The Royals lost to the Cleveland Indians 7-1 on Friday night and are 14-14, occupying fourth place in the American League Central.
The Royals offense has scored fewer runs than any other team in the American League, which sounds bad and is and deserves a column of its own, but this morning the subject is Royals pitching, walks and what happened Friday night in Cleveland.
Joe Torre — a guy who knows a thing or two about baseball — once said, control what you can, let the rest go. (And if you want to take a minute to ponder that and how it applies to your life, be my guest.)
OK, time’s up … back to baseball.
The Royals offense hasn’t scored a lot of runs, but to some degree you don’t control scoring runs; you control having good at bats and if you have a great one you can still hit a line drive at somebody and make an out.
By the same token (and I have no idea where that cliché came from unless it has something to do with subways) you can make a great pitch and still give up a hit.
But pitchers should be able to control walks.
Which is why every manager in the world harps on throwing strikes; if you’re going to get beat, make the other team beat you — don’t help them by giving them extra base runners.
As I’ve mentioned before, major-league pitchers use walks to their advantage when they want to work around certain hitters and that’s smart; but that isn’t what we’re talking about here — we’re talking about walks that hurt you.
In the first inning Friday, Ventura gave up two singles and a walk to Michael Brantley. That walk pushed a runner to third base and he scored when Michael Napoli hit a groundball. Take out the walk and the run doesn’t score.
In the third inning Ventura walked two batters and both of them scored. One of the walks pushed a runner into scoring position and both of them kept the inning alive long enough for Jose Ramirez to hit a three-run double. Take out the walks and Indians have two singles, a double and probably score one run instead of four.
In the fifth inning, with Brian Flynn pitching, Mike Napoli singled and a walk to Lonnie Chisenhall pushed Napoli into scoring position. And he lumbered home in front of Chisenhall when Ramirez hit another double. Once again, take out the walks — limit the Indians to a single and a double — and they either score one run or don’t score at all.
If your team isn’t going to score many runs (and like I said, the Royals are last in that category) you need to do all you can to keep the score low, but only the Boston Red Sox have issued more walks than the Royals.
The Royals offense is scuffling and until the hitters pick things up the Royals pitchers need to control what they can — and right now they’re not doing it.
Should Alcides Escobar dive on every ground ball?
In the bottom of the first, Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor shot a grounder up the middle and Alcides Escobar took a few steps to his left and gave up on the ball.
And that reminded me of a story:
Tim Bogar — currently the Seattle Mariners’ bench coach — did the same thing when he was a player and a coach pulled him to one side and said: “If you don’t dive, we don’t know.”
In other words; if Escobar dived and didn’t make the play, then we know the play was un-makeable. (My computer is telling me “un-makeable” is not a word, but my computer never played baseball.) If Escobar gives up on the ball, we don’t know for sure.
And if you really want to be critical of Escobar, Lindor dove for a similar grounder the next half-inning and made the play.
Now let me argue the other side:
Lindor made a diving stop on a ball hit by Salvador Perez, who has yet to be asked to run the anchor leg in the 440 relay. So Lindor knew he had time to dive for the ball, get up and throw out Perez.
On Escobar’s play, Lindor was running and he had 12 steals in 99 games in 2015 and four steals so far this year. So Escobar might have figured even if made the diving stop he had no shot at Lindor at first base.
If there’s a runner at second base (and there wasn’t), that logic changes; knocking the ball down and keeping it on the infield will prevent that runner on second from scoring.
So if Escobar knew he couldn’t make the play and was trying to save his body for the 162-game grind, not diving might be the right choice; but the rest of us don’t know for sure.