Judging the Royals

Why rallies die: Pitchers pitch differently with runners in scoring position

Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Chris Bassitt.
Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Chris Bassitt. The Associated Press

The Royals were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position in Sunday’s loss at Oakland. Do the math on that and you come up with a batting average that’s not very good.

I used to wonder why rallies get started and then die. I don’t wonder so much after listening to big-league ballplayers.

As a team, the Royals were not exactly tearing the cover off the ball Sunday, even without runners in scoring position. But when Oakland pitchers did not have a runner in scoring position, Royals hitters were more likely to see fastballs.

As we saw with Collin McHugh in Houston last week, when the Royals had runners in scoring position Sunday, their hitters were more likely to see off-speed stuff.

Without a runner in scoring position, pitchers can “pitch to contact.” That is: throw strikes, get the ball in play and allow the defense to do its job. A starter is probably going to be out there for 100 pitches or so — Oakland’s Chris Bassitt threw 116 on Sunday — so they have to pace themselves and pitching to contact is one way to do that.

But when a starter gets a runner in scoring position — especially if it’s a run that matters — if he has anything left in the tank, you might see him bear down and throw his nastiest stuff. Relievers aren’t going to be out there long, so they can go to their nastiest stuff right away.

Anyway, next time the Royals get a rally going and it dies, pay attention to what pitches are thrown; because pitchers pitch differently with runners in scoring position.

Chris Young revisited

I thought it was worth pointing out that Chris Young had been bumped up in the rotation after Ian Kennedy had a hamstring issue. So instead of facing bottom-of-the-rotation opposing pitchers, Young was facing top-of-the-rotation guys like Noah Syndergaard, Collin McHugh and Sonny Gray.

I never said Young would have pitched better if he matched-up with different opponents, but I did say that even though he’d pitched poorly in two out of three starts, Young might have at least one win if he was matched up with different opponents. It seemed fair to point out he’d been given a tough spot in the rotation and that was at least part of why Young had lost all three starts.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

  Comments