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Sports Editorial

KSAL Staff - May 2, 2016 8:00 am

MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS

MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS

Last season the Kansas City Royals went through some periods when they looked like they were dead in the water, for good. But they would come back and get it going again. Nevertheless, after being shutout the first two games at Seattle, KC was hovering above .500 (12-11) with five-straight losses and four games behind Chicago in the AL Central.

Following the second game against Seattle (April 30), KC was 27th of the 30 teams in MLB in runs scored. That won’t feed the bulldog.

Kansas City has had two notable flaws since Hosmer, Gordon, Moustakas, Perez, and others began their careers with the Royals: first and most significant, they swing at too many bad pitches. Secondly, they take way too many first pitches that are right down the middle and then strike out later in the at-bat by swinging at pitches that are well out of the strike zone.

Catcher Salvy Perez and shortstop Alcides Escobar are the worst offenders when it comes to swinging at bad pitches; opponents are well-aware of this weakness and they capitalize on it. Perez is the worst. He swings at pitches he can’t even reach and it hurts the ball club. Escobar is just as bad when he has two strikes against him—he’ll swing at anything. Center fielder Alex Gordon, DH Kendrys Morales, third baseman Mike Moustakas, and first baseman Eric Hosmer aren’t far behind; they all waste valuable at-bats by whiffing on balls that aren’t even close to strikes.

It must be noted, however, that Hosmer and Moustakas are off to stellar starts at the plate, even though they still swing at a number of pitches out of the strike zone.

There’s no statistic to prove this, but the claim here is that Kansas City’s hitters swing at more bad pitches than any other team in MLB. And this has been going on for seven or eight years. Escobar often swings at the first pitch, but the rest of the team usually takes the first one, even when it’s right over the middle of the plate. It appears that they’ve been instructed to look at a pitch or two before they swing and that hasn’t been working.

KC will snap out of this batting slump, but it’s an ongoing and long-term issue that has needed rectifying for a long time. Dale Sveum is in his third year as hitting coach for the Royals; it would be informative to know whether or not he advises his hitters to take the first pitch. When they start scoring runs again, it will be smooth sailing. But KC could be so much better on offense if the hitters would become more selective of the pitches they try to hit.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Here’s the solution, which the rich and pampered players would have to agree to; since it would be for the good of the team, they undoubtedly would go along.

First, management would provide an old-time leather shaving strap and put a wooden handle on it. Then mount this item on the clubhouse wall. After the assenting vote by the players, each player would be allowed one swing at a bad pitch every game with no penalty.

But on the second bad swing—and any others that follow—on pitches out of the strike zone, each batter would be assessed one swat with the strap for each bad swing. After the game in the locker room, the guilty hitters would grab their ankles and take their swats administered by the strength and conditioning coach. This procedure would just last until the hitters regained their concentration at the plate. It wouldn’t take long—pain is a great motivator.

So far, with few exceptions, KC’s starting pitchers have been highly effective. If this should change, it would cause big problems because the offense isn’t getting it done. Yordano Ventura has been inconsistent with his control, but the others have pitched well. But the outlook for long-term effectiveness is worrisome. In addition, none of the pitchers in the minor league system are ready to help. It’s a precarious situation.

Rumors continue to circulate that the Big 12 Conference will soon decide whether or not to expand from 10 to 12 teams. One favorable factor for remaining at 10 teams is never publicized: the uniqueness of 10 teams and a round-robin schedule in both football and basketball.

The other so-called major conferences have so many teams that have changed alliances that it’s hard to keep track of who is where. From here it looks like the Big 12 is doing just fine—their distinctive format is a refreshing asset.

City of Salina