Games » New York YankeesAug15
An ‘overrated’ player
Wow. It’s lucky that Derek Jeter’s overrated, or he really might have given the Royals trouble in this game. As it was, Jeter settled for a sacrifice bunt, three hits, a stolen base, one run scored and three runs batted in. The hit that broke the game open was Jeter’s sixth-nning triple, which he absolutely smoked to right field.
Here’s the most amazing part: The pitch was changeup that was up and in. One more time … up and in! It’s hard enough to hit a pitch in that location the other way at all, but to hit it a long way the other way takes a really special player.
Royals starter Felipe Paulino walked five Yankees batters and hit one and ran his pitch count up against a team that tries to run your pitch count up. That got the Royals into the bullpen early, and things pretty much went the Yankees’ way after that. Afterward, Royals manager Ned Yost said Paulino got some pitches up, the Yankees didn’t miss them and that’s been the story all year. Royals pitchers not only need to throw strikes, they need to throw low strikes.
Or an overrated player will hit the snot out of them.
Tells us how it feels
From all appearances, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas is a really nice kid who is scuffling (although he had a solid base hit and a lineout in this game). Everyone who would seem to know says Moose will hit. Jason Kendall says it. Ned Yost says it. Mike’s past history says it.
But Moose is off to a miserable start in the majors, and every night reporters ask him how he feels about it. What’s going through your head? Are you OK? Is your confidence shaken? And every night Mike wears it and answers the questions as though he has never heard them before.
Before the game I asked him, “You tired of talking about this stuff?” (“Stuff” being the closest s-word to the word I actually used.)
So that’s it. No more hitting questions for a while. Moose has described it every way he can. He’s got to work his way through this, and me bugging him won’t help. So instead we talked about stadiums. So far, he likes Kauffman the best. He loves the fountains, thinks the Jumbotron is awesome and says the playing surface is the best he’s ever been on. (Kauffman is known for having “good dirt”: no clumps, no divots.)
I asked Moose about the warning track in Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Moose told me the warning track is the same material as the turf, so it gives no warning at all. It may be a different color, but ballplayers are looking up, not down. They need a different texture under foot to know they’re close to the wall. (Greg Holland apparently ran into the fence chasing down a fly ball in batting practice.) The Royals will have the same problem in Toronto. There is a line on the turf at Rogers Centre, but no actual warning track.
When they get back from that trip, I’ll ask Moose about the warning track. But I won’t bring up his hitting.
Too much, too fast
Asking Royals first-base coach Doug Sisson for baseball information is like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose. There’s too much, too fast. Even though it was brief conversation, I was having a hard time keeping up. Here are a few of the things Doug told me that I managed to remember:
Melky Cabrera did throw to the wrong base in the Tampa Bay series, but not for the reason you might think. Shortstop Alcides Escobar thought the ball was going to be a double in the left center gap and lined up with third base. Melky looked up and threw to Esky, but that’s not what Royals outfielders are supposed to do.
If the ball is hit hard and takes the outfielder forward or toward the base the lead runner is going to, the outfielder can go after the lead runner. If the ball is hit softly or makes the outfielder move laterally, the outfielder throws to second base to keep the double play in order. Sisson said he wanted a throwing rule for outfielders that didn’t require waiting until they had picked up the ball. So once Melky took his first step sideways, he should have known he was throwing the ball to second, no matter where Escobar was.
Following the same rule, Mitch Maier’s throw Sunday in Chicago was not a mental mistake. (I’ve already changed the scoring.) That ball had Mitch moving toward third base, and a good throw would have nailed Juan Pierre. Mitch made a bad throw, spiked the ball, and the trail runner moved up.
(Y’know, about half the time I score a mental mistake I find out what was really going on and have to take back the mistake. I need to slow down placing blame unless I’m absolutely sure … and so should fans.)
Then Doug talked about a play that came up a few times in Chicago and I didn’t even notice. Runner on first. Single, possibly a double, down the left field line. The book has the shortstop heading for the line to act as a relay man. Doug pointed out that the shortstop is being wasted. Left fielder Alex Gordon does not need a relay man to reach third base with his throw.
Instead, the Royals have Escobar acting as a cutoff in line with second base. Without him there, a throw to second to keep the double play in order allows the runner on third to score. If there’s a long throw to second and another long throw home, there’s no chance to get the runner.
With the shortstop positioned in shallow left field and lined up with second base, both runners may have to hold up. The runner on first might hold because Escobar might let the throw go through to second. The runner on third might have to hold because Esky might redirect the throw.
I don’t know about you, but I’m fascinated by the details of the game, such as whether a runner can score based on where the relay man is standing. This attention to detail is how winning teams win.
One last bit
When Derek Jeter comes to the plate, the Royals outfield will be shifted the other way. Left field will largely be open. Doug Sissons said that if Jeter gets a hit between Alex Gordon and the foul line in this series, that means a pitcher made a mistake, probably with an off-speed pitch. (On Monday night Jeter did just that, and the pitch was a slider left up by Everett Teaford.) Sisson isn’t giving anything away by telling me this. Pretty much every team defends Jeter the same way. All Derek has to do is look in the outfield to know how he’s going to be pitched.
You can do the same thing. Subtle changes might be hard to detect, but if there’s a major shift when a hitter comes to the plate, you will know where the pitcher is going to attack the hitter. And youl also will know when he misses his spot.