Judging the Royals

Chris Young is better when he pitches in Kauffman Stadium

Chris Young
Chris Young jsleezer@kcstar.com

Imagine you owned an NFL team and had very fast players. Now imagine the league said it was OK for you to make your field 110 yards long to take advantage of that team speed.

Now imagine you own an NBA team and had very tall players and guys who could jump out of the building. Now imagine the league said it was OK for you to take advantage of that height and leaping ability by putting the basket 11 feet off the floor.

That’s kind of how it works in baseball, but in reverse. The league allows teams to build stadiums with different dimensions and configurations in the outfield; then smart teams build lineups designed to play in that park. The downside is that a team designed to play in their home park may be at a disadvantage when playing on the road.

For instance:

So far in 2016 Chris Young is 0-5 with a 9.70 ERA on the road. When pitching on the road, batters hit .340 against him. In 21 1/3 innings on the road, Young has allowed 13 home runs. Do the math and that’s a homer about every 1.6 innings.

But when Young pitches in Kauffman Stadium it’s a different story; he’s 2-1, has an ERA of 3.00 and batters hit .216 against him. In 24 innings at home Young has allowed five home runs, which is a homer every 4.8 innings.

Chris Young is a different pitcher when he pitches in Kauffman Stadium. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say he’s the same pitcher, but gets better results when pitching in a big park.

And Young is not alone; the entire Royals pitching staff has similar numbers. At home their collective ERA is 3.33, on the road it’s 4.48. At home the Royals pitchers have given up 23 home runs, fewer than any team in the league. On the road, Kansas City pitchers have given up 53 home runs, more than any team in the league. The Royals are 21-7 at home and 13-23 on the road.

So when the Royals say it’s good to be home and they love playing in Kauffman Stadium; they’re not just talking about sleeping in their own beds.

The Royals were designed to play in Kauffman Stadium; Chris Young and the Kansas City Royals are better at home.

The Indians wouldn’t expand

Tuesday night Young threw 87 pitches against the Indians. Those 87 pitches got Young through four and a third innings which means he was throwing about 6.69 pitches per out. (I don’t know how you throw .69 of a pitch; maybe you bounce it about two-thirds of the way to home plate.)

Anyway, after the game Young gave credit to the Indians, he couldn’t get them to “expand.” Here’s what Young was talking about:

Pitchers throw pitches just off the plate and hope hitters will expand the strike zone and chase those marginal pitches. The Indians didn’t do that and that meant Young was throwing extra pitches and running up his pitch count. It also helps explain why Young walked four batters in less than five innings.

If you’re watching tonight’s game, pay attention to pitches just off the plate; if Ian Kennedy can get the Indians to chase them, his job will get a lot easier. If the Indians won’t expand, Kennedy will run up pitch counts and might walk people.

How Francisco Lindor got caught stealing third base

In the third inning Francisco Lindor doubled with one out and then promptly got picked off. Here’s how it happened:

Chris Young figured the 22-year old Lindor would be pretty pumped up after hitting his double. There was one out in the inning, so stealing third base would be on Lindor’s mind. With two down Young said he would have ignored Lindor; with nobody down Lindor would be a little less likely to risk making the first out at third base. But get to third base with one down and a runner can score on a fly ball or ground-ball out.

So thinking Lindor might be going, Young did an “inside move” — he picked up his front foot like he was delivering a pitch home — and then spun around toward second base. Lindor was stealing and broke for third; Young threw the ball to Cheslor Cuthbert and the Royals caught Lindor in a rundown for the second out of the inning.

So basically it was a 37-year-old guy with 12 years in the big leagues using his brains and experience to get the Royals an extra out.

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity

Young said he knew it was going to be hot Tuesday night — the game-time temperature was 91 degrees — but the humidity caught him off guard.

I never would have thought of this in a million years (which is why I talk to the guys who play the game) but when you sweat your skin gets softer and that changes the feel and grip on a baseball.

Young wasn’t making excuses; he was just explaining the nuances of the game to a bunch of people who spent Tuesday night sitting in an air conditioned press box and eating ice cream sundaes.

I’m proud to say I didn’t do that … I went with the nachos.

Lorenzo Cain hitting fourth

Tuesday night Lorenzo Cain went 0 for 4 with two punch outs; his average fell from .285 to .280. After the game I asked Cain if he was getting pitched differently after getting moved to the 4-hole to give Eric Hosmer some protection.

Cain said, no; he hasn’t been hitting lately and pitchers don’t feel the need to do anything different. Look up the numbers and you see Cain has hit .211 over the last seven days and .167 over the last 14.

Cain left me with this thought: “Mama said there’d be days like this, but she never said there’d be weeks.”