Judging the Royals

Playing in the National League can get complicated

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy was pulled for a pinch hitter on Tuesday.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy was pulled for a pinch hitter on Tuesday. The Associated Press

On Tuesday night, the Royals lost to the New York Mets by a score of 2-1. The game provided a good example of how both teams go about scoring runs; the Mets like to hit the ball over the fence while the Royals tend to string hits, walks, bunts and stolen bases together.

The game also provided a good example of how playing in the National League can get complicated.

As you might have already heard, pitchers hit in the NL and most of the time those pitchers aren’t very good hitters. That means NL managers have to do all they can to keep pitchers from coming to the plate in crucial situations; they do that by pinch hitting.

But once that merry-go-round starts — pinch hit for the pitcher, replace the pinch hitter with a new reliever in the next half inning — managers are burning through their bench and bullpen at a terrific rate. Make a bad decision and a manager can paint himself in a corner.

An example of a double switch

The Mets were ahead 2-1 in the fifth inning, but the Royals had runners on first and second with nobody out. Starting pitcher Ian Kennedy was due up in the 9-hole and that meant Ned Yost had two choices: have Kennedy bunt the runners to second and third, or go for a big inning and pinch hit.

In the first four innings, Kennedy had already given up two home runs, a double, a single and three line outs; so Kennedy was not pitching great and the Royals had the chance to do some damage; Ned pinch hit and sent Kendrys Morales to the plate.

Mets manager Terry Collins wanted reliever Erik Goeddel to face Morales, but the pitcher’s spot was due up in the next half inning and Collins didn’t want Goeddel going to the plate, so Collins made a “double switch.”

When Goeddel came into the game he went into the 6-hole replacing third baseman Wilmer Flores and the new third baseman Kelly Johnson was slotted into the 9-hole. That’s why it’s called a double switch; you replace two players at the same time and switch their spots in the lineup.

The double switch meant a position player would lead off the next inning and Goeddel could pitch two innings before his spot in the order was due up again. In a National League game, watch for double switches whenever the pitcher’s spot is due up in the next half inning.

How the pitcher can screw up another hitter’s at bats

If the pitcher is coming up ninth, the guy hitting eighth might have a tough at-bat. With an almost sure out standing in the on-deck circle, there’s not much reason to give the guy at the plate anything good to hit, especially if there are runners in scoring position. If you fall behind in the count to an 8-hole hitter, put him on base and go after the pitcher.

And to make matters worse, the 8-hole hitter’s manager might want him to swing the bat at some very marginal pitches; the 8-hole hitter might have a better chance on a slider at the knees than the pitcher does on a belt-high fastball. So when you see an 8-hole hitter strike out (and Bret Eibner had two of them) have some pity.

OK, today’s game is about to start so I need to cut this thing short; but when you watch the Royals play in the National League, pay attention to pinch hits, double switches and what happens to the guy hitting in front of the pitcher.

Because playing in the National League can get complicated.

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