'Everybody wants to do more': Witt's miscues magnified in loss to Rockies

June 4th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- Several times throughout his rookie season last year, felt the game speed up on him as he tried to do too much too quickly. Entering his sophomore season, it was a major goal for the 22-year-old shortstop to slow down and let his talent play out on the field.

For the most part, he’s made massive strides in that area in 2023. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be setbacks, and one came on Saturday.

Witt made an inning-defining error in the first inning Saturday afternoon against the Rockies, misplaying a potential double play ball when Jurickson Profar hit Royals starter Daniel Lynch’s curveball 97 mph on the ground to Witt. In his haste to turn the double-play, Witt couldn’t complete a clean transfer.

The Rockies turned that error and three soft hits into a five-run inning, eventually handing the Royals a 6-4 loss at Kauffman Stadium.

“[A] mistake was made. It can’t happen,” Witt said. “Lynch was pitching his tail off, gives up a couple of bloop hits. It’s one of those games that you feel is on your shoulders, I feel like it’s on mine, making that mistake. …

“Just trying to get two instead of one sure out. Trying to be too quick. Sometimes I get too fast at things. I just have to play slower and let the game come to me.”

Mistakes compounded on the Royals throughout Saturday’s game; Witt’s error was not the only key turning point of the loss. Right fielder MJ Melendez misplayed what was scored as a two-run triple in the first inning. Center fielder Drew Waters made an error in the fourth.

The infield misplayed another potential double play in the sixth when Salvador Perez and Maikel Garcia couldn’t catch Charlie Blackmon in a rundown at third base.

The Royals out-hit the Rockies, 11-8, but left 10 on base. Witt, whose 18 stolen bases rank fourth in the Majors, made a baserunning error for the second straight game, getting picked off at third base in the third with one out.

“Got to be better than that, and got to keep getting better,” Witt said. “I know at times I haven’t been playing great, so just trying to keep going.”

The Royals are using ‘23 to evaluate their young players and let them play every day at the Major League level. That includes learning from mistakes and failure, and it includes their young franchise player in Witt.

Witt, who was 3-for-5 on Saturday, is putting together a solid defensive season, especially when compared to his rookie year. In 2022, Witt recorded -9 Outs Above Average, per Statcast, and -18 defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs, while playing shortstop. Entering Saturday, he had recorded six OAA and -3 DRS in ‘23.

“I’m sure everybody wants to do more,” manager Matt Quatraro said pregame Saturday. “Nobody likes to lose, and we’ve lost a lot of games. Guys like to be the leader to help get us out of that. Bobby has more chances than anybody, he’s in a premium position in the middle of the field every day, hitting at the heart of the order, so he’s going to have opportunities. 

“With that comes a lot of chances for success. And then when failure happens, it becomes magnified. But I don’t sense he’s trying to carry the team by any means.”

The mistakes the Royals made Saturday wasted what should have been an otherwise solid start from Lynch. The lefty still gave Kansas City five innings despite a 38-pitch first inning, allowing five runs (three earned) with one walk and seven strikeouts.

Lynch hit Rockies leadoff man Charlie Blackmon with a 93.9 mph fastball to begin Saturday’s game -- and the next three Rockies hits had a lower exit velocity than that fastball.

“Hits like that are going to happen,” Lynch said. “I tried to stay with what’s within my control, keep attacking guys, get ahead and make good pitches. I felt like I did that, but I put myself in a hole there hitting the first guy.”

Lynch needed 59 pitches to get through the next four innings, and he found his strikeout stuff to keep the Rockies off balance and guessing.

“To stay in it mentally there when you get down five, it speaks volumes to what he’s capable of doing,” Quatraro said. “ … Especially in the first, you have your mindset on a good outing, then all of a sudden, things aren’t working the way you want. It takes a tremendous amount of fortitude to stay in there and compete.”