Judging the Royals

Why the Royals aren’t hitting with runners in scoring position

Kansas City Royals left fielder Brandon Moss chased after an RBI single by Oakland’s Yonder Alonso during Wednesday’s game.
Kansas City Royals left fielder Brandon Moss chased after an RBI single by Oakland’s Yonder Alonso during Wednesday’s game. jsleezer@kcstar.com

According to the website FanGraphs, Oakland A’s pitcher Andrew Triggs has four pitches: fastball, slider, curve and change-up. And according to that same website, Triggs throws his slider about 20 percent of the time.

But with runners in scoring position, things change.

On Wednesday night against the Kansas City Royals when Triggs had a runner in scoring position he threw his slider 50 percent of the time.

So if a slider is a good pitch to throw with a runner in scoring position, why doesn’t Triggs — and every other pitcher — throw more sliders when there isn’t a runner in scoring position?

Because sliders are also hard on the elbow.

Pitchers tend to save their nastiest breaking pitches until they need them most and that’s with runners in scoring position.

That doesn’t excuse the Royals’ poor batting average in those situations; other pitchers are doing the same thing against other teams. But if you ever wondered why a rally starts and then stops, there’s a good chance the pitcher changed the way he pitched once he had runners on second or third base.

Some players have to work things out in the minors; other players in the majors

When Eric Hosmer was scuffling early in his career, fans wanted him sent back to the minor leagues. At the time Dayton Moore said the Royals already knew what Hosmer could do at the minor league level; in 2011 Hosmer hit .439 in Omaha.

Hosmer had to learn how to hit big-league pitching and the only place he could do that was in the big leagues.

Matt Strahm is struggling with his mechanics and his confidence and he can work on that in the minors without costing the Royals games.

The game at the big-league level is faster, and Raul Mondesi has to learn to play a faster game and the only place he can do that is in the big leagues.

If Wednesday night’s game is any indication, Mondesi is starting to catch up to the speed of a big-league game. He had two hard-hit balls for outs, a walk and a home run estimated at 436 feet.

And Mondesi has also robbed the A’s of some hits.

Preventing a run is just as good as scoring one

Fans tend to focus on offense because the numbers are easier to understand and more compelling. Fans tend to ignore defense because the numbers aren’t as accurate and some things aren’t even measured.

Baseball players don’t care if you score runs or prevent runs; both help you win games.

So one of the reasons Mondesi is allowed to learn the game at the big-league level is he’s helping the Royals with his glove, even when his bat is cold.

Brandon Moss in left field

Baseball players have a saying: “The ball will find you.”

Try to hide a guy on defense and it never seems to fail; ball after ball will be hit in his direction — and that was the case on Wednesday night.

The Royals put Gold Glove outfielder Alex Gordon in right field and Brandon Moss in left, so guess who got the most action?

After the game, Ned Yost was asked about the play of his corner outfielders and he said they were both fine, but it looked like Moss was playing deeper in left than Gordon usually does and that prevented Moss from getting to some balls that Gordon usually gets to.

Really good outfielders can play shallow because they’re good at going back on the ball; other outfielders want to play deep so they can make plays running forward.

Comparing Moss to Gordon is a little unfair; Gordon is one of the best in the business and everybody else is going to look like a step down.

Is it time to panic yet?

Ask around — and I did — and you might hear a club needs to play 40 games before you have an idea of how good or bad they are.

So starting a season 2-6 isn’t a death sentence, but you’re going to have to play some pretty good ball to make up for your poor start and so far the Royals aren’t doing that.

The Oakland A’s go for the series sweep Thursday night at 7:15.

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