Even great baseball teams are generally happy to win two out of three on the road, which is exactly what the Royals accomplished with Wednesday’s 7-3 victory over the Tigers.   Still, after blowing a 5-0 lead in the seventh on Tuesday, I have a feeling that many Royals’ fans (this one included) are not all that ecstatic with the recent series’ results.

Years of losing have jaded many a Royals fan, but the simple logic is that this team is just 4-5 despite:

  • Hitting a league leading .307
  • Slugging a robust .450, good for 3rd in the AL
  • Reaching base at a .362 clip, again good for 3rd
  • Having their starting pitchers post quality starts in seven of nine games (and winning one of those that they did not)
  • Trotting out a regular lineup where seven of the nine players are hitting .300 or better and one who is not, Alberto Callaspo, is more likely to end up hitting .300 than the rest of them

Let’s face it, while the starting rotation might be very good most of the season, Scott Podsednik is not going to hit .457 this year and Jose Guillen really won’t hit a home run in every game.   

Even with the robust offensive statistics, the margin for error for this team is extremely thin.   If this team settles in and hits .285/.345/.425 then cannot expect to overcome some of the poor baserunning and curious decision making that has become all too common early this season.   Yesterday, we had two more examples:

  • In the top of the 7th inning, the Royals had runners on first and second with two out.   Jason Kendall taps a ball out to shortstop and Mitch Maier, running from first, beats the throw to second.   However, Alberto Callaspo simply ran through 3rd base and is thrown out.   Absent mindedness on the part of Callaspo?   Where was Dave Owens, by the way?
  • The very next inning, up 5-3, the Royals get the first two runners on.   David DeJesus, who had six hits in the series, three of them for extra bases, is asked to bunt.   Sure, David should be able to get a bunt down, but do you really have one of your best hitters still attempt to sacrifice when he has two strikes?   Really?!

Yes, I know the calls of being overly pessimistic and just downright negative ‘all the time’ are coming, but are those two instances are a warning sign.   Particularly since yesterday was hardly the first time in this young season we have seen similar occurrences. 

Again, it is all fine and good when you are hitting .307, but what happens when the Royals are not collecting 17 hits in a game or scoring 22 runs in a three game series?   How inconsequential are those plays then?

Two Man Bullpen

The Royals’ actual bullpen was used yesterday:  all two of them.   That is really what Trey Hillman has at his disposal right now.    We all knew that Joakim Soria was among the best in the game, which he showed yesterday in going an inning and a third for the save.   We didn’t know that John Parrish would be lights out, but thank goodness he has been in not allowing a run or a hit in six appearances (4.1 innings).    Small sample size for sure, but certainly a welcome emergence from the cesspool that comprises the rest of the arms that take up space on the bullpen bench.

With a day off today, the Royals can look forward to having both Parrish and Soria ready to go again on Friday behind Zack Greinke.   The problem, of course, comes on Saturday when Hillman will have to look at the other SIX pitchers in the pen and decide who is going to suck the least.  

I am not saying anything here, just throwing this out:  Kyle Farnsworth is the only reliever who has yet to walk a batter.

Speaking of Zack Greinke

He continues to ‘adjust’ this season.   That begs the question as to why, after so thoroughly dominating in 2009, that Zack felt the need to adjust anything, but there is some marginally sound reasoning behind all this.     Adding more changeups to his repertoire certainly makes sense, but Zack is also going away from his slider under the premise that hitters are recognizing and laying off that pitch.   The numbers seem to bear that out (again, small sample size alert):

Greinke in 2009:  59% fastballs, 20% sliders, 14% curves, 6% changeups

April 5, 2010: 57% fastballs, 21% sliders, 11% curves, 10% changeups

April 10, 2010: 62% fastballs, 15% sliders, 14% curves, 9% changeups

If you purchased the 2010 Royals Authority Annual (still on sale, by the way) and read Jeff Zimmerman’s article on Pitch F/X, you know that from 2007-2009, Zack’s slider induced a 40% swing and miss rate (only Soria’s curve had a higher percentage).    Basically, the slider is just plain nasty.

Given that fact, why go to the curve more instead of just throwing the slider for strikes once in a while?  Sure, major league hitters adjust and have made a real effort to lay off the slider this year.   How much will they lay off if a couple of them take a called third strike slider?   If Zack throws the slider for strikes a little more often,  hitters will have to adjust to him once more.

Without question, I know about 800 times less about pitching than Bob McClure and Greinke (and that’s being charitable), but I have a hard time believe that Jeremy Hermida and Jason Varitek go back to back yard if thrown sliders in strike zone versus curveballs.    

Sometimes, a pitcher is simply good enough to throw his best pitches over and over and still win.   One has to think that Zack Greinke is one of those guys and, as much as we rave about Zack’s cerebral approach to the game, this may be a case of thinking less and just throwing the good stuff.   

Of course, this is Greinke.   He is likely to throw 35 curveballs on Friday night and throw a shutout.   Whatever he throws, we will all be interested.