Judging the Royals

How the Yankees — and Yankee Stadium — beat the Royals

AP

The Yankees—and Yankee Stadium—beat the Royals

Look at the Yankees lineup from Monday’s game and you might conclude the Bronx Bombers didn’t need a batter’s box on the right side of the plate. The only exclusively right-handed hitter in the New York lineup was Alex Rodriguez and I’m pretty sure the Yankees would be happy if A-Rod got kidnapped and held for a ransom they’d refuse to pay. The other eight hitters were either left-handed or switch hitters.

Look at the dimensions of Yankee Stadium and you can see why. Yankee Stadium has a short right field porch, so they load the lineup with left-handed hitters, have them stand on top of the plate so a pitch on the outside corner is actually a pitch down the middle and then play home run derby. That’s what happened on Monday afternoon: the Yankees hit five home runs and won 14-1. All five home runs were hit by left-handed hitters; all five home runs went to right field.

While looking up Yankee Stadium’s dimensions—according to the infallible internet it’s 314 feet to the right field foul pole—I found a comparison between Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. The people conducting the study (I’m guessing they were Mets fans) looked at 242 home runs hit by Yankee players and only 120 of them would have been out of both parks.

So with a left-handed hitter standing on top of the plate, a pitcher has to try to pitch inside. But miss inside and the ball might leave the park.

Home run number one: Catcher Drew Butera set up away, pitcher Jeremy Guthrie threw a 92-MPH fastball, missed location just slightly, but toward the middle of the plate and Chase Headley made the score 2-0.

Home run number two: This time Guthrie was trying to go in on the hitter, did not get the 94-MPH fastball all the way in and Brian McCann just barely cleared the right field wall—a ball that would be an easy out in Kansas City. Score 5-0.

Home run number three: Yesterday, after throwing out a theory on why Jeremy Guthrie had been so good in his last three starts—nice timing on that one, huh?—I said that an off-speed pitch to a left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium would be dangerous. The speed of the pitch would allow a lefty to take a shot at the right field porch. Guthrie threw a 78-MPH curve to Brett Gardner and Gardner hit it out. Score 8-0.

Home run number four: This time Guthrie missed location by quite a bit; Butera was set up away and Guthrie’s fastball missed by enough that Butera’s mitt traveled from one side of the plate to the other, but the 93-MPH fastball never got there. Stephen Drew hit this one into the upper deck; a ball that would have been out of Kauffman Stadium with room to spare. Score 11-0.

Home run number five: This time the victim was Greg Holland. He was trying to throw a 92-MPH fastball away, missed out over the plate and Slade Heathcott hit it out. Score 12-1.

OK, picking up the pattern here?

Left-handed hitters crowd the plate and if a pitcher misses his spot even slightly the Yankees have a pretty good chance of doing major damage. There’s a reason they’re called the Bronx Bombers and Monday’s game showed you what it is.

Can’t the Royals lefties do the same?

Well, they can try. But long fly balls in Kansas City tend to get caught on the warning track. So Royals hitters try for line drives and hard grounders; those trajectories get rewarded in Kauffman Stadium. The K is known as a "pitcher’s park" but that usually refers to the larger dimensions limiting home runs; a larger outfield is good for singles dropping in and doubles in the gap.

So if you don’t work at standing on top of the plate, turning and burning while getting the ball in the air—an approach that will kill you in KC—you’re probably not going to be very good at it when you go to New York.

Should Dyson have tried to steal that base in the fifth inning?

NO.

Why?

At that point the score was 11-1 and the Royals needed big innings to get back in the game. Eric Hosmer—a lefty who can clear that right field wall—was at the plate. It probably wouldn’t have done any good down by 10, but you still have to play the game in the way that gives you the best chance of winning.

One thing to remember: in the big leagues, players have much more freedom to make decisions, so Dyson could have done that on his own. If so, it’s a move that does more for Jarrod’s stolen his stolen base totals than his team’s chances of winning.

Sure, with two outs a steal gets a man in scoring position, but the Royals needed to score bunches of runs, not one. Every baseball move has its risks and rewards; here the risk was making an out with a power hitter at the plate and the reward was putting a runner in scoring position that might cross the plate and make the score 11-2.

The risk did not match the reward.

Plus he kind of got suckered

The first pitch to Eric Hosmer was an 84-MPH slider and the pitcher, Nathan Eovaldi, used a full leg kick to deliver the pitch. Had Eovaldi used the same leg kick when Dyson ran, Jarrod would have been safe. But after showing him a slow delivery, Eovaldi used a slide step and, after the play was reviewed, catcher Brian McCann threw him out.

What to watch for tonight

Jason Vargas is starting for the Royals and Yankee Stadium has not been kind to him. Eight of the current Yankee hitters have faced him before. None of them have more than 17 plate appearances, but in limited at bats, Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley have hit him well.

Pay attention when left handed hitters are at the plate and if the TV guys give us this look, how close they’re standing to home plate. If a pitcher misses out over the plate—whether he’s trying to go in or away—watch for a lefty to do damage.

And if the catcher calls for something off-speed with a lefty at the plate, cover your ears—it might get loud.

 

 

 

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