Judging the Royals

Stuff to read while you wait out this rain delay

I’ve always got more material than I can use, some here’s some of what I heard or saw in the last two days that hasn’t been on-line yet. So if you’re bored at home, waiting out this rain delay, here’s some stuff to read.

Go away when you’re behind; come in when you’re ahead

Friday night Eric Hosmer was in a 2-2 count and pitcher Jaime Garcia threw Hosmer a 91-MPH fastball in on his hands—Hosmer popped up to second base.

There are always exceptions, but when a hitter is ahead in a count he’s more likely to look to turn and burn: get the bat head out and pull the ball. That’s when you want to pitch away. The hitter’s jacked up to swing the bat; see if you can get him to pull an outside pitch and hit a weak grounder to the pull side of the field.

When a hitter is behind in a two-strike count he’s more like to try to hit the ball the other way; he’s got to protect the entire plate against every pitch that might come into the strike zone. Hitters try to wait to see what they’re dealing with and that’s when a pitcher can jam the hitter with a fastball in.

Like I said, there are always exceptions, but this is a pattern you can look for and find over and over again.

The Franklin Morales move

On Friday Ned Yost brought a left-handed reliever—Franklin Morales—in to the game to face a pitcher batting left handed; Jaime Garcia.

Ryan Lefebvre wondered if part of that move was to see if Cardinal manager Mike Matheny would pull Jaime Garcia from the game. It was the sixth inning, there were two outs and there were runners on first and third; would Matheny pull his starting pitcher to have a better chance of driving in a run?


And Ned Yost didn’t think he would. When I asked Ned about that move—bringing in a reliever to see if he could get a pitcher out of a game—he said he’s done it, but that wasn’t the case on Friday. Garcia had a 2-run lead, was throwing a shutout and had already hit the ball hard twice.

Ned made the move because he didn’t want Garcia to drive in another run—and because there were two left-handed hitters coming up behind Garcia. If Morales got Garcia—he did—then Morales could start the seventh and face Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter.

Yes, umpires see things we don’t

Saturday afternoon I ran into former umpire Steve Palermo and he asked if I’d noticed when Yadier Molina asked to have an electronic sign in the outfield changed. It was between innings and the Molina could not see the pitcher’s warmup tosses because the sign was bright yellow.

I’d completely missed that, but it gave me a chance to ask Steve if the instant replay reviews actually had camera angles not available to the rest of the public; the answer’s yes. Umpiring crews can ask for extra cameras to show problem areas like the top of Fenway’s Green Monster.

That led to a question about Kauffman Stadium’s problem areas and the first thing everyone mentions are the field-level scoreboards. When those are lit up umpires and base coaches have a hard time picking up the ball. They can only see the players in silhouette, so base coaches can’t react to what the ball does, they have to wait to see what the player does; is he reacting like he caught the ball and is starting to make a throw?

Umpires have a hard time seeing if a ball cleared the top of the fence and hit the protective railing right behind it. When that happens it might look like the ball hit the wall and remained in play.

Sometimes there’s a lack of coordination between the people who run the stadiums and the players, coaches and umpires who have to perform in them.

What’s a drive back play?

On Saturday I tweeted that the Cardinals had tried a drive back play with Jeremy Guthrie at the plate and I waited for someone to ask me what a drive back play was. No one did so—assuming you don’t already know—here’s the answer.

With a runner on second base and a man at the plate that the defense believes is bunting, a middle infielder will run in behind the runner and drive him back to the base. The pitcher throws home at that point and if the bunt is put down the defense has a better chance of getting the runner at third base—he had no lead.

Yet another thing I missed

I was too dumb to see it, but apparently Yadier Molina slowed pitcher Tyler Lyons down in the third inning when Lyons started working too fast. Molina would go to one knee between pitches and refuse to give a sign until he thought the time was right. Apparently it takes a while to get a feel for the game that lets a catcher know when things need to slow down or things need to speed up. There’s one more reason Yadier Molina has the reputation he does.

It’s the kind of thing big league coaches see, but big league baseball writers miss.

Keeping Drew Butera

When Erik Kratz went down and Drew Butera was brought in as the backup to Salvador Perez General Manager Dayton Moore said Kratz was still their guy. Butera has a reputation for being a good defensive catcher and it was clear right away that pitchers liked throwing to him. So if they knew they were going to keep Butera, why not say so earlier?

The answer to that question is another one: why should they?

Let’s say they announce they’re going to keep Butera and Butera goes down with an injury the next day. Now they have to go back to Erik Kratz and say yeah, we were thinking about letting you go, but now we want you back.

The same thing happens in spring training: reporters bug Ned Yost because we want to know who has made the final roster. But why announce it earlier than you have to? If a player goes down and you have to go to someone else and say we were sending you to the minors, but now that so-and-so got hurt, we want you on the big league team.

Better to wait until you have to make a decision to announce a decision you might have already made.