Judging the Royals

Take your eye off the ball and watch Alex Gordon for one inning

Kansas City Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz
Kansas City Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz The Star

If everything has gone right, we’ve posted my column about sloppy defense from the Detroit Tigers in the first two games of this current series.

I also urged Royals fans to appreciate good fundamentals when they see them, but all too often fans don’t get the chance.

If you watch a game on TV you can only see what they choose to show you and what they choose to show you is the ball.

To understand good fundamentals or the lack of them, you have to take your eye off the ball. Rusty Kuntz said that was one of the first – and most difficult – things he had to learn as a coach; quit watching the baseball.

These days when a ball is put in play, Rusty looks at his outfielders (especially the ones not handling the ball) to see if they went to the right spots on the field. There is no play in which the right move is standing still. If you’re standing still, you’re in the wrong spot.

When a catcher tries to throw out a runner at second, is the centerfielder backing up the play?

When the third baseman throws to first, is the right fielder moving in just in case the ball gets away?

On a single to right, is the left fielder backing up the throw to second base?

Next time you go to a Royals game, pick a player and forn one inning, watch everything he does.

Does he move to the right spots? Is he alert and moving forward on each pitch? Does he shift positioning as the count changes? (When hitters are ahead in the count they’re more likely to pull the ball; hitters behind in the count are more likely to hit the ball the other way.)

And if you want to watch a guy who has a reputation for doing things right, watch Alex Gordon.

Take your eye off the ball and you can learn a lot.

Salvador Perez clapped for Miguel Cabrera

Old-school ballplayers would barely acknowledge their opponent’s existence. They figured to hell with that guy, he’s trying to take my money.

Younger guys are much friendlier. Watch when a hitter has his first at bat. If he’s friendly with the catcher he’ll reach out and tap the catcher’s shin guards with the bat. If a runner makes it to first base and the first baseman likes him, he’ll tap the runner with his mitt.

This is how baseball players say hi without being obvious.

On Saturday, Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera made a nice play and Salvador Perez (who was on second at the time) clapped for him. Old-school guys probably think that’s going way too far; the other guy robbed a teammate and you clap for him?

I’m not sure I have a dog in this fight, but it’ll be interesting to see if Salvy continues to be so enthusiastic about an opponent’s play. If Salvy cools it, maybe someone talked to him about it.

Christian Colon’s great AB

Here’s the deal; if I’m going to be critical at times and point out player’s mistakes (and I do) then when a player does something great it should get acknowledged. Players are much more likely to accept criticism if they think you’re being fair.

Saturday night Christian Colon needed to move a runner over from second base to third, so he tried to hit the ball to the right side.

Waiting as long as he could allowed Colon to lay off bad pitches and foul off borderline ones and that turned into a nine-pitch at bat. Colon was rewarded for his good approach with a single to right and an RBI.

A bad inning by Molleken led to a bad inning by Duffy

The Royals did not score in the top of the third inning Saturday night, but Detroit pitcher Dustin Molleken still took forever to get through it. Molleken threw 24 pitches, walked two and tried three pickoffs.

Molleken also works like he’s getting paid by the hour; on average he takes over 24 seconds to deliver a pitch. There are sandwich shops that have faster deliveries. (And Jimmy John’s, if you want to talk endorsement deals, I’m all ears.)

Anyway…

When one pitcher has a long inning the other pitcher has to sit and don’t be surprised if the guy who has to sit scuffles when he finally gets to the mound. After watching Molleken slog through the top of the third, Danny Duffy hit a batter and then gave up a home run – and Dustin Molleken might have part of the blame.

One last thing

As far as I know the Royals haven’t named their fifth starter and they’ll probably wait as long as they can before doing so. Delaying naming a starter means the other team has to do homework on every possibility – name the starter and they can concentrate on one guy.

That’s it: enjoy today’s game and we’ll talk Monday.

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