Judging the Royals

Is an out ever better than a hit? It depends

Kansas City Royals designated hitter Brandon Moss was congratulated by Whit Merrifield after hitting a solo home run last month.
Kansas City Royals designated hitter Brandon Moss was congratulated by Whit Merrifield after hitting a solo home run last month. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Few things in life are certain except death, taxes and getting a hit is better than making an out.

I can’t help you with the first two, but let’s talk about hits and outs.

Let’s say you’re a middle-of-the-order hitter who doesn’t run well. You come to the plate for your first at-bat with two out, nobody on. You decide to ambush a first-pitch fastball and hit a single.

This looks good in the scorebook, but might not do much to help your team win.

Since you don’t run well, you aren’t stealing second base and it might take two more — even three more — two-out hits to move you all the way around the bases to score a run and the odds of that happening aren’t good.

Now move on to your next at-bat, but this time the game is tied and there are runners in scoring position.

This time you’re not getting a first-pitch fastball down the pipe; this time you’re more likely to see sliders, curves and change-ups.

But because you went for the first-pitch-fastball single in your first at-bat, you have yet to see any of those secondary pitches – and now, with runners in scoring position and the game on the line, the pitcher has an advantage.

Now, maybe that two-out, nobody-on single doesn’t look like such a good deal.

How an out now can turn into a home run later

Back on May 21, the Royals played the Minnesota Twins; Phil Hughes was the Twins’ starting pitcher. In the top of the second inning, Brandon Moss faced Hughes with one out and nobody on.

Moss took a first-pitch fastball for a called strike one; Moss then went on to see six more pitches from Hughes and eventually hit a fly ball to center field.

Moss made an out, but the at-bat was not a failure.

Moss had faced Hughes before, but the quality of a pitcher’s stuff changes every time he takes the mound. Moss wanted to see what Hughes had that day.

So Moss got to see Hughes’ fastball and change-up, but he also learned something important; even though the at-bat lasted seven pitches, Hughes never threw Moss a cutter or curve.

So when Moss came to the plate in the fourth inning, he eliminated those two pitches from his thinking; he went from worrying about four pitches to dealing with two — fastball and change-up.

On the second pitch of his second at-bat, Brandon Moss got the change-up he was looking for and hit a home run; a home run he might not have hit if he hadn’t seen seven pitches in his first at-bat.

The moral of the story is not that hitters should try to make an out while seeing a lot of pitches; hitters are always trying to get a hit.

But attacking the first pitch of a fairly meaningless first at-bat might be a mistake; sometimes you might want to take a pitch or two and once you get to two strikes, battle your backside off.

What you learn in that first at bat might lead to a big hit the next time you come to the plate.

It worked for Brandon Moss.

Why Minor pitched instead of Soria

On Tuesday, the Royals had a 1-0 lead when Mike Minor was asked to pitch the eighth inning. Theoretically, Joakim Soria should have been available, but after the game Ned Yost said if they’d used Joakim it would have been the fourth time in five days, so he wanted to avoid that.

Why a new ball was put in play after a strikeout

In that Detroit series, Alex Avila struck out and Salvador Perez threw the ball around the infield, but he bounced his throw to Mike Moustakas. After the ball made its trip around the horn it went back to the mound, but someone — either the Tigers bench or one of the umpires — asked for a new ball.

Bouncing a ball on a throw down to second base or when going around the infield scuffs it and if someone doesn’t ask for a new ball, the pitcher will have an advantage. Veteran catchers will sometimes try to help their pitcher by bouncing a throw.

Now here’s the rule of thumb for pitchers: it’s wrong to scuff a ball yourself, but if someone hands you a scuffed ball, it ain’t wrong to throw it.

Which Royals pitchers are giving up stolen bases?

A while back I said Royals pitchers need to do a better job of holding runners and giving Salvador Perez a chance to throw out runners. In retrospect, that statement was overly broad. Most of the Royals pitchers have done a good job when holding runners and preventing stolen bases.

So which Royals pitchers are giving them up?

Jason Hammel has allowed nine steals with one caught stealing, Chris Young has allowed seven steals with one caught stealing and Nathan Karns has allowed six steals with one caught stealing.

All three pitchers are right-handed; all three pitchers are tall.

It takes these guys a while to unwind all those long levers and get the ball on its way to home plate.

The rest of the Royals pitchers have actually been very good at preventing the steal; they have a combined nine steals with 10 base runners caught. Lefty Jason Vargas is pitching Friday night and he’s given up one steal with two base runners thrown out.

Indians vs. Royals at 7:15 Friday night.

Enjoy the game.

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