Games » Tampa Bay RaysAug11
No room for error
Well, that wasn’t much fun, was it? The Royals wound up the series Tampa Bay losing 4-1 and getting swept. They had a great chance to split this series, but made enough mistakes to prevent that from happening. Everyone, including me, keeps saying the Royals are close, they’re almost there, they are not that far from winning.
And I truly believe that.
But when you’re falling just short, it means you can’t make any mistakes, you’re not good enough to cover them. I used to say Manny Ramirez could get away with doing a lot of dumb things on a baseball field because he’d hit a three-run bomb to make up for them. The Royals can’t do that.
They’re still short of having enough physical talent to overcome mental mistakes.
Manny Pina didn’t block a pitch on Monday and the Royals lost. Melky Cabrera throws to the wrong base on Wednesday and the Royals lost. That’s how fine the line is for the Royals right now. They have to play smart baseball and they have to play smart on every pitch. The Royals can’t afford to have an ‘A’ game and a ‘B’ game, because sooner or later they’ll get caught playing the ‘B’ game when they needed the ‘A.’
The Royals need to play right all the time, because they have no room for error.
Too many walks
I’m not going to write another essay on how destructive walks are, everyone should know that by now. I will point out that issuing three walks to Sam Fuld on Wednesday when he came into the game hitting .238 or a walk to Sean Rodriguez when he was hitting .209 doesn’t seem like the best option. Of course, they both got big hits later, but that still doesn’t mean you don’t go after them. If you’re not going to pitch aggressively to hitters with those batting averages, who do you go after?
The weakest link
The top of the 7th ended when Jeff Francoeur swung through strike three and the Royals attempted an unsuccessful double steal. Melky Cabrera was on second and Eric Hosmer was on first. After Frenchy struck out, Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach threw to second.
Going for the trail runner in a double steal is often the best choice. The trail runner has to make sure the lead runner actually goes and loses a step on his jump. Hosmer is fast for a first baseman, but appears to be one of those guys who only steal when the right situation presents itself. (For guys like Jarrod Dyson, the right situation is every day, all day.)
When the catcher has a possible double steal on his hands, he’ll walk out in front of the plate and signal everybody what he plans on doing with the baseball if the runners take off. Unfortunately, Shoppach and the Rays made the right choice.
Frenchy fouls one back
Jeff Francoeur fouled a 2-1 pitch straight back and if you know how to read them, foul balls tell you something. When a pitch is foul straight back the hitter was right on time. His bat was squared up to the flight of the ball, but the bat was underneath the ball.
So the pitcher has a couple of options at this point: the hitter was right on time, so the pitcher might change speeds to mess with his timing. The bat was underneath, so the pitcher might climb the ladder (throw the next pitch a bit higher to see if the batter will chase that one). The pitcher does not want to throw the same pitch, but lower. This solves the batter’s problem: being underneath the ball. The same goes for a pitch pulled foul or slapped the other way: the pitcher does not want to solve the batter’s problem for him. John Wathan and I were talking about all the times we’d seen a batter a mile out in front of something off-speed and the pitcher decides to get tricky and throw a fastball…right into the batter’s wheelhouse.
Same thing for the batter that’s late: keep him late. If the batter is fouling off pitches the other way, don’t throw something off-speed that allows him to get the bat head out in front. Ideally, (at least for the pitcher) the count allows a change of speed out of the zone and then the pitcher can get right back to pounding the hitters weakness.
When the count gets to a 3-2 dead end, that’s when you see the pitcher just continuing to pound that weak spot and forcing the hitter to adjust. Think Tony Sipp vs. Alcides Escobar in that marathon at-bat in Cleveland. Esky won that battle, but Sipp was determined to make Esky solve his own problem and not do it for him.
(Boy, sure got a lot out of one foul ball, didn’t I?)
Hat’s off to the readers
Thursday morning I checked reader’s comments following Wednesday night’s Royals meltdown. The comments were insightful and intelligent. The readers had caught several Royals mistakes I’d missed. (Hey, not entirely my fault, they were making them at a pretty fast rate.) This is what I hoped this website could be: a gathering place for fans that wanted to discuss baseball and the Royals in an intelligent way.
A lot of websites offer numbers, statistics and people playing GM. Those websites have something to contribute. Looking for deeper meaning in the numbers is a worthwhile pursuit and those websites can offer helpful information not found here.
What I hope this website can offer is a chance to discuss actual games and how they were played. Here are a few of the questions brought up by the readers following Wednesday’s 8-7 loss to Tampa Bay:
Did Joakim Soria get caught watching the game and fail to back up third in the 9th inning? (Yes.)
Should Eric Hosmer have been playing behind the runner when Johnny Damon was at the plate? (Not sure, but unless they had a reason to think Damon was bunting for a hit, you’d think Hosmer should be back.)
Did Johnny Giavotella turn the wrong way when he received Jeff Francoeur’s relay throw? (Yes.)
Was the outfield playing deep in ‘no doubles’ position during the 9th? (Couldn’t tell from TV, but I’d think they would be.)
I love it.
These are baseball questions asked by people paying attention. These are the things players and coaches will be talking about after the game. Baseball becomes so much more interesting when you pay attention and figure out what went wrong or right. Why a throw was late or a tag not made. Why the infield came in or stayed back.
Clearly, a lot of the readers brought something to the table. They didn’t just start thinking this way when we created this website. But the website offers us a place to share what we know and what we observe. Clearly, the information I receive from the players and coaches is invaluable. They’re making us all smarter and we’re making each other better fans.
And I thank you.
(OK, did anybody else tear up?)
The Star's Lee Judge tries to make a bad throw to Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer
Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer goes up against the Star's Lee Judge as he tries to make a bad throw that Hosmer can't pick out of the dirt. July 25, 2011 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)