Games » Chicago White SoxMay13
Don't rush to judgment
The Kansas City Star
Since the Royals finished that 12-game losing streak, they have either split or won six series in a row. (I’m taking Steve Physioc’s word on that, but he hasn’t lied to me yet.) Fans — at least temporarily — seem to have calmed down. I’m not hearing nearly as many demands for general manager Dayton Moore’s head or manager Ned Yost to be burned at the stake.
After Luke Hochevar’s horrible start May 6 against the New York Yankees, this website had 56 comments, many of which called for Hochevar to be released. After Saturday night’s start in which Luke threw seven shutout innings, the comments dwindled to nine — and nobody called for Luke to be disemboweled.
A buddy of mine covered the NFL for years and then spent a season covering the Baltimore Orioles. He said he had to tone down his judgments. A bad game from a football player might ruin a season; baseball was on a different timetable.
When Boston bench coach Tim Bogar was in Kansas City last week, he told me that the Red Sox had a 30-day rule in the minor leagues. When you get a player, leave him alone for 30 days. Let him play and don’t reach any conclusions for 30 days. Apparently, this is a common approach among teams. Don’t rush to judgment.
I don’t know if the Royals will compete for the playoffs or even get back to .500 before the season ends, but they are playing better. There is a saying in baseball: “You’re never as good as you think you are, but you’re never as bad as you think you are, either.”
The Royals will have more hot streaks. They also will have more cold streaks. Refusing to ride an emotional roller-coaster is part of being a good ballplayer. I would advise the same attitude for fans.
• In the fifth inning, the Royals put a shift on and Chicago’s Adam Dunn singled to the opposite field. So did the shift work? A lot of people would say yes. If you get a power hitter to take a single that doesn’t hurt you, maybe the shift has done its job. I need to ask Ned Yost that question when the Royals get home.
• After Jeff Francoeur’s home run in the eighth inning, White Sox pitcher Nate Jones came inside on the next batter, Eric Hosmer, dumping him on the ground. Home-plate umpire Joe West immediately gave a warning to both teams, but at that point, the Royals hadn’t done anything wrong. Baseball players think they should get to retaliate (throw at someone on the other side) and then have the umpire issue warnings.
• There weren’t a lot of stolen-base attempts in this series. On Sunday, the Royals’ Jarrod Dyson took off and was called out (replays showed he wasn’t), but it’s worth noting that the White Sox pitchers had dropped their delivery times to home plate. A bunch of guys who took 1.5 seconds to get the ball to the plate cut their times to 1.3 seconds. The game is speeding up.
• Starter Danny Duffy’s elbow twinged, and the Royals pulled him from the game. Reliever Luis Mendoza came in on short notice and gave the team 5 and two-thirds innings while giving up one run. You could see the end coming in the seventh. The Royals were up 2-1, and Mendoza started the inning with two line drives (one was an out) and the top of the order was about to see Luis for the third time. I figured Ned would pull Mendoza when the lineup turned over, and he did.
• When Johnny Giavotella was at the plate in ninth inning with first base open, it looked as though the White Sox didn’t care if they walked him. After Alcides Escobar walked and Humberto Quintero doubled, the Sox walked Jarrod Dyson to load the bases. That set up a double play and gave Chicago a force play at any base. A passed ball unloaded the bases and meant that the pitcher, Addison Reed, could start working out of the strike zone to Gio. He did, and Gio chased a pitch and struck out.
• But Giavotella’s pinch-hit in the eighth inning was huge. With two strikes, Johnny cut down his swing and drove in two runs to put the Royals ahead.
• You probably were yelling at your TV when Royals third baseman Irving Falu missed a pop-up off Paul Konerko’s bat in the eighth. That ball has to be caught, especially at the major-league level. But those pop-ups curve as they come down. It’s called “infield drift,” and if you’re not between the ball and the pitching mound as a pop-up falls, you’re in the wrong place.
Let’s go back — briefly — to Luke Hochevar’s outstanding start Saturday night. The Royals apparently want Luke to pitch inside more often and he did.
A sequence to Paul Konerko shows how it works. In the seventh inning of Saturday night’s game, Hochevar came up and in on Konerko with a 92 mph fastball. He straightened him up. A hitter who has had a good heater thrown under his chin often has a hard time convincing himself to lean out over the plate again. Luke followed up the purpose pitch with a curve ball for a strike, then he threw a 1-1 fastball that Konerko fouled back. Luke finally got Konerko out on a sinker that Konerko pulled to third base.
Preventing a hitter from diving into those subsequent pitches is the reason you go up and in. The first pitch makes the hitter less effective on the pitches that follow.
Jeff Francoeur’s best play ever
Frenchy made another great catch in Sunday’s game, diving for a ball in the gap, then jumping up and throwing to first base in an attempt to double off the runner. It was a very good play, but it was not his best.
Apparently we missed the best play Jeff Francoeur ever made because it happened in a high school tournament. I heard this story third-hand. It sounded like some kind of urban legend, so I went to Jeff and asked him whether it was true. Frenchy said yes, so here it is:
Jeff was in the outfield and a runner was on second base when the batter hit the ball over the fence — temporarily. Frenchy took off for the ball, hit the chain-link fence in stride and — using one foot braced against the fence to get some height — reached over and made the catch, saving a home run.
So far, so good. We’ve all seen him do that, nothing that stretches the imagination so far. But then (and here comes the urban-legend part) Frenchy whirled and threw out the runner at second base — without touching the ground. The runner made the mistake of assuming the ball was a home run. He left the base early, so Jeff used the foot braced against the fence to push off and make the throw. The ball was out of Jeff’s hand before he ever hit the warning track.
Frenchy said I should ask longtime Royals scout Art Stewart about the play because Art was there. I recently tracked Art down in the media dining room and asked to hear the story. Art smiled and said that yes, he and a bunch of other scouts were there that day. “Not only did Francoeur throw out the runner, he threw a rope.” To grade a player’s skills, many scouts use a grading system of 20 to 80 with 50 being the major-league average.
I wonder how many scouts wrote down an 82 that day.