Games » Toronto Blue JaysApr20
No music in the clubhouse
The Kansas City Star
It’s easy to tell when the Royals win a game — there’s music in the clubhouse afterwards. Friday night was pretty quiet. Luke Hochevar walked the leadoff batter in the 4th inning and got away with it. An inning later he was a beat late covering first base and didn’t get away with it. Eric Thames got a single out of the deal, Luke walked him into scoring position and then Thames scored on another single. Still, five innings and one run isn’t bad. Hochevar had to leave because he tweaked the ankle that got hit by a batted ball in his last start, so the bullpen went to work.
Tim Collins and Aaron Crow were fine, but Greg Holland had command issues. He missed a low-and-away target badly, Colby Rasmus doubled and the tying run was on. Greg made a good pitch to J.P. Arencibia, but J.P. did a better job of hitting, the tying run was in and now the winning run was on. Holland walked the winning run into scoring position, then balked. That set up an intentional walk to Kelly Johnson and eventually he scored.
On the offensive side, the Royals struck out 11 times, hit into a triple play and, by my count, were one for eight with runners in scoring position. Even when they were ahead, it seemed like the Royals were playing sloppy baseball and I wondered if they would get away with it. There have been games in this losing streak in which I thought the Royals lost, but played well. This wasn’t one of them.
It’s not the worst thing that could happen
Friday afternoon I spent some time with Ned Yost while he watched early BP (yeah, the Royals took extra hitting). He said this losing streak is not the worst thing that could happen and his reasoning is interesting: this is a very young team. Lots of them just went through their first opening day. Lots of them have never played at this level when they were expected to win. It’s one thing to come up in September and play well on a team that’s going nowhere. It’s another to play well when you’re expected to play well.
Unfulfilled expectations have this team pressing. The pressure to do well may have come from the team’s marketing department, but Yost thinks it’s an opportunity to learn how to handle pressure. If these guys expect to be in a pennant race or the playoffs in the not-so-distant future, they need to figure out how to handle pressure now. The pressure of ending this losing streak is nothing compared to the pressure of playoff baseball. If the Royals learn how to maintain an even keel now, they’ll be a better team later.
Ned and I talked about Prince Fielder beating the shift Wednesday night. Yost said he didn’t think putting the shift on was a mistake at the time, but after thinking it over Thursday, decided it was. The plan was for Fielder to roll over an outside fastball and pull a grounder into the shift. (Jose Mijares did not miss his spot — he threw the pitch he was supposed to throw.) But Ned said Fielder is a better, more mature hitter now. Prince didn’t fall for it. He did what the Royals hitters need to do: He took what was given him and won a ball game. Yost thinks both Fielder and Miguel Cabrera are too good to fall for shifts. Ned said he made a mistake—but he won’t make it again.
Just trying to be me
I guess I was the latest in a long line of people to ask Danny Duffy if he could emulate Justin Verlander. When Verlander pitched against the Royals, he changed speeds on his fastball all night long: 91 when it didn’t matter, 99 when it did.
Danny said others had asked the same question “less delicately,” but the answer was the same: It would be great to have that kind of feel and location, but at this point, he was just trying to pitch like Danny Duffy. Danny needs to be able to “command” the ball (be able to put it in all four quadrants of the zone). Try to do too much at this point and he might screw up that learning process.
Plus, he thinks he’s got plenty to learn from the pitchers on the Royals staff as well.
Getting your pitch is a good start
I asked Billy Butler what was going right for him lately. He’s hitting .375 — why? Is it a simple matter of getting his pitch? Ted Williams thought getting a good pitch to hit was the key to success as a hitter. Billy told me it’s not only getting your pitch, it’s not missing it.
When you’re going bad, you foul it off or take it. He also pointed out that if he was hitting the ball hard, but at somebody, he wouldn’t be in this hot streak. Just to prove his point he went out and hit two balls hard, but at somebody: 5-3, 6-3.
This can’t last forever … can it?
If you’re paying attention you know that Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon are starting to come out of their funks. They’re starting to hit balls hard, but at people. This team will look very different once they start going.
And if you need further cheering up (and who doesn’t?), it’s extremely unlikely that the Royals will continue to play .231 baseball. These guys are pressing, things are bad, but this will change.
Make your bed, win a war
After mentioning Dayton Moore‘s appreciation of Chris Getz and his serious attitude toward handling grounders during BP, a reader expressed skepticism about the relationship between practice and winning. Oddly enough, that’s exactly how you win ball games.
Why do you think the army cares so much about how recruits make their beds?
Here’s what the army is trying to teach immature young men: 1.) Follow orders — your life and the lives of those around you may depend on how quickly you accept and carry out an order. 2.) Pay attention to detail — if you’re calling in an airstrike and the enemy is 100 yards ahead of you, getting the coordinates right is the difference between life and death. 3.) Be able to do the first two under pressure.
Doing things right has to become second nature. Dayton Moore appreciated Chris Getz’ approach because he knows Chris has practiced doing things right all the time. Not sometimes or when he feels like it — he does it the same way every time. So when Getz has to do the same thing under pressure, he’s more likely to do it right. It’s one of the reasons professional baseball people have more appreciation of Chris than those who just look at numbers.
Next time you get out there early for BP, pay attention to who is serious and who is goofing around. You’re going to see a correlation between players considered consistent and players who have a lesser reputation.