Kauffman Stadium’s outfield contains a lot of real estate and Monday night Jason Vargas used most of it. Vargas had 13 fly ball outs, seven of them hit to the deepest part of the K—center field. He finished the night with eight innings pitched, four hits, one walk, two strike outs, one earned run and three tired outfielders.
Jason Vargas pitched to the park.
He did the same thing in Comerica Park when he threw to the Detroit Tigers. Given a spacious outfield and three outfielders who can go get it, Vargas can come right after hitters. Catcher Brett Hayes pointed out that Jason throws a lot of off-speed stuff and that gets hitters out on their front foot. And hitters who are out on their front foot tend to hit the ball in the air. Jason Vargas can use Kauffman Stadium’s dimensions to his advantage.
On the other hand, don’t be surprised if Vargas scuffles in smaller parks—some of the balls hit by the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday would be out of other ballparks. Because contrary to what you may have heard, size matters.
Kansas City wins this one 4-2.
*Ned Yost sent Vargas out for the ninth inning with a 4-0 lead and a pitch count of 108. Afterwards Ned said Vargas was pitching on six days rest and his next start will be on six days rest so Ned was willing to let his starting pitcher throw as many as 120 pitches. Vargas gave up a lead-off home run to Ben Zobrist and that got closer Greg Holland in the game.
*The big hit of the night was a two out bases loaded double by Alcides Escobar—three runs scored. Lorenzo Cain deserves some of the credit for hustling out a two-out infield single to keep the inning alive.
But back to that double.
Look up ESPN Hot Zones and you’ll see a hitter’s strike zone divided into nine boxes. (They also show pitches hitters hitout
of the strike zone, but for now let’s concentrate on the nine boxes in the zone.) The boxes in red are parts of the zone a hitter hits well, the boxes in blue, not so much. Five of Billy Butler’s nine boxes are red. Eric Hosmer has seven red boxes. Alcides Escobar has three and Rays pitcher Cesar Ramos managed to hit one of them—up and in.
Pitchers are made aware of hitter’s hot zones, but sometimes they decide to defy the odds, sometimes they just forget what they’ve been told and sometimes they just miss.
*I’ve been told Wil Myers has trouble with the down and away pitch—lots of hitters do—and sure enough, you can see it on the Hot Zone chart. Don’t be surprised if Royals pitchers try to pound that zone during this series. They still may come up and in to keep Myers from diving to cover that zone, but then go right back to it once they’ve brushed him off the plate.
*Omar Infante took a pitch to the jaw and went down, cut, bleeding and possibly concussed. The Royals will have his jaw checked out and then run concussion tests on him. Danny Valencia came out to play second base, turned a couple of fairly routine plays and then struggled with an attempted 6-4-3 double play; throwing the ball away as he tried to go to first base.
If a guy hasn’t played a lot of second base the 6-4-3 is one of the hardest plays he has to make. A second baseman’s back is to the runner and if you don’t have a feel for how long you have before the runner arrives, you might bail too soon or rush the throw.
If Infante is only going to be out a couple days the Royals will try to get by with Valencia. If Infante is going to miss more than that, they might make a move.
A wider warning track
Last season Kauffman Stadium’s warning track was 15 feet wide—this season it’s 20. It’s a change that might keep Lorenzo Cain healthy. Big outfielders—like Cain and Justin Maxwell—can cover the track in two strides and change. The extra five feet buys them just a bit more time to pull up. Justin Maxwell said high, fly balls aren’t much of a problem—those types of hits give you time to get the wall and orient yourself. Line drives are a different deal; you’re going full speed all the way. Fortunately (for the pitchers and defense) not too many line drives leave Kauffman; it’s just too big.
Mike Moustakas and left-handed shifts
Monday afternoon Mike Moustakas was out practicing his bunting. Mike has said if opposing teams continue to play left-handed shifts against him (three infielders between first and second) he’s going to start bunting for hits. Mike has got to bunt the ball hard enough to get it past the pitcher to make this plan work. If Moose makes it work maybe they’ll quit playing shifts against him.
Managing instant replay
Ned Yost has said he’d be more likely to challenge a questionable call in the later innings of a ball game. If you challenge early you better be sure you’re right. If you’re about to lose your challenge anyway, go ahead and roll the dice.