OK, I’m almost positive the Royals are not going to go 162-0, but the way they’re playing right now, anything seems possible. The winning formula we saw last year — starting pitching that’s good enough, a great bullpen, incredible defense and speed on the base paths — is still in evidence. Now add some power and you see a team starting the season 6-0 and looking good enough to make some fans show up wearing 162-0 T-shirts.
All these positive signs mean you should probably look out for the Minnesota Twins (winning a big series can make you overlook an underdog), but Royals fans should enjoy this while it lasts.
Yordano Ventura: Emotional or composed?
If you’ve read much media coverage about Yordano Ventura, you’ve probably come across descriptions like “unflappable” or “composed” or “difficult to rattle.” Sunday we got to see some of the emotions beneath the surface.
Mike Trout hit a single and, according to Star beat writer Andy McCullough, Ventura stared Trout down. Trout did not understand why Ventura was glaring at him and yelled something. Albert Pujols doubled and after scoring, Trout said something — Ventura was right there backing up home — but Trout said it was directed at a teammate. Ventura did not appear to agree. Before things got out of hand, Salvador Perez stepped in and dragged Ventura away, which is smart. You don’t want your No. 1 starter who weighs in at 180 pounds getting physical with a guy two inches taller and 55 pounds heavier.
After the game manager Ned Yost said Ventura “pitches with a lot of emotion,” so that kind of contradicts the unflappable image that’s been promoted by the media. Some guys can channel emotion into better performances, most guys can’t — they lose focus and then try too hard. Sunday’s altercation wasn’t much, so maybe it’s not an issue, but it’s also something to keep an eye on.
Random stuff from Sunday
▪ Ventura once again left a game with cramps; dehydration is the usual culprit. Whatever Yordano’s doing between games, he either needs to do more of it or less of it and I’m not sure which.
▪ Once again Mike Moustakas hit a ball the other way and picked up a single while doing so. A very smart guy in the Royals front office once said sometimes that you put a hitter in a role not because he’s perfect for that role; you put him there because that’s the kind of hitter you want him to become. I don’t know that anyone thinks Moose will be in the 2-hole permanently, but if it encourages him to become a more complete hitter, that’s good thing.
▪ Salvador Perez hit a home run and Mike Moustakas greeted him outside the dugout with a handshake that involved more moves than a June Taylor dancer. (OK, I’m showing my age; if I recall correctly the June Taylor dancers were featured on the Jackie Gleason show.) Anyway, there’s no possibility that you could do a handshake with that many moving parts without practicing, and as I understand it, that practice takes place in the clubhouse before the media is allowed in. Frankly, I’m kinda glad I don’t have to watch that.
▪ Twice Angels left fielder Matt Joyce played balls off the outfield wall poorly. In both cases he got close to the wall and then pulled up. He didn’t go all the way to the wall to try to make the catch and he didn’t pull up soon enough to keep the carom from getting by him. Royals fans are seeing great outfield play on a nightly basis and ought to appreciate it; not every player is willing to challenge the wall to get an out.
▪ Every once in a while you’ll see a hitter take a vicious hack and miss a slider by two feet. You’re probably sitting at home thinking, “What the heck? Couldn’t he see that pitch was nowhere near the plate?” Sometimes hitters gamble that they’re getting a fastball in certain counts: 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1 and if they have the green light, 3-0. They decide to swing before the pitcher ever throws the pitch; but you better know the pitcher. In the big leagues those are not necessarily fastball counts and if you get something else, you’re going to look goofy.
A base-stealing lesson from Rusty Kuntz
The other day base-stealing guru Rusty Kuntz was working with Paulo Orlando and I was leaning against the dugout railing watching. I could see Rusty pointing at Paulo’s right foot and after they were finished I asked Rusty about it.
That’s when I got my base stealing lesson.
The first move a base stealer makes is a crossover step; the left foot crosses over the right and that turns the runner’s body toward second base. Rusty had me stand up like I was a base runner and point both feet toward home plate. He then asked me to take a crossover step with my left foot and see how big a step I could take — I could barely get my left foot past my right.
Then Rusty asked me to turn my right foot at a 45-degree angle toward the pitcher’s mound and try another crossover step. Having my right foot turned at 45 degrees opened my right hip and allowed my left foot to make a much longer stride toward second base. That extra foot or two might be the difference between being out or safe.
I don’t know how knowing this changes your life, but knowing how attention to detail changes the game is kinda cool. At least I think it is, but then again, I might be obsessed.