Judging the Royals

How fans can read outfield positioning

Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain (left) covers plenty of ground, but much depends on where he is positioned when the ball is hit.
Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain (left) covers plenty of ground, but much depends on where he is positioned when the ball is hit. THE KANSAS CITY STAR

If you are interested in the positioning of outfielders, take a look at where the players are standing.

There are two lines (the space between a corner outfielder and a foul line) and two gaps (the space between a corner outfielder and the centerfielder). An outfield defense can cover three out of four.

That means — a lot of the time — you’ll see a big wedge of undefended territory down a line or in one of the gaps. Which area is left unprotected is decided by the pitcher on the mound and the hitter at the plate.

If you see a ball hit into that unprotected area, you probably just saw a pitcher miss location — the ball was not supposed to be hit there. And if you see an outfielder race over to that unprotected area and make a diving catch, you’ll probably also see the pitcher wait and give that outfielder a high five: The pitcher missed his spot, but the outfielder just saved the pitcher’s rear end and the pitcher knows it.

But what if you see the outfielders playing straight up?

If there’s no discernible gap in the outfield — if the outfielders are evenly spaced — there’s a good chance the pitcher on the mound doesn’t really know where the ball is going. The defense can’t shift much because nobody knows if the pitch will wind up on the inner half of the plate or a foot outside. It might also mean a hitter like Miguel Cabrera’s at the plate; guys like him can hit the ball from line to line and the outfield has play straight up to cover as much territory as possible.

Read more on Lee Judge’s blog on KansasCity.com

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