Yesterday afternoon I watched the Royals play the Rangers and was disappointed to see the type of baseball the Royals are still playing. Behind Luke Hochevar's outstanding performance the Royals did win the game, but the Royals approach showed me they are mired in a philosophy that will not consistently produce runs or victories.
In the third inning with the score tied 1-1, Mike Aviles lead off with a double and the 3-4-5 hitters were coming up. The Royals were in position to have a big inning but they chose to implement a strategy that prevented them from scoring multiple runs, all in the name of "playing the game the right way."
Billy Butler followed Aviles. Butler has mashed the ball all season, posting a .358/.395/.511 line. But Butler did not try to drive the ball or hit it hard. His goal was not to get a base hit. Instead, Butler shortened his swing in an effort to push the ball to the right side of the infield. The result was a weak ground out to first base which advanced Aviles to third. The moment the ball left Butler's bat, Royals television announcers Ryan Lefebvre and Frank White began to praise Butler for "getting the job done." They talked about Butler "giving himself up" and doing a good job of "rolling over and hitting the ball to the right side." Lefebvre and White's babble was enough to make any intelligent baseball fan ill. The reality is the Royals had one of their top hitters make a weak out for the sake of advancing a runner that was already in scoring position.
Jose Guillen followed Butler and hit a routine fly ball to left field scoring Mike Aviles. As Aviles was crossing the plate Lefebvre exclaimes "that was GREAT situational baseball by the Royals." Alberto Callaspo grounded out to end the inning and the Royals scored one run.
I'm sure Dayton Moore and Ned Yost viewed that inning as Ryan Lefebvre and Frank White, as a huge success. The truth is the Royals are continuing to ignore valid statistical research in a attempt to play their misguided version of fundamental baseball. I'm sure Texas manager Ron Washington was grateful that Butler didn't try to drive the ball and was willing to weakly ground out. I'm sure Texas pitcher Scott Fieldman, looking at facing Butler, Guillen, and Callaspo with a runner in scoring position and no outs, was thankful to get out of the inning allowing only one run.
There is a time to play for one run. If a near automatic out like Chris Getz or Willie Bloomquist is coming to bat or late in a ball game when one run decides the outcome. But the third inning of a 1-1 game with the heart of the order coming up is not the time. Sadly, the inning I described is Kansas City Royals baseball and an indication the Royals are basing their philosophy on old-school mythology.