Judging the Royals

How Christian Colon had a three-hit night

Kansas City Royals' Christian Colon (24) is congratulated by teammates after they defeated the Cleveland Indians 7-1 in a baseball game, Friday, July 4, 2014, in Cleveland.
Kansas City Royals' Christian Colon (24) is congratulated by teammates after they defeated the Cleveland Indians 7-1 in a baseball game, Friday, July 4, 2014, in Cleveland. AP

Well, it didn’t hurt that Colon saw 15 pitches and 12 of them were fastballs. In fact, every hit Colon had—a triple and two doubles—came on a fastball. In his second at bat Colon saw three cutters away, but hit the ball down the left-field line when pitcher Josh Tomlin tried to come inside with yet another fastball.

Hitters want to hit fastballs, so why throw Colon so many?

Because it was Colon’s first start in the big leagues. A player won’t climb the ladder unless he can hit minor-league fastballs, but once he makes it to the top, pitchers want to know of the hitter can hit a big-league fastball. Theoretically, big-league fastballs have more velocity, more movement and better location. Rookies tend to get a lot of fastballs when they first arrive in the majors and if they pass that test, they start to see more off-speed stuff.

In this game, Christian Colon clearly passed the fastball test—he took a 98-MPH fastball down the right-field line in his last at-bat—but don’t be surprised if Colon starts to see more off-speed stuff in the near future. That’s when he’ll have to make an adjustment and prove he’s a big-league hitter.

But on Friday night Christian Colon’s three hits helped the Royals beat the Indians 7-1.

Colon’s defense

Christian started an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play and it’s worth noting how he started it: Colon flipped the ball to Alcides Escobar backhand—thumb down.

That thumb-down flip allowed Colon to start the play without turning his body toward second. Flip the ball underhand—the traditional way—and the second baseman has to take the time to pivot his chest toward second base. Some managers don’t like the thumb-down flip; it can be less accurate than the underhand method.

Watch batting practice the next time you’re at the park and see who’s practicing flips and which method they use. That’ll tell you who should try the riskier approach in a game.

Billy Butler can’t avoid the double play

In the third inning there was one down, runners on first and second and Billy Butler was at the plate. When the count went 3-2 Ned Yost had a decision to make: should he start the runners? Starting the runners on a 3-2 count indicates you think the hitter will put the ball in play and getting a head start on the next base will help you stay out of a double play. In this case it didn’t work.

Butler swung and missed and Lorenzo Cain was thrown out at third. Trying to stay out of a regular double play actually caused a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play.

Moose beats the shift

Mike Moustakas got a cutter down in the zone and pulled it to right field for a three-run home run. That bomb pretty much put the game out of reach, but over the long haul Mike’s single to left in his next at bat might be more significant. If Moose will take the ball the other way against left-handed shifts that average will go up.

Why let Ventura come out for the ninth?

Because his pitch count was OK and Ned Yost wanted to let Yordano have a shot at a complete game shutout. If a hitter had three-fourths of a cycle, how do you think he’d feel if his manager decided to sit him down and rest him right before that fourth at bat?

According to Jason Kendall (face it, working with Jason taught me a lot so I’m going to quote him at times)…OK, where was I? Oh yeah: according to Jason Kendall pitchers get very competitive with each other. If Yordano Ventura throws a complete-game shutout, the next guy wants to do the same.

You don’t want a staff where pitchers are happy to get through five innings, qualify for a win and then turn the ball over to someone else. The TV guys put up a graphic that showed the Royals starters had thrown the most innings in the American League and the Royals relievers had thrown the fewest.

After Ventura gave up a home run and a single in the ninth, Aaron Crow got the final two outs of the game and that means the rest of the bullpen is fresh for the weekend.

Catchers and their stances

Watch Cleveland’s Yan Gomes and Kansas City’s Salvador Perez and how they set up to receive a pitch. Most of the time you’ll see a wide stance and that helps their pitchers. Pitches caught within the framework of their bodies—between their knees—look more like strikes than pitches caught outside the framework of their bodies.

But at times Perez set up on one knee. I never would have thought of it before working with Kendall, but catchers who set up on one knee expose themselves to foul tips to the cup. With both knees up a catcher has a better chance of keeping the ball off his crotch; get down on one knee and you’re asking for it.

The other negative about the one-knee stance is it turned Sal’s body at an angle and that meant he wasn’t squared up to the pitch. Yordano Ventura did not get a 1-0 pitch thrown to Michael Brantley and at that point Perez had his body turned at about a 45-degree angle. That angle had Sal catching the pitch outside the framework of his body and it made the pitch look less like a strike, even though it was pretty much down the middle.

Lorenzo Cain’s night

Much better night at the plate after a bad series against the Twins; Cain went two for four and drove in two runs, but he did not do an outstanding job of running the bases in the ninth.

With two outs, Lorenzo was on second and Colon was on third when Billy Butler chased a bad pitch—which he’s been doing a lot lately. The pitch was a off-speed and Butler hit a weak groundball to Lonnie Chisenhall. The Indian’s third baseman bobbled the ball, then buried his throw to first baseman Carlos Santana. The ball got away from Santana and Colon scored from third. But it is possible to score from second on this play—if you hustle.

A runner on second base can sprint to third and turn for home; there are two outs and if the play’s made at first base, the inning is over—no harm done. But if there is some kind of misplay, the runner on second can score while the first baseman chases the ball.

There’s no way of knowing for sure if Cain could have scored on Chisenhall’s error, but he forfeited the possibility when he jogged between second and third.