Judging the Royals

How bad baseball can produce good numbers

Ballplayers get paid for putting up numbers, and if you pay attention you’ll see how some ballplayers protect those numbers. If you want to know how bad baseball can produce good numbers, watch the following:

▪ Pop-fly responsibility: If you see a guy hang back and not pursue a pop fly in his area — you probably just saw some bad baseball. The guy who shied away from his area of responsibility might be trying to avoid an error by leaving a tough catch up to a teammate.

▪ Playing hard grounders backhand: Playing a ball backhand when you had time to get in front of it with a slow runner chugging toward first base is bad baseball. But some guys do it to protect their fielding percentage. Play the ball backhand and it’s more likely to be scored a hit if you don’t make the play.

▪ Bunting for hits: A hitter who’s protecting his batting average might bunt for a hit on his own, knowing that if he’s successful he gets a hit; if he’s not, it’s scored a sacrifice and doesn’t count against his average.

▪ Not moving the runner: Runner on second base, nobody out. Depending on the score the hitter might need to hit the ball to the right side — a 16-hopper will do — to move the runner over to third base. A runner on third with one out can score in a variety of ways that doesn’t require a hit. But if the batter is selfish he may want that RBI for himself and make no attempt to hit the ball to the right side.

▪ Taking a bad walk: Say there’s a man in scoring position, a good hitter at the plate and a mediocre hitter on deck. If it’s early in the game or the guy on deck is an outstanding defender, pinch hitting may not be an option. In this situation taking borderline pitches for a walk may actually be seen as a bad thing. The team may need the good hitter to expand his zone; he might be a better hitter on a bad pitch than the bad hitter is on a good one.

▪ Refusing to take a good walk: Same situation — runner in scoring position. If the on-deck hitter is a guy who can get the job done, taking the walk might be the right thing to do. But some guys get hungry for RBIs and refuse to take a free pass.

▪ Refusing to give away an at-bat: Sounds like a good thing, right? But sometimes a hitter needs to take pitches and stretch out his plate appearance. If his starting pitcher just had a long inning, the hitter needs to give him time to rest.

Watch these situations closely and you may get a new appreciation of why some guys are admired and valued as teammates and other guys aren’t. If you know what to look for, you can see how bad baseball can produce good numbers.

Read more on Lee Judge’s blog at Judging the Royals and KansasCity.com