Judging the Royals

The Royals starting pitchers and the problem with strikeouts

Lee Judges writes staying fresh, not hunting strikeouts, is key for Royals’ starters.
Lee Judges writes staying fresh, not hunting strikeouts, is key for Royals’ starters. jsleezer@kcstar.com

On Friday night Danny Duffy pitched seven innings against the Angels and the Royals won. The Royals have now won four games and in three of those four wins the starting pitcher has gone at least seven innings.

The Royals have also lost six games and in all six losses the Royals starting pitcher went six innings or less.

It’s pretty simple: the Royals starting pitching has been terrific (a league-best ERA of 2.70), but the bullpen hasn’t (a second-to-last ERA of 7.28).

In 2015 the bullpen was deeper so it wasn’t as important, but at least at this point the Royals have had a better chance of winning if their starting pitcher can throw at least seven innings and their bullpen only has to throw two. Throw six innings or less and the starter exposes a scuffling bullpen.

So keep an eye on pitch count (the starter will throw about 100 pitches) and if the starter has too many long at-bats (and that includes strikeouts) the Royals chances of winning goes down.

Fantasy vs, reality: don’t confuse the two

Let’s say you’re in a fantasy league that keeps track of a pitcher’s strikeouts. A pitcher with a high strikeout total might help you win in fantasy baseball but might help you lose in reality.

A pitcher who strikes out a lot of batters is going to run his pitch count up, leave the game early and expose his bullpen.

This is one reason why people who play baseball for a living are less impressed with strikeouts than people who play fantasy baseball for fun. A key strikeout at the right time can still help you win games, but running up meaningless strikeout totals and exposing an iffy bullpen can help you lose them.

Why grabbing an early lead is important

Going into the third innings of Friday night’s game the Royals were up 3-1.

Mike Moustakas walked and then Lorenzo Cain doubled, so when Eric Hosmer came to the plate his job was to get Moustakas in from third and move Cain from second to third base.

Hosmer accomplished both tasks with a simple 4-3 grounder.

Because the Royals had the lead they could play for one run and playing for one run turned into two runs when Salvador Perez hit a sac fly to bring Cain home.

But if the Royals had been down 3-1 Hosmer would have been more likely to try for extra bases and drive in both runs on his own.

And that’s been at least one of the Royals problems.

When guys try to hit home runs they swing earlier so they can pull the ball, and swinging earlier means their pitch selection gets worse: they’re more likely to get fooled by a pitch’s movement.

And when guys try to hit home runs their swings get big and it’s more likely their head will move. That’s why the Royals are sometimes getting pitches to hit, but missing them or fouling them off.

Fall behind and guys are more likely to swing for the fences; get ahead and guys are more likely to play small ball and keep the line moving.

Mondesi shows why he’s here

If you didn’t see Raul Mondesi rob Yunel Escobar with a diving catch in the eighth inning, you missed one of the reasons Mondesi is here.

I tell people you shouldn’t come to this website to hear my thoughts on baseball; who cares what I think?

You should come to this website because I talk to the people who play big-league baseball and then I’ll tell you what they think.

And they think robbing a hit is just as good as getting one; saving a run is just as good as driving one in. So when Raul Mondesi goes way out in center field and makes a diving catch, they don’t worry so much that he went hitless.

Even when he doesn’t hit Raul Mondesi can help the Royals win.