Judging the Royals

Lee Judge breaks down the Royals, game by game.

How Bruce Chen pitches inside on right-handed hitters

07/22/2014 11:45 PM

07/23/2014 12:02 AM

In the second inning Bruce Chen threw a pitch in the mid-80s to Gordon Beckham and tied him up. When Bruce comes in on a right-handed hitter, he often does it with a cutter. So it’s not the velocity that messes up the righties, it’s the angle. The pitch just keeps boring in on their hands and they need to get the bat head out early to keep the ball off their knuckles. Get the hitters to start early and then a pitcher can throw off-speed. That can result in a swing and miss or easy pop-up.

The only serious damage done to Bruce was by a lefty, Adam Dunn, and it was on a decent pitch, a ball down and away. Dunn took the pitch the other way and homered to left.

Bruce threw five innings, gave up five hits and that one run.

Chen got the ball to Kelvin Herrera, who threw two scoreless innings — he must have looked as if he were throwing 150 mph after replacing Bruce — and Herrera got the ball to Wade Davis and Greg Holland, who both had scoreless innings of their own.

The Kansas City Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 7-1.

The Royals light up the box score

The offense backed up the pitching with 14 hits including four doubles, two home runs — both by Mike Moustakas — and seven walks. You never know whether it was Kansas City hitting or Chicago pitching that was responsible, but either way Royals fans shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

A bunt can get you a double

Jarrod Dyson led off the game with a double to left. Chicago White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie was playing in on the grass when it happened. When you think about the bunt, factor in hits guys get because they’ve bunted in the past. If you never bunt, they don’t play in.

Alex Gordon adjusts

In his first at-bat, it was clear the Sox were pitching Alex Gordon away, hoping he’d pull the ball and hit an easy rollover grounder. In his second at-bat, Gordon adjusted and hit a changeup the other way, doubling to left. Too many hitters keep swinging at the same pitch and making the same mistake. Gordon adjusted.

Speaking of which …

Billy Butler has hit into a lot of double plays when he pulled off-speed pitches on the ground — and he did it again in the third inning. But in the sixth, he took a cutter the other way and doubled. With the score tied, nobody out and a runner on second, Raul Ibanez stepped to the plate.

Ibanez does his job

With Billy on second base, Ibanez's job was to pull the ball to the right side of the field and move Butler to third. He did better than that. Raul lined the ball to right, got a double of his own and scored Butler. Ibanez is a veteran, and he had a professional at-bat. That’s how you win ball games.

Earlier Ibanez got thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. It was the wrong move — there was nobody out — but you gotta love the hustle.

Why you should watch the on-deck hitter

At one point during the broadcast, while Mike Moustakas was at the plate, you could see Billy Butler on deck behind him. Once in a while, check out the guy on deck. Is he taking swings and timing the pitcher, or is he posing and digging himself while the fans check him out?

Aoki’s outfield positioning

It happened in the third inning. Alexei Ramirez hit a ball to right field, and it looked as if Nori Aoki had a long run forward to pick it up. That’s because Aoki tends to play deep. And it’s debatable whether Aoki has the arm strength to position himself that far away from the infield. Adrian Nieto was on first base at the time but did not go to third. It could be because there were two outs at the time or could be because Nieto is a catcher, but pay attention to Aoki’s deep positioning and whether base-runners are able to take advantage of it.

They’re supposed to be hunting pitches up in the zone

When Dale Sveum came in as hitting coach, he preached hunting a pitch up in the zone, but you still see hitters swing at pitches down in the zone before they have two strikes. That’s what Alcides Escobar did in the fourth inning and popped up to short.

One you’re in a two-strike count, you have to hit the entire zone and a little more, but before that you should be hunting your pitch.

Alexei Ramirez and the stolen base

Chicago’s shortstop took off for second base twice and made it both times. With a left-handed pitcher on the mound, base-stealers will sometimes go on first movement. They’ll take off on the first move the left-handed pitcher makes and hope they guessed right.

In this case, having Billy Butler at first base probably helped Ramirez. Even if Bruce Chen picked him off — and he did, twice — Butler would still have to throw him out at second base. Right-handed first basemen are at a disadvantage. They have to shift their feet and get turned before making a throw. Ramirez might not try that with Eric Hosmer at first base.

On the first stolen base, Butler’s throw was off-line. On the second stolen base, Alcides Escobar made a bad tag.

What Escobar did wrong on the tag

Alcides received Butler’s throw in plenty of time but then reached out for Ramirez’ body. That allowed Alexei to reach around the tag, and replays showed he was safe. If an infielder puts the glove on the bag and then adjust to whatever body part reaches the bag first, the runner can’t reach around the tag.

Wade Davis pitches with six-run lead

Wade Davis pitched on July 19 and before that it was July 13, so the Royals set-up man probably needed some work. The only hit he gave up was a single to Paul Konerko, and you knew it was an off-speed pitch based on where Konerko hit it.

Guys Konerko’s age tend to develop slider-speed bats, so when Konerko pulled the ball down the left-field line, it wasn’t likely to be a fastball — and it wasn’t. Konerko hit an 87-mph knuckle curve, which is still kinda hard for a curve.

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