Judging the Royals

Yordano Ventura throws fastballs in fastball counts, and the Royals lose

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura slapped his glove after a four-run second inning Monday.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura slapped his glove after a four-run second inning Monday. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Being able to throw a fastball 100 mph is a rare talent and Yordano Ventura has it. But if the fastball is your go-to pitch when you have to throw a strike, hitters will look for it and be ready when they get it.

Monday night, Yordano Ventura faced the Pittsburgh Pirates and gave up 10 hits and six runs over four innings. Here are the counts and the pitch that the Pirates hit:

▪ 0-1 fastball: Marte singles

▪ 3-1 fastball: Kang singles

▪ 2-0 fastball: Alvarez singles

▪ 1-2 curve: Cervelli singles

▪ 1-0 fastball: Ishikawa doubles

▪ 3-2 changeup: McCutchen singles

▪ 0-2 fastball: Marte singles

▪ 3-1 fastball: Polanco doubles

▪ 0-1 curve: McCutchen doubles

▪ 3-1 fastball: Kang doubles

Five of those 10 hits came when Yordano Ventura fell behind in the count and threw a fastball. Two more of those hits came when Ventura was ahead in the count and threw something off-speed. By my count Yordano Ventura found himself in 14 fastball counts and threw a fastball 11 times. If you’re in a fastball count and the odds that you’re getting a fastball are 78 percent, I’m guessing most hitters will look fastball.

After the game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said his team was able to sit on certain pitches in certain spots and did damage when they got them. The best big-league pitchers will throw any pitch in any count; if Monday night’s game is any indication, Yordano Ventura does not appear to be there yet.

Three possible solutions

▪ 1. Learn to control the curve and changeup well enough to throw them in fastball counts.

▪ 2. Continue to throw fastballs in fastball counts, but put them in better locations.

▪ 3. Stay the hell out of fastball counts.

Sean Rodriguez bunted on his own

In the eighth inning, Travis Ishikawa started things off with a double. The Pirates were up 8-7 at that point and the next hitter, Sean Rodriguez, decided to bunt on his own. Most fans would be surprised at how much freedom big-league players have; managers will get roasted for some move when it was the player’s idea — they’re often bunting and stealing on their own. Some players even cook up their own hit and runs; they’ll have a sign they give a teammate to signal that the hit and run is on.

Of course, if managers really didn’t want the players doing this stuff, they could tell them not to, but there’s a feeling that the better players will see things the manager can’t see from the dugout. And if the play works, the manager gets credit; if the play blows up, the manager can say the player did it on his own.

But back to the Rodriguez bunt.

When you’re moving a runner from second to third, every baseball textbook tells you to bunt the ball to the third baseman. The idea is to make him leave the bag to come get the ball and that will allow the runner to go in to third base standing up.

In yesterday’s chat I was asked the smartest player I’d ever been around and there are a few candidates, but the much-maligned Chris Getz is somewhere near the top of the list. I think Getz drove the Internet crowd crazy because people like me thought he was a good player, but the numbers guys just couldn’t see it. But so much of what Chris did well didn’t show up in any number. I’ve yet to see a metric for baseball I.Q.

Chris Getz was the first guy I’d ever heard argue that the bunt to move a runner from second to third should go down on the right side of the field. He felt that once the pitcher came off the mound moving toward first base, there was no way the pitcher was going to turn and make a throw back to third base; he’d throw the ball to the first baseman and take the easy out in front of him.

And Rodriguez’ bunt helped make Getzie’s argument; a bunt toward third has to be almost perfect — get it too close to the mound and the pitcher will make the play and get the lead runner. That’s what happened on Monday: Kris Medlen got off the mound in good shape and threw to third to get the lead runner.

Clint Hurdle deserves the credit … or the blame

If you enjoy this website and my attempts to write about the game from an insider’s perspective, thank Clint Hurdle.

I met him back in 1990 and we hit it off. At that point he was managing in the minors and I’d visit him on a regular basis; every trip was a baseball clinic. I’d watch the games and then hang with him, his coaching staff and players afterwards. I’d say Clint was kind enough to teach me the game, but he basically made fun of me every time I said something stupid which I managed to do on a regular basis. At one point I told him he’d perfected the art of constructive ridicule.

But along the way I was learning how baseball managers, coaches and players think about their sport. I found the way they talked about the game fascinating and thought other baseball fans would love to listen in—and some of you do.

On the other hand, if you hate the way I cover baseball, blame Clint Hurdle — depending on how you look at it, he deserves the credit or the blame.

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

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