Judging the Royals

Why you give Salvador Perez a 3-0 green light

Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez hit a two-run home run during against Detroit on Wednesday.
Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez hit a two-run home run during against Detroit on Wednesday. The Associated Press

In the fourth inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Tigers, Salvador Perez found himself in a 3-0 count. Ned Yost likes to give the 3-0 green light to hitters that can do damage, so he gave it to Perez and Perez did some.

Perez hit a two-run homer, put the Royals up 3-0 and that eventually led to an 8-2 victory.

But even though it worked out Wednesday night, some people hate to see a manager roll the dice in a 3-0 count.

Here’s why:

In 2017, after a Royals hitter goes 3-0, their on-base percentage is well over .600. So would it be better to take that 3-0 pitch and try for a walk that you’ll get almost 65 percent of the time?

Depends on who’s walking.

Let’s take a look at which Royals get a 3-0 green light and what they’ve done when they put that 3-0 pitch in play. Here are the usual suspects and, over their careers, how they’ve done in a 3-0 count:

▪ Lorenzo Cain: 3 for 4, with one triple.

▪ Eric Hosmer: 8 for 15, with two triples.

▪ Salvador Perez: 4 for 6, with a double and a homer.

▪ Mike Moustakas: 2 for 10, with one homer.

▪ Alex Gordon: 4 for 9, with two homers.

▪ Brandon Moss: 1 for 6, no extra base hits.

▪ Jorge Soler: 2 for 3, a double and a homer.

▪ Alcides Escobar: has never put a 3-0 pitch in play.

▪ Whit Merrifield: has never put a 3-0 pitch in play.

▪ Jorge Bonifacio: has never put a 3-0 pitch in play.

Ned Yost says he gives the 3-0 green light to hitters that can do damage, but power isn’t the only factor. Look at the list of guys who are given the green light, and they do have pop, but only one of them — Lorenzo Cain — is a base stealer.

A walk to Salvador Perez is not worth the same as a walk to Whit Merrifield; Perez might need two or three hits to get around the bases, Merrifield might get by with one. So you might ask Merrifield to take 3-0, but let Perez swing the bat.

A walk isn’t always as good as a hit; especially if that hit is for extra bases.

When seeing is not believing

In the fifth inning on Wednesday, Mike Moustakas buried a throw to Eric Hosmer at first base. There were two outs and a runner on second when Moustakas let go of the ball, so if the throw got past Hosmer, a run would score.

Hosmer needed to knock the ball down and keep it on the infield, but he did a lot better than that.

With the throw on its way, Hosmer shifted his feet, crossed the base line and put himself in foul territory. Normally, you see first baseman stretch toward the throw; this time a first baseman stretched away from the throw, farther into foul territory.

Hosmer’s unorthodox move turned a short hop into a long hop and he made the play; a play most first basemen can’t make.

Now here’s the problem:

That play did nothing to improve the “advanced” defensive metrics that say Hosmer is not a good first baseman. Ultimate Zone Rating does not include scoops because the people who put it together do not believe scoops have anything to do with range. That ignores range around the bag: the ability to use footwork to increase the area a first baseman can cover on bad throws.

And when it comes to handling bad throws, Hosmer is about as good as it gets.

This is one of the reasons players tend to ignore some of the advanced metrics; they can see Hosmer is a good first baseman with their own eyes, so they don’t believe a metric that tells them he’s not.

The problem with the new speed metric

And, since we’re on the subject of metrics and Eric Hosmer, let’s look at a new stat: Sprint Speed.

Here’s the description::

Sprint Speed is Statcast’s foot speed metric, defined as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window.”

According to Sprint Speed Eric Hosmer is the second-fastest first baseman at his position. When he reaches top speed, Hosmer is covering 27.5 feet in one second, tied with Jefry Marte of the Angels.

But focusing on their fastest 1 second might be misleading.

Let’s say Hosmer can reach his top speed in five steps and Marte can do it in four and they both maintain that speed for 90 feet. Because Marte accelerated faster, he would beat Hosmer in a 90-foot race.

And focusing on the fastest 1 second ignores stamina: once a player achieves full speed, how long can he maintain it?

Let’s say Sprint Speed shows Jarrod Dyson is faster than Paulo Orlando when you compare their fastest 1 second; but what if Orlando can maintain his top speed longer than Dyson can maintain his?

When Orlando ran track he focused on the 200 and 400 meter sprints, so if the races were long enough, it’s not hard to imagine Dyson beating Orlando out of the blocks, but Orlando eventually running Dyson down.

Royals base running coach Rusty Kuntz believes Dyson would beat Orlando first to second, but if the race were first to home, Orlando would beat Dyson.

So who’s fastest?

It depends on what distance you measure and most races last longer than 1 second.

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