Judging the Royals

The turning point was the national anthem

This website tries to find the small moments in big games and break baseball down into its smallest parts. That way we can understand it better. But when a team loses 16-4 it’s a little overwhelming—if there was a turning point in this game, it might have been the national anthem.

Once the umpire said "play ball" it was all over but the shouting.

Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie gave up eight runs in four innings, he was relieved by Scott Downs who gave two runs in a third of an inning, he was followed Louis Coleman who pitched an inning and two thirds while giving up four runs and Francisley Bueno took one for the team; he pitched three inning and gave up the final two runs.

The only good thing about this game is it’s over and the Royals get to play another one tomorrow.

Detroit Tigers 16-Kansas City Royals 4.

Why you can’t pull your starter too soon

But if you were thinking Ned Yost should have gotten Guthrie out of the game sooner, remember this: if you pull a starter early it’s because you’re getting beat. And if you pull a start too early you’re going to wipe out your bullpen for the next few days.

Sometimes the starting pitcher—and the fans who bought tickets—have to wear it for the good of the team.

OK, that’s it—I’m going to write about something else for a while. I don’t want to spend any more time thinking about this game than I have to. We’ll make a fresh start tomorrow.

Why every baseball fan should take batting practice

One night I was watching a Royals game in the press box with KCTV5’s Brad Fanning. The game ended when Justin Verlander threw a 100-MPH fastball away at the knees and caught Alex Gordon looking for strike three. Brad wondered how in the world Gordon could take that pitch, so I invited him out to the batting cages—he soon found out.

We met at Kevin Seitzer’s facility, Mac-N-Seitz and I stuck Brad in the fast cage and let him have some rips—actually, more like swings and misses. Brad stepped out and asked how fast the machine was throwing and I told him about 82-MPH.

Brad said: "I think I owe Alex Gordon an apology."

Brad Fanning found out that what we see on a big-league baseball field isn’t easy, but big-leaguers are so good they make it look that way. (Brad has since gone on to play in the Kansas City Men’s Senior Baseball League, an activity I can highly recommend.)

I was reminded of all this the other day when I took my son Paul out for some live batting practice. We go to Seitzer’s place on a regular basis, but hitting off a machine isn’t the same as hitting off a live arm. I wanted Paul to see just how far some of the balls he hit indoors would carry outdoors.

I hadn’t thrown BP in a couple years and I was quickly reminded just how hard it is to throw pitches in the same spot over and over—I was all over the place. Taking BP off me was like eating soup with a fork; Paul was barely getting anything to hit and I managed to hit him five times. (It was learning experience—Paul learned how to duck.)

Then I took a few whacks and really tagged one. At my age it was just about as good as I can possibly hit a baseball—and it was a routine fly ball to centerfield. In fact Jarrod Dyson probably would have had to take a few steps in to make the catch. Hitting baseballs really hard and far ain’t easy.

At one point Paul remarked that infields are bigger than people think and I can vouch for that. When the Hollywood people came out for batting practice a few weeks ago I watched for 20 minutes and never saw a ball leave the infield. And we’re talking batting practice. The pitcher wants you to hit the ball.

I told Paul to imagine a pitcher throwing harder than God in a bad mood and then mixing in different locations, movements and velocities. It’s damn near a miracle anyone ever hits a baseball hard enough to leave a ballpark. Jason Kendall thinks fans should get to line up and stand in the batter’s box for just one pitch when a starter throws on an off-day. Seeing a big-league fastball or slider up close would be a learning experience and a learning experience that would make us better baseball fans.

It’s my contention that if every fan would take some batting practice they’d be a lot more tolerant and a lot more impressed by what they see every night in big league ballparks.

I know Brad Fanning feels that way.

How guys pitch with a runner on first

It’s my contention that if you know what’s going on, there are moments within every game that make watching that game worthwhile. (That better be my contention—every season I have to watch 162 games either way.) So here’s a situation that comes up all the time—how it’s handled is worth watching.

There’s a runner on first base and the first baseman is holding him. That means there’s a hole over on the right side; how big a hole depends on the positioning of the second baseman. Sometimes the hole is enormous and pitchers don’t want a hitter to pick up an easy hit by dribbling a 37-hopper in that direction. So here’s what they might do:

With a lefty at the plate—and the other night they did this to Mike Moustakas—the pitcher might try to avoid leaving an off-speed pitch in the strike zone. Most lefties tend to hit down-and-in well, so any off-speed pitch might finish down and out of the zone—if that’s the case it should be unhittable. Otherwise, the left-handed hitter will pull that pitch through the hole over by first base. So when the pitcher wants to throw a strike, lefties will often get pitched hard away. That pitch will tend to get hit to the left side where the shortstop and third baseman are positioned. If a pitcher can get a lefty cheating on the fastball—swinging early, reaching out and trying to hook the ball toward right field—bouncing an off-speed pitch in the dirt might result in a swing and miss.

The pitcher probably wants the hitter to hit a groundball to the left side of the field—that’s where his defense is set up. If the pitcher lets a fastball drift inside, that can also be pulled (although it’s not as likely as pulling a changeup), but whatever pitch is thrown, generally speaking, the goal is to have the left-handed hitter put the ball in play on the left side of the field.

With a righty at the plate the goal is the same—have the ball put in play on the left side—but the method of getting that done is the opposite; give the right-hander off-speed stuff down or sinkers in. You see Billy Butler get pitched this way when they want a double-play ball. Those are pitches likely to be pulled on the ground. If the pitcher leaves something hard out over the plate and the right-handed hitter shoots it through the hole at first, you probably just saw some very good hitting and a mistake by the pitcher.

Now you’ve got no excuse to be bored at a ballgame—something worth watching is always going on.