Games » Chicago White SoxSep23
When it all comes together
The Kansas City Star
Last night was Frank White’s last broadcast of the 2011 season. I’ve learned a lot of baseball by listening to Frank and I’m sorry to see him finish up the year. As the game was winding up, he said something that Royals fans might want to take to heart: this is what it looks like when it all comes together.
The Royals are 13-7 during September. Yeah, some of their opponents appear to be mailing it in, but the Royals could do the same and haven’t. The last five games against the White Sox the Royals have 79 hits and in the last 11 games the pitchers have put up a 2.30 ERA. (That comes from Ryan Lefebvre, so it must be true — as long as I wrote it down correctly.)
Anyway, Frank’s point is that when the Royals get pitching, this is how good this team can look. They’ve hit the ball well all season, they’ve gone from being the worst defense in the league to having five legitimate Gold Glove candidates on the field and they’ve improved immensely on the base paths. Give them some pitching and this is what it looks like when it all comes together.
Jeff Francoeur got his 20th home run to go along with his 20 steals. Frenchy said he wanted to make it to the 20-20 mark and hit .280. Now that he’s got 20 dingers, it makes hitting .280 more likely. (He won’t be over-swinging — maybe.)
Jeff had another accomplishment: after letting him hit me in the arm to see how hard those walk-off win punches really are, I now have a fist-shaped bruise on my right bicep. (Gee, maybe he’ll sign it!) Don’t tell him, I’ve been pretending that it really didn’t hurt and he’s got no punching power.
Eric Hosmer said that after that walk-off double the other night, he thought Frenchy was running up to hug him. Instead Jeff smoked him with a punch to the midsection. That’s why you saw Hos cracking up as he lay on the ground.
Doug Sisson told me they were going to run on Juan Pierre’s arm any chance they got, and they got it in the 8th inning. Melky Cabrera walked and Billy Butler doubled down into the left field corner. Melky scored from first without a throw. Keep watching for them to challenge Pierre’s arm.
Everett Teaford told me how he planned to pitch against the White Sox Saturday night. He then asked me not to reveal too much of the game plan. I told him I didn’t think Paul Konerko was one of my readers, but you’re still going to have to wait for the game to be over before I can talk about what he told me.
Apparently, A.J. Pierzynski doesn’t throw all that well (which seems fair, he’s killed the Royals at the plate). Don’t be surprised if the Royals are running a lot during this series. On the other hand, if the Sox do what they have to in order to shut the base stealers down, don’t be surprised if they have some pretty good at-bats. (When a pitcher uses a slide step, watch to see if the pitch is up in the zone.)
Either way, the running game will have an effect. As Doug Sisson told me, the point is not to steal bases, the point is to win games. If stealing bases helps you win a game, great. If the threat of stealing bases helps you win a game, that works, too.
The Royals didn’t steal a base in this game, but being up by seven after four innings may have had something to do with it.
Almost forgot: Sisson said that Chicago wets down the base paths in order to slow down the Royals running game, so that may factor in also.
Alex Gordon got sick with the flu, so Lorenzo Cain got a shot in center field. (Dude is fast, as he demonstrated scoring on Billy Butler’s sac fly.) Melky shifted to left, which wasn’t that big of a surprise: I’ve been told Cabrera does not have true center field range (I have no idea if that’s true) and is more suited to a corner.
They were playing Paul Konerko to pull in the outfield. There’s a gap between Frenchy and the right field line and I’m sure the Royals wouldn’t mind Konerko taking advantage of it. At least he wouldn’t be going over the shift into the cheap seats like he did in the 7th inning.
Do I need to tell you Bruce Chen pitched great?
A few games back Mitch Maier had a great slide at home plate and got around a tag when it looked like he was going to be out. I asked if Gordo had been doing his job. Alex was the on-deck hitter and he was supposed to signal whether Mitch needed to slide and, if he needed to slide, to which side of the plate.
Mitch said Alex did his job, but then added that the on-deck hitter also lets the runner know how close the play is going to be by how panicked he looks. I asked Mitch what Gordon’s demeanor made him think. His answer? “Oh, %$#*!” That’s how Mitch knew he was going to need a great slide to be safe.
Mike Moustakas and I were sitting on the Royals bench, staring out at the field last Wednesday afternoon, shooting the breeze. I mentioned what he had gone through after coming up to the big leagues and Moose corrected me. He said that people who talk about his slump don’t know what it’s like in the minors.
Slump or no slump, Mike was in the big leagues and that was his dream. He gestured to the field and said, “I’d play here every day for the next 10 years and be happy.” And he meant every day. Moose just thinks there’s nothing better than being a big league ballplayer and a slump is a small price to pay for being in the majors. Earlier, he told me he wanted to play baseball so bad he would’ve signed for a bus ticket and a Pepsi.
“Should I mention that to Dayton?”
He started laughing and said, “Go ahead, I already cashed the check.” So when you watch these guys on TV and think it looks like they’re having fun, you’re right: according to Mike Moustakas, there are no bad days in the big leagues.
(Or bad nights: Moose had a four-hit game.)
Last Sunday, about two hours before game time, Luke Hochevar yelled across the clubhouse, “Hey, Billy, what time is the game today?”
Billy, falling for the gag, answered, “1:10.” That sent Hoch and several other pitchers into fits of laughter. The point was this: Billy was completely dressed for the game about an hour earlier than anybody else. Of course Luke knows what time the game started, it was his way of giving Billy a hard time about being dressed so early. My son Paul watched the scene and cracked up. “That’s why I love ballplayers, they’re all such smart asses.” Paul’s right, baseball humor is based on putdowns and jabs that you better be prepared to answer.
One day I was talking to Chris Getz and Billy yelled, “Hey, Lee, why don’t you come over and talk to a starter?” Getz responded that Billy was not a starter, he was a DH, at best, half a starter. Billy said the Getzie’s main job now seemed to be blocking the dugout steps, getting in the way of people who actually went out on the field. Chris responded that anyone who could swing the bat four times and call it a night was stealing money. This stuff is constant and part of what makes hanging with baseball players so enjoyable, but you better be prepared to defend yourself.
Which gets me to a recent email I received from someone in the sabermetric community that complained about my attitude. My attitude is this: I’ve said it about 99 times and I’ll make it an even hundred — numbers are fine, but they don’t tell you everything. A great deal happens in the game that numbers don’t reveal.
And if I can say that Jason Kendall looks like the head of meth lab security or Chris Getz will be a better ballplayer once he reaches puberty or Jeff Francoeur has the same personality as a dog (think about it, if you took Jeff for a drive he’d want to hang his head out the window) or Mitch Maier would probably be a leg-breaker for a Detroit loan shark if he wasn’t playing baseball, I’ll probably crack jokes about people in the sabermetric community.
It’s baseball humor.
(And feel free to ridicule me, nobody is more deserving.)
Once again, Kevin Seitzer supplied me with the hitting statistics he keeps. These aren’t the final numbers (obviously), but it gives you an idea of where people are going to end up.
Quality plate appearances includes hits, walks, hard hit outs and 8+ pitch at-bats. Anything over .400 is considered excellent and here are the guys who achieved that.
Situational hitting includes moving the runner over from second with 0 outs, driving a runner in from third with less than 2 outs, sacrifice bunts and hit and runs. Succeeding in those situations over 70% of the time is considered excellent. Here are the team leaders.
By the way
Fortunately for me, I generate a lot more material than I can use on the website. So for the last few games, I’ll probably post some of that extra material. Some of it was written weeks ago, but I guess it’s better late than never.
Royals catcher Brayan Pena on communicating with the pitcher
Royals catcher Brayan Pena shows The Star's Lee Judge how he communicates with the pitcher during a game. 9/22/11 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)