I can’t walk around the Kansas City Star offices for five minutes without someone asking me to make a prediction about the Royals. As I’ve said before: I don’t make predictions and I never will.
(Let’s just pause here and let that joke marinate for a moment.)
Game 4 of the American League Championship is a perfect example of why I don’t make sports predictions. Johnny Cueto — the guy the Royals brought in to win important games — got blown up in Game 3. Chris Young — the guy the Royals brought in as an insurance policy — did not get the win, but pitched really well in Game 4.
How the hell did that happen?
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I not only can’t tell the future, I have a fairly hard time understanding the past. I sift through the debris of baseball games already played and try to make sense of the results.
Chris Young did what Johnny Cueto could not; he gave the Royals a solid start that allowed Ned Yost to hand the ball to his bullpen with a lead. And Young did it with a fastball in the high 80s.
Ask how big-league hitters swing through an 88-mph fastball and it’s like asking audience members how a magician pulled off a particularly confounding magic trick: they’ve got theories, but they don’t know for sure.
Greg Holland told me he’s played catch with all the Royals pitchers and they all have different fastballs. Wade Davis throws nice and easy and then his fastball explodes on you. Kelvin Herrera throws his like it’s shot out of a cannon.
Chris Young’s fastball?
Well, it just somehow gets on you quicker than you think it will. (I asked Holly what his fastball was like and he said he didn’t know; he’d never played catch with himself — and I think I’ll let that opportunity for a joke just pass on by.)
When people try to explain Chris Young’s success they usually starts with his height; he’s 6’ 10” — the ball is released higher and closer to the batter than it normally would be. But other tall pitchers haven’t had the same success Young has had, so they can’t be the only explanation.
Somehow a fly ball pitcher without much velocity went into a launching pad and had a really nice start against a team that had more home runs than any other team in baseball.
Who would have predicted it?
The first to be wrong
I gotta say I do not get the obsession with being the first one to say something — especially when what you say is wrong.
When the Royals were playing their first game against the Houston Astros — a game they were losing — some genius got on Twitter and predicted the Royals would go 0-3 and get knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. During that same game another person was also throwing in the towel early and said he: “Could not wait for this postseason to be over.”
When the Royals were getting beat in Game 4 against Houston, someone at work told me he “knew” the Royals just didn’t have what it took to go deep in the playoffs.
Why don’t we just wait until these games are over and then offer our opinions? You might not be able to say I told you so, but being the first to be wrong is not exactly a distinction.
The bullpen mounds
Not the first time I’ve written this, but bullpen pitching mounds can be different from the playing field mounds — especially if you’re in the visiting team’s bullpen.
Grounds crews are often recruited to help the home team; they can slant base paths to make bunts roll fair or foul, make the infield fast or slow or makes sure the area around first base is like quicksand.
So if you want to, you can make sure the visiting team’s bullpen mound is flatter or taller or steeper than the playing field mound. If that throws off the opposing pitchers, well, that’s tough.
This comes up again because Johnny Cueto claimed that Toronto’s visiting bullpen mound is different from Toronto’s playing field mound and he had a hard time making the adjustment in his last start.
And Salvy sets his target too high.
At some point you have to make an adjustment and deal with conditions as they exist. The rest of the Royals pitching staff combined has thrown 15 innings in Toronto and given up five earned runs.
I’m assuming they warmed up on the same mound Johnny did.
Want information on today’s game?
On Tuesday afternoon a group of Star employees gathered around to watch the Royals play the Blue Jays. I could have been watching the game at home on my couch, but it’s a lot more fun to watch a game with Royals fans; they live and die with every pitch and after watching hundreds of games in a press box, it’s a good reminder of just how much fun a baseball game can be.
So in the middle of Tuesday’s game I was asked who the Royals starting pitcher was on Wednesday.
These games all blur together and I also had my arm buried up to the elbow in a canister of Velvet Crème popcorn. So much for my excuses; I drew a blank.
That’s when Tracy Farnsworth, strategic manager of advertising, popped off and said, “Volquez.” When asked who the Blue Jays were starting on Wednesday I once again looked confused and Tracy said, “Estrada.” That was strike two and I went down swinging on what time today’s game was starting, but Tracy had the answer: “3 p.m.”
I guess I’ve kinda gotten like Ned Yost and the players; I’m intently focused on what’s happening now and haven’t given much thought about the future. (Or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
So the point of all this is to inform you that if you have any questions about the Royals starting pitchers or what time their games start, you can send those questions to Tracy Farnsworth at email@example.com.
Now let’s see how smart she is.
(And if this doesn’t work out the way I’m hoping, the Star might’ve found a new baseball writer.)