Judging the Royals

After one pitch, the Royals’ formula for success goes out the window

The Royals’ Mike Moustakas (left) talked with starting pitcher Danny Duffy in the first inning against the New York Yankees on Saturday in the Bronx. Duffy left the game after one pitch with a sore shoulder.
The Royals’ Mike Moustakas (left) talked with starting pitcher Danny Duffy in the first inning against the New York Yankees on Saturday in the Bronx. Duffy left the game after one pitch with a sore shoulder. The Associated Press

Recently, the Kansas City Royals’ formula for success has been simple: Pitch and defend well, keep the score low and allow the offense to scratch out just enough runs to get a win. One pitch into Saturday afternoon’s game against the New York Yankees, that game plan went out the window.

Starter Danny Duffy threw one pitch and then left the mound. Word from the clubhouse was that Duffy had experienced “shoulder soreness,” and the Royals shut him down immediately. After Duffy left the mound he was replaced by a parade of middle relievers who gave up six runs, five of them earned.

Overall, the Royals did not pitch or defend well, and the offense wasn’t productive enough to make the difference. The Royals need to get a solid performance from their starting pitcher who then hands the ball to their best relievers. That didn’t happen Saturday afternoon,and the Yankees beat the Royals 6-2.

The Royals make mistakes

Here is a partial list of what went wrong for the Royals on Saturday afternoon:

The ball seemed to be carrying, and a couple of times Kansas City outfielders got bad reads and ran routes that were too shallow. Once they saw the ball was carrying, they had to correct their routes and chase the ball to the wall.

Salvador Perez chucked a pickoff throw into left field, which allowed Chase Headley to score from third base.

Sal also failed to get his body squared up on a pitch in the dirt. Because his chest protector was at an angle, the pitch bounced off to one side, allowing a base runner to advance.

Omar Infante got thrown out at third base, and it didn’t make a lot of sense. In the third inning with two outs, Mike Moustakas on second and Infante on first, Alex Gordon singled. Moose headed for home, and Infante made the turn and tried for third.

Infante was not being held at first base, but nevertheless, he didn’t have a great lead. He was also running at less than full speed as he approached second base. With two down, Infante already was in scoring position, but he decided to try for third base and got thrown out rather easily.

Had Omar been tagged before Moustakas crossed home plate, the run would not have counted. Like I said, the play didn’t make a lot of sense.

Day games after night games are always tough. Day games after night games in New York City are probably even tougher. Let’s hope everybody goes to bed early tonight. The Royals need to play a better game on Sunday afternoon.

Ned Yost: Manager of the Year?

The guys on Fox Sports 1 mentioned Ned Yost as a likely candidate for Manager of the Year. I don’t know much about other managers, so I’ve got no idea how to compare him, but I know managing involves a lot more than the X’s and O’s we see on the field. It involves stuff we never think about.

Is spring training well organized?

Does the manager back his coaches when they get sideways with a player?

How well does he handle the media and the front office?

Is the pregame workload appropriate for the situation?

In the end, none of this stuff — which matter so much in the real world — gets taken into account when we pick a Manager of the Year. The award generally is given to the manager whose team exceeds expectations. And if the Royals make the postseason, does that make Ned Yost Manager of the Year?

Hosmer’s footwork makes his teammates better

If you saw the Royals’ game Saturday afternoon against the New York Yankees, you also saw first baseman Eric Hosmer save his teammates from at least a couple errors. A good first baseman makes the rest of the infield better. A bad one makes the rest of the infield worse.

During the last homestand, the Royals had Mike Moustakas working out at first base. They wanted some options that would improve their defense in the later innings. I asked infield coach Mike Jirschele what the toughest thing about playing first was, and he said it was the footwork.

We tend to think about a first baseman’s hands, but Jirsch is right. Good footwork makes everything else easier. Bad footwork does the opposite.

If a first baseman steps toward the throw too soon, he won’t be able to adjust. Anything off line probably will get by him.

That being the case, a good first baseman waits until he sees the throw, then he stretches in the right direction. He can use the width of the bag to help. He can go to the outfield side of the base to reach throws in that direction or shift his feet and go to the infield side of the bag to catch throws up the line. But waiting to see the throw before doing the necessary footwork means you have to be nimble on your feet.

Eric Hosmer is.

If you pay attention, you also can see Hosmer use the height of the bag to his advantage. If the throw is high, he will put his foot in the middle of the bag and stretch up on the tip of his toes. It extends his reach just an extra inch or two, but that can be the difference is making the play or missing it.

Hosmer also will go over the bag into foul territory to make a catch. A less agile first baseman will let those throws get by, and you go from having an out to having a runner in scoring position.

The next time you watch Eric Hosmer receive a throw, focus on his feet. You might see how he’s making his teammates better.