Judging the Royals

Billy Butler swings at a bad pitch and it helps the Royals win

Royals designated hitter Billy Butler
Royals designated hitter Billy Butler AP

Sinkers and off-speed pitches down in the zone; that’s what opposition pitchers have been throwing Billy Butler for much of the season. They want Billy to pull the ball and hit it on the ground; that’s how you get Billy Butler to hit into a double play.

In the eighth inning with one down and the score tied, Butler came to the plate with runners on first and third. Reliever Jake Petricka knew just what he wanted to do; get Billy Butler to hit a double play groundball—and that’s just what happened.

Once again Butler chased a two-seamer down in the zone and gave the White Sox just what they hoped for: a groundball to shortstop Alexei Ramirez. The Sox got the first out at second, but second baseman Marcus Semien—possibly bothered by a hard slide by Eric Hosmer—buried the throw and Butler was safe at first while the go ahead run crossed the plate. The Royal took the lead and the one of the best bullpens in baseball held it.

Billy Butler chased a bad pitch, but because the White Sox couldn’t turn two, it helped the Royals win.

Royals 6, White Sox 3.

Game notes

*In the top of the second the Royals hitters saw a total of seven pitches. When hitters see so few pitches they don’t give their pitcher a chance to rest. Pay attention to what happens in the next half inning and you might see a pitcher struggle.

*In the bottom of the second inning James Shields threw 10 pitches to John Danks and walked him—Danks finished the night hitting .220. Josh Phegley homered, but the Danks walk made it hurt twice as much. No way to know for sure if the seven-pitch top of the second hurt Shields, but it sure didn’t help.

*Shields threw 112 pitches in six innings, but lasted long enough to get the ball to the best relievers; Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. If Shields had come out earlier the ball might have gone to a middle reliever and the Royals odds of winning would not have been as good.

*Lorenzo Cain saw Adam Eaton fielding the ball going away from second base and took an extra base. Anytime you see an outfielder moving away from the base the runner is headed for, the throw won’t be as strong—take the base. If the outfielder is heading toward the base the runner is headed for, shut it down.

*Outfielders are positioned to catch the fastball because it’s the most common pitch. So when a hanging breaking ball gets hit it can go to an unprotected part of the field. Moises Sierra hit an 86-MPH cutter into the left-center gap and no one was there to catch it.

*Jordan Danks then singled to bring Sierra home and right fielder Nori Aoki overthrew the cutoff man. Throwing the ball over Eric Hosmer’s head allowed Danks to move into scoring position. Keep the throw low and Hosmer can at least fake cutting the ball off and freeze Danks at first base.

*With two outs and Alcides Escobar on first base Aoki singled and that allowed Esky to go first-to-third. But Aoki made a mistake when he tried to get to second base and was thrown out to end the inning.

If there were no other runner Aoki trying to get in scoring position with two outs make sense, but with a runner already in scoring position, Nori’s base running cost the Royals a chance at another run.

*The Royals are one win away from the playoffs: how does the Wil Myers trade look now?

What we don’t know about managers

If the Royals make the playoffs Ned Yost is going to get some consideration for Manager of the Year. Manager of the Year awards often go to the managers of teams that exceed expectations; but it’s fair to ask if the team succeeded because of their manager or in spite of their manager.

We don’t know.

In fact, there’s a whole lot we don’t know about managers. We can watch their game management, but we don’t know if he didn’t bring in that lefty reliever because the lefty reliever told the trainer his elbow felt tight that day. The team doesn’t want that kind of information out there, so we might be criticizing a manager for something that’s not his fault.

Maybe that base stealer has a tight hamstring; if the other team knows that their pitcher doesn’t have to throw out of the slide step and can throw more off-speed stuff—the base stealer isn’t going anywhere.

And there’s a whole list of stuff a manager does that we know nothing about:

*Was spring training well organized?

*Does he back his coaches if they get in a dispute with a player?

*Is the workload appropriate or does he allow coaches to schedule extra work whenever the owner is in town so the team looks good to the boss?

*Does he cover for players when they screw up?

*Do the players suffer consequences for screw ups or are they allowed to get away with murder?

*Is the clubhouse a happy one or have factions been allowed to develop?

*How does the manager handle the front office?

You might say it’s easy to spot a good manager; just look at the win column—but that’s not so. A better manager might have gotten much more out of a team; a worse manager might have gotten much less. There’s a whole lot we don’t know about managers.