Judging the Royals

Ian Kennedy and a ‘reach-back’ fastball

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy. jsleezer@kcstar.com

After Sunday’s 6-1 victory of the Houston Astros, longtime Royals scout Art Stewart raved about starting pitcher Ian Kennedy’s performance. Scouts tend to pay closer attention to ballgames than the rest of us, and Stewart spotted something subtle:

At times, Kennedy used a “reach-back” fastball.

One of the signs of a complete pitcher is his ability to add and subtract velocity on his fastball. Hitters get a whole lot better when they know what pitch is coming, so if a pitcher gets into a count where the fastball is the percentage pitch, it’s important for that pitcher to be able to add or subtract velocity.

The hitter’s getting a fastball, but will it be a 91 mph fastball or a fastball at 94? Those few miles an hour difference can throw a hitter’s timing off, so it’s handy if a pitcher can “reach back” and find just a bit more velocity when he needs it.

In 2016, Kennedy’s fastball has averaged 91.8 mph. On Sunday, Ian Kennedy threw 105 pitches and the majority of them were fastballs. Thirteen of those fastballs hit 94 mph and here are the results Kennedy got on those “reach back” fastballs:

Three were balls, three were foul balls, three were called strikes and four were swinging strikes, including one foul tip that was held onto.

When Kennedy goosed the throttle not one of those 94 mph fastballs was put in play.

It wasn’t the velocity that kept the Houston Astros off-balance; it was the change in velocity that made that 94 mph fastball so effective. On Sunday, the Kansas City Royal needed a win and Ian Kennedy reached back and got one.

Cheslor Cuthbert and the long ball

Cheslor Cuthbert hit his seventh home run of the season on Sunday and finished the day with a .280 batting average. Cuthbert’s had 157 at-bats, so at his current pace if he had 500 at-bats in a season, he’d hit 22 home runs.

Not bad for a guy playing half his games in Kauffman Stadium.

And if Cuthbert keeps this up, the Royals will have an interesting decision to make when Mike Moustakas is healthy again.

Joe West being Joe West

In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Royals had a rally going when umpire Joe West halted the action and approached the Kansas City dugout. Apparently someone decided to turn on the stadium lights because the sky was getting dark, but unless the umpires ask for the lights to be turned on for safety reasons, you’re supposed to wait until the top of an inning to hit the lights; that way both teams hit under the same lighting conditions.

The Astros hit with the lights off in the top of the seventh, so the Royals had to hit with the lights off in the bottom of the seventh.

Which is actually kinda dumb.

If things are supposed to be equal for both teams, the lighting was much worse for the Royals in the second half of the inning after the clouds rolled in. This is the kind of decision you get when someone is stickler for following a rule book and not common sense.