Judging the Royals

In the big leagues, you have to pitch in to pitch away

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Eric Skoglund works against a San Diego Padres batter during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, June 9, 2017, in San Diego.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Eric Skoglund works against a San Diego Padres batter during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, June 9, 2017, in San Diego. AP

On Friday night against the San Diego Padres, Eric Skoglund got the third start of his big league career – it was not the stuff dreams are made of.

Skoglund lasted 1 1/3 innings, gave up seven hits, two runs and had more runners than the Boston Marathon.

Afterward, Skoglund talked about the dangers of falling behind big league hitters and then throwing pitches too close to the middle of the strike zone; Ned Yost talked about failing to establish inside to prevent diving.

And that deserves an explanation.

We see big league players from opposing teams patting each other on the backside and laughing it up on the base paths. This drives old-school ballplayers crazy, but that’s another column and I think I’ve already written it.

But despite the outward jocularity (a word I have never used before and I’m kinda hoping I never use again), big league baseball is still a very competitive business.

If a rookie lets veterans intimidate him, he isn’t going to last long (and we’re now at long last wandering into the general vicinity of Ned Yost’s statement).

If a rookie pitcher shies away from pitching inside, veteran hitters will take away the outside part of the plate as well.

But pitching inside can be scary.

If you don’t get the pitch far enough inside, the hitter can pull the ball into the short part of the yard and hit it out of the park; get the pitch too far inside and you might hit the batter.

And the batter might come to the mound to express his displeasure.

But if a rookie decides to avoid all that drama and pitch to the outside part of the plate, veterans will cozy up to the dish and "dive" to the outside corner. Now the outside of the plate is the middle and the rookie pitcher has nowhere to go.

To prevent hitters from diving to the outside corner, every so often a pitcher needs to come inside and brush those hitters back. And if a hitter gets drilled, too bad – it’s not personal, it’s just business.

So next time you see Eric Skoglund pitch, pay attention and see if he "establishes inside."

And if he doesn’t, he probably won’t be out there that long.

Five things to know about Royals pitcher Eric Skoglund 

When a batter charges the mound, what’s the catcher’s responsibility?

There are at least two good reasons to read this blog:

1.) Until my son the music producer hits it big, I need to stay employed.

2.) If I do my job right, you get some pretty good inside-baseball information.

And since we’re on the subject of pitching inside and hitting batters, we might as well talk about Buster Posey.

Posey is taking a lot of heat inside (and in some cases, outside) the baseball world because his pitcher, Hunter Strickland, drilled Bryce Harper and when Harper charged the mound, Posey did nothing.

Here’s the problem:

When a batter charges the mound, a catcher is expected to chase the batter down and, if possible, stop the batter from getting to his pitcher. The catcher might think the pitcher is a jerk or ought to have his butt kicked, but teammates are expected to stand up for teammates.

I asked Royals catcher Drew Butera about the Posey incident and Drew made a couple of interesting points.

Teams do not have meetings, take a vote and decide to drill somebody. If someone needs to wear one, a pitcher is expected to take care of it on his own. But the pitcher might mention his intentions to his catcher:

Hey, I’m gonna drill what’s-his-name today, so be ready.

And Drew made a point I hadn’t thought of: a pitcher might tell the catcher his plans and then ask the catcher to back off a bit. The pitcher wants a couple of seconds alone with the hitter before the fight gets broken up:

Let me land a good one and then break it up.

But unless Strickland said he wanted an hour to settle his differences, Posey appeared to have no intention of getting involved in a baseball brawl to protect a teammate and those brawls are not considered optional, even if you think your teammate is in the wrong.

Posey talked about avoiding some of the big bodies being thrown around in the fight, and that made Posey look (for the lack of a better or at least more usable word) soft.

Today’s game

The Royals play the Padres again today and Miguel Diaz is starting for the 24-38 Padres. Diaz is 1-1 with an ERA of 7.50 and if the Royals want to avoid a yard sale, they need to beat guys like this.

Enjoy the game.

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