Judging the Royals

How does hitting in the two-hole help Mike Moustakas?

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas (8) follows through on a double in the first inning during Saturday's baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 23, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas (8) follows through on a double in the first inning during Saturday's baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 23, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Whether baseball fans like to admit it or not, there’s a psychological factor to the game that we can’t ignore. Maybe pitching the ninth inning should be just like pitching the eighth, but the guys who have done it say there’s a difference.

The same thing applies to the batting order; maybe a guy who’s put in the four-hole should just keep doing whatever he was doing that made the manager put him in that spot, but lots of guys put in the four-hole start to press—they believe four-hole hitters should supply power and they screw things up when they change their approach. If you hear a hitter “got a nosebleed” it means he can’t handle hitting high in the order; move that guy back down to a spot where he doesn’t feel so much pressure to produce.

So what’s this have to do with Mike Moustakas hitting in the two-hole?

When that move was made—a move that many fans ridiculed—a Royals front office guy told me that sometimes you put a hitter in a spot not because he’s the perfect guy to handle that role; you put him in that spot because you want him to become the perfect guy to handle that role.

This season Mike Moustakas is taking what the other team gives him and when the other team offers a two-hole hitter an easy base hit to the opposite field, it’s OK for a two-hole hitter to take it. And as much as some fans ridiculed the move, hitting in the two-hole is one of the reasons Mike Moustakas is hitting .335.

Do good throwing catchers call too many fastballs?

For the most part, we have a poor understanding of the most important thing a catcher does: calling and receiving pitches. And since we have a poor understanding of their primary job, we focus on their offensive numbers and how many runners they throw out.

A guy can be a horrible game caller, but if he throws out runners we think he’s a terrific catcher. And sometimes the guys who throw out the most runners are the worst game callers.

Why?

Catchers who are overly concerned with throwing out runners will call too many fastballs in order to improve their chances; a fastball gets to home plate more quickly, but it’s the easiest pitch to hit—especially if you know one’s coming. Off the record, some pitchers will tell you they hated throwing to guys who had great reputations with the public. There are Hall of Fame catchers who are considered bad game-callers and no-name catchers that pitchers love to throw to. If you’re looking at a catcher’s offensive numbers and wondering how in the heck he stays in the big leagues, being a good game caller is probably part of the answer.

Anyway, if they play this Cards-Royals game today, watch to see how many fastballs Yadier Molina and Salvador Perez call with a fast runner on base. And if a hitter gets a fastball and leans on it, you know the base runner had an effect—even if he never ran.

Why a failed ambush hurts the on-deck hitter

If Alcides Escobar starts a game by trying a first-pitch ambush and he makes an out, he puts a lot of pressure on Mike Moustakas. Moose will probably take at least one strike, because if he also swings at the first pitch he sees, the pitcher can be two-thirds of the way through an inning on two pitches.

When the lead-off guy tries to ambush and it fails, pitchers tend to go right after the next hitter—they can throw strikes down the pipe because they know he isn’t swinging the bat.

On-line chat postponed

We were planning on doing an online chat tomorrow, but considering it’s Memorial Day and the Royals play a day game that I theoretically ought to be watching, we’ve decided to postpone that chat for a week.

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