The Royals’ Costly Baserunning Blunder

If you’re looking for goat horns upon which to hang the Royals Game 7 loss, you should probably start with Madison Bumgarner. He had as much to do with their loss as anyone.

Maybe, if you’re desperate, you look to Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele for holding Alex Gordon at third base in the ninth. Rather than send Gordon home to his all-but-assured doom, he placed the season in the hands of Salvador Perez. Damned if you do, you might say.

But if you need a boneheaded play with immediate and negative repercussions for Kansas City, look no further than the man who slid headfirst into infamy after Joe Panik made a very memorable stop at second base, starting a third inning double play you’re going to get sick of seeing this winter.

No, I’m not talking about Eric Hosmer’s slide into first base, slowing him down enough for the Giants to record two huge outs. I’m talking about Lorenzo Cain, seconds earlier during the very same play.

We all remember the incredible diving and flip made by Panik, tossing to Brandon Crawford for the force. Crawford made a strong throw to just nail Hosmer. It took a video replay to determine he was really out. It’s a play that will remain in Giants lore forever.


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Too easy

Every split second matters on this play. And yet there is Cain, with the entire thing developing right in front of him, sliding headfirst into second base. The Giants shortstop is able to comfortably plant and fire a strike to first. If Cain makes even a passable attempt at a takeout slide, the chances of converting this improbable double play shrink even more.

It was a mistake, simply put. A brain cramp on the bases at an inopportune time by a player who perhaps contributed more to the Royals postseason surge than any other. There really isn’t any excuse for it, mind you. Cain must, at the very least, disrupt the play and make any relay throw a little more difficult.

With Bumgarner looming and the Royals offense predicated on taking advantage of every opportunity, this play was a killer. Easy to say in hindsight, but there’s no real excuse for Cain’s thoughtless base running in this situation.


Here is the Statcast breakdown of this play. Hosmer’s only out by .02 seconds even after sliding headfirst. Crawford is able to get rid of the ball after 0.77 seconds. If he’s dodging a takeout slide, that surely goes by more than two hundredths of second, right?

Drew used to write about baseball and other things at theScore but now he writes here. Follow him on twitter @DrewGROF

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Eric Garcia McKinleymember
8 years ago

Great observation. It also looks like Cain’s head first slide gave Crawford a throwing lane. He might also have disrupted the double play by not sliding at all.

8 years ago

In the fourth inning Alex Gordon went about ten feet out of the baseline and slid high on Crawford to try to break up a double play. And he failed.

It was a moot issue since Crawford still threw Perez out and completed the double play, but it was cowardly and disgraceful umpiring not to call the batter Perez out for Gordon’s blatant interference. Crawford didn’t even use the unwritten in-the-area play to avoid being taken out.

I can’t agree with this sort of Monday morning quarterbacking, particularly since the very next inning Crawford showed that a hard (and illegal) slide didn’t stop him from completing a double play. Cain was running on a dead sprint and I think he was surprised that Panik even got to the ball. If you watch the path Cain takes, he begins running at an angle right of second base because he is expecting that the ball is going through the infield and he wants to get to third base. Then Panik makes an amazing play, and Cain immediately went into his slide and veered his direction back to second base. I assume at this point, Cain wanted to get to the bag as quickly as possible without over sliding the bag, hoping that he would be safe at second. If he decides to slide wide of second or goes in high feet first, then he runs the risk of missing second base altogether, and being called out at second on a bang-bang play. And then you would be excoriating him for making a “bone-headed” play of trying to break up an improbable double play but missing second base and being called out. Sliding head first does not appreciably slow down a baserunner, but sliding feet first does. Cain had to make this decision in probably the amount of time it takes for a hitter to react to a 100 mph fastball.

8 years ago
Reply to  Brooks

Good point. I think Cain decided to slide headfirst the instant Panik made the stop, thinking that it would take time and he could beat the ball to the bag. Was it guaranteed that Cain was going to be out at that instant?

8 years ago
Reply to  Alex

It looks like the split second that Panik had the ball in his glove before the flip worked out like a decoy to Cain – maybe thinking that the ball had trickled past Panik. In any case, it does look like he began his slide pretty late, and didn’t have much time to process the best way to do it.