Lots of people, including me, wrote about the defensive clinic the Royals put on Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers. There were at least five highlight reel plays and the one that got the most attention was the play at the plate when Jarrod Dyson, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez combined to keep James McCann from scoring.
It was a defensive gem, but probably not the biggest play from Tuesday night. It was the fourth inning, the Royals were up 2-0 and if McCann had scored the Royals would have still had a one-run lead.
The play that changed the game came in the seventh: with the score 5-1, one out and two runners on, Ian Kinsler hit a deep fly ball to the right-center gap. If Kinsler’s ball dropped, both runs probably would have scored and that would make the score 5-3. With a two-run lead Ned Yost would have probably used Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland to finish out the game and even if the Royals won, the backend of the bullpen would have been deprived of a day off.
Because Orlando ran down that ball in the gap — a ball Alex Rios probably doesn’t get to — Luke Hochevar could finish out the game and give Herrera and Holland another night off.
The Dyson-Escobar-Perez play was flashier, but Orlando’s catch was more important.
If the pitcher’s in a slide step, be ready
In that same game on Tuesday, Eric Hosmer hit a home run when Detroit pitcher Anibal Sanchez threw him a fastball using a slide step. Lorenzo Cain was on first and Sanchez was trying to speed up his delivery to home plate so Cain couldn’t steal second base.
Some pitchers lose velocity and leave pitches up in the zone when they use a slide step and they use a slide step when they have a base stealer on first. But if the pitcher speeds up his delivery and gets the ball to home plate in less than 1.3 seconds, the Royals, with the possible exception of Jarrod Dyson,have a hard time swiping a bag.
And if the guy on first base isn’t going to run, the guy at the plate shouldn’t be taking pitches. If the batter gets a hittable fastball, turn on the fan; don’t wait for the base runner to make something happen because he isn’t going to do it — do not let a good pitch go by. But if the pitcher’s delivery time is over 1.3 seconds, a stolen-base attempt is much more likely and the hitter might want to be a bit more patient.
Baseball, batting practice and eyewash
“Eyewash” is baseball slang for anything done just because it looks good. For instance: the owner’s in town and a coach has the team practice their base running, not because they need to; they run the bases because it looks good to the owner. The coach wants the owner to see how hard the team is working.
This comes up because lately the Royals have not been taking nearly as much outside batting practice. Guys are free to hit in the indoor cages — and I’m guessing most of them do — but the players don’t have to come out and put in a long BP session in the heat. And that lack of outdoor batting practice made me wonder about “eyewash.”
The Royals are 11 games out in front of the American League Central and that’s allowed them to take their foot off the gas. They can rest starting players, get some bench guys some work and skip BP if they want to. And maybe every team would be better off if they did less outside work in August; it can’t be easy to lift weights, put a full work out in the afternoon and then have a ton of energy leftover for a game that night.
But if you’ve got a losing record and you’re in third place, you just can’t skip batting practice; from the outside it would look like you’d given up.
So if team would actually better off taking less batting practice in the heat of August, but do it anyway because it would look bad if they stopped, that’s the very definition of eyewash.