Judging the Royals

Eric Hosmer, Twitter and the in-between hop

Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. The Associated Press

On Tuesday night with the score 1-0 and the tying run sprinting for home, Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer made a sensational play to end the inning and prevent the run from scoring. Here’s how it happened:

With one out in the seventh inning Trevor Plouffe tripled and stood 90 feet away from tying the game. Plouffe’s triple broke up Chris Young’s no-hitter and Franklin Morales was brought in to face Eddie Rosario. Rosario hit a groundball to Alcides Escobar and Escobar was positioned too close to home for Plouffe to advance; so two outs and Kurt Suzuki was at the plate.

Suzuki, the Twins catcher, hit a ball to Escobar’s right and Alcides went into the hole, caught the ball backhand and threw from the outfield grass. Esky’s throw bounced and first baseman Eric Hosmer dug it out of the dirt for the third out of the inning. Like I said, it was a sensational play and to describe it on Twitter, I came up with this gem:

“Esky made a great play and Hosmer made another one.”

A comment that was immediately kicked around the blogosphere like a soccer ball at a 9-year-old’s birthday party. Twitter is a marvelous way to express your thoughts as long as your thought can be expressed in 140 characters. So if you want to say you don’t like a player’s walk up music or Wade Davis is pitching the eighth inning, you’re in business.

And if your thoughts aren’t already inane, Twitter will force inanity on you. For example, using 140 characters, the opening paragraph of a Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it”

Would be better expressed as:

Good and bad stuff happened.”

Juliet’s balcony speech reduced to 140 characters:

“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? 

Deny thy father and refuse thy name;

Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, 

And I’ll no lon”

Might become:

Who’s it going to be; me or your family?”

I’ve made this point before, but it’s worth repeating: if what you want to say is complicated, Twitter is a bad vehicle for saying it.

What I really wanted to say

Clearly everyone watching the game understood it was an outstanding play made in a big situation, but unless you’ve played the game or spent a lot of time with the people who do, it’s hard to appreciate just how insanely difficult it was for Hosmer to pick that Escobar throw.

When an infielder bounces a throw to first base, the first baseman can get one of three hops: a long hop, a short hop or the dreaded in-between hop. Hosmer got an in-between hop and it was probably traveling more than 90 miles an hour.

The long hop is just what it sounds like: the ball bounces then rises up and is often on its way back down when it’s caught. The guy catching it has plenty of time to judge the trajectory of the ball and make the catch.

The short hop is ball caught immediately after it bounces. The guy catching it smothers the ball so it doesn’t have a chance to take a weird bounce.

The in-between hop is the one that bounces and is still on its way up as it arrives. There’s hardly any time to react to anything the ball does after the hop.

I once asked Hosmer how hard he thought Escobar threw the ball when Escobar really cut one loose and Eric said somewhere in the mid-90s. So what Hosmer did was way beyond routine and he handled the most difficult hop with style — and I couldn’t adequately express all that in 140 characters.

So in the future maybe I’ll just try to sticking to simple stuff like how I feel about John Fogarty singing “Centerfield.”

So then there’s that.

What makes Hosmer so good

Chris Getz (now there’s a name that will get some people on the Internet salivating) now works in the Royals front office and I run into him from time to time. The other day we talked about what Hosmer does for the rest of the infielders; his reach and hands save dozens of errors a year.

Chris was talking about what a big target Hosmer presents and I pointed at a buffet table that has condiments, coffee urns, and soft drink machine next to it and asked: “Like that much territory?”

“Easily.”

When we think of good first basemen, we tend to think of hands, but often underappreciate their feet. Tim Bogar — a former big league shortstop — says defense is about feet; if your feet get you to the right spot, your hands have an easier time.

Bad first baseman stretch too soon; they get out on their front foot and if the throw is off line they can’t react very far to the left or right. With a first baseman like that, Getz felt he had to hit him in the chest or the play might not be made.

With Hosmer on first, Getz felt like he had a huge target to throw to; Eric would wait until the throw was on its way, then stretch left or right to handle anything off line. If the throw was high Eric might even go backward over the bag and into foul territory to buy a few more feet in that direction. Chris said with Hosmer on first, the other infielders can attempt plays they might not with a lesser first baseman. If you’ve got to hit the guy in the chest to complete a play you might eat the ball, if you’ve got a 6-foot-4 first baseman with the wing span of a condor, just throw it in his general direction and let him take care of you.

And it took me a lot more than 140 characters to tell you about it.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8.

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