Judging the Royals

Lee Judge: How Nathan Karns’ Saturday night outing affects Sunday’s game

Kansas City Royals pitcher Nathan Karns throws against the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday, April 15, 2017.
Kansas City Royals pitcher Nathan Karns throws against the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday, April 15, 2017. TNS

So far in 2017 when a Royals starting pitcher throws seven innings they win; when the starting pitcher throws less than six innings they lose.

Saturday night Royals starting pitcher Nate Karns threw six innings on the nose and the Royals won, but it was a nail-biter.

If a starting pitcher throws seven innings and has a lead, it means Ned Yost can hand the ball to Joakim Soria (who has been very good so far) and Kelvin Herrera.

But if the starting pitcher throws less than six innings it means Ned Yost has to figure out a way to get through those middle innings, and so far that’s been a wild ride.

Ned pulled Karns after six innings and 85 pitches, which was a surprise. Karns had the bottom of the Angels order coming up – Cameron Maybin, Danny Espinosa and Martín Maldonado – so I figured Karns would come back out for the seventh, pitch to those guys and get pulled if he didn’t have a 1-2-3 inning.

That would avoid a fourth trip through the Angels order.

On the other hand – and there’s always another hand – Karns had not thrown more than 86 pitches in an outing and I have no idea how he was feeling after throwing 85 in this one.

In any case, Ned made the switch to start the seventh and reliever Mike Minor had problems; with one down and two on, Joakim Soria was asked to put out the fire, but he gave up a game-tying single.

Soria then had to endure an up-down – pitching, then sitting, then pitching again – but he kept the game tied in the eighth. After Mike Moustakas untied it with his fifth home run of the season, Kelvin Herrera got his second save of the season.

The Royals won 3-2.

After Saturday night, Soria might not be available on Sunday afternoon

If a reliever throws more than one inning he might need the next day off. The Royals will probably have Soria play some catch this morning and then report back on how he feels.

So if Soria isn’t available today and the Royals lose because they are short one reliever, think back on Saturday night; if someone else had been able to handle the seventh, Soria would be available on Sunday.

But don’t assume the worst; the Royals know stuff you and I don’t

I’ve been covering the Royals for more than seven years now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that eating press box food will make you fat.

If there’s two things I’ve learned it’s that there’s almost always something you don’t know behind the decisions you see made on the field.

So this morning I’ll go around and see if I can figure out why Nathan Karns was pulled after six innings and 85 pitches and if it’s a story I can repeat, I’ll repeat it here.

Keep an eye on Yunel Escobar

The Angels’ Yunel Escobar has been doing a lot of griping at home plate and I shouldn’t be able to tell that from the press box.

Hitters can complain about a call, but they’re supposed to keep their heads down or look out at the mound while they do it. Turning and looking at the umpire while you gripe is a breach of baseball etiquette because it lets everyone in the stands know the hitter thinks the umpire is doing a lousy job.

But that hasn’t stopped Escobar from making his displeasure clear.

So if you’re watching Sunday’s game, keep an eye on Escobar and don’t be surprised if the close calls don’t go his way; the umpires may be fed up with his antics.

Why the defensive metrics on Eric Hosmer are wrong

In the fifth inning Martin Maldonado hit a ground ball to Mike Moustakas and Moose – throwing on the run – bounced the throw to first base. But Eric Hosmer scooped the throw and managed to stay on the bag long enough to get the out.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:

The number one thing any first baseman does is handle bad throws from his teammates. And Hosmer’s teammates have been instructed to just get the ball in his vicinity and keep it low; if you throw the ball over Hosmer’s head he can’t help you, but if you bounce the throw he’ll scoop it or at least knock it down.

Ultimate Zone Rating – one of the metrics people quote to prove Hosmer is a below average defender – does not include scoops. So the most important thing a first baseman does is not included in the metric that is being used to measure a first baseman.

Heck, all you have to do is watch Hosmer for a while and you know the metrics are inaccurate.

Kennedy needs to go at least six innings; seven would be better

The season is still young, but as I said at the beginning, the Royals are 0-4 when they’re starting pitcher works less than six innings and that’s no surprise; If the starter goes less than six innings the bullpen gets overexposed.

If I counted right, in 2016 when Ian Kennedy pitched less than six innings he was 2-7 with four no-decisions.

But to keep his pitch count low and go deep in a game, a pitcher has to avoid the temptation of trying to strike everybody out; he’ll use too many pitches trying to throw perfect ones.

Just keep the ball low, pitch to contact and let the Royals defense – which is pretty damn good – makes plays behind you.