Judging the Royals

Salvador Perez, ump Dan Iassogna and that borderline pitch

Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez talks to pitcher Edinson Volquez on a break from pitching to Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista in the sixth inning during Wednesday's ALCS baseball game
Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez talks to pitcher Edinson Volquez on a break from pitching to Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista in the sixth inning during Wednesday's ALCS baseball game jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Catchers, hitters and home plate umpires talk all the time, and a lot of that talk is lobbying.

The catcher wants to expand the strike zone; the hitters want to shrink it.

So the pitcher throws a borderline pitch and the umpire — let’s call him Bob — calls it a ball. The catcher says: “That’s a good pitch, Bob. You’ve got to give it to us.”

The hitter might tell Bob not to listen to the catcher, but if Bob has any doubt about his call, he might ask the catcher to show him the same pitch again.

If the pitcher can “hit the mitt” — if he can demonstrate it wasn’t an accident — the umpire might start calling that borderline pitch a strike. That’s one of the ways a strike zone gets changed during a game.

Now let’s say an umpire knows he missed a pitch. He might admit it to the catcher to let the catcher know to keep throwing to that location ... the catcher can get that pitch called a strike.

Dan Iassogna, the home plate umpire in Wednesday’s game, called balls and strikes on 254 pitches. If he thought he got one wrong, it’s entirely believable that he would tell Salvador Perez he missed it. Just because an umpire misses one call doesn’t mean he wants to take that pitch away from the pitchers and catchers on the other 253 pitches he’s going to see.

So if Iassogna told Salvador Perez he missed the call on ball four to Jose Bautista, that wouldn’t be unusual. Perez telling that to pitcher Edinson Volquez also isn’t unusual.

[New podcast: Sam Mellinger and Blair Kerkhoff on pitching problems and the 6th inning ]

But Edinson Volquez telling it to the media is.

That put Salvador Perez in a bad spot.

He’s got to continue working with umpires, and catchers want to have good relationships with them. If umpires think those home plate conversations won’t stay private, they’ll quit admitting they missed pitches. So Salvador Perez denying Iassogna ever said that would also be understandable.

I’ve got no idea what really went on. According to Google maps I’m 999 miles away — a 14 hour, 55 minute drive — from Rogers Centre in Toronto, so all I’m throwing out is a theory that would explain what happened.

But it’s a good theory.

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Ventura vs. Price: Game 6 might be the series

Here’s the bad news: in 1985 the Kansas City Royals were down 3-1 in the World Series and came back to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in three straight times. So we know it can be done.

In 1985 Game 6 was pivotal: the Royals had a comeback win to tie the Series 3-3 and the Cardinals found themselves playing Game 7 … a game they didn’t think they’d have to play. The Cards lost all momentum and got beat 11-0 in the final game of the Series.

According to former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, “Momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher” — but if the Blue Jays beat the Royals and Yordano Ventura on Friday night, “tomorrow’s” starting pitcher will probably be Johnny Cueto.

And nobody, and I’m guessing that includes Johnny Cueto, knows exactly what he’ll bring to the table. Better to win the thing Friday night and avoid all that.

Game 6 might be the series.

The Royals starting pitchers need to adjust fast

One night Wade Davis came in to pitch and his first two deliveries were up-and-in to a right-handed hitter. That’s a good sign a pitcher is opening his front shoulder too soon.

Here’s what that means: with a right-handed pitcher, the front shoulder rotates toward first base too soon, which makes the throwing arm late. That makes the pitcher miss his release point and the pitch will tend to go high and miss location toward the arm side.

There are mechanical fixes for that and I won’t bore you — or me — with the details. (Partially because I’m not real sure what they are.)

Anyway … back to Wade Davis.

I saw Wade miss arm-side high a couple times and then he appeared to lock in and did his usual imitation of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator in a bad mood.

After the game I asked Davis if he was opening up too soon on those first couple pitches and he said “Yeah,” so I then asked him what the adjustment was for that when you were in the middle of a game.

Wade smiled and said: “Aim left.”

Starters vs. relievers

Assuming I have a point, here it is: relievers come into games knowing that if things go right they will only throw 10-15 pitches. They don’t have the luxury of a long warm-up or working on a pitch for a couple of innings until they get the feel for that pitch back.

Wade did not have the luxury of tinkering with his mechanics for a couple of innings, so he simply aimed left.

Relievers have to adjust quickly and on the fly and at this point in the postseason, starting pitchers are in the same boat.

If Yordano Ventura — or if it comes to that, Johnny Cueto — scuffles in the first couple innings, they will have to adjust quickly.

They can’t afford to wait a few weeks before telling the catcher to set a lower target or give away a game because they had a hard time adjusting to the difference between the bullpen and game mound.

Whatever’s going wrong, they need to adjust quickly.

In other words: aim left.

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