Judging the Royals

Game one against the Twins: Royals win, Moss heats up and homers twice

Kansas City Royals designated hitter Brandon Moss was congratulated after hitting a solo home run off Minnesota Twins pitcher Phil Hughes in the fourth inning during the first game of a baseball doubleheader on Sunday.
Kansas City Royals designated hitter Brandon Moss was congratulated after hitting a solo home run off Minnesota Twins pitcher Phil Hughes in the fourth inning during the first game of a baseball doubleheader on Sunday. The Associated Press

A while back Brandon Moss was told he was on pace for a 27-home run season; he laughed and said if he kept hitting .150, he might not be around long enough to enjoy them.

Brandon Moss is no longer hitting .150.

Over the past 28 days, Moss has hit .269, over the past 14 days it’s .321 and over the past seven days it’s .500. And after hitting two home runs in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Twins, Moss is now on pace for a 30-home run season.

Moss has told everyone who was willing to listen — and a few people who weren’t — that he was a streaky hitter.

And right now that streaky hitter is hot.

Is it better mechanics or better to hit pitches?

Moss loves to talk hitting and he showed me what he thought had been going wrong with his swing; he was pulling his front shoulder out too soon and, like knocking over the first domino in a row, that had a ripple effect.

His front shoulder pulling out and up, took his head with it. That caused his bat to drop and drag through the zone. That put a loop in his swing. That loop meant he was taking a longer path to the ball and that meant he had a hard time with fastballs at the top of the zone.

(See what I mean by a ripple effect?)

So his swing path meant Moss was having trouble with anything up and on the inner third of the plate, and pulling his head off the ball meant he was having trouble with the anything on the outer third of the plate.

But Moss has been killing anything in the middle third of the plate or down and in. Both of Sunday’s home runs came on pitches in that middle third.

So if pitchers know what Moss hits, why throw a pitch in that zone?

Pitchers make mistakes

Home plate is 17 inches wide and if any part of baseball passes over that plate it’s supposed to be a strike, so let’s be generous and give the pitcher 3 extra inches on the corners.

So if a pitcher is trying to hit the outer third of the plate, he’s aiming at target 6.6 inches wide. Miss that 6.6 inches from 60 feet, 6 inches away and a pitcher might wander into the middle part of the zone and then Brandon Moss is in business.

Hitters often give too much credit to pitchers and vice versa. It’s hard to throw 100 pitches and not make a few mistakes along the way; smart hitters wait for one of those mistakes and when they get one, they don’t miss it.

When Moss scuffles, he’ll get mistakes and miss them; on Sunday Moss got three mistakes — he also hit a single to center field — and didn’t.

Hosmer continues to go the other way and stays hot

In baseball, as in life, you have to give to get.

(Don’t worry, there’s no extra charge for the philosophy.)

So when Eric Hosmer decided to quit trying to pull the ball — so far this season he’s hit .194 when he does — and started waiting for a mistake pitch he could take the other way or up the middle, he got hot.

On Sunday Hosmer had four hits in the doubleheader and all of them — including a home run — were hit to the left side of second base.

That doesn’t mean Hosmer will never pull a ball again, but setting his sights on left-center keeps his shoulder in and, because he waits longer, improves his pitch selection. And a guy who’s looking away can still pull his hands toward his body and handle a pitch in.

But a guy who’s looking in, can’t handle a pitch away; you can’t start your swing looking to pull and then go back and start over to handle a pitch away.

(Damn, maybe we should charge extra for the philosophy.)

Salvador Perez has a better day at the plate and behind it

On Sunday, Salvador Perez hit three home runs and called a better game in a crucial situation.

Just in case you missed it: after Friday’s game I wrote a piece critical of Salvy’s game-calling when he asked for a change-up down with Kennys Vargas at the plate. The change-up from Kelvin Herrera came in high and Vargas hit a two-run homer to tie the game.

The pitch seemed like a bad idea because Vargas struggles with pitches at the top of the zone and Herrera could have lit him up with fastballs.

On Sunday, in the fourth inning with runners at first and third and nobody out, Salvy asked Jake Junis to pitch Vargas up after getting ahead with a get-me-over slider.

Vargas popped up on a high pitch and the Royals turned a double play that helped get them out of the inning.

First movement

When a left-handed pitcher is hard to read, base stealers will sometimes go on first movement and that’s just what it sounds like; after the pitcher reaches the set position, the base runner breaks for second on the first movement the lefty makes.

It’s a calculated gamble; the base runners and their coach — in this case that would be Lorenzo Cain, Whit Merrifield and Rusty Kuntz — look for a count where they don’t think the lefty will attempt a pickoff and go.

But that can backfire if the lefty is a reader.

Some lefties can pick up their front foot, hang there and read what the base runner is doing. If the base runner stays put, the lefty goes home; if the base runner takes off, the lefty throws the ball to first.

On Sunday, both first-movement steal attempts drew pickoff throws. Both base runners kept going — which is the right move — and Cain made it to second, but Merrifield didn’t.

OK, that’s it for Game 1 of the doubleheader, which the Royals won 6-4.

Game 2, did not come out so hot and I’ll have something posted on that later.

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