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Another short outing
The Kansas City Star
Sinkerball pitchers make a living by throwing fastballs that lose velocity and dip as they approach the plate. This action means that a great many hitters will hit the top of the ball as it sinks, driving the ball down into the dirt, which then produces easy grounders. Nate Adcock is a sinkerball pitcher.
When home plate umpire Bob Davidson spent most of the first inning calling sinkers down in the zone balls, it seemed like it might be a bad day for Adcock. It was, but Nate probably can’t blame the umpire.
Despite Davidson’s tight zone, Nate kept the ball down for two innings, facing the minimum number of batters, thanks to a nice line-drive double play turned in by Mike Moustakas. But in the third inning, Adcock began to elevate the ball, all on his own. After the game, Ned Yost said Nate was “drifting,” which means Adcock’s front side was getting too far out in front, too soon, his arm couldn’t catch up and hit the proper release point on time, and the ball was staying high in the zone.
On the third pitch of the third inning, Adcock left a change-up up (they need to be around the knees or lower) and Lonnie Chisenhall hit it for a home run. That was the beginning of the end. Nate, who should be getting outs on the ground, got a fly ball to left for the first out of the third and didn’t retire another batter. After the fly ball out, Adcock gave up a single, a walk, a single, a single and a single and forced Ned Yost to go to the pen while the Royals still had a chance.
With a runner on first base, the middle infielders will signal each other so they know who is covering second base should the runner attempt to steal. The other infielder stays put and the decision is based on the pitch. If it’s an off-speed pitch, the infielder on the pull side will stay home, vice versa on a fastball. The signal is open mouth (the shape made when you say the word “you” — as in “you” cover the bag) or closed mouth (the shape made when you say the word “me”). The infielders will shield their mouths with their gloves so the hitter can’t see the call, but you can see the signaling going on from the stands.
As mentioned in the opening, Mike Moustakas made an outstanding double play to get Nate Adcock out of the first. Mike has improved his glove work, but without a strong arm, some of these plays wouldn’t be possible.
In his second at-bat the camera focused in tightly on Jason Kipnis and it appeared Kipnis was peeking back at catcher Brayan Pena. This is not cool. The hitter does it to pick up location (one of the reasons catchers move into position late as possible). I don’t know if Kipnis makes a habit of this — the camera never focused that tightly on his face again — but if he does, the opposition isn’t going to like it much.
Later in the game Kipnis laid down a bunt when Pena went into his low catching position with one leg extended. I don’t know if it’s even possible for Kipnis to pick Pena’s position peeking back, but if it is, that would be another reason to bunt: the catcher won’t be quite as fast coming out from behind home plate.
Another great play by Moustakas backfired later in the same inning: the ball was pounded down into the ground and the bounce was so high the Royals third baseman didn’t have much of a chance to get the runner, Jose Lopez, at first. So Mike did a smart thing: he faked the throw, then turned and looked for the runner at second—the shifty-eyed Kipnis. Mr. Peripheral Vision had made the turn, looking to advance on the throw and Mike trapped him off base, tagged him and then looked around to see if there was another play available—but the umpire did not give Mike the call. That cost the Royals another run when Kipnis later scored.
Moustakas, hitting in the 4-hole, had a single (beating a shift by going the other way) and two walks in this game. Entering this game Mike’s batting average when hitting in the 4-hole was an even .100.
But correlation does not imply causation—unless you cover sports. Just because a rooster crows at dawn it does not necessarily mean the rooster made the sun come up. Just because Mike Moustakas has a low batting average since being moved into the 4-hole it does not necessarily mean he’s scuffled because he’s in the 4-hole. A few other factors matter. For example: small sample size, the pitchers he’s faced and how people are hitting around him also make a difference.
Remember that when those of us in the media imply causation: the Royals can’t win at home or a certain player is better during the day than at night. It might be true — if you see correlation you might consider causation, but often there are other factors to be considered.
In the fifth inning Jarrod Dyson tripled down the right field line. The first baseman was playing in to prevent a bunt — which limited his range — another reason to lay down a bunt once in a while.
A couple factors dictated triple. There was one out: with nobody out runners are generally cautious on the bases, with two outs they attempt to score or get to second base where one more hit can score them and with one out, getting to third pays off with the opportunity to score without a hit. The other factor was the ball being in the right field corner — it’s a long throw to third base.
In the bottom of the fifth Alex Gordon made a great play to come up with another outfield assist. The ball was hit high off the left field wall and Alex played the carom to his glove side. This allowed him to turn with the ball, take a couple steps for momentum, and throw in one motion. Play the carom to the throwing side and the awkward pivot will make for a weaker throw.
Irving Falu caught Gordon’s throw and applied the tag, but may have initially missed the runner. When this happens to a fielder, he’s in an awkward position: make another attempt at the tag and the fielder tells the umpire he missed the first time. Lifting the tag off the runner immediately and showing the ball to the umpire helps sell the call — but you risk the umpire calling the runner safe. Falu got the call, Moustakas didn’t.
In the seventh inning Irving Falu muffed a double play ball, which cost the Royals another run. In fact the three errors made by the Royals led to three runs. Better defense and the game might be tied after nine.
Falu’s error brings up one of the most underrated talents a player can have: consistency. When a consistent player makes a routine play everyone thinks the play is — for lack of a better word — routine. Put an inconsistent player out there and suddenly no play looks routine.
Jeff Francoeur’s reputation saved another run in the seventh when the Indians declined to send a runner home on a ball hit to right field.
Yesterday we talked about Eddie Rodriguez and the decision to send Alcides Escobar home on Humberto Quintero’s two-out double. Joel Goldberg talked to Eddie and the Royals third-base coach explained his reasoning: two outs, speed on first, ball not coming off the wall cleanly, fielder’s arm strength, lefty on the mound to face on-deck hitter Alex Gordon—so far so good—I was thinking all the same stuff.
Then Eddie left me in the dust.
Part of what went through his mind was that another run would put the Royals up by two and that meant they wouldn’t have to guard the lines in the last three innings every time a hitter came to the plate. That meant better defense during a crucial part of the game.
That may sound unlikely to you, but I know from experience: you run over all that stuff before the pitch is made. You do it again and again, pitch after pitch, inning after inning, game after game and then, bang — the ball’s in play and suddenly you know something without knowing why you know it.
I’ve done it myself, but never at the same level as Eddie Rodriguez.
Royals Doug Sisson explains leadoffs at second with Lee Judge
Kansas City Royals coach Doug Sisson explains how to leadoff second base to the Star's Lee Judge. May 21, 2012 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)