On Tuesday, the Royals played the Brewers and because it was being shown on TV I decided to get home early and watch … turns out, life had other plans for me. But I did get home in time to see Terrance Gore hit a double in the eighth inning.
The ball was hit down the left-field line and forced the Brewers left fielder to go to his right to field it. When an outfielder moves away from the base he has to throw to, base runners will think about taking an extra 90 feet — especially if the base runner is Terrance Gore.
Gore made it to second base so easily he did a pop-up slide and was standing up by the time the tag was applied.
Next, Hunter Dozier singled on a ground ball into left center. This time the Brewers center fielder picked up the ball while moving forward and to his right, but even though there were no outs — a time base runners are supposed to be cautious — Gore scored so easily there was no throw to the plate.
If you play enough baseball, you develop an internal clock. Players know which plays will be close at first, which hits can be turned into extra bases and which balls in the dirt will allow a runner to move up 90 feet. And then once in a while a player is so fast he changes everything.
He turns groundball outs into singles, singles into doubles and scores from second on balls that never leave the infield. He changes the game.
Why power is less consistent than speed
Fred McGriff was once asked how he hit 30 home runs a year so consistently. McGriff said there was a certain pitch in a certain location that he could hit for a home run, and 30 times a year pitchers threw it to him. McGriff was saying that it all depended on the pitch, and if he didn’t get the right to pitch to hit, he couldn’t hit a homer. And trying to homer on the wrong pitch wouldn’t be very productive.
So let’s say you’re a managing a game and have a power hitter on the bench. You can send him to the plate, but if the pitcher doesn’t give that power hitter anything to hit, that power hitter won’t homer. The pitcher can work around the power hitter or walk him intentionally, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Now let’s say you have a fast guy on the bench. If you send him out to steal a base, everyone in the park can know what he’s about to do, but if he’s fast enough and does his job right, no one can stop him.
Power showes up occasionally, speed is there every day.
If Terrance Gore makes the Royals’ roster, he’s a weapon off the bench, but it’s hard to carry a player whose only tool is speed.
Strengths and limitations
During the 2014 postseason Dayton Moore and I were sitting on the Royals bench before a ballgame when Terrance Gore ran off the field and started to enter the dugout. A fan asked Gore for an autograph and Gore said yes. The fan threw Gore a ball and a pen and Gore dropped both of them. Without cracking a grin Moore turned to me and said: “That’s why he doesn’t play defense.”
Moore was joking, but it does get us to Gore’s limitations: can he play defense well enough to be a late-inning defensive replacement, can he hit well enough to be used as a pinch hitter?
Terrance Gore has never had a hit in a big-league game, but with a total of nine regular-season plate appearances, he’s stolen 19 bases and scored 12 runs. And that is game-changing speed.
But Gore has to hit and play defense well enough to allow the Royals to use it.