Judging the Royals

This time Mike Jirschele sends Alex Gordon from third base

The Royals' Alex Gordon was tagged out at home by Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero on Sunday at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Ariz.
The Royals' Alex Gordon was tagged out at home by Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero on Sunday at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Ariz. The Kansas City Star

It happened in the third inning of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Cubs. Alex Gordon was on first base with two outs when Kendrys Morales hit a double to right field.

Chicago’s right fielder, Ryan Sweeney, fielded the ball and threw it to the cutoff man, second baseman Javier Baez, At just about the same time, Alex Gordon was approaching third base.

That’s when the thought flashed through my mind: “This is just like the play in game seven of the World Series.”

The ball was in right field, not left, but the timing was very similar: Gordon was arriving at third base as the cutoff man was fielding the ball and — just like the World Series — third base coach Mike Jirschele had a decision to make.

This time, Jirschele sent Gordon.

Alex Gordon was out by about 20 feet. He came in standing — these days you can’t run over a catcher — and Cubs catcher Miguel Montero made the tag easily. After all the speculation and arguing about that play, maybe the baseball gods wanted us to see what would have happened if Jirschele had sent Gordon home in game seven of the World Series.

I’ve talked to a lot of ballplayers and coaches about that World Series play and not one of them thought Jirschele should have sent Gordon. In fact all of them were surprised anyone would even question Jirschele’s decision. To the guys who play the game, it was obvious: Gordon was going to be out by a long way.

And if you disagree, you should have been here Sunday.

What a box score doesn’t tell you

Watching baseball is enormously time consuming — Monday’s game against the Rangers felt like it lasted a month — so it’s very tempting for fans and media members to believe that you don’t actually have to spend hours and hours watching games because the stats will tell you all you need to know.

Or do they?

Look at the box score from Monday’s game and you’ll see that Royals reliever Louis Coleman gave up a double in the eighth inning. What Coleman actually gave up was a lazy fly ball to right field. Jarrod Dyson had to run forward to catch it but got there in plenty of time. Normally it would be an easy out. But at the last second, Dyson lost the ball in the sun and it got past him for a double.

That stuff happens all the time.

A pitcher gives up a triple when a better outfield route would have kept it to a single. A catcher gives up a stolen base and gets an error when his throw goes into center field when a better effort by a middle infielder would have kept the ball from getting to the outfield. A pitcher gets tagged with a wild pitch when the catcher made no effort to block the ball and keep it from going to the backstop.

You can’t just look at the numbers and assume you know what happened. There are things a box score doesn’t tell you.

When Luke Hochevar comes back

Royals fans know all about HDH: the three guys at the back of the bullpen who pitched so well in 2014. Take a lead into the seventh inning and give the ball to Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, and the odds were very good that those three guys would hold that lead.

And when Luke Hochevar returns to the mound, taking a lead into the sixth inning might do the trick; the Royals might have four dominant relievers at the back end of their bullpen.

But Hochevar might also be used in a different way: He might be used to give one of the other three a night off. If the Royals have the luxury of giving their best relievers regular nights off, that will help keep them fresh.

And if they make it to the playoffs again, that could make a big difference.

Esky’s car

This spring training, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar showed up in an unusual-looking SUV. Esky’s car has a gold “wrap” that makes it look like someone put wheels on a bar of gold and drove it out of Fort Knox. It’s not painted gold — it looks like gold.

I was talking with an off-duty cop here at the stadium and he said Esky’s car had PC written all over it.

“Politically correct?”

“Probable cause.”

I then asked Escobar how many times he’d been stopped by the police since wrapping his car and he said none. Here’s hoping Alcides can keep that streak going.

A final word on spring training stats

This quote from an Andy McCullough story tells you just about everything you need to know about spring training:

“I couldn’t care less about ERAs,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “I couldn’t care less about stats in general. I don’t care if every pitcher has an ERA over 20 in spring training. You guys like to write about it, because it’s a story, but it’s about building arm strength.”

Ballplayers are competitive and they want to do well every time they step on a ball field, but as long as they’re doing what they need to do to be ready for opening day, nobody here gets too shook about spring-training stats.

And neither should you.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8.

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