Judging the Royals

Prediction: the media will say something inaccurate

Monday might I was watching some baseball panel show and the people on it said they’re preseason predictions had been all wrong. They’d also been pretty much wrong about what was going to happen in the post-season. The host of the show said it was clear that they knew nothing—and then they proceeded to make more predictions.

Even though they’re mostly inaccurate, we’re addicted to predictions.

I can’t walk through the office without someone asking for my World Series prediction. I usually say something like: "Tell me if James Shields will keep his changeup down and I’ll make a prediction." The point being that James Shields doesn’t know if his changeup will be down—how the heck would any of us in the media know? And if we don’t know something as important as that, our predictions are worthless.

But lack of information never stopped the media.

Before one road playoff game I watched a pregame show and listened to their panel of experts—guys I’d never seen in the Royals clubhouse—talk with great confidence about the inner workings of the team. Some of what they said was right, but much of what they said was just flat wrong. It occurred to me that anyone watching that pregame show was actively becoming more misinformed about the Kansas City Royals.

And I’m not totally innocent: before every series I’ve been asked for "Three Keys" for each team to succeed. I’ve tried to pick some pretty basic stuff—the starter needs to go six innings and get the ball to Herrera, Davis and Holland—but as the Wild Card game showed, there’s more than one way to skin a cat or win a baseball game. My Three Keys might be right, but I could also be way off base.

This morning you can look in the Star’s special section and see the predictions of experts from around the country. They not only know who’s going to win; they know how many games it will take. If they really knew, wouldn’t all the predictions be the same?

So as you watch this World Series just remember that the experts dissecting the game might be right, but they’re also going to say some things that just aren’t accurate—and that’s my prediction.

How outfield dimensions will change the game

Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium is big and symmetrical: 330 feet down the lines, 387 in the gaps and 410 to center field.

San Francisco’s AT&T is 339 feet down the left field line, 364 feet in the left-center gap, 399 to centerfield, 421 in right center and 309 down the right-field line.

So how will that change the game?

Did you like that catch Alex Gordon made when he slammed into the left field scoreboard? If that same ball had been hit in San Francisco, Alex never would have made that catch—it would have been a home run.

In fact a couple long fly balls hit by the Orioles would have been home runs in Baltimore, but were outs or doubles in KC. That’s one of the reasons the Royals started Jeremy Guthrie—a fly ball pitcher—at home; Guthrie could pitch in a bigger park and the fly balls he gives up wouldn’t do as much damage. So why not start Guthrie in Game One or Game Two and let him once again pitch in the bigger park?

Because the Game One and Game Two starting pitchers will pitch more often. If the Royals want James Shields and Yordano Ventura to throw as often as possible in this series, those guys need to be the starting pitchers in the first two games.

Watch the outfielders

Keep an eye on Travis Ishikawa. The Giants outfielder hasn’t been an outfielder that long and before he hit that game-winning home run, misplayed the heck out of a fly to left field.

The dimensions of Kauffman Stadium tend to freak out visiting outfielders—even guys with more experience than Ishikawa.

They take their normal position in the outfield, turn around and see the outfield wall a mile away and then tend to back up. Most outfielders—especially the less gifted ones—are more comfortable coming in on a ball than they are going back on a ball. If they back up the outfielder might be standing in the wrong place, but at least they’re comfortable.

The tendency of visiting outfielders to play deep allows more singles to drop in front of them. Playing deep also allows the Royals base runners to take that extra base; the opposing outfielders are too far away to throw them out.

So tonight try to figure out where Alex Gordon is standing—the patterns in the grass can help you—then compare that to where Ishikawa sets up. You can do the same thing for center and right field.

And if ball drops in front of a Giants outfielder playing deep, you’ll know how outfield dimensions changed the game.