that plan was Joe Mauer—he’s 6’ 5" and was set up closer to home plate than Hosmer realized. When you’re Mauer’s size, that high throw ain’t so high.

*In the fifth inning Salvador Perez hit a ball to the warning track to end the inning, but in Houston’s Minute Maid Park that same ball would have probably been a three-run homer. Same goes for the ball Jason Kubel hit in the seventh; hit that in Minute Maid and the Twins might have scored three.

*Back to Joe Mauer: the Twins first baseman came into the game with a .429 lifetime average against Jason Vargas. One of the theories behind pitching to good hitters is to accept that good hitters get their hits. Make sure you get the guys hitting in front of and behind the good hitter so you minimize the good hitter’s damage. If you don’t want Joe Mauer to beat you, get Brian Dozier and Chris Colabello.

*Earlier in the day hitting coach Pedro Grifol talked about his hitters and said these guys are so talented that it might take just one at-bat to turn things around—something clicks and they’re back on track. In the sixth inning Billy Butler lined a single to right and the next hitter, Mike Moustakas hit a 3-2 pitch over the right field wall. Let’s hope something clicked.

Did the Twins steal signs or just get lucky?

The last time Kansas City played Minneapolis the Twins stole three bases, all on off-speed pitches. At the time I wondered if something was up; were the Twins stealing signs or did they just get lucky?

Maybe it was neither.

There was never a runner on second base when it happened, so if the Twins knew what was coming, it would probably require the runner on first base to peek in to see Salvador Perez give signs. If a runner is going to peek in to home plate he has to time it;

he looks for the catcher’s signs at the same time the pitcher

looks for the catcher’s signs. If the runner peeks in while the pitcher is still looking over at first base, that runner has a good chance of getting picked off. And you better know if the pitcher holds the ball in his hand or his glove. Guys who hold the ball in their hand have a quicker pick off—they don’t have to transfer the ball from glove to hand.

But maybe no one was peeking in—maybe the Twins just did their homework.

Pitchers develop patterns and base runners can pick a count in which the pitcher is more likely to throw an off-speed pitch. Guys who want to steal can also look at pitch delivery times; some pitchers are slower to the plate in certain counts. Some guys are slow in a 3-0 count because they want to make sure they throw a strike, some guys are slow on the first pitch of an at-bat because they want to get ahead in the count.

So maybe the Twins didn’t steal signs

or

get lucky—maybe it was just good baseball.

Throwback

"Throwback: A Big League Catcher Tells How the Game Is Really Played" is an inside look at our national pastime, co-authored by Jason Kendall and Lee Judge. The book will be in stores on May 13th, but can be pre-ordered right now.

http://us.macmillan.com/throwback/JasonKendall

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