Games » Chicago White SoxSep11
This is how it’s supposed to work: Kyle Davies pounded the strike zone and the Royals hitters pounded Edwin Jackson. Eighteen hits, four walks and eight runs.
There are different ways to apply offensive pressure to an opponent: power, speed, patience or the Royals preferred method: contact hitting. Did you know the Royals strike out less than any other team in the American League? That they’ve had one of the top three team batting averages all season? Facing teams like the Royals can be a pain in the neck (or even a bit lower).
If the Royals hitters take the right approach (and they sometimes don’t), every at-bat is a battle, the bottom of the order soaks up pitches and the starter is out of the game before the seventh. The middle relievers who weren’t good enough to be starters or closers are called in and the rout is on.
That’s what happened here.
Why it doesn’t always work
Unfortunately, for this formula to work, the Royals also have to pitch and defend well and that’s where things have fallen apart. Because they often need three hits in an inning to score, the Royals aren’t going to put up runs in bunches. They need to keep the opponent’s run total down and that’s why they tried to upgrade themselves defensively with players like Jason Kendall (a better defender than Miguel Olivo or John Buck) and Chris Getz (a better second baseman than Alberto Callaspo).
But the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. Now they have the defensively challenged Wilson Betemit, the still-learning-the-position Alex Gordon, the still-figuring-out-what-his-position-is-going-to-be Mike Aviles and the out-of-position-when-he’s-not-DHing Billy Butler getting regular time on defense.
Add in the cast of understudy pitchers they had to turn to this season and you can see where the formula fell apart. As they say, there’s always next year, and the Royals are in the process of figuring out who’s going to be part of the 2011 game plan.
Konerko’s home run
Gil Meche gave up a bomb to Paul Konerko in the eighth inning and here’s why. We’ve talked about pitchers getting ahead and then being able to expand the zone and their pitch selection. When pitchers fall behind, the opposite happens.
Gil started Konerko with a 76-mph curve up and missed. He then threw a 92-mph fastball away and missed, another 92-mph fastball away and missed, a 91-mph fastball in the zone and a 93-mph fastball in the zone that left the yard.
This is a perfect example of how falling behind shrinks the pitchers’ options. In order to throw strikes, Gil Meche had to give Paul Konerko four fastballs in a row. Give a quality hitter that many similar pitches and one of them is going to get whacked.
Other stuff you can watch for
*2-2 may be the last chance for a pitcher to throw his “out’ pitch. You’ll see a lot of nasty breaking pitches in that count because if the batter doesn’t swing, the pitcher may have to “give in” and throw a fastball once the count goes to 3-2. This can change if the pitcher doesn’t particular care if he walks the hitter (runners in scoring position, first open, good bat at the plate, weaker one on deck). It can also change if the there are two outs and runners are on: the pitcher doesn’t want to go to 3-2 and give the runners a jump, so the “action pitch” becomes 2-2 and the “out pitch’ will have to be thrown before that. Gets kind of complicated, don’t it?
*Tall bats (vertical in the stance) often mean low ball hitters. They drop the bat like a golf club and often generate great power that way. Because of the bat’s path they can be vulnerable up and in. Flat bats mean high ball hitters (and often drinkers). A guy with a flat bat hits the ball up better and will tend to top the low pitch, creating grounders. There are always exceptions, but it’s interesting to look at stances and see how a pitcher attacks them.
*Hitters that lift their arms on an inside pitch leave themselves vulnerable to a pitch that moves back over the plate. If a pitch is inside, it’s better to rotate the front shoulder back towards the catcher. This protects the front side of the body (and if you’ll spend some time in front of a mirror, I’m sure you’ll agree almost all your favorite body parts are on the front side). Rotating the shoulder back also leaves the hitter in a position to swing if he realizes the ball is going to move into the zone.
I don’t know if any of this information will be useful in your daily life, but anything you can use to make yourself seem smarter than your buddies at the ballpark can’t be a complete waste.