Judging the Royals

Mike Moustakas, Fenway Park and the Pesky Pole

Mike Moustakas pointed upward after crossing home plate on his solo home run against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.
Mike Moustakas pointed upward after crossing home plate on his solo home run against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday. The Associated Press

On Thursday night Mike Moustakas hit a home run down the right field line in Boston’s Fenway Park. If you knew what to look for — and I didn’t until someone pointed it out to me — you could see it coming. Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan set up inside and the pitcher — Wade Miley — threw Moose an 89-mph fastball. Not quite off-speed, but not a pitch that’s going to make a radar gun burst into flames.

When pitching in Fenway throwing a left-handed hitter anything on the inside part of the plate that’s even close to off-speed is risky.

Here’s why:

According to the Internet — and everything found on the internet is completely accurate — Fenway Park’s Pesky Pole is 302 feet from home plate. The outfield wall drops off sharply after that, but if you let a left-handed hitter pull the ball directly down the right-field line, that left-handed hitter doesn’t have to hit a baseball very far for it to have home run distance.

So over the weekend pay attention: if you see a catcher put down more than one finger and then set up inside on a left-handed hitter, feel free to say, “This might be a home run.”

Assuming you’re not sitting alone in your mom’s basement, the people around you will be amazed if the hitter even comes close to hitting one out. If it works and I managed to make you look like a genius, you’re welcome. And maybe that will make up for my previous post where I called some Kansas City Royals fans fickle.

Other Fenway oddities

Normally you shouldn’t see base runners take huge risks to get to third base unless there’s one out. With nobody out you should be happy with a runner in scoring position and with two outs you figure a runner will score from second on most base hits.

But normal base running rules do not apply when you’re playing in an abnormal park.

The Green Monster is so close to home plate you can’t be sure a runner on second base will score on a single to left, so you might see guys push it to get to third base with two down. You should also see the center fielder hustle over to backup any play in left field because the ball might take a weird carom off the Monster.

Then there’s that part of the low wall that juts out toward the left field line. Normally a ball hit down the left field line is a sure double that the left fielder will handle. In Boston the shortstop has to run over and play a possible carom off that wall because the ball can shoot sideways and end up in shallow left field.

One of the compliments I’ve heard about Kauffman Stadium is that it “plays fair.” Generally speaking Kauffman is a fairly uniform field and that allows games to be decided by the athletes; not weird caroms that hit a seam in an outfield wall.

The Baseball Prospectus projection

If you’re a Royals fan you probably already know Baseball Prospectus projected the 2015 Royals to win 72 games and unless Kansas City loses from here until October, that projection is going to be pretty far off. Apparently the system Baseball Prospectus used to project the Royals win total has problems with elite bullpens, great defenses and any team that can outperform its raw stats — other than that, it’s peachy.

And here’s yet another thing it’s hard to account for: teammates.

My son Paul is way into NBA basketball and he was talking about a player who shot 38 percent from behind the three-point line and the assumption that the player would still shoot 38 percent if he went to another team. But the player shoots 38 percent with those teammates and in that scheme. Put him with teammates less or more skilled in passing, or setting picks, or collapsing a defense by driving the lane and that 38 percent is very likely to change.

The same kind of thing happens in baseball.

If you’re hitting behind Jarrod Dyson and he’s standing on first base when you come to the plate, there’s a very good chance you’re going to see some fastballs and pitches delivered out of slide steps.

Go to the National League, hit in the 8-hole and have the team tell you to expand your strike zone with a runner in scoring position because they don’t want you to leave it up to the pitcher, and you might see your average drop in those situations.

When Tampa Bay had David DeJesus and Wil Myers playing for them, I saw DeJesus helping Myers with his positioning. Take David DeJesus off the field and Wil Myers becomes a worse defender.

To be fair to the sabermetric community, I don’t know anyone in baseball who totally dismisses the numbers sabermetrics produces. But by the same token I don’t know anyone in the baseball who thinks those numbers tell the whole story. There’s just no way to adequately measure everything that affects a ballgame, a ballplayer or a ball team.

And your teammates have an effect.

By the way

Since I mentioned my son Paul, I’ll also mention he’s going to fill in for me tonight. Paul stands in for me when I can’t watch a game and I’m actually going out on a Friday night and eating dinner. Something I haven’t experienced since sometime in March.

Then I’ll go home and watch the game. (Thank God and whoever invented the DVR.)      

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

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