Judging the Royals

Here’s a little warmup for Monday’s online chat

We’re doing an on-line chat on Monday at noon. I don’t really have much inside information on which pitcher looks good in Omaha or what’s going on with Alex Gordon’s contract, but if you want to ask questions about how the game is played, I’ll do my best to answer. Here are a few questions readers have sent me, along with my answers—and I sure hope I have shorter answers on Monday.

Question: Why do ballplayers wear their gloves the way they do?

I’ve got a question for you. A couple of years ago, I noticed that Tim Collins wearing his glove in a strange (at least to me) way. He had his index finger in the slot where his middle finger should go, his middle finger where his ring finger should go, and, I assume, his ring and pinky fingers in the last slot.

 

Since then, I’ve seen this with other pitchers. Have you noticed it? Do you know why they do it? Is it to take their index finger out from behind the pocket so it doesn’t sting when the catcher throws the ball back?

Answer:

I don’t think pitchers are worried about catchers throwing the ball back, I think they’re worried about hitters sending a 100-MPH rocket up the middle. And, yes, that’s at least part of why they do it; it creates a bigger area where a ball can hit the glove without someone’s finger getting mashed. That’s also why you see infielders with their index finger outside their glove.

I’ve always worn my ball gloves like that and it felt like having two fingers—pinky and ring finger—in the last finger of the glove made the glove easier to snap closed, especially when it was new and stiff.

 

Are lefties really better low-ball hitters?

It seems to be a widely accepted idea in baseball that left handed batters tend to be better low ball hitters. Any particular reason this would be so, or is it just one of those things that's been repeated for years till everyone accepts it?

Answer:

(Buckle in; this question does not have a short answer.)

All swings have rotation (circular movement) and weight shift (back-to-front movement). There are always exceptions, but right-handed hitters tend to use more rotation because they face a lot of right-handed pitchers. The ball is released somewhat in line with their head and it’s harder to read speed and trajectory when an object is coming right at you. So right-handed hitters wait as long as possible, try to figure out what pitch just got thrown and then be quick by rotating to the ball.

Left-handed hitters also face a lot of right-handed pitchers and because the pitcher’s arm side is not in line with their heads, lefties get a better early read on the ball and have more time to complete their swing. That leads to more back-to-front movement; much like a golf swing. And that’s what lefties do: they sway back-to-front—which is why their swings tend to be prettier—and drop the bat head on low pitches like they were using a golf club. Since lefties swings tend to be longer, pitchers often try to get in on their hands; but miss down and that pitch is in that golf-club zone.

On the other hand, this could be a bunch of malarkey—which is not the word I would normally use there—but it’s what I’ve been told and sounds kinda semi-scientific so I’ve accepted it.

Question: Are the Royals really losing Rusty Kuntz?

You wrote yesterday that Rusty was moving to the minors. Say it ain't so, Lee, say it ain't so!

I am assuming that the organization needs him more as instructor/motivator/future manager than it needs him as first base coach/base stealing mafioso chieftain/outfield positioning genius/reporter-feeder extraordinaire. As a would-be baseball blogger, I am SO jealous of your connection with Uncle Rusty.  I can only assume that you have surgically pre-attached yourself to Mitch Maier's hip.

Please keep up your insightful postings.  You are SUCH a fresh breath of air in the soul-sucking blog-osphere.  Maybe there is hope for the human race, after all.

 

Answer:

As far as I know, the decision to return to the minors is Rusty's. If he's some type of roving instructor he can spend a lot more time at home. But you never know: I didn’t think Rusty was coming back this year, but he's still here. I believe the Royals asked Rusty to train a replacement and he chose Mitch Maier. Fortunately, Mitch and I have a good relationship and I have informed him that if he's really going to replace Rusty that means talking to me every day.

P.S. If I represent hope for the human race, we're all screwed. 

Question: Can we still tap into Rusty’s wisdom?

Any chance we'll still be able to tap into Rusty's pearls, via you?

I wouldn’t count on it; Rusty has given me his cell phone number, but assures me that if I call, he won’t pick up.

Question: What’s Chris Getz up to?

Any idea what Chris is up to these days?  I thought his intelligence and dedication would make him a good coach or manager.  

PS - It always pissed me off the way fans dumped on Chris and, now, Omar Infante.  You'd think the Frank Whites of the position grew on trees.

Answer:

You’re not the only one that Chris had a future beyond playing; he currently works in the Royals front office.

Why do some players not want to play for some franchises?

Thanks so much for writing Judging the Royals.  I've been reading them since you first began, and they give me great insights that I appreciated particularly during the frustratingly long rebuilding process under Dayton Moore, which turned out to be well worth it. 

The reason I'm writing is that you had an article a while back in which you reminded everyone that professional baseball players are professionals and have to make game decisions with their careers in mind.  I think you stated that they were akin to hired mercenaries and reminded everyone to understand that it is in their interest to avoid injury, etc. in order to prolong their career.  I appreciated the point you were making.

I couldn't help but wonder, though, what makes a player actually want to play for a particular franchise, or at least NOT want to play for a particular franchise? 

Answer:

Money, probably.

(BTW: I think you should appreciate the good sense I showed in leaving in that opening paragraph. I don’t know if my editors actually go to the trouble to read my stuff, but if they do, I want them to know I have at least one satisfied customer—and I’m working hard on finding a second one.)

Finding out why a player doesn’t want to play for a franchise is difficult—they might not want that information public. You never know when you’ll need a job and burning bridges with an organization by saying it sucks is not considered a good career move.

If a team is known for being cheap or a city isn’t a particular attractive place to live, that would be understandable, but I do know that there are reasons a player doesn’t want to play for a team or in a city and some of those reasons would never occur to most fans or reporters.

For instance: I’ve heard of teams missing out on a player because the player’s wife didn’t want to move to a particular city. And the fact that we don’t consider that kind of thing more often shows how far off we can be when understanding a player’s motivation.

What was the turning point in the April 26th loss to the White Sox?

I know people will focus on the 5 run inning as the turning point for the game.  However, based on what I have read from you I think you would agree that a fair assessment would be that the real turning point was when Moustakas was sent home from third.  When Cain singled to center if Moustakas had stayed at third Danks would have had to pitch to at least 1 more batter (Hosmer).  He was averaging about 18 pitches an inning, and thus around 90 pitches.  Even if Hosmer gets out that is still one more batter seen, and another 3 to 6 pitches.

However, just as critical to that inning was the top of the 6th when Danks only had to throw 8 pitches.  Thus set Volquez up on short rest and the implosion sparked by the error commenced.  Had the Royals got Danks out of the game 1 inning earlier then they would have likely won 3-0 after turning it over to their own bullpen.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this brief analysis.

Answer:

The game referred to was played in Chicago on April 27th, which lets you know what a terrific job I do of keeping up with my email. In case you don’t remember (I certainly didn’t) the Royals were beating the White Sox 3-0 going into the fifth inning; John Danks and Edinson Volquez were pitching.

Mike Moustakas was on first base with two outs when Lorenzo Cain hit a ball into the right-center gap. Normally the best a runner can do on that play is go first-to-third, but the White Sox mishandled the ball in the outfield, Moustakas was sent home and was thrown out to end the inning.

With two outs most base coaches are going to take chances sending a runner, especially if it’s a tack-on run. Hold the runner at third base and you’re counting on getting another two-out hit and until people start hitting .501, the odds favor the pitcher.

In the next inning—the top of the sixth—Danks threw nine more pitches (not eight) for a total of 100 on the day. Eric Hosmer led off the inning and only saw one pitch; no way to know if he’d have been more selective if he’d come to the plate with two outs in the fifth, but if Danks had finished the fifth inning with 92 pitches instead of 91, I’m thinking he still comes back out for the sixth.

I don’t know if Volquez got inadequate rest before going back out for the bottom of the sixth inning, but what strikes me after looking back at the game is the fact that Volquez stayed out there for 30 pitches and was allowed to give up the lead during that time.

The Royals and White Sox had been rained out the day before so, theoretically, everyone in the bullpen was available. After Volquez gave up a single, a walk, threw a wild pitch and did not get an out on an error, why let him face left-handed Adam LaRoche?

Volquez was throwing a shutout and had a low pitch count going into the sixth, but 30 pitches in one inning is a load of pitches. I have the benefit of hindsight, but to me the key to the game was not failing to get Danks out of the game, it was failing to get Volquez out of the game before it was too late. (So if any teams want me to re-manage games a month after they’re over; I think I can do a pretty decent job.)

OK, that’s it, I hope to hear from you tomorrow for the on-line chat at noon—and I’ll try to give shorter answers.

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