For the second straight game, the Royals drop a heartbreaker by a 2-1 scoreline. For so little action, there’s plenty to discuss.
Let’s start with the offense.
Another brutal performance all around. After Sal Perez singled with one out in the fourth, the Royals didn’t put another runner on base. That’s 17 consecutive outs to end the game. Perhaps the most frustrating string of outs came in the eighth and ninth when Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon were four straight strikeout victims.
The Royals have now scored 2 or fewer runs in six of their last seven games. This is not how you win baseball games. Not with this starting staff.
Now this is the part that may make some of you angry. This is what we mean when we talk about regression.
The Royals bolted out of the gate to start the season. The offense was firing on all cylinders. Wins were coming easy and triple digit win totals were seemingly on the horizon.
The simplest way to illustrate this is to break it down by month.
The column to key on is the BABIP. A .346 BABIP is simply unsustainable. It’s a sign of a team on a roll. If you’re into the markets, think of the Royals April as the housing market in 2007. Good times. The correction was coming, but the question was always going to be, exactly how painful would it be? It turns out that, really, the correction the Royals saw in May wasn’t all that bad. They finished the month with 14 wins, which was over .500. The starting pitchers turned in a brilliant week, just when the offense started to hibernate. Sometimes, the signs are a little difficult to find, because other events obscure the facts.
There wasn’t anything to hide in the just completed road trip. And now it seems, we’re in full-blown panic mode.
Can we be OK with it? Hell, no. It’s not fun when our team loses. And especially when they lose with such anemic offense. Except to me, this was inevitable. At some point, the Royals were going to slump. And at some point, they were going to lose five of six. It’s happening now.
The silver lining (if you’re the type looking for a glass that is half-full) is that the Tigers posted similarly inflated offensive numbers in the season’s opening month. And sure enough, the Tigers are stumbling, losers of eight of their last 10. (Let’s not even worry about the Twins. They are welterweights trying to spar with a couple of middleweights. It’s not going to end pretty for them.) If you’re going to slump, have the good fortune to time it to a similar slump of your closest rival. While the devil magic may be running cold, there are signs that it’s at least still somewhat operational.
Now let’s discuss the broken system of replay.
If you have read this blog for any length of time, or if you follow me on Twitter, you know exactly what I think of replay:
It’s a steaming pile of horseshit.
My issues with replay are myriad. For starters, each stadium is built with it’s own quirks, so the camera angles vary from yard to yard. For a system designed to be perfect (or as perfect as it can possibly be) this is a huge disadvantage. The camera bay at Kauffman, may lend itself to a better view of second base than at Target Field. But maybe the high angle at Comerica is more advantageous than the high angle at Wrigley. Whatever. If you are creating and using a system to “get things right” you damn well better have uniform coverage. For the play at first on Tuesday, it seems that there were just two or three angles, and all of them were from behind the base. There was absolutely no variety. The coverage just isn’t consistent or good enough.
If you have four minutes of your life to flush down the toilet:
Second, the speed of the cameras isn’t conducive to judging close plays. Even when it’s freeze framed. You’ve seen Fox’s “Phantom Cam.” That’s an amazing product. It’s also damned expensive. But if you don’t want a ball entering a glove to be a white smeary blur, or if you want to be able to discern if that spike is actually making contact with the base, you need a camera capable of shooting higher frame rates. It’s prohibitively expensive to place these cameras throughout the ballpark, but maybe replay should be shelved until the price comes down or even better technology is in place. Anyway, baseball is awash in cash. They can afford to outfit ballparks with these cameras.
Third, and this is just my theory, I have no smoking gun on this, I believe there has been a conscientious decision to be absolutely, 100 percent certain that the evidence is iron-clad before they will overturn a call on the field. That’s what happened on Tuesday in the eighth inning. It certainly looked like the ball was in Hosmer’s glove before Ramirez’s spike hit the bag, but that wasn’t enough. It needed to be crystal clear. There needed to be an “ah-ha!” moment. It feels to me we’ve seen many more replay challenges upheld due to evidence that could be termed inconclusive. And again, that evidence is inconclusive because we have cameras positioned at less than ideal angles with less than ideal frame rates. If you need clearly conclusive evidence to overturn a call, yet have just a single angle to make that call, how is that serving the game?
Because of this, the umpires and the phantom umps in New York somehow screwed up the replay call and said Ramirez was safe.
Replay is a system that strives for perfection, yet it’s handcuffed by it’s own imperfections.
While the allegedly blown replay call in the eighth was bad enough, Omar Infante booting a grounder hit right at him off the bat of the following hitter was a worse sin.
It’s time for Infante to ride the pine.
He’s not the worst offensive performer in baseball through the season’s first two months, but he’s certainly in the discussion. On Tuesday he came up to bat twice in the first four innings with runners on first and second. He struck out both times.
The first plate appearance:
I mean, what the hell? How can we describe the second plate appearance? An improvement? Good grief.
As horrible as those were, the play in the field in the eighth was the death knell for Tuesday’s game. After the blown replay call, Jason Kipnis followed with a ball hit right at Infante. A taylor-made double play. Only somehow Infante booted the ball and had to rush his throw to second. Because of his inability to cleanly field the ball, Escobar wasn’t able to even try to complete the turn. Kipnis, of course, came around to score the game-winning run.
Don’t go looking for an error on Infante. Your old school stats don’t work here. Because the Royals got one out, there can be no error charged on the play. You can’t assume a double play. Even one as inevitable as the one Infante booted.
Infante has been negatively affecting the lineup for most of the season by just being there. Tuesday was one of those instances where we can point to his overall effort and say: Not good enough. Not even close.
Unfortunately, the Royals still owe him $18 million over the next two seasons (including a buyout on a club option), so it’s not like they can just move him to the scrap heap even if his production merits. While the Royals are battling regression, they need to figure out ways to improve their current situation. That means giving Christian Colon the majority of the time at second base going forward. Colon may not be the long-term answer at the position, but based on Infante’s production, Colon would have to be roundly awful not to be at least a slight improvement. Dayton Moore gave out a bad contract to a declining player, who’s decline seemed to accelerate the moment the pen hit the paper. The money is gone, but that doesn’t mean steps can’t be taken to rectify the situation.
This post is running long and we haven’t even discussed Jeremy Guthrie’s high-wire act or Sal Perez’s concussion-like symptoms. And after such a depressing night, I wanted to end on a high note and have video of the best moment of the game which was Alex Gordon’s first inning catch of a fly ball off the bat of Kipnis. Except MLB Advanced Media won’t let me embed that clip.
What a bunch of crap.