Judging the Royals

Does Gordon’s defense or Bonifacio’s bat give Royals the best chance of winning?

Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island with Tom Hanks and a volleyball, you’ve probably heard the Royals benched Alex Gordon. Gordon’s batting average is currently .197 and there are other, more obscure numbers, that confirm Gordon has not been very good while holding a bat in his hands.

But Alex Gordon’s glove has been just fine.

Now let’s look at the guy who took Gordon’s spot in the lineup, Jorge Bonfacio.

He’s currently hitting .254 with a .434 slugging percentage and 14 home runs, much better than Gordon, but Bonifacio is an adventure on defense.

On Tuesday night, during a 10-3 drubbing by the Cardinals, Bonifacio misplayed at least three balls.

In the six-run fifth inning, Dexter Fowler hit a two-out line drive to right field and Bonifacio broke in. Unfortunately the ball was hit over his head. By the time Jorge made a U-turn, it was too late to make a catch that would have ended the inning and prevented Jedd Gyorko from hitting a three-run homer.

Catch the ball and, at worst, Gyorko would have had to wait until the next inning to hit a one-run homer.

There’s no point in saying Alex Gordon would have made that catch because, had he been in the starting lineup, Gordon would have played left field and Melky Cabrera would have played right. So the real question is whether Melky would have made the catch and the answer is maybe. It wasn’t an easy play no matter who was standing in right field.

But Bonifacio’s wandering route to the ball made sure he had no chance.

In the sixth inning Paul DeJong hit a pop fly down the right-field line and Whit Merrifield, who plays like his career is at stake — and it is — chased the ball in an all-out sprint.

Bonifacio was hesitant.

Bonfacio was positioned toward the right-center gap and had a long run to get there and, once again, there’s no way to say for sure Cabrera would have made the catch. But Bonifacio slowed up at least once, thinking Merrifield might make the play, and missed making the catch by a step, two at the most. A more confident outfielder might have got there in time.

In the seventh inning, with runners on first and second base, Randal Grichuk singled to right field and Bonifacio threw the ball home. He overthrew the cutoff man, Eric Hosmer, and the throw was off line.

One run would have scored for sure, but it turned into two when pitcher Neftali Feliz — who should have been backing up home plate, but was loitering around the mound instead — deflected the ball past catcher Drew Butera.

As somebody recently said — wait, it was me — we tend to focus on offense and forget defense because good defense doesn’t make much of an impression. But Tuesday night improving the lineup offensively made the defense worse.

Gordon’s benching lasted until the top of the eighth inning. He came on as a defensive replacement, had a plate appearance in the bottom of the inning and got whacked by a pitch for his efforts. Clearly, Gordon has not been exiled to Outer Siberia; he’s supposed to take time off and work on his swing, but he’ll play if the Royals think he can help.

So what gives the Royals the best chance to win a game: Alex Gordon’s glove or Jorge Bonifacio’s bat?

I don’t have a definitive answer for you, people smarter than I or me (and I think I just proved those people exist) will work with Gordon and decide when he’s ready to get back in the lineup on a daily basis. But Jorge Bonifacio’s defense might make that day sooner rather than later.

For now, I’ll leave you with what a very wise man had to say on the subject:

“I don’t like them fellas who drive in two runs and let in three.” — Casey Stengel

How Melky Cabrera stole a base

When you’re watching the team you’re paid to cover get beat 10-3, you have to find moments of interest and on Tuesday night Melky Cabrera provided one.

This season Melky played 98 games for the Chicago White Sox and did not steal a base. But in his ninth game for the Royals, Melky swiped second. How he did it is interesting.

It was the fourth inning and before he actually stole second, Melky started to take off and then stopped. It looked like he changed his mind, but runners will sometimes use fake breaks to see who covers second base and, in this case, it was the Cardinals’ shortstop. That information can be valuable if the team puts on a hit-and-run: the hitter knows where the hole on the infield will be.

But the team on defense knows they gave away coverage and might switch it up.

In a 1-2 count, with Jorge Bonifacio at the plate, Melky took off for second again and this time, because Eric Hosmer was on third and there were two outs, nobody covered second base. Bonifacio fouled the pitch off, Melky returned to first base and everything reset.

But now Melky — and first-base coach Rusty Kuntz — knew the Cardinals were going to give Melky second base and keep Hosmer at third and that’s what happened.

Melky Cabrera stole a base because he knew nobody was going to try and stop him: the base was there for the taking and he took it.

So next time you see a runner on first base take off like he’s stealing, then stop: check second base. What happens there might decide what happens next.

And you won’t be quite as bored as you normally would be when your team loses by seven runs.

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