Judging the Royals

Remember when Eric Hosmer stunk?

Eric Hosmer followed through on a single in Friday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium.
Eric Hosmer followed through on a single in Friday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

On April 24 Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer went 0-4 against the Chicago White Sox and finished the day hitting .192.

Lots of people were ready to give up on him.

On April 25 Hosmer went 1-for4 against the Chicago White Sox, raised his average to .195 and started a hot streak that has seen him hit .422 over the last 17 games.

After going 2 for 2 on Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles – a game the Royals won 4-3 – Hosmer finished the day hitting .299.

When a team or player gets off to a fast or slow start at the beginning of the year the numbers can be dramatic, and that means fans and the media might overreact.

That’s why players and coaches are constantly reminding us that it’s a long season and the numbers will probably even out.

Too bad it’s a lesson we have to relearn every year.

How Kauffman Stadium wears out center fielders

The last time we visited with Lorenzo Cain he was slumped in a chair after a loss; Saturday night he was slumped in a chair after a win.

Cain said he was tired after running around Kauffman Stadium’s spacious outfield for two straight days; people don’t realize how big the field is and how much energy it takes to cover all that territory.

And the K can also wear you out mentally.

You can’t take even one pitch off because you’re going to need a good jump if someone hits a ball into a gap.

Royals outfield coach Rusty Kuntz agrees with Cain; Rusty has said it’s not uncommon for a visiting center fielder to play two days at the K and then ask for a day off.

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones has played two straight days at the K, so if he has Sunday off you might know why. And if Jones plays on Sunday but struggles to run down balls in the gap, once again you’ve got a pretty good idea of why Jones is scuffling.

Kauffman Stadium wears out center fielders.

What happens when an opposing player falls into your dugout?

During Saturday’s game Orioles first baseman Chris Davis chased a pop fly to the top step of the Royals dugout and then fell into the dugout trying to make the catch.

Here’s the baseball rule of thumb in that situation:

If the guy on the edge of the top step is your guy, you rush to the steps, put your hands up and tell him he’s OK; go ahead and try to make the catch and we’ll prevent you from falling.

If the guy on the edge of the top step is their guy, you stand back and watch.

If their guy misses the ball, then you can try to keep him from killing himself, but until then he’s on his own.

Pena homers; what do you throw him in his next at bat?

Nathan Karns was rolling in the third inning when he hung a curve to Orioles catcher Francisco Pena, and Pena homered.

Pena came up again two innings later and Karns and catcher Salvador Perez had a decision to make: after hitting the last one he saw lop-sided, would Pena assume he wouldn’t get another curve?

If that’s the case, a pitcher can get a quick strike on a guy who just homered by throwing that guy the exact same pitch. The hitter assumes he won’t be seeing that pitch again anytime soon and gets caught flat-footed when he does.

But that trick only works on hitters who make adjustments as the game goes along. Throw the same pitch to a guy who isn’t thinking and he’ll probably hit another homer.

When Pena came up for his second at bat, Karns started him with a fastball and the results suggest Pena was looking for it; another homer.

So if Pena was smart enough to look for a different pitch in his second at bat, that changes the way Royals pitchers have to pitch to him.

If you watch the game on Sunday and Pena gets to play, pay attention to what pitches he sees, what he does with them and what he sees in his next at bat.

Nathan Karns and the trouble with strikeouts

Saturday night Karns had an excellent curveball, and that helped him strike out 12 batters in five innings.

After the game Nate talked about the strikeouts, but didn’t ignore the five innings.

Starting pitchers can put up good-looking numbers, but if they leave the game too soon, over-expose their bullpen.

That’s one of the reasons people around the game tend to be less excited about strikeouts than fans: punchouts look nice in a box score and not much bad can happen when an opposing hitter doesn’t put the ball in play, but those strikeouts eat up pitches.

Because Karns only went five innings, Seth Maness had to pitch the sixth and gave up a game-tying home run.

Brandon Moss is now on pace for 27-home run season

If I recall correctly I started this thing by saying fans should not get too worked up about numbers put up early in the season, so don’t get too worked up about this one.

After untying Saturday night’s game with what turned out to be a game-winning homer, Brandon Moss is on pace to hit 27 homers in 2017.

Conditions will change, so it’s unlikely that Moss will hit exactly 27 homers, but it’s worth noting that at least when it comes to the long ball, Moss has been doing what he’s getting paid for.

Sunday’s game starts at 1:15, and the Royals now have a chance to sweep the Baltimore Orioles.

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