Games » Oakland AthleticsJun1
The month of June
The Kansas City Star
In the month of June, the Royals are playing the Oakland Athletics (losing record), the Minnesota Twins (losing record), the Pittsburgh Pirates (just barely over .500), the Milwaukee Brewers (losing record), the St. Louis Cardinals (just barely over .500), the Houston Astros (losing record) and the Tampa Bay Rays (who are actually playing well).
If the Royals are going to get back to .500, this would be a good month to gain some ground. By July 1, the Royals will have a much better idea of where this team stands. It’s a good time to win some ball games.
• In the first inning, Jemile Weeks led off with a double and Seth Smith failed to move him over to third base. Josh Reddick followed that up with a fly ball to center — possibly too shallow to score Weeks. But Jemile can run, so it was a wasted opportunity for the A’s on night when there wouldn’t be many opportunities at all.
• Billy Butler did not make the same mistake. In the bottom of the first inning, he hit the ball deep enough to right center field to move Yuniesky Betancourt from second base to third. Yuni scored on a subsequent hit by Mike Moustakas.
• Yuni would have scored without Billy’s fly ball. Moose singled, Jeff Francoeur drove the ball to the gap and Eric Hosmer had an infield hit. But it’s nice to appreciate good baseball when you see it. And Billy’s ball to the right side made sure Betancourt would score.
• Francoeur continued to hit the ball hard, driving Coco Crisp to the right center field fence. It probably would have been a home run on the road, but in Kauffman Stadium, it was a long out.
• Oakland starter Bartolo Colon got slapped around a bit in the first and third innings, but started locating the ball down and away consistently and cruised through the next four innings.
• Skip ahead to the seventh. Oakland’s Coco Crisp got a call he didn’t like, and he let everyone know by snapping his head around and showing disgust. Umpires don’t like that. Unfortunately, the Royals’ Kelvin Herrera missed with the next couple of pitches and never got one close enough to allow the umpire to help him. If a pitcher knows the umpire is steaming, he can help himself out by putting something just off the plate. At that point, most umpires are dying to call a borderline pitch a strike.
• In the eighth inning with a two-run lead, the Royals’ Greg Holland walked the lead-off hitter. That is frowned upon. The lead-off hitter can’t hurt you — especially when he’s hitting .205. Walk him, and the tying run you bring to the plate can do some real damage. Fortunately, Holland got out of the inning with no further damage.
Every once in a while, someone else does a story, and I think, “Damn. I wished I’d thought of that.” Recently, Royals broadcaster Joel Goldberg did a couple of pieces on the pregame show about spray charts and defensive positioning. They were outstanding … dammit.
I recorded first-base Doug Sisson talking about outfield positioning, and here is a summary of what Doug had to say:
• Doug gets several charts on each hitter: one against right-handed pitching, one against left-handed pitching and charts showing what the hitter does once he has two strikes.
• The outfield is positioned to protect against the fastball. It’s an educated guess, and the goal is to cover about 75 percent of the outfield. One hundred percent would be nice, but it’s just not possible.
• Hitters generally tend to pull the ball on the ground, but fly balls’ patterns can be more erratic.
• “Straight up” is positioning the outfielders in line with third and second base (for right field), first and second base (for left field) and home plate and second base, kind of (for center field, although the center fielder has to play to one side of the mound or the other so he can see home plate).
• When playing a right-handed hitter to go to the opposite field, the center fielder and right fielder will shift a minimum of 10 steps. The backside outfielder (the left fielder) will stay home in case the pitcher hangs an off-speed pitch.
• Like I said earlier, the outfielders try to protect against the fastball. If the pitcher hangs a breaking pitch and it is hit into an unprotected gap (we saw that recently with Humberto Quintero), there’s not much the outfielders can do.
• If the outfielders set up to protect against a pull hitter, the center fielder and the pull-side outfielder will shift 10 steps minimum, and the off-side outfielder will move in and protect the line. (They figure a pull hitter won’t drive the ball the other way and is more apt to hit a flare the other way off the end of the bat.)
So now we can all pay attention to the outfield shifts as each hitter comes to the plate. That will tell us where the Royals expect the ball to be hit and when the pitcher missed a spot or hung a breaking ball.
Thanks to Doug Sisson and Joel Goldberg for the information.