Judging the Royals

How Mike Moustakas making an out helped win the ballgame

Mike Moustakas
Mike Moustakas The Kansas City Star

The main thing any hitter does is make outs, so it makes sense to make some productive ones. A productive out is an out that advances a base runner 90 feet and in the fifth inning, that’s just what Mike Moustaskas did.

Omar Infante opened the inning with a double and Moose needed to pull the ball to the right side of the field to make sure Infante could advance to third base. It’s also better to hit the ball on the ground; that way the runner can leave right away—hit the ball in the air and the runner has to hold up to see if it gets caught.

Because Moustakas moved Infante to third, Omar scored on an Alcides Escobar groundball to short. Because the Royals had a second run—an insurance run—the pitchers could be aggressive with the guy at the plate if nobody was on; no matter what the hitter did, the Royals would still have a lead.

The pitching was terrific, the offense was just good enough and the Royals picked up a game on Detroit by beating the Cleveland Indians 2-0.

Danny Duffy pitches from the stretch and gets things under control

Danny Duffy threw 44 pitches in the first two innings and it looked like me might not be able to throw long enough to get the ball the best relievers in the bullpen. Duffy got his pitch count under control and made it through six innings. After that Brandon Finnegan, Wade Davis and Greg Holland took over and preserved the shutout.

Duffy was wild early on and eventually started pitching from the stretch position; that simplified his mechanics and let him be more consistent. Next time Duffy pitches it’ll be interesting to see if he starts pitching from the stretch right away. After the game Danny said he’d try to get his windup mechanics straightened out in a side session, but if that doesn’t work he’s got an alternative.

What’s a backdoor breaking pitch?

Left-handed Danny Duffy was using a "backdoor curve" on right-handed hitters and here how that works: a left-handed pitcher throws a curve aimed at the left-handed batter’s box. A right-handed hitter sees a pitch well outside the strike zone, but the curve breaks toward the plate and just nips the outside corner for a strike while the right-handed hitter gets caught looking at a pitch that appeared to be a ball, then came in the backdoor for a strike.

Duffy had control of that curve

Duffy has a big curveball—Wade Davis throws a smaller, tighter one—and big curves can be hard to control. By my count Duffy threw 25 curves, 17 for strikes. That’s enough control to make hitters take the curve seriously; if a pitcher can’t throw a curve for strikes hitters will spit on it and hit fastballs.

When you don’t have to throw a strike to get an out

Tyler Holt thought he walked on a 3-1 pitch, left the plate early and did a healthy bat flip as he did so. Umpires don’t like that and a veteran pitcher knows he might not have to throw a strike to get an out; throw something just off the plate and give the umpire a chance to get revenge on hitter that showed him up.

Herrera was not available

Brandon Finnegan did well in his absence, but Kelvin Herrera was not available to throw the seventh inning. Remember that when you think Ned Yost should use a reliever for more than one inning; it might get you a win on one day and result in a loss the next day.

How to tell when a base stealer is going to go

Watch the pitcher’s front foot; if the pitcher picks his front foot up high, it takes longer to get the ball to home plate—and that makes it easier to steal base. If the pitcher barely picks his front foot up, that’s a "slide step" and the pitch will get to the catcher sooner.

Nori Aoki stole a base off Carlos Carrasco when the Cleveland Indians pitcher picked his foot up high, used a full leg kick and took too long to get the ball to catcher Yan Gomes.

How to argue with the home plate umpire

Over the weekend, during the Detroit series, baseball fans saw several players take exception to the balls and strikes called by home plate umpires. The fact that we saw the arguments means they were not conducted correctly.

You can argue with the home plate umpire, but there’s a right and wrong way to do it.

The main rule is the hitter or catcher never looks back at the umpire. Turning around and looking at the ump lets everyone in the stands know the hitter or catcher is having words with the guy in blue behind them. The hitter or catcher can disagree with a call, but they’re supposed to stare straight ahead—at the pitcher—while they do it.

Looking back at the umpire, hand gestures, rolling the eyes; all are considered "showing up" the ump. So is leaving the box too soon when a hitter thinks a pitch should be ball four. Same goes for a pitcher walking off the mound too quickly after he thinks he’s thrown strike three. It’s especially dumb to show up the umpire early in the game; he’s got the rest of the game to get even with you.

Hitters can ask where the umpire has that pitch and when the umpire says on the corner, the hitter can say; "I have it outside." Or if the hitter thinks someone else got the same pitch called a ball, he can point that out—but he needs to look straight ahead or down while he does it. That’s why some hitters feel the need to groom the batter’s box; watch their lips and they’re actually having their say.

If an umpire decides he’s heard enough, he might suddenly feel the urge to clean home plate because that gives him the chance to stare someone in the face and say: "That’s it, I don’t want to hear any more."

Bottom line: catchers, hitters and umpires spend the entire game talking and some of that talk is arguing about the strike zone. It’s actually OK to argue with the umpire; you just have to do it in the right way.