Judging the Royals

Today’s online chat, mound visits, low throws and bad scorekeeping

Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (left) tagged out the Athletics’ Billy Burns in the third inning on June 28, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. Burns was forced out on a single by Oakland’s Eric Sogard.
Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (left) tagged out the Athletics’ Billy Burns in the third inning on June 28, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. Burns was forced out on a single by Oakland’s Eric Sogard. AP

If everything goes as planned — and it rarely does — I’ll be doing an online chat at noon today; go to KansasCity.com to participate. Last week we did a chat and some wires got crossed and I was identified throughout the chat as Andy McCullough, which was actually kind of awesome — I could say anything I wanted and blame it on Andy. Today — unfortunately — I’ll probably be identified as myself and have to take the heat for my own mistakes.

I’m working on some stuff from Sunday’s game and will get that posted later this morning. In the meantime, here’s some stuff from Saturday.

When should a catcher go to the mound?

In Saturday’s game Salvador Perez visited the mound to talk to Ryan Madson in the seventh inning — but the timing might have been bad.

There was a 3-2 count on Ike Davis and the trip to the mound forced Madson to wait before throwing a pitch; when he did, it was ball four. I’ve got no idea if Madson was taken out of rhythm by Sal’s visit, and if I asked Madson he’d never throw Perez under the bus by saying it did. Nevertheless there are good and bad times to visit the mound:

When a pitcher’s ahead, let him roll; he’s got the hitter on the ropes.

When the pitcher’s behind he might need a visit to catch his breath or collect his thoughts.

When you see a catcher go to the mound 0-2, that’s probably a bad mound visit for a bad reason; the catcher’s getting the monkey off his back. Stay behind the plate, put down a sign and if the pitch gets hammered it’s on the catcher; he called the pitch. Go to the mound and ask the pitcher what he wants to throw and it’s on him; the catcher just went along with his pitcher.

Not all mound visits are equal and if you pay attention, you can spot a bad one.

Two 1-6-3 double plays and why the throws were low

On Saturday the Royals turned a 1-6-3 double play in the seventh and another 1-6-3 double pay in the eighth and both times the throw to shortstop Alcides Escobar was low.

Here’s why:

When a pitcher fields the ball and throws the ball to second base he’s got the mound to contend with. If the pitcher is going up the mound, the throw will tend to go high. If the pitcher is on the backside of the mound — where it slopes down — the throw will tend to be low.

Smart shortstops are aware of that and stay prepared for a bad throw. Alcides Escobar handled both low throws and despite less than perfect throws from the pitchers, was able to turn two on both plays.

Bad scorekeeping

In the last few games the Royals have seen some bad scorekeeping when hard-hit balls took tough hops; in several cases they were called errors.

Part of that can be attributed to scorekeepers who have never played the game making assumptions about what should or should not be caught. If you’ve never had a laser beam hit at your feet or tried to catch a fly ball in the sun, you’ve got no idea how hard those plays are; the best big-leaguers make them look easy, but they’re not.

I once had a reader complain when I called a pop fly caught by a player looking straight into the sun an outstanding play; the reader thought it was routine. I told that story to then-Royals bench coach John Gibbons, and he suggested I invite the reader out to Royals Stadium; Gibby would hit the guy a few pop flies in the sun and the reader could show the players how it was done.

I extended the invitation, but the reader never responded.

I’ve also seen scorekeepers misunderstand the fundamentals of the game. Chris Getz was once awarded a sacrifice bunt when he laid one down with one out. Unless you’re in the National League and the pitcher’s at the plate, you don’t sac bunt with one out — Getz was clearly bunting for a hit. But Chris did appreciate the score keeper taking an unsuccessful at-bat off his record.

I’ve seen defensive indifference scored when a runner stole a base and nobody covered. Just because nobody covers it doesn’t necessarily mean the defense is indifferent. A third baseman might stay put because an off-speed breaking pitch was being thrown to a right-handed hitter; with a runner on third the defense might let a runner on first steal second.

Not that I think scorekeeping is easy; scorekeepers have to go through training before doing the job. And I have enough respect for the job’s difficulties to turn down the opportunity when I was asked whether I’d be interested. When I told Eric Hosmer I’d been asked about becoming an official scorekeeper and said no, Eric said: “C’mon, Lee, we need you up there.”

I pointed out that Eric would like me as a scorekeeper right up until I made a ruling he didn’t like; then I’d be just another bum who didn’t know the game. I wouldn’t mind scorekeeping if I could do it right up until I got a hard one and then quit: “That’s it, I’m outta here. Good luck with figuring that one out.”

But the plays I’m talking about weren’t that hard. When a guy with hands like Alcides Escobar has gets a hot shot at his feet, the ball takes a bad hop and comes up and hits him in the crotch, that’s a hit — I’m betting Esky did everything he could to protect the family jewels.

And you don’t need any special training to know.

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

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