Judging the Royals

Mike Moustakas and the get-me-over curve

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas celebrated his two-run home run off Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana.
Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas celebrated his two-run home run off Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana. The Associated Press

In the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s game against the White Sox, Jose Quintana threw Mike Moustakas a first-pitch “get-me-over” curve. Get-me-over curves and sliders are pitches thrown with less break and that makes them easier to control; they can be thrown for strikes.

Pitchers figure hitters are looking for a first-pitch fastball and most of the time they’re right; hitters want to hit heat. So if a hitter is looking first-pitch fastball and recognizes breaking pitch, he’ll lay off and take the breaking pitch for a strike. Now the pitcher is ahead in the count and can try to get the hitter to chase a borderline pitch. And hitters who don’t like to hit with two strikes will chase that borderline pitch to avoid having to hit in a two-strike count.

That’s what happens most of the time.

But once in a while a hitter looks for that get-me-over curve and when he gets it, he can hit it a long way; and that’s what Mike Moustakas did.

The Royals will have to hit off-speed stuff in the playoffs

The Royals have the reputation of a fastball hitting club, but you can’t always look fastball; when you face the better pitchers, they’re going to show you off-speed stuff in fastball counts.

Take Edinson Volquez vs. Alexei Ramirez in the fifth inning:

Volquez fell behind in the count 2-0 — a fastball count — but threw Ramirez a change-up for a called strike. With the count 2-1 — another fastball count — Volquez threw a curve for a swinging strike. At 2-2 Volquez threw a sinker and missed, but with the count 3-2 — another fastball count for many pitchers — Edinson threw another curve for a swinging strike three.

That’s how veteran big leaguers pitch.

Royals fans wonder about the giant swings-and-misses Kansas City hitters sometimes feature, but that’s often because Royals hitters are still looking for fastballs and get something else.

Veteran big-league pitchers will throw off-speed stuff in fastball counts and especially with a runner in scoring position. Just because a Kansas City hitter gets into a 2-0 count, it doesn’t mean he’s getting a fastball.

Hittable fastballs are called “cookies” and as Rusty Kuntz once said, at the big-league level: “The cookie store is closed.”

How to steal a base off a left-handed pitcher

Since were on the subject of Rusty Kuntz, he recently gave me a lesson in how to steal a base off a left-handed pitcher. The White Sox have John Danks on the mound tonight, so this information might come in handy. (And if any of this is wrong, blame Rusty.)

Now that I’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, here’s what you might want to focus on:

If a left-handed pitcher is looking at home plate, there’s a good chance he’s about to throw over to first base. If he’s looking at first base, there’s a good chance he’s about to deliver the pitch home. If a lefty demonstrates this pattern, smart base runners can use it.

If a lefty reaches the set position and his hands stay still, he’s probably going home. If his hands go up, he’s probably coming over to first base. He’s got to generate some movement to get his arm in position to throw to first.

If a lefty lifts his front foot up and his front knee tucks back toward second base, he’s going home: he’s shifting his weight back to generate power toward home plate. If his knee comes straight up or moves toward home plate slightly, he’s probably coming over to first base.

One last tip: watch the toe on the back foot. If it stays down he’s probably delivering the ball to home, if it moves up, he’s probably going to attempt a pickoff — or maybe it was the exact opposite; now I’m not sure. Clearly I needed to take better notes. Just pay attention to that toe and you can figure it out on your own.

Have fun watching the game tonight and if you figure out that toe thing, send me an email.