Judging the Royals

The Royals five-run fourth inning; are pitchers non-athletes?

Ned Yost pleased with Royals' 8-1 win over Twins in series opener

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost discusses his team's 8-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday, June 30, 2017.
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Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost discusses his team's 8-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday, June 30, 2017.

You’ve seen it a thousand times; a pitcher camps under a pop fly, but a position player comes out of nowhere and runs him off the ball.

Why?

If you want a clue, go back to the Royals five-run fourth inning in Friday night’s game against the Twins.

With nobody out and a runner on first base, Lorenzo Cain hit a ball back to the mound. Twins pitcher Ervin Santana caught the ball, turned to start what should have been a double play, but launched the ball into centerfield.

Had the Twins turned a double play and everything else remained the same – always a big if – the Royals would have scored one run in the fourth inning, not five.

It was another case of a pitcher having a tough time making a throw that isn’t 60 feet, six inches long.

When you see pitchers field a grounder and run halfway to first base before tossing it underhand, you’re probably seeing a pitcher who isn’t confident about making an overhand throw from the field.

That’s one of the reasons position players sometimes refer to pitchers as "non-athletes." Pitchers have golden arms, but don’t let them attempt a play in the field; Lord knows what might happen.

And pitchers resent that attitude.

Pitchers remember when they were terrific shortstops in high school or college, but high school or college was a long time ago. Since then, the position players have made thousands and thousands of plays the pitchers haven’t.

But there are exceptions to the pitchers-are-non-athletes rule: Jason Vargas fields his position well and, as fans saw on Friday, isn’t afraid to cut a throw loose from anywhere on the field.

Are pitchers non-athletes?

Depends on the pitcher.

Kansas acuity Royals Salvador Perez. Fought his family onto the field to watch the Friday night fireworks with teammates, after their 8-1 win over the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium.

Should Vargas start the All-Star game?

On Friday night, against the Minnesota Twins, Jason Vargas became the first American League pitcher to win 12 games; Vargas also has the lowest ERA in the league.

If Vargas got any better he’d develop X-Ray vision and the ability to fly.

Everyone wearing Royals blue thinks Vargas should start the All-Star game; we’ll find out soon enough whether that opinion is shared outside the Greater Kansas City area.

And if Vargas does start the All-Star game, he’s so good, the position players might let him catch a pop up.

And while we’re at it: a lot of position players think they can pitch

When big leaguers were amateurs, there’s a very good chance they were the best athlete on the field and amateur managers wanted to keep those athletes on the field as much as possible.

So the guys we see pitch in the big leagues might have played a position and the guys we see play a position in the big leagues might have pitched. But when they start playing professionally, pitchers are sent down one path and position players are sent down another.

It’s one of the reasons so many pitchers who were good hitters in amateur ball are poor hitters in the big leagues; they haven’t seen the thousands and thousands of pitches required to become a decent big league hitter.

And positon players, who might have pitched as an amateur, haven’t thrown the thousands of thousands of pitches required to become a decent big league pitcher.

But because they could hit or pitch in the past, a lot of players think they could still do it today – and most of the time they’re wrong.

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost talks about changes in the pitching staff.

Tune out the chatter

When it comes to a big league ball club, lots of reporters come and go, but only a few are around all the time; those are the reporters you should listen to.

(I’m only around for the home games, so maybe you should listen to me half the time.)

As Bob Dutton, former Kansas City Royals beat writer, used to say: your opinions are only as good as your information and your information is only as good as your sources.

Keeping that in mind, it’s always interesting to hear people who aren’t around the team to any appreciable degree, speculate about what’s going on behind the scenes.

Take that speculation for what it’s worth.

A lot of people have speculated that the Royals were going to move players before the trade deadline and now a lot of people are speculating that they won’t.

Dayton Moore recently said the Royals have not considered moving any of their players. But Dayton also said he’s in touch with other teams on a regular basis.

And why wouldn’t he be?

Dayton has said deals can be put together fairly quickly, so there’s no need to panic and make a move before he has to.

I get asked all the time what the Royals are going to do and the honest answer is I don’t know, but I could speculate.

And if I were you, I’d listen to half that statement.

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