Judging the Royals

The Royals are currently on pace to walk 1,296 batters

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost heads to the mound to pull Nate Karns after he gave up a three-run triple in the seventh inning of on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Twins won 9-1.
Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost heads to the mound to pull Nate Karns after he gave up a three-run triple in the seventh inning of on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Twins won 9-1. AP

In 2016 — a year the Royals did not make the playoffs — their pitching staff walked 517 batters. After two games in 2017, the Royals pitching staff is on pace to walk 1,296 batters.

It’s only two games, but the Royals pitchers need to get control of the strike zone and they need to do it ASAP.

Whatever the strike zone, and once again it was tight at times on Wednesday, the Royals need to throw strikes and make the opposition earn what they get.

And the Royals aren’t hitting either

Mention the Royals’ pitching and someone is sure to point out the Royals’ hitting. If I did the math right, the Royals are 7 for 57 in these first two games. That’s a robust .123 team average.

Walking the world and not hitting is a good way to lose baseball games.

And now that I’ve belabored the obvious…

Why Paulo Orlando – and a lot of other hitters – swing at the first pitch

During Wednesday’s game someone got on Twitter and complained about Paulo Orlando swinging at the first pitch. But over his short career Orlando hits .463 on the first pitch and slugs .639.

Heck, I think Paulo ought to swing at the first pitch more often — and he isn’t alone.

In 2016 the Royals hit .381 on the first pitch and slugged .619. Pitchers are trying to get ahead in the count, so they often groove a first-pitch fastball down the pipe and a hitter that lets that fastball go by will be in a hole. For instance: if Orlando takes the first pitch for a strike, he hits .249 after that.

Royals hitting coach Dale Sveum has turned the Royals hitters loose and nobody whines when a hitter gets a hit on an 0-0 pitch, but they’ll sure complain if they make an out.

If you want to be consistent you can’t complain about games being too long and hitters swinging at the first pitch…pick one or the other.

Why umpires won’t call a strike a strike

Brian Dozier walked in the fourth inning and ball four was actually strike three.

So why wasn’t it called?

Salvador Perez was set up outside and the pitch hit the inside part of the zone. Umpires are reluctant to call that a strike because everyone can see the catcher reach across the plate to catch the ball; it’s a strike, but it doesn’t look like a strike.

On the other hand, if the pitcher hits the mitt, even if the pitch is well outside the zone, the umpire might call it a strike because it looks like one.

It might be crazy, but you see it all the time.

The Royals mess up a simple cutoff and that can’t happen

Bottom of the second inning: single to centerfield, runner scoring from second base, another runner going first to third.

The cutoffs and relays are pretty simple on this play: the pitcher, Ian Kennedy, backs up home plate in case the throw goes there, but Kennedy didn’t hustle and loitered between the mound and home plate.

The first baseman, Eric Hosmer, acts as the cutoff man and positions himself on the outfield side of the mound (you don’t want a throw hitting the mound and ricocheting off in a new direction). Hosmer did his job.

The shortstop, Alcides Escobar, acts as the cutoff man if the throw goes to third base. Once again, Esky did his job.

The second baseman, Raul Mondesi, covers second base to keep a single to a single. But for some reason Mondesi decided to cover first base when there was no play there. The runner at first base, Eddie Rosario, saw that nobody was covering second base and took an extra 90 feet.

The play was not particularly meaningful because the next batter walked, but that kind of fundamental mistake can’t happen — it can cost you a game.

I was in Surprise, Arizona, and I watched the Royals work on this. This is not bad coaching; players need to listen and do the right thing when the pressure’s on.

Clearly, the Royals have some things to clean up before a 12:10 first pitch against the Twins on Thursday.