Judging the Royals

The first-ever Rusty Kuntz Baseball Quiz

Kansas City Royals first-base coach Rusty Kuntz.
Kansas City Royals first-base coach Rusty Kuntz. jsleezer@kcstar.com

There are people who like to talk but don’t have much to say, and people who have a lot to say but don’t like to talk. So when you find someone who has a lot to say who also likes to talk, you probably just met Kansas City Royals coach Rusty Kuntz.

Rusty knows a lot of baseball and keeps threatening to ride off into the sunset with all that knowledge, but according to Dayton Moore and Ned Yost, Rusty will be back in 2017.

Any time I see Rusty, I go over and bug him with questions, but I won’t get the chance to do that again until spring training. So until then, you’ll have to content yourself with the first-ever Rusty Kuntz Baseball Quiz. Rusty likes to teach by asking questions so you can test your baseball knowledge by seeing if you know the answers to the following questions.

I know I didn’t.

Q. Why do some extra-inning games go so long?

A. Everybody’s trying to pull the ball, hit a home run and end the game with one swing. Smart pitchers throw to the outside part of the plate; the hitters rollover and hit weak grounders to the pull side of the field. Games can last until a couple hitters decide to go to the opposite field or a pitcher makes a mistake on the inside part of the plate.

Q. Why should you avoid pitching inside with the bases loaded?

A. Hit the batter and it’s a run.

Q. When a team wants to avoid having a runner in scoring position they’ll sometimes play a “no-doubles” defense; the outfielders back up to keep the ball in front of them. Why should you avoid a “no-doubles” defense with a base stealer at the plate?

A. If the guy at the plate is a base stealer, letting a single drop in front of an outfielder will turn into a double after he steals second base. Make the base stealer beat you with a ball over your head.

Q. In a safety squeeze, how does the runner on third base know when to break for home?

A. In a suicide squeeze, the runner breaks for home when the pitcher’s front foot comes down; in the safety squeeze the runner waits to see if the batter got the bunt down and then breaks. But the runner doesn’t break until he sees the pitcher’s uniform numbers. That means the bunt is down on the right side of the infield, away from the third-base line.

Q. Why do base runners on first base sometimes start to go and then stop?

A. Runners on first base will sometimes use a “right-knee break” and fake a steal so the coaches can see which middle infielder moves to cover second base. That can be useful on a hit and run or, if there’s also a runner on third base and neither infielder breaks for second, it might reveal that the defense doesn’t plan to throw the ball through to second base. If that’s the case the base is there for the taking — unless the defense decides to switch things up after the fake break.

Q. Why do base runners slide head-first sometimes and feet-first at other times?

A. It depends on the infielder. Some infielders like to “drop a knee” in the base path, blocking the runner off the base. If an infielder has a reputation for doing that, a runner can respond by coming in feet-first, spikes-high. Spike the infielder in the thigh and he’ll quit dropping knees on you.

Q. Which part of Kauffman Stadium allows the ball to carry farthest?

A. Center field. The scoreboard knocks the wind down and fly balls hit to straight-away center will carry farther than fly balls hit to left or right.

Q. How can you spot an outfielder who has lost focus?

A. His stance will widen, his hands will be on his knees and he won’t move his feet on foul balls; he’ll just turn his head and watch. When an outfielder loses focus, a coach needs to move him just to get him back in the game.

Q. How can you tell which outfielders aren’t athletic?

A. They’ll play deep. Athletic guys don’t mind going back on the ball, guys with less skill want to come forward. The non-athletic outfielder will back up and let balls drop in front of him; he’s killing his pitcher, but it doesn’t look like his fault. The outfielder who plays deep will also have a hard time throwing base runners out. Look for the bare spots in the outfield and guys who play behind those bare spots.

OK, how did you do?

If you knew the answers to these questions; congratulations you might be qualified to be a big-league coach. If you didn’t know the answers you might have to work in the press box.

Look on the bright side; we have a soft-serve ice cream machine.