Judging the Royals

What’s that goofy thing Wade Davis does?

Royals relief pitcher Wade Davis
Royals relief pitcher Wade Davis The Kansas City Star

If you’ve watched Wade Davis pitch with a runner on first base, you’ve seen it: Wade bends deeply from the waist while peeking over his left shoulder at the runner. Then he straightens up and reaches the set position.

So what is that?

When Wade does that he’s checking the runner’s lead. He has every grass cutout memorized, and he can tell how big a runner’s lead is by comparing where his feet are with the grass cutout. Then when Wade reaches the set position he can keep track of the runner with his peripheral vision. If the runner had a big lead and then increases it, Wade knows he’s got a chance at a pickoff.

If the lead was short and Wade gets the pick off sign from the catcher, Wade probably won’t use his best move; he knows he doesn’t have much chance of picking the guy off. But if the lead was sizeable and Wade gets the pickoff sign, he knows he has a real shot at getting an out at first base, adrenaline takes over and he guns the ball to Eric Hosmer.

So it might look strange, but when you hear why Wade does it, you realize it’s not a goofy thing at all.

Why that ball dropped between Lorenzo Cain and Alex Rios

Last night a ball dropped for a triple in the right-center gap when Lorenzo Cain and Alex Rios arrived at the same time and both of them called for the ball. Because they called for it at the exact same time, neither one heard the other and when they got too close, they both pulled up.

So now that you know what caused the misplay, how do they fix it?

Coaches Rusty Kuntz and Mitch Maier went over the play and said the right thing to do is have the center fielder make the call and the corner outfielder keep quiet. If he hears the center fielder call for the ball the corner outfielder peels off; if there is no call the corner outfielder keeps going because if the center fielder could make the catch he’ll call for it. That way you have one outfielder making calls, not two.

Part of the problem is Lorenzo Cain’s range. Because of his injury, Alex Rios hasn’t had much experience with Lorenzo Cain as his center fielder, and Rios is still getting used to how much territory Cain can cover.

If a ball gets smoked, it’s on the pitcher

In the second inning of Wednesday night’s game Scooter Gennett hit an 0-2 cutter and drove it to deep center field, slightly toward the right-field gap. Unfortunately, Lorenzo Cain was positioned in shallow left center. Lorenzo ran about a mile and a half and dove, but the ball dropped just beyond his reach.

It was an 0-2 pitch and Joe Blanton left it out over the plate; the triple was on him, not Cain’s positioning. Generally speaking you don’t position your outfielders assuming pitchers will make bad pitches — and if you are, you might want to get some new pitchers.

But if a pitcher makes a good pitch — say that cutter got in on Gennett’s hand’s and he popped it up into short left center — that’s when the pitcher deserves an out and the defense needs to be positioned to get him one.

P.S. Every once in a while a pitcher makes too good a pitch and a jam shot rolling weakly across the infield turns into a hit. In that case it’s nobody’s fault; the pitcher made a good pitch and the infielders were positioned correctly — everybody but the hitter got unlucky.

If you have to choose, win at home

We were talking about this Brewers series and Rusty Kuntz said he was glad the four-game series started in Milwaukee. Being a dope, I asked why.

Rusty said the two games in Milwaukee gave him a better idea of how to position outfielders and that would result in a better game by the Royals here in Kansas City. Still being a dope one paragraph later, I once again asked why.

Rusty said if you have to choose, you want to win at home. When big crowds come out and see a win they’re happy and a whole bunch of them buy tickets for another game. Send the crowd home unhappy and a whole bunch of them might not come back.

And putting butts in the seats is what pays everyone’s salary.

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