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Royals Mitch Maier and Lee Judge see how a ball might become lodged under the outfield wall padding
Kansas City Royals outfielder Mitch Maier and Lee Judge see how a baseball can become lodged under the padding of the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium. May 19, 2011 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)
What's wrong with Soria?
OK, so what’s wrong with Joakim Soria? I don’t know. The latest rumor is that he’s hurt, and that rumor is brought to you by sports talk radio. The idea that the guys who do these daily talk-a-thons would know this is kind of ridiculous. These guys are rarely at the stadium and would seem to be the last ones to have inside information. (A notable exception is Robert Ford of 610 Sports radio. He’s there every day and probably knows as much as anybody.)
Unfortunately, when you have to talk for four hours straight, wild rumors and speculation can come in handy. About a third of the nutty stuff Glenn Beck says probably comes out of his mouth because he is on the air about 27 hours out of every 24. Radio guys need something to talk about. I just wouldn’t take what they say to the bank.
I’ve been told that Soria’s healthy, I’ve been told that his problem might be his pitch selection, and I’ve been told that Joakim has set such high standards for himself that people are unnecessarily freaking out over the kind of bump in the road all players hit eventually. But Joakim does have a 5.12 ERA and he has blown as many saves this season as he did all of last year.
The thing I’ve noticed, and Frank White touched on this, is that Joakim seems to be behind in the count more often than in the past. That’s just an impression, and someone might have some actual facts to prove or disprove this theory.
On the other hand, when Joakim gave up the game-winning home run Tuesday night to Adam Jones, he had Jones down in the count 0-2. Joakim got him there by throwing a 92 mph cutter, then a 93 mph cutter and gave up the home run on another 92 mph cutter, which looked pretty much center-cut. So that gets us back to the pitch selection and control issues.
Anyway, the point of this is that I don’t know why Soria has blown three saves and neither do a whole lot of other people. it’s just not good business for them to admit it.
Wilson didn’t help
In the ninth inning, Wilson Betemit played a ball to his backhand side that turned into a double. It was a shot, but one he probably should have been able to get in front of. If he actually fields it and throws out the runner, Felix Pie, Soria strikes out the next guy for the third out and we’re not having this conversation.
Should Crow be a starter?
According to Jason Kendall, who knows a thing or two thousand about pitchers, Aaron Crow shouldn’t be switched to the starting rotation at this point. Jason thinks that if you want Crow to start, you make that decision next season in spring training. That gives Aaron a chance to work up the arm strength that is necessary to go from pitching one inning at a time to pitching seven.
Last season, the back end of the Royals’ bullpen was a problem. Joakim Soria was lights out, but getting him the ball with a lead required an eighth-inning guy who was consistent. Crow has filled that spot. So if Joakim can get himself straightened out, the other team has only seven innings to win the game because most of the time, if they’re not ahead by the eighth inning, it ain’t gonna happen. Jason also said the best 1-2-3 back end of the bullpen he ever saw was in Houston, when the Astros had Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner. Back then, if you weren’t beating the Astros by the sixth inning, the game usually was over, Jason said.
So the Royals have to decide if Crow is worth more at the back end of the bullpen or in the starting rotation, but that decision probably should wait for 2012.
Don’t forget Duffy
It was a better outing by Danny Duffy this time. He made it through 5 1/3 innings, walked three batters but struck out six. What I really noticed was better control of the running game, including a slide step at times. Danny still seems to work pretty slow, and I’ll ask about that when the Royals return to Kansas City, but this looked like a step forward.
Up close and personal
When Baltimore was here in Kansas City, I happened to stand next to Baltimore catcher Matt Weiters, and the guy is stinking huge. I’m not a shrimp, and if I choose to stand up straight (an event that’s getting more rare with age), I’m 6-0. But a guy who’s 6-5, 225 pounds makes you feel like Billy Barty (Google that reference).
Anyway, the point is that these guys you see on TV are much bigger than you think. (A fact that has probably dawned on inebriated fans on occasion after one too many heckles.) Mitch Maier is big. Nate Adcock is big. In fact, just about every player (Tim Collins aside) impresses you with his size.
I was sitting against the backstop with Royals bench coach John Gibbons when pitcher Bruce Chen ran by, and even Bruce is big. I pointed that out to Gibby, and he laughed and said, “It’s a man’s game.”
Not when I played it.
The outfielder’s definition of ‘stuck’
(Since we’re playing Baltimore and Adam Jones again, it seemed like a good time for this video.)
OK, so Trevor Vance gave me permission to go onto the playing surface (you have to ask) because I’m going to make some outfield fundamentals videos with Mitch Maier. Mitch and I started talking about the ball that Mike Aviles hit that got “stuck” under the pads of the outfield wall. We decided to see whether a ball actually could get stuck.
So here’s what I found out: An outfielder’s definition of “stuck” is a lot different than yours or mine.
I had made fun of the idea that the ball was so stuck that a full-grown center fielder couldn’t pull it out, but according to Mitch, that’s not the point. Sure, the ball could have been pulled out, but unless the outfielder runs up, looks down and sees the entire ball laying there, with free access, the outfielder is going to throw his hands up and call for a rule-book double.
Mitch’s position is that he shouldn’t have to do anything extra to pick up the ball. If he has to bend deeper, or reach under (which he had to do in this case … watch the video) the outfielder is at a disadvantage. If he reaches in and the ball is stuck harder than he thought and it doesn’t come out on the first try, he probably won’t get the ruling, so the smart play is to throw your hands up … and that’s exactly what Mitch said he would have done in that situation.
So the Royals can raise the pads (they can’t lower them because they would get wet and rot), but if a ball even comes to rest gently under a pad and the outfielder doesn’t have free access, it’s not going to change the ruling.