Check out the Toronto Blue Jays stats and you’ll see some scary home run totals.
They led the majors in homers and they have three guys with 39 homers or more: Josh Donaldson (41), Jose Bautista (40) and Edwin Encarnacion (39).
How do the Blue Jays do it?
Well, one of their tactics is to stand on top of home plate. Just check out where their feet are when they set up in the batter’s box. By standing on top of home plate, the outside corner becomes the middle of the dish. If a pitcher goes even further outside, the Blue Jays hitters can spit on those pitches — they aren’t strikes.
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So that leaves opposing pitchers only one place to go: inside.
The Royals’ strategy
On Friday morning Andy McCullough wrote a story that covered this subject and he quoted Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland: “If you don’t pitch in, make them aware in for effect and for strikes, they’re going to get to good pitches away.”
So the Royals have to pitch inside. Some of those pitches will be strikes and some of those pitches will be for “effect” — which is a polite way of saying the Royals need to throw inside off the plate and put a little fear in the Blue Jays hitters’ minds so they don’t lean out and mash good pitches on the outside corner.
Pitching in opens up the plate away.
It doesn’t mean you’re going to hit anybody, at least on purpose, but it does mean the Royals have to come close to hitting some people and the Blue Jays won’t like that.
The Blue Jays’ strategy
Here’s what the Blue Jays will probably do: complain about the Royals throwing at them and hope the umpires protect them.
Crowding the plate, taking away the outside corner and then complaining when a pitcher throws the ball inside might not seem fair, but if it works the Blue Jays will have an advantage.
If the Blue Jays can get the umpires to issue a warning, then it will make it more difficult for the Royals pitchers to pitch inside. Somebody gets hit, a pitcher might get ejected.
When the Royals and Blue Jays met in Toronto, Edinson Volquez called Josh Donaldson “a little baby.”
Volquez had hit Donaldson earlier in the game and then lost control of a changeup that came up and in. Donaldson reacted like someone had come after him with a meat cleaver and threw a tantrum.
A tantrum that did not include charging the mound.
If Donaldson really thought Volquez was throwing at him, he could have gone out to the mound and expressed his displeasure, but instead Donaldson stayed at home plate and complained.
Hence the “little baby” comment from Volquez.
Here’s the deal: you don’t hit someone with changeups and Donaldson knows that.
If you’re going to intentionally throw at someone you do it with a fastball; all anyone had to do is look at a radar gun reading to know it was an off-speed pitch that got away.
But if Donaldson could get the umpire to issue a warning — which was probably the point of the tantrum — the Blue Jays could spend the rest of the afternoon crowding the plate without worrying too much about a Royals pitcher throwing inside.
Have I mentioned the umpires need to let the Royals pitch inside?
Back on July 30th, the Royals started a four-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
In game one, Donaldson went 2-for-3 with a home run and a double. In game two he went 3-for-5 with two doubles. In game three Donaldson went 1-5 with a home run.
Over the first three games of that series, Josh Donaldson drove in seven runs.
In game four — after Donaldson was hit by a pitch and claimed the Royals were throwing at him bat— he struck out three straight times. He suddenly wasn’t so eager to dive to the outside corner.
This is why Dave Eiland says the Royals must pitch inside and this is why the umpires need to let them.