Judging the Royals

Wade Davis gets the save despite an inconsistent strike zone

Royals reliever Wade Davis closed out the ninth inning as Kansas City shut out the Yankees 1-0 Friday in New York.
Royals reliever Wade Davis closed out the ninth inning as Kansas City shut out the Yankees 1-0 Friday in New York. AP

Home plate umpire Kerwin Danley is not known for having a great strike zone and he showed why in the last at bat of the night of the Royals 1-0 win over the Yankees. Wade Davis—on for the save—threw the Yankees Carlos Beltran an inside fastball well within the strike zone, but because Salvador Perez was set up away, Danley called it ball one.

If the catcher sets up away and has to reach back across his body to catch the pitch—even if it’s in the strike zone—it looks bad, so a lot of umpires won’t call that pitch a strike.

With two outs, the count 1-0 and the tying run on second, Davis then threw a cutter that was fouled off. Wade threw another cutter for a swinging strike and then once again, Danley missed a pitch; a 99-MPH fastball on the outside corner.

On the 2-2 pitch—another fastball in pretty much the same place—Danley then called it a strike. Beltran wasn’t happy; one pitch earlier that pitch had been a ball. Beltran struck out looking, the Royals won and Wade Davis got his first save—despite an inconsistent strike zone.

James Shields throws his best game of the year

At least that’s what Ned Yost thought. Eight and third innings pitched, 97 pitches, three hits, no runs—James Shields threw great and saved the bullpen a lot of work. Greg Holland experienced some triceps tightness so Wade Davis came into close. Yost said sitting Holland was just precautionary and he wasn’t concerned about his health.

That short right field porch

It’s 314 feet down the right field line in Yankee Stadium so pitchers need to be careful about throwing off-speed stuff to left-handed hitters—especially down and in. Lefties tend to golf that location and it’s a short trip down the line. Shields left a changeup up in the zone and Brett Gardner came close to taking the ball out; Lorenzo Cain caught the ball at the wall.

Keep your eye on off-speed pitches to left-handed hitters during this series.

Escobar’s hustle gets the Royals a run

In the third inning Alcides Escobar hit a ball into left field and Brett Gardner had to go to his right to field the ball—and he didn’t exactly bust a gut doing it.

Any time an outfielder is moving away from a base, the throw will be weaker. Escobar recognized that—Gardner was moving away from second base—so Alcides hustled into scoring position. After that, Nori Aoki singled and Esky’s hustle turned into a run; the only run the Royals—or the Yankees—scored all night.

The bullpen by committee

Every once in a while you’ll hear some suggest a "bullpen by committee" approach to relief pitching. The Boston Red Sox tried that a few years back when Tim Wakefield was still pitching and Wakefield talked about it in his book. He didn’t think it worked and here’s why:

Nowadays, for better or worse, everyone has a role. Long relievers, middle relievers, set-up men and closers have specific jobs and prepare for them in specific ways. If the starter gives it up right away, long relievers are the first guys that will be called into the game. A long reliever stays loose and focused through the first five innings or so. Once the starter makes it through those five or so innings, the long reliever can sit down—he probably won’t be throwing that day. Now the middle relievers focus up and start to move around. If the starter makes it through seven innings, the game is now moving into set-up man and closer territory.

Everybody knows their job; everybody knows when to be ready.

According to Wakefield, when the Red Sox tried a closer by committee approach, the result was chaos—nobody knew what they were doing that day, nobody knew when to get ready. When pitchers had a set role they’d do stretches and loosen up before they ever begin to throw—that way they could be ready on short notice. If they didn’t know when they were going to pitch they’d get caught unprepared.

And the idea that anybody can close—it’s just three more outs—has been refuted by just about everybody who ever stood on a big league mound and tried to get the last three outs. Some guys can handle it, lots of guys can’t. A bullpen by committee ought to work in theory, but in reality, Tim Wakefield thought it was a disaster.

Tim Bogar is interim manager of the Texas Rangers

Ron Washington has resigned as manager of the Texas Rangers and my buddy Tim Bogar has taken his place on an interim basis. We spent parts of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday together and if Bogar knew something was up he didn’t let on.

Oddly enough we talked about how important a new manager’s first speech to his team can be. Do it at the right time and place, say the right things and you can pull people together. Do it at the wrong time and place and you can lose an opportunity you never get back. The main thing for any manager is to get everyone pulling in the same direction and you better have your star players on board—otherwise it can be an uphill battle.

I sent Tim a text to say good luck and he sent one back saying thanks and he’d like to talk soon. If any of that conversation can be repeated, I’ll let you know how it’s going.