Judging the Royals

One reason the Royals win; they get the ball in play

Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano misplayed a grounder from Kansas City Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain for an error during the 10th inning of Wednesday’s game.
Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano misplayed a grounder from Kansas City Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain for an error during the 10th inning of Wednesday’s game. The Associated Press

In the 10th inning of Wednesday night’s ballgame against the Mariners, Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano made an error. The error lead to two unearned runs and the Royals won the game 9-6.

Did the Royals get lucky?

To some degree, yes: the ball came up on Cano and, with Lorenzo Cain running, Cano didn’t have time to recover and make a play.

But in some ways, the Royals have made their own luck: they get the ball in play.

In 2014 and 2015, no American League team struck out less often than the Kansas City Royals and that meant Royals’ opponents had to make more plays.

For example:

In 2015, the Royals struck out 973 times, the Houston Astros led the way with 1,392. That year Royals’ opponents had to make 419 more plays than the opponents of the Astros.

That’s 419 more chances for a hit to drop in, 419 more chances for a runner to advance and 419 more chances for an opponent to make an error.

On Wednesday night, against the Mariners the Royals struck out 14 times, but over the course of 2017 only three AL teams have struck out less often.

Tampa Bay leads the AL with 849 strikeouts; the Royals have 634. That’s an extra 215 balls in play and an extra 215 extra chances for an opponent to make a mistake.

I’ve written about this before, but once again one of the secrets to the Royals’ success is avoiding the strikeout and forcing the other team to make plays.

Just ask Robinson Cano.

Salvador Perez and the catcher’s stance

Salvador Perez has great hands and, at times, those great hands can get him in trouble. Because he has such outstanding ability to pick the ball, Perez sometimes gets overly casual about his stance.

During the Mariners series, with Jarrod Dyson at the plate, Perez went down on one knee to receive a pitch; Dyson showed bunt, then pulled the bat back. Had Dyson put a bunt in play, Perez would have had a hard — or at least harder — time getting out from behind the plate and fielding the ball.

Having said that, I understand why catchers find comfortable stances whenever possible.

With a runner on base or with two strikes or with a guy who can bunt at the plate, catchers are supposed to adopt a stance that allows them to move. If there’s a stolen base or pitch in the dirt, the catcher will have to come out of his stance quickly, so catchers receive the ball with rear ends up and their thighs parallel to the ground.

Try that stance yourself and you’ll find it’s insanely uncomfortable.

With nobody on base, catchers can use whatever stance is most comfortable, so that’s when you’ll see some catchers get down on one knee. But if the guy at the plate bunts, that one-knee stance will become a hindrance.

At times Salvador Perez has been down on one knee when he shouldn’t have been and if he keeps it up, it’s going to backfire.

Mike Moustakas is short to the ball

When a hitter gets ready to swing he pushes his hands back; much like throwing a punch, the hands go back in preparation for going forward. When a hitter’s front foot is down and his hands are back, this is sometimes called launch position.

There are probably other names for it, but for the duration of this article, we’re going to stick with launch position.

Some people talk about level swings, which isn’t very accurate; the bat starts above the hitter’s back shoulder and has to travel down to hit the ball.

If Point A is the bat head in launch position and Point B is the ball, hitters who take a straight path to contact are short to the ball. Hitters who have a loop in their swing between Point A and Point B are long to the ball.

A hitter who is long to the ball has to start his swing earlier — his bat head has a longer path to contact — and starting earlier means getting fooled by a pitch more often.

A hitter who is short to the ball can wait longer and start his swing later — his bat head has a short path to contact — and starting later means getting better pitches to hit.

I’m no expert — I couldn’t hit Paris if I fell off the Eiffel Tower — but this season Mike Moustakas looks very quick once he starts his swing.

Mike Moustakas is short to the ball.

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