Judging the Royals

A pitcher’s job: Limiting the damage

Minnesota Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson
Minnesota Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson TNS

Unless he’s got a no-hitter going, a pitcher’s job is limiting the damage. He does that by:

1.) Throwing strikes (that means no free base runners).

2.) Keeping the ball low (that means hits are usually singles).

3.) Bearing down when he needs to (stepping it up when he has runners in scoring position).

Wednesday night ,Minnesota Twin pitcher Kyle Gibson limited the damage.

1.) Gibson did not issue a single walk (although he did hit Kendrys Morales with a back-foot slider which was a well-named pitch; he hit Kendrys in the back foot).

2.) Gibson gave up nine hits, but all nine were singles. (It usually takes three singles to score a run, and he never gave up more than two singles in an inning).

3.) Gibson gave up one hit with a runner in scoring position.

Nothing makes a team look more dead than good pitching. There’s a natural tendency for fans to see everything as a result of what their team is doing: If everybody hits, it’s because their team has good hitters. If everyone doesn’t hit, it’s because their team has gone cold. It’s as if the other team doesn’t matter.

Wednesday night, Kyle Gibson had something to do with the Royals’ results —he limited the damage, and that was enough for the Royals to lose their first game of the season.

So I assume they’re going 161-1.

A Terrance Gore World Series story

Terrance Gore was called up to replace Alex Rios, but it sounds like Gore is actually replacing Jarrod Dyson. Having a really fast guy on the bench is a nice thing; late in a game, that really fast guy can probably get you 90 extra feet on the base paths whenever you need it.

It also sounds like Dyson and Paulo Orlando are going to replace Rios with a righty/lefty platoon, and that means much of the time Gore will actually be replacing Dyson as the late-inning pinch-running/base-stealing threat.

OK, so here’s that World Series story (come to think of it, this might have happened in a playoff game, but World Series sounds better so I’m sticking with that).

I was sitting in the dugout with a Royals front-office guy and Gore was coming off the field. By this time, Terrance was becoming a bit of a celebrity, and a fan wanted his autograph. Gore agreed and the fan tossed Terrance a ball and a pen.

Gore dropped the ball…

And the pen…

The front-office guy turned to me and said with a straight face, “That’s why he doesn’t play defense.” Catching a ball and a pen might not indicate an ability to catch fly balls; I can catch balls and pens all day and never come close to a screaming line drive over my head. But if I read the signs right, Gore is mainly here to run the bases, so Royals fans probably don’t need to worry too much about his bat and glove.

As long as Terrance remembers to bring his spikes, he’s in good shape.

Moose continues to take advantage of the shift

After bunting and hitting to the opposite field against the Minnesota Twins shift Wednesday night, Mike Moustakas woke up this morning hitting .379. It’s an incredibly small sample size, but after eight games last season, Moose was hitting .100, and we know how that worked out.

In spring training, Mike said that he hopes teams keep using the shift on him, because he plans on “wearing out” the left side of the field. When teams shift on left-handed pull hitters, they have two choices: Go the other way and make the teams stop shifting or pull the ball with enough power and production to make it worth it.

Right now, Moose is going the other way.

Morales vs. Butler

Last night Kendrys Morales went first to third on an Alex Gordon single and, as I noted on Twitter, he appears to run much better than Billy Butler. During spring training, a coach told me, “Mo’ runs everything out,” and he appears to do it at a higher rate of speed than the Royals’ last DH.

Watch for him going first to third or second to home, something Butler had difficulty doing.

Speaking of Twitter

Social media has its positives and negatives, and Twitter is no exception. If I’m tweeting random thoughts (and they can get pretty random), I’m looking at my laptop and not the field. And being limited to 140 characters means that random thought better brief, which is probably why you see some pretty lame and/or incoherent stuff thrown out there — and that includes some of what I’m tossing into the mix.

(BTW: I’m now past 1,000 tweets and it occurred to me I haven’t had 1,000 worthwhile thoughts in my life, much less 1,000 worthwhile thoughts about baseball in the past season and a half — I guess you guys are going to have to wear it.) Anyway, I got a partial thought out Wednesday night — pitch counts are important — and never got back to the subject to expand on what I meant.

After the playoffs and World Series last year, I heard from a lot of fans who were just becoming fans and appreciated some help with the basics. When you have an audience of people who are fairly sophisticated about the game and people who aren’t, you just throw any information out there that might be helpful — so here goes.

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle once told me 15 pitches an inning are about average. (Let’s assume that’s true and if it isn’t, it doesn’t change the point.)

If 15 pitches an inning are about average and starting pitchers tend to get the hook around 100 pitches, that means a pitcher can get through seven innings on about 105 pitches. If he does that — assuming he has a lead — he gets the ball to the two best relievers in the bullpen: the setup man and closer.

But if a pitcher has an abnormally short inning, he goes even deeper in the game. If a pitcher has an abnormally long inning, he comes out sooner and then the ball goes to the middle relievers — the pitchers the other team wants to face.

The point I was trying to make — unsuccessfully — is that if you pay attention and a pitcher has a 27-pitch inning in the second inning, you know he better find something like a six-pitch inning soon or trouble is coming when he leaves the game early and gives the ball to the weakest part of a bullpen.

If a pitcher has a short inning — and in the third inning of last night’s game Gibson threw eight pitches — you know the hitters better find a way to extend his pitch count or they’ll never see those middle relievers; the starter will go deep and give the ball to the setup man and/or closer.

And the further point to all this was that a fan does not have to wait for the middle innings to see trouble coming; if the pitcher has a really short or really long inning early, the fan that pays attention knows trouble might be right around the corner.

(OK, was that explanation longer than 140 characters?)

Day game today, and you can have access to whatever shallow thing pops into mind by following me on Twitter: @leejudge8.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.

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