Games » Detroit TigersApr18
Ned Yost makes a decision
The Kansas City Star
The lead got away in the seventh inning. The Royals were up 3-2 when Tigers catcher Gerald Laird led off the top of the seventh with a single. Kelvin Herrera struck out Austin Jackson for the first out, then manager Ned Yost brought in left-handed reliever Jose Mijares to face left-handed hitter Brennan Boesch, who flew out to Alex Gordon. So far, so good.
Next, Miguel Cabrera singled to right field, and Laird went from first base to third. That put the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first, but still no damage on the scoreboard. Prince Fielder, who bats left-handed, walked to the plate, and the Royals put on a shift. Three infielders, including shortstop Alcides Escobar, were on the right-field side of second base.
While Fielder was batting, Mijares threw a wild pitch. Laird scored, and Cabrera moved into second. First base was now open, so the Royals did not have to face Fielder. That was when Ned Yost said he got “stupid.” Instead of walking Fielder and bringing in Louis Coleman to face right-handed Delmon Young, Ned let Mijares pitch to Fielder. Fielder apparently will expand the strike zone in RBI situations, and Ned thought the Royals could get Fielder out by giving him the opportunity to chase a pitch.
Mijares threw a fastball low and away, which surprised me. I would have thought you would come in or throw something off-speed to get Fielder to pull the ball. But maybe Fielder tends to hook that pitch and pull weak grounders. I didn’t know, so at the postgame news conference I asked Ned whether Mijares had missed his spot or I had just seen good hitting — because Prince took that fastball away and sent it through the vacated hole at short.
At that point in the news conference Ned decided to take responsibility for the loss. Ned never really said what he thought of the Mijares’ pitch — which may have been part of the plan — and instead he shifted the focus to himself and the decision he made. I don’t know whether the game decision was actually stupid, but shifting the attention away from a group of players who are pretty down right now was definitely smart.
• This makes three close losses in a row to the Tigers. They all go in the loss column, but the Royals are not getting blown out.
• Eric Hosmer hit the ball hard all night and had nothing to show for it — which is still a good sign. If Gordon — who’s showing signs of life — Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur can get it going (Billy Butler’s already got it going), this team will look a lot different.
• The Royals are still pressing with runners in scoring position. Getting a good pitch to hit and then not trying to do too much with it is how clutch hits happen.
• Two runners — Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois — were on base in the bottom of the ninth inning when Alcides Escobar smoked the ball down the left-field line. Usually that goes for a double, and if Bourgeois had scored from first, game over. Unfortunately, the Tigers were in the “no doubles” defense with the first baseman and third baseman guarding the lines. Any ball that got past them would have gone directly to an outfielder and stayed a single. Miguel Cabrera caught the ball, stepped on third base and doubled up Escobar on first. Right now, these guys can’t buy a break.
• Once again, a walk scored and the Royals lost by one.
• Your eyes are not deceiving you when you look at the box score. Prince Fielder stole a base. I’m trying to clock pitchers’ delivery times — I don’t know how accurate I am — but according to my stopwatch, Jonathan Sanchez took 1.8 seconds on that delivery. That’s very slow to the plate. Apparently, the Tigers have stopwatches, too.
If every Royals fan could spend an hour talking with general manager Dayton Moore, they would calm the heck down. Dayton was watching batting practice by himself, so I asked him what he was seeing. And off we went:
He sees which players take batting practice seriously and which players might goof around a bit. He understands blowing off steam, and if goofing around helps, so be it. But if that’s how you get ready, it’s a good idea to produce.
He pointed out how Alex Gordon was taking the correct route to the ball, even in BP.
He pointed out how seriously Chris Getz was taking his grounders and throws.
He saw good rhythm. The coaches were throwing strikes, which kept the hitters, the fielders and the coaches hitting fungos in a groove.
He doesn’t mind seeing someone with power load up on a pitch and drive one, but he doesn’t want to see people playing home-run derby. Line drives and balls hit the other way should be the main goal.
He wants to see players do things in practice the way they would in games. Apparently, that’s why it’s called practice.
The conversation also included topics besides batting practice:
Moore said he’s not surprised that a young team is struggling out of the gate. A lot of the Royals players had never gone through the excitement of a big league opening day.
I said it seemed as though some of the players were looking for the right level of intensity and had to learn how to maintain it. “Bingo,” Moore replied.
The Royals do not ignore advanced metrics. They have people on staff who provide them with numbers and those numbers are part of analyzing players. The Royals don’t rely solely on numbers, but the numbers may alert them to a player they would like to see up close.
Sometimes the numbers can be deceiving. The Royals might want a minor-league player to be aggressive at the plate in order to learn how to handle pitches in various parts of the strike zone. Outsiders might downgrade that player for having a low on-base percentage.
The conversation went on for a while and covered a lot of topics, but the main impression I walked away with was this: Dayton Moore is a very smart guy. There is always a danger when you get in proximity to someone with power and they let you see behind the curtain. It’s easy to get sucked in. But Dayton was not just painting a pretty picture. (Wow, that’s three metaphors in a row — hope you enjoyed them.)
I thought Moore was surprisingly candid and realistic about the team’s shortcomings. He didn’t sugarcoat what’s been going on. Moore said he thinks this is a young, talented group that is finding out what it takes to compete in the big leagues. “This is a bottom-line business,” he said. “Until we execute, we’ll lose.”
I’ve always heard it takes five to seven years for a general manager’s game plan to take shape at the major-league level. If the system is bad enough, it might be more like eight to 10 years. Moore has taken a lot of criticism while patiently waiting for this team to take shape.
After hearing what Moore had to say, it seems like we could be patient a few more weeks. I think this guy might know what he’s doing.