Judging the Royals

Hitting is not contagious, but bad pitching is

The Royals' Lorenzo Cain (6) was congratulated by Ben Zobrist (18) and Eric Hosmer (35) after hitting a three run home run during Thursday's baseball game against the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals' Lorenzo Cain (6) was congratulated by Ben Zobrist (18) and Eric Hosmer (35) after hitting a three run home run during Thursday's baseball game against the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Wednesday night the Royals scored 12 runs. Thursday night the Royals scored 15 runs. Friday afternoon a reporter asked a Royals player if hitting was contagious. Friday night the Royals scored 1 run. If hitting is contagious, they’ve come up with a cure and its name is John Danks.

I’ll probably write this column at least once a season for the rest of my life: hitting is not contagious, but bad pitching is. When everyone hits the thing they have in common is the pitcher; when everyone doesn’t hit the thing they have in common is the pitcher.

Wednesday night the Royals faced the Detroit Tigers and Randy Wolf was their starting pitcher. By the time Wolf left the game his ERA was 6.11. Managers try not to waste good pitching on lost causes, so after Wolf left the game the Royals faced pitchers with the following ERAs: 18.00, 7.54 and 6.68.

That’s how you score 12 runs.

Thursday night the Royals once again faced the Tigers and this time Matt Boyd was their starting pitcher. By the time Boyd left the game his ERA was 8.36. Detroit then ran a succession of relievers to the mound and here are their ERAs: 5.92, 4.17, 7.03 and 2.53.

That’s how you score 15 runs.

(That 2.53 came from Drew VerHagen, a pitcher with a total of 16 and a third innings in the big leagues.)

Friday night the Royals faced the Chicago White Sox and John Danks. The Sox lefty may have an ERA over 4.00, but he’s got a history of beating the Royals like a drum. Friday night was no different; Danks threw so well, he threw a complete game.

Saturday night the Royals faced Jose Quintana. The Chicago lefty — and the Royals can struggle against lefties — finished the game with an ERA of 3.60 and since the Sox had the lead, the Royals faced a series of relievers and every one of them had a sub-4.00 ERA.

Do even a minimal amount of research — and that’s the amount I’m willing to do — and it’s not hard to see why some nights teams hit and some nights they don’t. Hitting is not contagious, but bad pitching is.

Kendrys Morales vs. Billy Butler

Former Royal Billy Butler was often described as a fan favorite, but you sure don’t hear his name much anymore. I was in The Star’s newsroom and asked an editor the last time he’d heard anyone say Billy’s name. A reporter sitting nearby piped up and said her husband had mentioned Billy the night before. Here’s what he said: "Billy who?"

That’ll happen when your replacement has the kind of year Kendrys Morales is having.

Kendrys Morales is hitting .293 and has 99 RBIs. Kendrys will reach 100 RBIs unless he gets hit by a bus, the chicken pox or the swine flu. He’s also got a chance of having his foot run over by one of the two-wheeled scooters the Royals are riding around the clubhouse. But baring some kind of disaster, Morales will get that 100th RBI.

Billy Butler, on the other hand, is out in Oakland hitting .247 and the next RBI he gets will be his 51st.

Dayton Moore took some heat for signing Kendrys Morales, but Dayton may have signed the comeback player of the year — and that’s why you don’t hear Billy Butler’s name much anymore.

Why Jonny Gomes stands in the front of the box

Most hitters stand as deep in the batter’s box as possible. Some go as far as wiping out the back line, hoping to stand even deeper than the rules and human decency allow. Standing deep in the box takes something off a pitcher’s fastball; the hitter has more time to get around on a heater.

So why does Jonny Gomes stand in the front of the box?

Jonny says he mainly sees left-handed pitchers. Lots of lefties are soft-tossers and make a living throwing their off-speed stuff. Jonny says he stands in the front of the box to catch the breaking ball before it drops. Take away that off-speed pitch, and the lefty has to throw you more fastballs.

I don’t know how this information changes your life, but if you’re watching a Royals game you can point this out to the fans around you — it’ll make you seem like a baseball expert. But after you drop that gem on them, you’re on your own. Try not to say something stupid, like hitting is contagious.

What to watch for during Sunday’s game

Speaking of saying stupid stuff; I went out on a limb and said Johnny Cueto’s problem in the last three games was his front shoulder —i t’s been flying open too soon. I also said the last two innings of his last start might indicate he’s figured it out and if that’s true, Cueto will pitch better today.

Here’s what you can look for: if Cueto is consistently missing the target arm-side high, he’s still flying open. If Cueto is keeping the ball down and consistently getting it to the far corner of the plate (down and away to a right-handed hitter), he’s got it fixed.

When I talked to Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki, he said his mentor, Jason Kendall, taught him to start a game with fastballs down and to the far corner of the plate; that would get a pitcher locked in mechanically and improve every other pitch in his arsenal.

Sure hope Salvador Perez reads this column.

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