Judging the Royals

Notes from the Royals’ off-day workout

Royals manager Ned Yost watched as his team worked out at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday, their off day from the American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Royals lead the best-of-seven series two games to none.
Royals manager Ned Yost watched as his team worked out at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday, their off day from the American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Royals lead the best-of-seven series two games to none. The Associated Press

The Royals held an off-day workout judging 1012. I’ve been told that these are mandatory, even if teams don’t want to do one. At this point in the season, most players don’t need more batting practice. What the workouts provide is another opportunity for the media to take pictures, get quotes and write stories. It’s just one more reason for the players to dislike the media: We can even screw up a player’s day off.

Here is what I learned:

▪ The Jarrod Dyson play — the one where he stole second and then got pushed off the bag — was not cheating. What the Baltimore middle infielder did — apply the tag firmly and keep it on the runner — was “allowable.” If the umpire sees a visible shove, the runner will be called safe. If the tag stays firm and happens to help the runner come off the base, the umpire might call the runner out.

▪ Mike Moustakas once told me you could tell if an infielder thinks a runner is safe or out by the tag he applied. If the infielder makes the tag and then brings the ball up to show the umpire, the infielder thinks the runner is out. If the infielder leaves the tag on the runner, he thinks the runner is safe and is hoping the runner will over-slide the bag.

▪ And speaking of Moose, the playoffs provide players a fresh start. Everybody’s averages go back to .000. Moustakas is no longer hitting .212. In the playoffs, he’s batting .375. Part of hitting is confidence, and seeing .375 on the scoreboard helps.

▪ The Baltimore Orioles have been throwing a new look at the Royals. Their first baseman is playing off the bag and then retreating back to the base to receive a pickoff throw. The new wrinkle had the Royals’ Jarrod Dyson flinching and heading back to the base every time the first baseman retreated to the bag, but that was the wrong reaction.

The only guy who matters is the pitcher, and the base runner needs to focus on him. A runners takes a lead when the first baseman is standing on the bag, and repositioning the first baseman doesn’t change that. The Royals’ Terrance Gore got to see how Dyson handled the situation and learned from it. When he came out to pinch run he ignored the first baseman and focused on the pitcher.

▪ Dyson was thrown out stealing second base on Saturday, and the Orioles used a “bad-pitch pitchout” to make it happen. On a regular pitchout, the ball is so far outside the strike zone that the catcher has to move laterally to catch it. That lateral movement takes away from the catcher’s throw. He has no momentum toward second base. On a bad-pitch pitchout — essentially a high-and-away fastball — the catcher can move forward as he catches the pitch. That gives him momentum and shortens the throw to second base.

▪ A TV guy told me that these games are being covered by 29 different cameras. That changes things because if a manager asks for a replay, he is more likely to get one. That many cameras can catch an umpire’s mistake, and no umpire wants to be the new Don Denkinger.

▪ Yeah, Lorenzo Cain got too far off base on that bloop single by Eric Hosmer in the first inning of Saturday’s game. Lorenzo didn’t stop to see whether the ball would fall until he got almost all the way to third. By that point, he might as well have kept going. He would not have been able to get back to second had the ball dropped.

▪ During a previous off-day workout, I watched from the bench with coach Rusty Kuntz and someone asked him whether the workout was mandatory. Rusty said that if the players were running to get there on time, it was mandatory (there’s a fine involved). If they were walking, it was voluntary. On Sunday, I noticed that the first guys on the field tended to be the ones who made the least money. I guess it was mandatory.

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