Judging the Royals

KC Royals’ Edinson Volquez, Salvador Perez and a game of cat and mouse

Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland (blue sweatshirt) met with starting pitcher Edinson Volquez (36), catcher Salvador Perez and other players in the sixth inning of Friday's ALCS baseball game at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland (blue sweatshirt) met with starting pitcher Edinson Volquez (36), catcher Salvador Perez and other players in the sixth inning of Friday's ALCS baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. along@kcstar.com

On Friday I wrote that the Royals need to pitch inside to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Toronto hitters stand on top of the plate and that makes the outside corner reachable. The only way to get that outside corner back is to pitch inside and knock them off the dish.

Everything I wrote was true and came from the guys playing the game; pitching coach Dave Eiland said the exact same thing. So what happened Friday night?

Edinson Volquez threw 111 pitches; when I asked how many of them were inside, Volquez said about three and Chris Colabello hit one of them for a single so Edinson quit going in there.

At the beginning of the game Edinson Volquez and Salvador Perez decided to stay away from the Toronto hitters and see how that worked. Smart pitchers and catchers read swings and can tell what a hitter is trying to do.

After the game Edinson talked about seeing the Blue Jay hitters’ front hips opening early; that’s how you get to the inside pitch. Toronto’s hitters were expecting Volquez to pitch in.

But if your hips open too soon, you have no power left when you get a pitch away. You’ve already rotated your body to an open position and now all you have left are your hands — you can still hit a baseball, but you won’t drive it.

Blue Jays hitters were looking in, so Volquez and Perez went away.

Volquez had a great two-seamer Friday night

Four-seam fastballs are straight and thrown when a pitcher is trying to hit an exact location. Two-seam fastballs are thrown with an off-center grip which adds movement.

Edinson Volquez had a great two-seamer going Friday night and after the first inning you could see Volquez and Salvador Perez realize how good it was. In that first inning, Volquez threw 10 off-speed pitches — over the next four innings Volquez threw 15.

His percentage of off-speed pitches went from 42 percent in the first inning to 30 percent over the next four innings.

(And if I counted wrong blame MLB’s scheduling — I’ve had five hours sleep, and it’s already time to get going again.)

Anyway, I assume you’re getting the drift: Volquez starts the game, realizes he has a great two-seamer going that night and starts throwing a lot of them.

Toronto’s manager John Gibbons described it as ducking and darting all around home plate. Royals reliever Ryan Madson said he watched the early innings in the Royals clubhouse and saw that Eddie’s two-seamer was taking a hard, late right turn.

But in the sixth inning, Volquez and Perez went away from it.

That sixth inning and Dave Eiland’s mound visit

In the sixth inning, Volquez was about to face the heart of the Toronto order for the third time. Salvador Perez decided to switch things up: this time through the order they’d throw a lot more off-speed stuff.

Josh Donaldson led off and saw nine pitches. Six of them were off-speed and three of those were changeups — Josh Donaldson walked.

Jose Bautista hit next and saw nine pitches. Six of them were off-speed and five of those were changeups — Jose Bautista walked.

That’s when Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland visited the mound.

Let’s guess what Dave said

Let me be clear; I have not talked to Dave Eiland since his sixth-inning mound visit, but I think we can take a fair guess at what Dave said.

Here’s why:

When pitching to Donaldson and Bautista, Volquez and Perez threw 18 pitches; 12 of them were off-speed and eight of those off-speed pitches were changeups.

After Dave’s visit, Edwin Encarnacion came to the plate, saw four pitches, all fastballs and struck out.

Chris Colabello saw eight pitches, six of them were fastballs and he lined out.

Troy Tulowitski saw seven pitches, all of them were fastballs and he was called out on strikes.

I’ll ask Dave about today if I get the chance, but I’m guessing he said something like: “Get back to throwing the freaking fastball” even though I would also guess Dave does not really use the word “freaking” when there’s a perfectly fine substitute available.

Once Volquez and Perez got back to the fastball, Eddie sat down the Blue Jays in order and the biggest threat of the night was over.

Can a pitching coach get a save?

Saturday’s game

It’s David Price vs. Yordano Ventura. As always, watch Yordano to see how early he starts throwing his secondary pitches and if he throws them for strikes. If the Blue Jays have to worry about something other than the fastball, the odds of Yordano having a good day go up.

I’ve got a lot more material from Friday night’s game and right now the plan is to post some of it later Saturday morning. First, I plan to take a shower and try to wake 100 percent up. (The people sitting on either side of me in the press box will appreciate that, I’m sure.)

Then I’ll go by LaMar’s donuts, buy a dozen of their finest and see if I can use them to bribe Toronto manager John Gibbons into letting me hang out in his office and listening to what he has to say about Friday night’s game and the series in general.

If it works, I’ll let you know.

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