Judging the Royals

May 7, 2014

Jeremy Guthrie’s winning formula

The last time Jeremy Guthrie threw a pitch for the Royals it wound up in the third deck of Kauffman Stadium. Tuesday night the results were quite a bit better.

Judging the Royals

Lee Judge breaks down the Royals, game by game.

The last time Jeremy Guthrie threw a pitch for the Royals it wound up in the third deck of Kauffman Stadium. Tuesday night the results were quite a bit better.

In his last start Guthrie pitched against the Toronto Blue Jays and was frustrated with his outing: six innings pitched, eight hits, four earned runs and a loss. That’s why Guthrie chucked a baseball into the upper deck as he left the field. In this start Guthrie threw eight innings, gave up four hits and only one earned run.

Guthrie didn’t get the win, but he made the Royals win possible.

When asked what made Guthrie so good, Ned Yost said Guthrie: "Threw strikes, changed speeds and kept the ball down." A very short description of a very old formula that will make just about any pitcher successful.

After Guthrie left the game, Wade Davis came in and was lights out. Davis struck out the side in the ninth and all three strikeouts were looking. Strikeouts looking usually mean nasty stuff, because hitters—who should be very aggressive with two strikes—are locking up on strike three.

Wade threw two innings and that got the ball to Greg Holland. Hollie got the save—some bad base running by the Padres helped—and the Royals got the win, beating the Padres 3-1.

Game notes

*The TV guys said that coming into Tuesday night’s game against the Padres, Salvador Perez had only thrown out 22% of runners who had attempted to steal on him. Most of the time you can probably blame the pitchers; if they get the ball to him in 1.3 seconds or less, Perez is going to throw out more than 22% of the runners trying to steal base.

Just ask Will Venables; Perez threw him out twice. And one of those caught stealings was in the bottom of the 11th with one out and his team down by two. Risking one of the two outs your team has left in order to move a meaningless run into scoring position is not good baseball.

*In the fourth inning Danny Valencia almost made the last out of the inning at third base; another baseball faux pas—although I’m pretty sure it’s never been called that before. Anyway, Valencia got a late stop sign and had to scramble back in order to avoid making the last out at third.

You don’t want to do that because you’re already in scoring position and will probably score on any kind of base hit anyway. Monday night Alcides Escobar


make the last out at third so Will Venables isn’t the only guy who screwed up on the base paths in this series.

*On the plus side of his base-running, Escobar singled in the ninth, then stole second and third base. Alcides tried to score on foul pop caught by the first baseman down the right field line. Esky was called out, but replays showed he may have been safe—but the replays were not conclusive. Had Escobar stayed at third the Royals would need a two-out hit with a runner in scoring position, so pushing it on the base paths makes some sense. When you’re not hitting, be more aggressive on the bases—you won’t get enough hits to make station-to-station base running pay off.

*Jeremy Guthrie tried to make a play at first base and threw the ball away—the tenth error by a Royals pitcher this season. This is why position players try to run pitchers off plays whenever possible; it’s one thing to make a play during PFPs in the afternoon, it’s another thing to make the same play with the crowd going nuts and your hair on fire.

*The Royals scored their first run in the sixth inning when Robbie Erlin tried to throw a slider in on Salvador Perez. Erlin is left handed so if he’s going to get the slider in on a righty, he’s really got to get it in. Miss out over the plate and the slider’s speed will allow a right-handed hitter to pull the ball into the short part of the park. You see the same thing happen when Bruce Chen goes in on righties with his cutter—miss and Bruce might pay with a long ball.

*To start the seventh inning Erlin hit Lorenzo Cain—the 8-hole hitter—with a pitch. Letting the 8-hole hitter get on with nobody out sets up an inning for the opposition; the pitcher can then be used to bunt him over. That allows a guy who probably can’t hit to have a productive at-bat.

In the National League, pay attention to what happens to the 8-hole hitter. Early in the game—before pinch hitters get involved—the pitcher may work around the 8-hole guy or intentionally walk him to get to the other pitcher. On the other hand, if the pitcher can get the 8-hole guy out, he’s got another pretty sure out to lead off the next inning. And with a runner in scoring position, the 8-hole hitter might need to expand his zone. He might be a better hitter on a bad pitch than the pitcher is on a good one.

*Guthrie did it right; he squared to bunt early and that kept his head still. Square late and the head is still moving when the ball arrives.

The extra run in the eleventh

In the 12th inning Eric Hosmer doubled and, with one out, Alex Gordon singled. Gordon hit the ball on the ground and that meant Hosmer could take off right away—Eric didn’t have to wait to see the ball fall safely. Padres right fielder Chris Denorfia charged the ball and threw home to try to stop the winning run from scoring. That’s when Padres first baseman Kyle Banks may have cost his team another run. On a throw home from right field the first baseman’s job is to go to the middle of the infield and act as the cutoff man.

In this case the key word is


If the first baseman is going to let the throw go home he has to

act like he’s going to cut the ball off—that might freeze the runner on first. Banks did not fake a cut and that meant Gordon could take off for second base. Gordon’s heads-up base running turned into a run when pinch hitter Billy Butler doubled off the right field wall. If Banks froze Gordon at first base maybe Gordon scores anyway; but not faking a cut made sure of it.

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