Judging the Royals

Lee Judge breaks down the Royals, game by game.

Why James Shields missed his own milestone

05/14/2014 1:16 AM

05/14/2014 2:45 PM

Baseball is not played one game at a time, one inning at a time or even one out at a time. When it’s played correctly, it’s played one pitch

at time. Start thinking ahead and you’ll screw up what you’re doing at the moment.

Same goes for thinking about the past.

If you’re standing in the outfield thinking about the strikeout you had in your last at-bat, you might miss the fact that the guy at the plate just went into his

own

two-strike count and when that happens you need to play him to go the other way. Think too much about the last inning and you make a mistake in the inning you’re currently playing.

Staying in the moment, playing the game one pitch at a time; that’s how James Shields missed his own milestone.

Shields knew he was very close to his 1,500th strikeout and he had a good chance of getting it Tuesday night against the Rockies. But when the moment came, he missed it; he was locked in on making the next pitch. He didn’t know why Salvador Perez wanted the baseball, he didn’t know why the crowd was cheering.

When you have to play a 162 game season, you don’t look too far ahead. If you have to walk across the Sahara, you better not think about how far you have to go—it’ll seem impossible—just concentrate on the next step. Concentrate on the next pitch, then the next one, then the next one. Concentrate on nothing but the next pitch for nine years and you might wind up with 1,500 strikeouts.

But you also might miss it when it happens.

Royals beat the Rockies, 5-1.

Game notes

First inning:

Most of Nori Aoki’s hits go to the opposite field and he did it again in the bottom of the first. Eric Hosmer hit a rocket at Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau and Aoki advanced to second while Morneau got the out at first. With first base open, starting pitcher Franklin Morales walked Billy Butler, then had a couple of mound meetings with his catcher.

Whatever they talked about, it worked, because Salvador Perez ended the inning by hitting into a 5-4-3 double play on a fastball down and in. The count was 3-1—a hitter’s count—and the fastball down and in is a pitcher’s pitch in a double play situation: righties often roll over that pitch and hit it to third and that’s what Sal did.

Dayton Moore has talked about hitters trying to do too much in RBI situations—chasing marginal pitches—and that appeared to be what happened here.

Second inning: Carlos Gonzalez had the at-bat from hell, a 14-pitch battle that ended up with him hitting a single into centerfield. Of course, from his

point of view that’s a hell of an at-bat because Carlos made James Shields throw all those pitches and Shields didn’t even get an out.

When pitchers have a really long inning, pay attention to what the hitters on his team do next: they should take a strike and allow him to rest. The first three hitters that came to the plate—Alex Gordon, Danny Valencia and Johnny Giavotella—took a called strike, but Lorenzo Cain hacked at the first pitch he saw. Two innings later Cain hit a two-run bomb, so maybe that makes up for hacking away in the second.

With two outs and two strikes, Giavotella got the rally started by lining a hung slider into left field, Cain walked and Alcides Escobar singled to drive in Gio. Third base coach Dale Sveum sent Giavotella and it looked like it would be a close play at the plate right up until the left fielder, Gonzalez, stumbled. However it turned out, sending Giavotella was the right call; otherwise the Royals would have needed another two-out hit to score the run. And they wouldn’t have got it—Nori Aoki flew out to center field.

Fifth inning:

Salvador Perez hit a home run on an 0-2 pitch and it was a mistake in at least two ways: first, it was a curve that ended up about thigh high and, second, it was thrown 0-2. On many teams pitchers get fined for giving up 0-2 hits; the pitcher is in charge of the at-bat and gives it away by throwing a hittable pitch when he had other options.

Next, Alex Gordon walked and then stole second base. Franklin Morales used a high leg kick—that means it takes longer to get the ball to home plate—but Gordon may have also been going on first movement. When left-handed pitchers are hard to read, base runners will sometimes roll the dice and break on the first move the lefty makes. Guess right and you steal a base, guess wrong and you get picked off.

Eighth inning:

With runners at first and third and one down, Alcides Escobar made the same mistake we saw several times over the weekend: in a double play situation a Royals hitter chased a pitcher’s pitch down in the zone. The pitch is down there because the other team wants you to hit it on the ground. It’s one thing to swing at that ball when you have to, but Esky did it on the first pitch he saw. The Royals shortstop got lucky; the Rockies did not turn a double play on a double play ball, so a run scored.

Then Escobar got picked off first.

Ninth inning:

That eighth inning run meant it was no longer a save situation, so Aaron Crow pitched the ninth instead of Greg Holland. Mike Moustakas replaced Danny Valencia at third and Pedro Ciriaco replaced Johnny Giavotella at second; with all the offense they needed, the Royals went with defense in the bottom of the ninth.

Even if a team loses, they can still accomplish something if they force the other team to use their closer to get the win. The Rockies didn’t manage that, but Troy Tulowitzki’s walk had Holland up and throwing.

Jason Kendall on Keith Olbermann’s show

Wednesday night Jason Kendall will be on ESPN2 with Keith Olbermann, talking about his new book, "Throwback". The show’s on at 10:00 PM Central Standard Time.

Throwback: an excerpt

"Throwback" the new book I co-authored with Jason Kendall is now in stores. Here’s a sample from the section on catchers and umpires and how that relationship works:

Testing the rookies

Here’s another situation a catcher can use to his advantage: umpires like to test the young guys. If you’re a rookie and you get rung up on a ball a foot outside, you shut up and get your ass back in the dugout. If you say anything, the umpire’s going to come right back at you: "What did you say?"

All rookies get tested; they need to pay their dues and earn their stripes. If a borderline call does not go a rookie’s way, everybody watches to see how the rookie reacts: does he keep their mouth shut or act like a jackass? If a rookie shoots his mouth off, it gets around the league real quick—this dude’s act is tired, he thinks he’s bigger than the game—and everybody will be a little harder on him.

Catchers can use that: if you know the umpires don’t like this kid, a catcher can make it worse. Set up off the plate and see if you get the call. If the kid says anything or shoots the umpire a dirty look, ask the umpire if he’s going to let the kid get away with that: "Bob, did you see what he just did? You gonna let him do that to you?" I’d egg the umpire on. I’d even do it if a rookie asked where a pitch was: "Bob, he’s got 30 days in the big leagues—you think he’s got enough time in to ask you where that pitch is?"

After that, we’ll go off the plate even more. Trust me: Albert Pujols gets a different strike zone than Bryce Harper.

How to win Jason Kendall’s catcher’s mask

Here’s the deal: click on the link below and it takes you to a landing page for the new book "Throwback." St. Martin’s Press is encouraging readers to help spread the word about the book and if you do, we send you a signed bookplate—an autographed sticker that goes into your copy of the book. You also get a chance to win an autographed Jason Kendall catcher’s mask.

http://us.macmillan.com/static/smp/throwback/

(If the link doesn’t work—our system has somehow been adding "/_blank" to it—just copy and paste the link or delete the "/_blank" if you get to an error page.)

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