Judging the Royals

Royals split four-game series with the Tigers

The Tigers’ Ian Kinsler (3) met teammate Miguel Cabrera behind Royals catcher Salvador Perez after Cabrera hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
The Tigers’ Ian Kinsler (3) met teammate Miguel Cabrera behind Royals catcher Salvador Perez after Cabrera hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Star

Hey, who told you the Royals should be happy if they split with Detroit because the Tigers were too good to sweep and that the keys to victory were: 1.) Not letting Miguel Cabrera beat you? (He hit a 2-run homer in a game the Royals lost by two.) 2.) Keeping Joakim Soria off the field? (Guess who got the save?)

I’d love to take the credit, but if I say anything even remotely insightful it’s because someone wearing a baseball uniform said it to me first. All I do is repeat what people smarter than me tell me. And finding someone smarter than me is not a high bar to clear.

But now that I’m done being self-deprecating, let’s go back to that Miguel Cabrera homer.

According to MLB.com, Cabrera hit that shot off a Jeremy Guthrie 87-mph changeup, but MLB.com misidentifies pitches all the time. Unless the catcher’s sign for a changeup has been changed to a single pinky finger — and it hasn’t — that was actually supposed to be a fastball away. The pitch drifted over the middle of the plate and Cabrera crushed it.

According to the website FanGraphs — and God knows nothing on the internet is ever inaccurate — in 2015 the average velocity on a Jeremy Guthrie fastball is 91.1 mph. In 2007, his first year in the big leagues, it was 93.8. But average means just that; average.

So some Jeremy Guthrie fastballs will be above 91-mph— and if I counted right he threw 19 of those on Sunday — and some will be below. I’m guessing that 87-mph “changeup“ was one of them.

If a guy throws 97, he can get away with more mistakes than a guy throwing 87. Guys with less velocity need to have better movement and location. To me it looked like Guthrie threw an 87-mph fastball, left it in a bad spot and Miguel Cabrera made him pay.

Baseball 101

Here’s some random stuff that might make watching baseball more interesting:

▪ Friday night, Christian Colon was thrown out trying to steal third base. That probably was a bad decision because of where the Royals were in the batting order. They were trailing by a run, and Mike Moustakas was at the plate. With RBI guys coming up — Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer — staying put at second base might have been a better decision. Colon already was in scoring position and the best hitters in the batting order were due up. If the Royals had been at the bottom of the order, trying to steal third would have been a better move.

▪ On April 22nd, Jeremy Guthrie was pitching to Oswaldo Arcia of the Minnesota Twins. It was the first inning, the Twins already led 2-0 and the bases were loaded. Guthrie went inside with a 93-mph fastball and plunked Arcia. Pitching inside with the bases loaded has its risks. Hit a batter, and it’s a run. That’s why you often see pitchers stay away on hitters when the bases are full — at least the hitter has to do something to beat you.

▪ During the weekend series, Detroit shortstop Jose Iglesias took off for first base on a pitch that the umpire called a strike, and, generally speaking, umpires hate that. It shows that the hitter thought the umpire got the call wrong, and a smart catcher can use that. Set up off the plate and see whether that pitch is called a strike. I asked an ex-umpire about this, and he said, “Just give me a pitch I can work with.” He wasn’t going to call a pitch that was a foot outside the zone a strike, but if it was close enough to call, he would see it the pitcher’s way.

▪ When you’re watching outfielders field batted balls, here’s something to look for. If the outfielder is moving away from the base a runner is advancing toward, look for the runner to take the extra 90 feet. So if a left fielder is moving away from second base as he picks up the ball, the batter might try to stretch a single into a double. If the left fielder is moving toward second base, the throw will be stronger and the batter is likely to shut it down.

Off day tomorrow

Monday is an off day for the Royals and the baseball writers who cover the Royals. The Cleveland Indians come to town on Tuesday. The Royals cannot afford to let up just because a team is scuffling, and the crowds probably will be smaller.

Every win counts, no matter who you play or how many people are there to watch the game. Don’t let some games you can win get away.

See you back at the K on Tuesday.

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