Judging the Royals

Jarrod Dyson’s speed is a game-changer for the Royals

The Royals' Jarrod Dyson (1) reaches second on a double in the third inning before the tag from Angels shortstop Taylor Featherston (8) during Saturday's baseball game at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals' Jarrod Dyson (1) reaches second on a double in the third inning before the tag from Angels shortstop Taylor Featherston (8) during Saturday's baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

After last night’s 9-4 win over the Angels, a slightly hungover sportswriter could chose to write about starting pitcher Johnny Cueto throwing eight innings of one-run ball or Salvador Perez swinging at the first pitch he saw and hitting it into the left-field fountain or Mike Moustakas beating the shift by hitting a double down the left-field line.

Or he could write about Jarrod Dyson breaking the sound barrier.

In dry air at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, the sound barrier is reached when an object moves 767 mph. If Jarrod Dyson was not moving 767 mph, it looked like he came pretty close in the third inning.

Dyson hit what looked like a fairly routine single into right-center field and Mike Trout — another guy who can run pretty well — went to his left to retrieve the ball. When Dyson rounded first base, he was already moving about as fast as I thought a human being could move; but I was wrong.

Jarrod decided this single was actually a double and hit the afterburners.

After the game Eric Hosmer and I talked about that moment; that burst of speed that allowed Dyson to take another 90 feet. We both wondered how that feels; to have a fifth gear you can go to when you need it. (I’m pretty sure I have two gears: standing still and jogging like it hurts — because it does.)

I asked Jarrod when he decided to try for second base. He said he wasn’t thinking two out of the box, but after making his turn at first base saw that Mike Trout was moving laterally, away from first base. If right fielder Kole Calhoun had picked up the ball, he would have been moving toward first base.

When an outfielder is moving away from the base Jarrod has his eye on, he knows the throw won’t be strong and he might be able to take an extra 90 feet. Dyson also knows the sight of him going for an extra base will make the outfielder rush his throw; the outfielder won’t have time to set his feet and make a strong delivery.

And if you really want to get into the arcane details to which good big league players pay attention, Trout is right-handed and Calhoun throws from the left side. That meant that Trout would have to do a momentum-killing 360 after fielding a ball to his glove side. Had Calhoun been able to get to the ball before Trout, he would have been able to keep moving toward second while making the throw.

When Dyson’s on the field, the defense gets the heebie-jeebies

Heebie-jeebies is a technical term for "freaked-the-hell-out," you could see that after Dyson hit his double. Alcides Escobar lined a ball to Calhoun in right, and Jarrod appeared to misread the play; he was well on his way to third base when Calhoun made the catch. Calhoun did a double take, then threw the ball to shortstop, Taylor Featherston.

Unfortunately for the Angels, Calhoun caught the heebie-jeebies and rushed his throw to second base. The ball one-hopped Featherston and that one hop meant Featherston had to get in position to knock down the throw and that meant Featherston wound up with his feet straddling the bag; he wasn’t touching it. Dyson turned on the jets, got back in safely and stood there with a grin on his face.

When Jarrod Dyson is on the field the game changes.

Outfielders rush their throws, pitchers have to speed up their deliveries to home plate and catchers have to call more fastballs to have any chance of throwing him out if he decides to steal a base. Heck, I once saw Dyson score from second base on a ball that didn’t leave the infield.

When Alex Gordon is healthy the Royals are going to have to make a decision: do they put Ben Zobrist at second base and give Jarrod Dyson more time in the outfield or do they put Zobrist in right field and use Jarrod Dyson off the bench?

Either way, Jarrod Dyson is a game changer.

But he still needs to keep his eye on the ball

With two outs in the ninth inning, Dyson made a long run into the left-center gap to catch a fly ball from David DeJesus. Dyson checked the left fielder to see how close he was, looked back up to make the catch, but appeared to take his eye off the ball at the last second. The ball dropped, the inning continued and that allowed two more runs to score.

If I’m going to tell you how great a night Jarrod Dyson had — three hits, three RBIs, two runs, two stolen bases and one land-speed record — I better include the one error or someone will start screaming "homer."

(Interestingly enough, I get some people calling me a homer for pointing out what a player does well and some people asking me when a player will kick my butt for pointing his mistakes. Today might be the day; if Jarrod Dyson decides to come after me for pointing out his error, you know I can’t outrun him.)

Moose goes the other way

In the sixth inning the Angels played a shift on Mike Moustakas, and Moose hit the ball to left field for his second double of the night. The other day Mike and I talked about how he had started pulling the ball more lately and Moose said teams stopped shifting him so he went back to pulling —i f they go back to shifting him, he’ll go back to hitting the ball the other way.

Stay tuned.

An umpire goes three for three

Quinn Wolcott, the first-base umpire in Saturday’s night game, had a call overturned after having two calls overturned at second base on Friday night. Wolcott should be behind home plate tonight. Here’s wishing him good luck — he could use some.

How home runs often lead to walks

Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker threw Salvador Perez a first-pitch fastball in the second inning, and Sal hit it into one of the fountains. The pitch was right down the middle, and it got crushed.

When that happens, pitchers sometimes get very cautious with the next batter and that’s what happened here: Shoemaker walked Alex Rios on five pitches. Being cautious didn’t work either — two batters later Rios scored, and before the inning was over the Royals batted around and scored six runs.

Why I can’t wear red tonight

The other day I showed up wearing a baseball cap form a men’s amateur team and was told I couldn’t wear it in the clubhouse. The cap was navy blue with a red bill, but the logo was white and an exact replica of the Royals’ logo, and you can’t wear a cap with an MLB logo in an MLB clubhouse. Here’s why:

Apparently some manager got interviewed by a reporter wearing the cap of another big league team, and the manager got P.O.’d about it (he had nothing bigger to worry about) and now reporters can’t wear those caps into a big league clubhouse.

Which reminded me another rule of baseball etiquette: you don’t wear the colors of the opposing team or you’re going to take a lot of grief from the players and coaches when you show up for the game. Wearing the wrong color is considered a rookie mistake, and one I’ve made on occasion.

One day it was kind of cool so I wore a long sleeve T-shirt over a short sleeve T-shirt. (Yes, I am a very snappy dresser). But unfortunately I made a mistake: the long sleeve shirt was navy blue with orange stitching and guess who the Royals were playing that day. If you said the Detroit Tigers you’re clearly quite a bit smarter than I am.

Rusty Kuntz — who will talk to a fire hydrant if the fire hydrant asks a baseball question — refused to talk to me until I took the shirt off.

They take this stuff pretty seriously.

When the Big Slick Tournament guys were here a couple years ago, actor John Hamm wore a St. Louis Cardinals cap. It was considered an uncool move: if you get to go out on their baseball field, teams do not appreciate you wearing a cap from a rival team while you do it.

You don’t have to look like you’re rooting for the home team when you show up, but the players would prefer it if you didn’t look like you were rooting for their opponents. So when I pull a shirt out of my closet this morning, it better not be red.

Come by and meet Salvador Perez and me

Royals catcher Salvador Perez will be at Gameroom Concepts, 10440 Metcalf Avenue, at 11 a.m. Sunday. It’s a quite a bit less exciting for a Royals fan, but I’ll be there, too. If the crowd around Salvy gets too big, come by and say hi to me — I’m pretty sure I won’t be busy.

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