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Deconstructing The Process

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Games like the one the Royals played on Tuesday are fantastic. It’s a recipe for a great evening.

— They spotted Vin Mazzaro four runs before he ever took the mound. Wait… The Royals had a “big inning?” An inning where they scored more than one run and didn’t bunt? This is the Royals?

Adding to the confusion was leadoff man Jerrod Dyson clubbing the ball over the head of the right fielder for a leadoff double. What’s up with that? Joey Gathright never hit one off the wall.

Given the opportunity to play everyday, Dyson has exceeded expectations. That’s likely an understatement. On Tuesday, he reached base three times and saw a team high 24 pitches in five plate appearances. That is exactly the kind of stuff you want to see from your leadoff hitter. Oh, and all three times he reached… He scored.

Dyson is now hitting .304/.383/.362 in 81 plate appearances. He’s scored 17 runs in 18 games. And get this… Dyson is scoring 55% of the time he reaches base. No player in baseball with more than 80 plate appearances has scored as frequently as Dyson.

I know we’re still at least a month away from Lorenzo Cain returning from his hip flexor injury, but man… If Dyson can somehow keep this going, there’s no way Cain gets back into the lineup.

— I suppose lost in the “Eric Hosmer batting second” hubbub is that if Jerrod Dyson reaches base in the first inning, we can pretty much forget about Hosmer bunting him over. Although he did execute the swinging bunt in the first on the tapper back to Lewis. I guess what happened is an example of how speed affects the game, as Lewis looked Dyson back to second, then turned to first and lofted a flat footed throw over the head of Moreland.

— Hosmer then executed a boneheaded baserunning play when he broke for third on a ground ball in front of him. You don’t go for third in that situation… You just don’t.

More Royals running into outs.

— After a Jeff Francoeur double and Mike Moustakas was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Brayan Pena saw a meatball from Lewis and laced it into right for a two-run single. Does Pena love hitting in Arlington, or what?

— Finally, a nice job by Chris Getz to line the Lewis curve into center for the Royals final out of the inning. A slow, looping curve that didn’t exactly hang, but it was still in the “happy zone” when Getz drove it to center to bring home the Royals final run of the inning.

It also helps that the Royals were able to keep the pressure on, adding single runs in each of the next two innings. Again it was that leadoff man, Dyson, setting the table with a more Dysonesque base hit than in the first. The error on the pickoff allows him to advance to second, although I was surprised he didn’t go for third. Probably the right call since there weren’t any outs in the inning.

Then a nice piece of hitting from Butler to line the low and away pitch to right to bring Dyson home. That was the sort of inning that wasn’t happening during the first month of the season.

In the third, it was the MooseBomb. All the dude is doing is hitting .310/.371/.540. Nice. It’s weird, but when Hosmer started crushing minor league pitching, he kind of shoved Moustakas to second tier prospect status. But if Moose wasn’t number one on those prospect lists, he was 1A. He’s a damn good ballplayer. Now if we could only get that other guy going…

— Speaking of Hosmer, he did pick up a pair of hits, one of which was an opposite field double. Opposite field hits are always a good sign, but he’s teased us before. Anyway, it was his first multi-hit game since May 3 – the first game of the homestand against the Yankees. And only his sixth multi-hit game of the year. When I say “multi-hit,” I mean two hit games… Because he’s yet to collect more than two hits in a game this season.

— Mazzaro was successful because he threw strikes. According to PITCH f/x, 14 of his 16 four seam fastballs were strikes as were 21 of his 34 two seamers. He doesn’t miss many bats – he only generated four swings and misses of his total 50 fastballs – which against the Rangers feels dangerous. Especially if you’re living in the zone as much as Mazzaro was on Tuesday. But for one night at least, it worked. It also helped that the Rangers seemed a little overzealous, chasing a number of pitches out of the zone.

Whatever… It worked. It also helps that Mazzaro limited any potential damage by walking just a single batter. His final line:

5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

If you had offered that line to me ahead of the game, I would have gladly accepted. Baseball is a funny game.

— And then the bullpen… What an effort. Timmay Collins set the tone by striking out five of the six batters he faced. That curve… Just devastating. He’s just been amazing this year. Collins was followed by Aaron Crow, Jose Mijares and a rejuvenated Greg Holland. Here’s the combined bullpen line of the evening:

4 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO

That’s how Dayton drew it up, right? Cobble together five half-decent innings from your mediocre starting pitcher and then have the bullpen lock things down for the next four? And hope like hell your lineup strings together enough runs to give your team a fighting chance?

It’s a wonderful thing when a plan comes together.

Sure, it’s nice to take two of three from the White Sox, but the last thing you want to see is Danny Duffy exiting just three batters into the game.

Not good. Not good at all.

According to the Royals website, Duffy felt a “twinge” in his elbow on his second pitch of the game. He lasted 11 more pitches before he was pulled.

The warning signs have been there… He had a start skipped at the end of April and in his return against the Yankees on May 3, Ned Yost said Duffy, “couldn’t command his curveball at all, but he was overpowering with his fastball.” This jives with an elbow problem… The pitcher with a sore elbow has issues with location. Velocity isn’t usually affected. Indeed, much has been made of Duffy’s velocity this season. According to PITCH f/x data collected by FanGraphs, Duffy’s fastball is averaging 95.3 mph this season. That’s second only to Stephen Strasburg. (Impressive, although we have to note prior to Sunday, four of Duffy’s five starts have been at home, where the radar gun runs a little on the warm side.)

Anyway, after having difficulty commanding the curve in his first start since being skipped, Duffy really struggled in his next outing. Against the Red Sox on May 8, he walked five and consistently missed his spots up in the zone. He threw 102 pitches, but couldn’t get out of the fifth inning.

Then Sunday happened.

Now Duffy is back in Kansas City where he will get an MRI on the elbow. We hope for the best, but it’s likely he’s been dealing with this issue since his start against the Blue Jays on April 22. That start was like his outing against the Red Sox… Duffy walked five and couldn’t get out of the fifth inning while throwing 113 pitches.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think the MRI is going to bring good news. Best case scenario is a DL stint where rest is the prescription. Worst case… I’m not going to go there right now.

— The Duffy issue overshadows a late inning outburst where the Royal bats went berzerk hanging nine runs on the Sox in the final third of the game. Is it weird that the Royals have yet to have a double digit scoring game this year? Seems so. On Sunday, a ninth inning explosion where the Royals scored six runs and pushed their game total to nine, matched their previous high scoring game – a 9-11 loss against Cleveland. That was in the season opening homestand we no longer discuss.

The Royals didn’t have much life before Johnny Giavotella pinch hit for Chris Getz in the with two on and two out in the seventh.

For the record: I would much rather see Gio in the lineup instead of Getz. However, Getz has provided some value at the plate this year. He’s not a long term answer, but why not let him play everyday – even against the lefties. On the other hand, it doesn’t make any sense to call Gio up and not play him at least five or six times a week. But this is the Royals we’re talking about. Hardly any of their roster moves make sense. You already have Irving Falu up as your utility infielder, so why bring up another second baseman? It seems you either play Giavotella or find another platoon partner for Getz.

(Meanwhile, doesn’t all of this render The Yunigma irrelevant? Just a dreadful signing by GMDM and company. Actually, to call it dreadful doesn’t do it justice.)

— Yosty finally got around to shoving Eric Hosmer down in the batting order. About time. Hosmer got the day off in the finale of the Red Sox series to allow for two consecutive days away (the off day between Sox series) which made sense. Give him a mental break and a chance to simply think about getting in some work. Just like it makes sense to drop him in the order. Give him a few days with a different kind of look in the lineup and see what happens.

I know there’s a growing set of the fan base that advocates a trip to Omaha for Hosmer. I disagree. He showed last summer he’s a major league first baseman. Yes, this is a painful slump, but he needs to figure out how to work himself out of it at the major league level. He scorched Triple-A pitching last year for a month or so and more than held his own in the bigs.

Besides, don’t forget the guy still has a .171 BABIP. That number hasn’t moved in the last week. His strikeout rate is down. His walk rate is up. He just needs to have some of these hits fall in. They will.

— Jeff Francoeur hit his first home run of the year. Our long, national nightmare is over.

— Naturally, Luke Hochevar went out on Saturday and tossed seven innings of three-hit ball, walking a single batter while striking out five.

In my post from Friday, I noted that Hochevar’s issues were with his slider and how his release point shifted from the second half of last year. In the game on Saturday, his release point was fairly consistent with where it has been all season. And according to PITCH f/x, that was a relatively flat pitch. In fact, of the 21 sliders he threw, seven were put in play and five were fouled off. Hochevar didn’t get a single swing and miss with this pitch.

In this start, he recorded nine ground ball outs against seven fly balls. Hochevar lived around the plate and the Sox were up there hacking. On Saturday, it was a perfect storm of location, aggressive plate appearances and the damp, rainy afternoon.

— The Royals are 10-6 since that losing streak we don’t discuss.

Tons of interesting stuff in Tuesday’s game. Let’s dive in…

Where Duffy’s Pitch Count Explodes

Seriously, what’s the deal here? If felt like Duffy was getting squeezed, but really it was just the borderline calls that weren’t going his way. Whatever was happening, he piled up over 100 pitches in less than five innings. Given the way the rotation has gotten hammered in the last week, that’s just an unacceptable outing. I will put some of the blame at the mask of the home plate umpire. Duffy wasn’t getting the high strike called and there was one pitch in particular that was just an awful call. That can mess with a pitcher’s psyche. If he’s not getting calls, he starts to get too fine. He doesn’t want to serve it down the heart of the plate, but that’s basically what the ump is challenging him to do. It’s a helluva situation.

There was some speculation he was pitching hurt. It’s possible. His curve wasn’t effective again – he threw only 10 of them, and completely abandoned the pitch in the middle of his outing. He also generated only four swings and misses. Although his fastball had plenty of life, averaging a hot 95.5 mph on the Kauffman Stadium gun.

I think the likely scenario was that Duffy was unnerved by the home plate umpire. He reverted to his 2011 form where he was trying to be too fine – and failing. Hopefully, Duffy can shake this start off and move forward. Not much positive from this one.

Where Quintero Attempts To Steal

The Royals open the second inning down 2-0. Hosmer singles, Francoeur walks (!) and Moustakas grounds into a fielder’s choice at second to put runners on the corners and one out. Then the fun starts. Red Sox starter Daniel Bard balks not once, but twice! Chris Getz has a great plate appearance to drive home the run from third to tie the game. At this point, Bard is clearly melting down. Believe me, having watched Luke Hochevar pitch all these years, I know the symptoms.

The meltdown continued as Bard uncorked a wild pitch to move Getz to second. Escobar grounds out to move Getz to third and he scores the tie breaking run on Humberto Quintero’s single.

Then…

Quintero takes off for second.

Wait, what?

Quintero… He of one career steal. And three career attempts. Tried to swipe second base. With three runs home and the Red Sox starter on the ropes.

This was just all kinds of wrong. You have a pitcher on the ropes early in the game. And you let him off the hook by trying to steal with your slow footed backstop. What are you thinking, Yosty?

I thought this exchange was interesting in the post game.

Nate Bukaty: “Was Quintero going on his own there?”

Yosty: “Yeah, that’s a spot where you’re trying to pick their pocket. You know, you really cant lose. If he steals the base, then you’ve got a runner in scoring position. If he doesn’t steal the base, you’ve got your leadoff guy leading off the next inning. It was a spot we gambled. We just didn’t make it.”

Are you freaking serious? A Quintero attempted steal is a situation where you “can’t lose?” Just an asinine call.

I’m getting closer…

Where Yosty Reads His Starter The Riot Act

Duffy is nibbling in the third inning. Back to back walks after the Royals jump to a lead and he falls behind on the third hitter in the inning 2-1. Out comes Ned Yost with a purpose. He spends a few minutes laying down the law to Duffy. The result? A ground ball double play and a pop out. In just five pitches. Nice.

This is where Yost is valuable on a young team. His no-nonsense approach works well with players who may lose focus or otherwise don’t know how to handle certain situations. Duffy’s start was heading off the rails. Yost took initiative and kept him on track.

If someone challenged me to name a good thing Yost does as manager, that would be it. And that would probably be the only thing I could name.

Where You Can’t Assume A Double Play

After a one out double and a walk allowed by Duffy, he was pulled in favor of Kelvin Herrera. He got the grounder he was looking for, but Getz threw wide of the bag at first and it skipped by Hosmer. That allowed Gonzalez to score what was the go ahead run from second base. Ugh.

I know that Getz takes a ton of heat in this space (and others) but that play was entirely on Hosmer at first. Yes, Getz made the poor throw. But it was under duress. I’ll give him a pass as the Red Sox runner was bearing down on him – I think it caught Getz by surprise that he had so little time to make the pivot at second. Having said that, Hosmer was completely wrong in not coming off the bag to save the ball from skipping by him. The way he set his feet at first to receive the throw was correct… Because it would have allowed him to slide off the bag to block the ball. In that situation (tie game, middle innings) you have to do everything in your power to save the run. Hosmer went for the out, and it potentially cost the Royals the game.

That was an example of why the advanced defensive metrics didn’t take a shine to Hosmer’s D last year. He needs to make better decisions. He’ll learn.

Where Yosty Bunts His Way To Oblivion

According to the Run Expectancy Matirx, the average number of runs that score with runners on second and third and no out is 1.556. Not a bad place to be when you’re trailing by one run in the later innings. In fact, given that scenario, you can expect to score at least one run roughly 64 percent of the time.

And then Yosty gives away an out.

Now the Royals have runners on second and third with one out. Going back to the same Run Expectancy Matrix, the average runs that score in this situation is 1.447. So by giving away that out, you’ve basically decreased the total amount of runs you can expect to score. In the late innings of that one run game, that’s a pretty big deal. Now in this situation, you can expect to score 70 percent of the time. Yes, that’s higher than the previous situation, but I’m not sure the six point bump in percentage is worth the exchange of the out.

A big inning late in the game was what the Royals needed. (More on that obviously in a moment.) The situation was ripe for multiple runs. Yosty was playing for one and to tie the game. Managers who constantly feel the need to do something, often end up hurting their team. Yosty is that kind of manager. The right play was to let his hitters take their cuts.

I’m not sure what was going on with Alcides Escobar following the Getz bunt with one of his own. Was the SS Jesus freelancing there and bunting on his own? Yosty said he was. He said that Escobar was confused and thought the squeeze was on. How is that possible? How can you have a hitter, in a key situation late in the game, not understand what is supposed to happen. Color me livid. You are set up to score multiple runs and you’re basically playing for the single score. Besides, Frenchy was out at home and the Royals somehow didn’t score a single run in the frame. Unreal managing from Yosty.

I’m of the mind that a manager doesn’t generally win or lose the game for his team. Most of the decisions to be made during the game are elementary and rather benign. However, in this case, Yosty’s managing was definitely costing the Royals.

Closer…

Where Butler Saves The Day

After the Royals let Bard off the hook in the second, he started cruising. The strike zone seemed tight all night long, but the Royals never altered their approach at the plate. Of the 18 batters from the third to the seventh inning, only Chris Getz went more than three pitches without swinging the bat. And he drew a walk. Amazing how that works.

Then, in the eighth, Jerrod Dyson and Alex Gordon decided to take a few pitches. And they both walked. End of the line for Bard and in comes sinker ball pitcher Matt Albers to face Billy Butler. Albers gets a ground ball 54 percent of the time. And we all know about Butler and his proclivity for grounding into the double play.

Amazingly, Yosty resists the temptation to bunt.

And Butler gets wet.

Ironic, isn’t it? Yosty spends the entire game playing small ball and giving away outs, and it’s a three run home run that wins the game.

Somewhere Earl Weaver is smiling.

Wonder if we could get him to come out of retirement. I’m thinking a new manager would be nice.

It’s Mike Moustakas’ world. We’re just lucky to be living in it.

Moose put on a show on Thursday night, making a couple sparkling defensive plays (one to end the game), hitting a long home run to dead center and driving in two more on a bases loaded single.

It’s fun to watch a good ballplayer when he’s locked in and The Moose is all kinds of locked in right now. He’s leading the team in just about every meaningful offensive statistic and his defense is Platinum Glove quality.

— Danny Duffy pitched a solid game.

5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO

He threw 90 pitches, 52 for strikes. Nine of those strikes were swings and misses. It wasn’t exactly easy though, as the Yankees put a runner on second in three of his five full innings. Duffy did a great job battling and got the key outs when needed. (Duffy’s second run scored after he left the game for Nate Adcock.)

I was wondering the thought process in sending Duffy back out to start the sixth inning. It’s natural after living through the Gil Meche debacle. Why in the world would Yosty have his young starter who just had a start skipped due to elbow soreness return to the mound after throwing 86 pitches through five? As we saw in the Trey Hillman killing of Meche’s career, send a guy back out for one more inning and crazy stuff happens. It just felt like an unnecessary risk. Especially, as I mentioned, three of his innings were on the high stress side.

Of course, Duffy fanned Alex Rodriguez on three pitches to start the inning. That’s great and all, but still… Feels like you’re potentially sacrificing the future for a short-term gain.

And don’t think I’m comparing Duffy to Meche. I’m not. Just saying the situations are similar. After all, Meche…

A) Had a history of arm issues prior to his injury.
B) Was abused in back to back starts.

However, the Royals haven’t developed a decent starting pitcher in almost a decade. Just felt risky to me.

Other than the unnecessary sixth inning, Duffy pitched a helluva game. He averaged 96 mph with his fastball and was able to maintain his velocity throughout the start. From Brooks Baseball, we see Duffy started out all kinds of amped up before settling into a comfortable groove. It’s good to see he could have that kind of consistency with his velocity.

Yosty said he didn’t command his curveball very well and the data from Pitch F/X backs this up. Duffy threw 13 curves, only five of them for strikes. But the change in velocity from his fastball (96 mph) to his change (86 mph) to his curve (78 mph) was probably enough to keep the Yankee hitters off balance. Even if he couldn’t throw the curve for a consistent strike.

— Just an excellent double play turned by the combo of Getz – Escobar – Hosmer in the ninth inning. Major props to Getz for making a great stab on a grounder close to the bag at second to start the twin killing. His dive and subsequent quick flip to the Shortstop Jesus was the key to the how play.

— Speaking of Getz, he drove a ball to the warning track. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it. Mind blowing.

— The Jonathan Broxton Experience makes me extremely nervous.

Although the A-Rod at bat to end the game was hilarious. How he continually showed up the home plate umpire. I thought he was cracking under the pressure and looking to get run rather than face Broxton. Judging from his weak grounder, I may have been correct in my assumption.

— And it wouldn’t be a Royals game without stupid baserunning. This time, it’s Jeff Francoeur trying to steal third with one out in the eighth. Just a dumb, dumb play. He’s already in scoring position and the attempt doesn’t improve your chances of scoring a run enough to justify the risk at that point in the game.

There was some talk about his “hustle” double to leadoff the inning and I didn’t have a problem with that. He needed to get into scoring position and Curtis Granderson – who doesn’t have a strong arm – was running around the ball to make the throw to second. He needed time to set and throw. Frenchy was thinking two all the way, so he was running hard… It was risky, but enough factors were in his favor it was worth the risk.

The attempted steal of third though… Jeez.

— The Yunigma hit the DL with a high ankle sprain he suffered back in spring training. I thought we were done with these kind of shenanigans. You know, where the injured player is allowed to “play through” his injury, only to miss significant time after it doesn’t actually heal. Not that it matters so much with Betancourt. The Royals won’t exactly miss him. Still, it’s a little unnerving they allowed a guy to play with a bad wheel for an entire month.

The injury means Irving Falu gets the call to the big club. I’m happy for Falu, who gets the nod ahead of Johnny Giavotella due to his “versatility.” What a load of crap. Versatility. Remember how they sold us The Yunigma based on that. What’s happened? Well, Escobar has played every defensive inning at short this year and Moose has played all but eight defensive innings. And with Escobar always playing quality defense and with Moose the best player on the team right now, you’re not exactly looking for ways to get either of those guys out of the lineup.

I just wish the Royals were honest with us. Tell us you have crazy GetzLove and you don’t want to call up Giavotella to ride the pine. Or tell us you think the Betancourt DL time will last the minimum and it doesn’t make sense for Gio to come up for two weeks and ride the shuttle back to Omaha. Or just say you’re rewarding a career minor leaguer who’s paid his dues by giving him a couple of weeks on a major league bench. Just don’t feed me a line of B.S. about versatility. It insults our intelligence as a fanbase. We deserve better.

Three feet more towards the middle, or hit a little harder or even not quite as hard, or if the ball had bounced a little more or not as much:  any of those things and Chris Getz would not have been a hero on Wednesday afternoon.   The game winning single was, after all, an infield hit into the hole at shortstop and let’s not kid ourselves, a left side of Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta is not exactly hitting into the teeth of an imposing pair of defenders. 

Still, as we wake up Thursday morning, a hit is a hit and Chris Getz earned all the luck he got when he drove in Mike Moustakas with two outs in the top of the ninth.   That was after Aaron Crow surrendered a two run homer, not to Cabrera or Prince Fielder or even Alex Avila, but instead to Brennan Boesch in the bottom of the eighth, allowing the Tigers to tie the game.  It was after the Royals left a runner on third base twice earlier in the game.   After they watched Alcides Escobar get thrown out attempting to steal and after they ended three other innings with a runner on second.

If you weren’t feeling impending doom entering the ninth inning yesterday, then you have not been a Royals’ fan very long.

So, here we are, top of the ninth with the game tied.  Mike Moustakas has rapped a one out double (with two strikes mind you) and moved to third on a Brayan Pena ground out.  Up strides Chris Getz.   Now, if you have been reading this site for any amount of time, you know that none of us who write here are particularly fond of Getz.   He is an average defender, a supposed on-base guy who doesn’t really walk that much and last year managed NINE whole extra base hits in 429 plate appearances. 

All that doesn’t matter right now.  Today, we should all be fans of Chris Getz…if only for a day.

On a team that has an at least perceived penchant for taking called third strikes in big late game situations (see the Twitter uproar regarding Alex Gordon a few weeks back), Chris Getz did not allow the umpire to decide his plate appearance.   Not with the go ahead run on third and not on a day when the team as a whole had a miserable time driving in runners who were ‘right there, 90 freaking feet away’.  Of course, Justin Verlander was on the mound for 8 innings and he is a legitimate superfreak.

Coming into the contest, Joaquin Benoit had struck out 16 batters in 9 innings of work.   He had not been particularly sharp, allowing 12 hits and 9 walks, this year, but he was still making guys swing and miss.   Outside of his ability to steal a base, it is possible that Getz’s best baseball attribute is the fact that he does not swing and miss much.    Still, you might well run down a pretty long list of names on the Royals’ roster that you want up in this situation before you get to Chris.

Pitch number one is a 91 mph four seamer right down the middle that Getz fouls off.

Pitch two is an 80 mph changeup down in the zone that Chris gets just a piece of.   No balls, two strikes and it is not looking good.

Number three is also a changeup, down and in.  It is a ball, but Getz swings and fouls it off.  Now, in hindsight, Chris should have laid off this pitch, but Benoit was throwing that change with a lot of movement and, for his part, Getz was not going to get caught looking.

In comes pitch number four.  It is a 95 mph fastball right at the top of the zone.  Pitch f/x says it is a strike, the umpire might have called it high, but with two strikes in the ninth you cannot take that chance.  Getz gets a piece of it and fouls off his fourth straight pitch.

Pitch number five is a 76 mph changeup, down the middle, but up in Getz’s eyes.  Another foul ball.  Here, probably, Getz should have taken, but you know that ball looked huge waffling in there slow and high.  Eric Hosmer might well have hit that 481 feet, Getz fouls it off.  We can’t all be poster boys.

Number six is a 95 mph four seamer down and away.   Benoit has been wild this year, but you have to think that was a chase pitch.  That’s good strategy in that you have a batter obviously hacking and maybe you get him to flail at this unhittable ball.  Getz, for the first time in the plate appearance, keeps the bat on his shoulder.  One ball, two strikes.

Benoit’s seventh offering is an 85 mph changeup dropping down out of the strike zone.  Getz stays with it for another foul ball.   With that pitch, you can take it and hope it does move out of the zone or you can foul it off.  

Number eight is a 94 mph fastball, low in the strike zone.   Getz hits it into the hole and runs….fast.   While Peralta fields the ball cleanly, he has not shot at getting Getz at first.  The run scores and the Royals are on their way to a win and a winning road trip.

As I said at the beginning, it was just an infield single, but it was hard earned infield single.   An inch here or there on the bat and Getz is not a hero, but what Chris Getz did do was give himself a chance.  Good at-bats don’t always result in line drives, but ground balls sometimes end up in the right spot.

Chris Getz had a good at-bat at a great time and fortune smiled on him and the Royals.  For at least one day, Chris Getz is alright in my book.

xxx

 

It was over almost before it began. It took Luke Hochevar eight batters to record his first (and second) out of the game on Tuesday. It was the second time in five starts he’s allowed the opposition to put up a crooked number in the first frame. It’s almost becoming habit.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is a batter by batter breakdown of the carnage.

1 – Austin Jackson

Hochevar starts with a slider and falls behind 2-0 and 3-1 to the Tigers leadoff man. Once he fell behind to Jackson, Hochevar went exclusively to his fastball, except for a 3-2 cut fastball. That is pitch number six down the heart of the plate. I’m thinking Jackson fouled it off because he was looking fastball. That pitch was 88 mph, instead of Hochevar’s typical 92 mph heater.

The next pitch was thigh-high fastball that was grounded back up the middle for a single.

2 – Brennan Boesch

Hochevar actually makes a decent pitch – an 0-1 change that was low and away in the strike zone. Boesch was out in front and dribbles a ground ball to right. Yuniesky Betancourt was shading up the middle, but shows his amazingly horrible lack of range going to his left and can’t make a play. He should have made the play. Hochevar probably knows this. Instead of one out and a runner on second, we have two on with nobody out.

I cannot understate this – Yuniesky Betancourt is Public Enemy Number One.

3 – Miguel Cabrera

How dumb of a pitch is this?

The answer: Exceptionally dumb.

4 – Prince Fielder

As bad as the pitch was to Cabrera, the pitch to Fielder wasn’t bad. It was a curveball, down and out of the strike zone. And it should have resulted in an out. Except Eric Hosmer decided to make a play at the plate and airmailed the throw. Two runs score. Still no outs.

A really dumb decision from Hosmer. He double-clutched pulling the ball out of his glove and still tried to come home. And he was playing back. The correct play would have been to take the ball to the bag for the easy out. This isn’t hindsight, this is fact.

5 – Andy Dirks

A sinking fastball that hangs in the upper half of the strike zone. Dirks squares it up and Jarrod Dyson misplays the liner allowing Prince Fielder to score from second.

Going back, that was a big error by Hosmer. Had he gone to first to get Fielder out, a run would have scored but the Royals would have had an out in their back pocket. Another run would have scored on the Dirks liner, but at that point the Royals would have been down by three with one out. Instead, they were down four with no outs.

Tiger announcers were discussing how they thought Hochevar’s ankle was bothering him. He wasn’t comfortable landing on his left ankle and that was leading to him keeping the ball up in the zone. I’ll buy that.

6 – Alex Avila

Hochevar starts Avila out with a change-up taken down the heart of the plate. Good pitch because he had yet to throw a change to start an at bat. I say good pitch, but the location sucked. Had Avila been able to pull the trigger on that, he would have put it into orbit. The selection is what makes it a good pitch. Then he followed that with a cut fastball down the middle that Avila was able to drive into center.

The cutter was in Avila’s wheelhouse. He’s a low ball hitter, especially pitches down the center of the plate. Here is Avila’s chart detailing his hitting zones:

Just a horrible location for Hochevar.

7 – Jhonny Peralta

Discouraging because Hochevar had him down 0-2 with back to back curveballs. He went with a belt-high slider that Peralta went with and took to right field for a single and a five run lead.

Ahead 0-2, Hochevar controlled the at bat. By hanging a slider on the outer half to a right-handed batter, he essentially surrendered control.

8 – Ramon Santiago

Finally. Solid execution. Santiago can’t lay off the pitches high and away. And when he makes contact on those pitches, he doesn’t do much with them. Hochevar delivers two pitches up and away. Santiago takes the first one, but can’t resist the second.

Double play. I’m sure in the pregame planning session, the Royals told Hochevar to attack Santiago up and away. (At least they should have… As I said, that’s his weak spot.) Locate your pitches and good things can happen.

9 – Don Kelly

Nice sequence here from Hochevar. Starting Kelly high in the zone with a curve for a strike. Then following that with a pitch in the dirt. His 22nd pitch of the inning was popped to Mike Moustakas for the third out.

For the inning, Hochevar threw 17 strikes and five balls. Two of his strikes were actually hits on swings that likely would have been called out of the zone – the curve to Fielder and a curve to Peralta. Regardless, he was leaving just a ton of pitches in the meat of the plate. Just awful location.

The worst pitch was probably the meatball served to Cabrera. I really, really hate how the Royals announcers mention the small sample size of hitter versus pitcher matchups. But in the case of Hochevar versus Cabrera, it may be worth noting that in 31 plate appearances, the Tigers third baseman has collected 15 hits and owns a 1.376 OPS. If a good pitcher makes a mistake like Hochevar made to Cabrera, he’s going to punish the ball. And when he already has strong numbers against that pitcher… Yeah.

The best pitch was the double play ball delivered to Santiago. As I mentioned, that was the one plate appearance where Hochevar had what resembled a game plan.

The bad break was on the curve to Fielder. He got him to chase – which was what he wanted – and his defense let him down.

I’ve written about Hochevar at length and bought into the fantasy that he had altered his delivery in a manner that would bring him continued success. Cliff’s Notes version: He dropped the arm angle when he threw his slider which resulted in a tighter spin, which meant more break, which equalled second half success. The arm angle is still there. The results are not.

This is now the second time in five starts Hochevar has plunged his team into the depths of a first inning hole. It was as if the seven pitch at bat to Jackson took something out of him… It was the first seven pitches of the freaking game. Check out Hochevar’s velocity chart (courtesy of Brooks Baseball) and see how his speed dips immediately following the first batter.

How does that happen? He delivers three pitches to Jackson 92 mph or higher and can’t reach that speed until he gets the double play ground ball against Santiago. Meanwhile, Tiger batters are having their way with him. Again, how does that happen?

Yes, there was some bad luck involved in this inning. But a good pitcher can overcome something like that to regain control. Hochevar needed eight batters to right the ship on Tuesday night. By then, the ballgame was over.

Unacceptable.

Eight runs last night for the Kansas City Royals on four home runs.  That’s pretty much what one might have expected before the season started, right?  Billy Butler with two blasts, Eric Hosmer with his fifth of the year and Alex Gordon with the bomb to put the game away while the bullpen polished off the last two plus innings:  pretty much the pre-season gameplan.

While the offense stole the show in the streak stopper last night, Luke Hochevar had a fine outing.  The home opener disaster that Luke provide Royals’ fans on April 13th has tainted the view of him thus far in 2012.   Last night was his second very good start and third decent start out of four this season.  He’s no Bruce Chen, mind you, but Hochevar has actually been alright.

Luke opened the season throwing 6.1 innings against the Angels, allowing five hits and two runs.   After being knocked out, in more ways than one, in the home opener, Hochevar game back the following Friday to allow just two hits and a run in five innings of work.   Then last night, Luke tossed another 6.1 innings, allowing just four hits and two runs.  We may all want Hochevar to live up to that first overall draft pick status, but truth is that three out of four ain’t bad.

Let’s go back to last night. 

Pitch F/X via Brook’s Baseball classified Luke as throwing five different pitches last night (six in his first three starts):  four seam fastball, sinker, changeup, slider and curve.   The sixth pitch not used last night but used quite a bit by Hochevar in his first three starts was the cutter.   Now, you can call the sinker whatever you want (two seamer maybe?), but it is as fast or faster than Hochevar’s four seam fastball, and for the purposes of this column they are all fastballs.

Last night, Hochevar threw 47 fastballs, 29 sliders, 13 curves and 8 changeups.    Off his fastball offerings, 28 were strikes, and 22 of his 29 sliders were strikes with six of those being whiffs.   Luke only found the strike zone once with his change and half the time with his curveball.  

This season, the changeup has mostly been a ‘here’s something to think about pitch’ for Hochevar.   In his four starts, Luke has thrown it 4, 9, 9 and 8 times and hence it is not a huge part of his game.    So, let’s take that out of the equation for now as well.

The cutter, not used at all according to the data last night, was a good pitch for Hochevar earlier.  He threw it 14 times for 8 strikes (2 whiffs) on April 7th and threw it for virtually identical numbers in his third start.   In the debacle that was Friday April 13th, Hochevar offered it up seven times for five strikes.  An effective cutter helped Hochevar in his good start on the 7th an decent start on the 20th, but was not a part of his good outing last night.    Now, it is also possible that the cutter gets classified as a slider or vice-versa, but we could add them all together and only add more to the point that I am about to make below.

So, now we’re down to fastballs, curveballs and sliders. 

Compare the pitch counts of these pitches from Hochevar’s starts on April 7th (shown first) and last night:  two very good and very similar nights.

  • Fastballs – 43/47
  • Sliders – 21/29
  • Curves – 13/13

Okay, now look at the pitch usage from the awful start on the 13th:

  • Fastballs – 41
  • Sliders – 6
  • Curves – 7

Here is the interesting thing about the dramatic disparity in pitch selection:  the strike percentage of those three pitches is actually almost the same between the starts on the 7th, 13th and last night.   While Luke was getting lit up in Kaufmann Stadium, he three five of six sliders for strikes, 29 of 41 fastballs for strikes and three of seven curves.   Of course, ‘hits’ are considered strikes, so it is possible that Luke threw some pretty crappy sliders and fastballs (well, it’s not possible, he DID) on the 13th.

What should not be lost in this equation is when Hochevar offers up sliders somewhere at or above 20% of the time, he has been very effective this season.   Looking back at 2011, Hochevar barely threw the slider at all in April, May and June of that season (less than 5%), but gradually started using it more and more after that and was throwing it 18% of the time in September.

If want to lump the slider and cutter together as one ‘genre of a pitch’, Hochevar threw 35 on the 7th, 33 on the 20th and 29 last night, but only 13 on April 13th.  Call it what you want, but Hochevar need to command it and throw it often to be successful.

You can go back into 2011 and note that in the first three months and find that twenty percent of Hochevar’s pitches were being classified as cutters.   If you add that to the sliders, the percentages really don’t change that much over 2011, but something did change.   Starting in July of 2011, Hochevar either threw the slider more or changed his cutter enough to make the data reflect a change in pitch.  Hey, if the computers see it different, so do the hitters.

The change worked last season and, through four starts this year, when Hochevar uses that pitch often he is effective.   It was not used often or effectively on April 13th and we all saw the results.   Throw the slider, Luke, throw it often.

xxx

 

 

 

I figured that Jonathan Sanchez would have outings where he bordered on horrible. His lack of command combined with his electric pitches, mean he can strikeout a ton of hitters while giving away free bases. It’s like he’s a member of the Flying Wallendas.

Sanchez entered the game averaging 89.6 mph on his fastball this year. On Tuesday in Cleveland, 89 mph was his maximum velocity as he averaged just 87.2 mph. To go along with the drop in speed, Sanchez is moving away from that pitch. Of the 115 magnificent pitches he threw, only 30 of them were classified as fastballs. That’s just 26 percent. Unreal. He’s going away from the fastball in favor of his change-up. As Hudler pointed out in the key at bat against Jack Hannahan, when Sanchez is throwing almost exclusively off speed stuff, they just wait… And wait… And wait.

Sigh. More on that plate appearance in a moment.

Not that Sanchez is any kind of great pitcher. He’s not… Because he can’t locate consistently. However, it’s baffling as to why he would move away from the fastball. Is this a coaching call? Or is this something he’s doing on his own? In the postgame, he simply said he “didn’t have his fastball.” Velocity, location… All of the above. I suppose in the grand scheme it’s accurate that he didn’t have his fastball. He didn’t generate a single swing and miss of the 30 he threw and only 12 of them were strikes. That’s just a brutal pitch. Here’s his velocity chart from Tuesday, courtesy of Brooks Baseball.

That’s the profile of a starter who didn’t leave the bullpen with a full tank of gas.

So the game on Tuesday can be boiled down to two key moments. The first, I already alluded to – the Sanchez matchup against Hannahan with runners at the corners with two down and the Royals trailing by a run.

At that moment Sanchez had surrendered three walks in the inning. It was the second time in the game he had walked three batters to load the bases. Read that previous sentence again… It was the second time in the game Sanchez walked the bases loaded.

OK… So the guy can’t locate. He’s in trouble. And at this point, he’d thrown around 109 pitches and he had practically stopped throwing his fastball entirely. Aside from an Asdrubal Cabrera double in the first inning, he had scattered a few hits… but that’s largely because he wasn’t around the strike zone. Sanchez was fortunate the Indians hadn’t broken the game open by this point.

So in a nutshell, your starter isn’t throwing in a manner he which he normally pitches. He’s deep into a pitch count and losing what little steam he brought with him to the mound. He’s somehow kept the Royals in the game, with a deficit of just a single run. Do you…

A) Stick with him. It’s his jam, let him get out of it.
B) Thank your lucky stars you’re still in the game and pull him for another lefty that’s warm in the bullpen – Tim Collins.

Everyone probably chooses “B.” Except Yosty. He’s such a contrarian.

And as previously noted, a steady diet of change-ups and Hannahan hits a bases-clearing double.

Later in the game you have this situation… Royals are trailing 4-1. Hosmer walks to leadoff the inning, advances to second on a ground out and moves to third on a Moustakas single. Quintero whiffs, so we have runners on the corners and two out. All we’ve heard about is how the Royals have failed with runners in scoring position. Failing to get “The Big Hit.” Naturally, Our Mitch delivers a line drive down the right field line. Hosmer, of course, walks home. Moustakas is busting it around second and heading for third… This is a sure-fire double. And look! Shin Soo Choo – while he has a strong throwing arm – isn’t exactly flying to the corner to field the ball. This looks like a perfect opportunity to put two on the board and cut the deficit to a single run.

Screeeeeech!

Third base coach Eddie Rodriguez throws up the stop sign. Now, it’s difficult to tell from my couch, but it sure looked like Moustakas was at third the moment Choo fired the ball in from the corner. Meaning there was an outstanding chance that Moose scores. A better than outstanding chance.

Yet he was held at third.

Apparently, third base coaches get tight, too.

Unreal. The Royals have been running stupid all season and they now they back off? When they’re scuffling to score and are presented an opportunity on a silver platter? You absolutely have to send the runner in that situation. Have. To.

So in our two situations we have one where the Royals gave away two runs on a slow hook and failed to capitalize on a sure-fire run scoring opportunity. That’s a net loss of three runs.

Ballgame.

An all too familiar refrain.

The bats are still ice-cold and aside from Maier, nobody is delivering with runners in scoring position, but I’ll hang this loss on the coaching staff. Yost’s slow trigger and Rodriguez’s bizarre decision cost this team a great opportunity to break this slide. Instead it continues.

And I adjust the doomsday clock one minute closer to midnight.

Article titles are overrated, don’t you think?

A sixth straight loss at home and a third straight game where the Royals had runners on base in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to extend or even win the game.  As I said on Monday, almost every team losses five out of six at some point and even three straight at home, but I am not convinced that every team is going to lose eight out of nine and six straight at home.  I could be wrong, probably am, and certainly the losing is exacerbated by it coming at the beginning of the season.  

The Royals were hoping for big crowds this year and, from a public relations standpoint, this losing streak could not come at a worse time.   The fans will flock back to Kaufmann when (if) the winning starts, but it will take a lot of wins for the pre-season excitement felt throughout the Royals’ fandom to be rekindled.   That’s a shame.

As for last night’s six straight loss, two divergent sources offered up some pretty good commentary on the night.  Jeff Zimmerman at Royals Review broke down the bottom of the seventh inning and Lee Judge, who decided not to take a jab at stats, bloggers and anyone who has not been paid to play baseball, and instead offered up a decent rundown of the loss as well.  

I will chime in with a few notes as well:

Ned Yost had an awful night as manager.  Virtually every decision he made blew up.  While I am not a huge Yost fan, he had truly terrible luck last night.   While it is sometimes hard to determine who is actually to blame (player, coach, manager or just plain good baseball by the other team), in the end it all falls on the manager.   Bad luck or bad managing, you can call last night either or both, but no manager survives a whole lot of games like last night.

On back to back at-bats, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder beat defensive shifts for singles.  Without the shift, probably both of those balls are outs and no runs score.  Now, the best defensive team in baseball the past five years has been the Tampa Bay Rays and they probably shift defensively more than any team, so there is obvious value in shifting.  That said, if your pitchers don’t pitch to the shift then you lose the advantage.  I don’t know, but it is hard for me to believe that with Alcides Escobar playing on the right field side of second that Ned Yost wanted Jose Mijares to throw a pitch outside to Prince Fielder.

Obviously, teams shift to some extent on almost every hitter and sometimes with every pitch, but the dramatic defensive shifts are what gets Joe Maddon a ton of credit and Ned Yost, at least for now, a ton of criticism.   In my tortured mind, it would seem that if you believe that you have a great bullpen and good defense (which I think the Royals do believe) then you would shift less dramatically.   Hindsight is 20-20 and there are certainly games in the past that Kansas City has likely won in no small part due to a dramatic defensive shift against a good hitter, but last night the Royals probably win by just playing straight up defense.

Also of note last night, Alex Gordon was caught stealing third.  It was a very good play by the Detroit battery of Gerald Laird and Max Scherzer.   Laird made the call for the Tiger pitcher to throw the second and caught Gordon leaving early.   As I said above, sometimes the other team just makes good plays and I am inclined to believe that was the case here.

However….

Why are the Royals obsessed with stealing third base?   I am going strictly from memory here, but I believe Kansas City has stolen third three times this year and been caught (or picked off second) at least three times.   Both of those numbers might be higher, but I know neither is lower.   Three for six doesn’t get it done when it comes to stealing third and the sheer number of attempts tells us that it is a strategic decision on Yost’s part to steal third often.

The general theory would be that if a runner gets to third, he can score on any hit, most fly balls to the outfield, a portion of ground balls and, of course, a wild pitch.   That all makes some sense, of course, except this Royals team, while it has not shown it, is generally expected to hit.   If you have a team that you expect to hit and score runs, then why risk giving away outs at third base?

Keep in mind, we are not just talking about last night, the Royals came out of the gate stealing third base.   It is easy to justify trying to manufacture a run when you have scored just one in two straight games, but Ned Yost came out hell bent on stealing third and bunting from day one.  On day one of the season, everyone in baseball assumed the Royals could and would hit and score runs.   Despite this, Yost insists on ‘being aggressive’, which thus far has translated into less runs and more outs.

Last night, Gordon may well have been running on his own, but it was done based upon the club’s philosophy of running the bases.    Sure, Eric Hosmer is in a ridiculous slump, but I still like the odds of him singling in Gordon from second as opposed to risking making an out trying to steal third.  Heck, Yuniesky Betancourt has been known to run into a baseball and drive it on occasion (actually fairly often thus far).  I like my chances there (and you know I’m no Yuni-fan) better than risking the out.

Truthfully, right now, the Royals are a team full of players trying too hard and managed by a manager who is trying to impact the game too much.   Pick a batting order and a second baseman, Ned, and just let it be.   Take the extra base on hits, but put a premium on not making outs on the bases.   Aggressive baserunning has translated into reckless baserunning on this team.   For now, pull back the reins a bit and let your hitters hit.

If you believe you are a good offensive team, the runs will come without handfuls of stolen bases and sacrifice bunts.  Oh, and by the way, Eric Hosmer may never have bunted in his life.   Slump or not, he should not be trying to do so last night.

The season is far from over and many teams over the years have overcome starts just like this to have good seasons.  With every mistake laden loss, however, the situation gets a little closer to desperation.   As a group, the Royals are already playing and managing with a certain sense of desperation:  that’s no way to play this game.

xxx

 

 

 

 

The dust and, hopefully, the emotions have settled from a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.   I tire of the constant ‘baseball is a long season’, the Royals have not yet played the equivalent of one NFL football game kind of talk, but there is truth to it.   Every team will go through a stretch where they lose six of nine games.   Every team will be swept at some point this season and a fair portion of teams will get swept at home.   Yes, it is important to remember all of that.

Still….

FRIDAY

The Kansas City Royals will play somewhere around 1,460 innings this year and might well have played the single worst one of the bunch at the worst possible time from a public relations standpoint.   In front of an emotional packed house, Luke Hochevar could not locate the right parts of the strike zone, Yuniesky Betancourt could not reach a ground ball and Jarrod Dyson could not find a deep fly ball.   Boom, 7-0 in the top half of the first inning of the first home game of the year.

If either Betancourt or Dyson make a play, the Royals get out of the first down 2-0 or 3-0.   Given that after Hochevar was smacked on the ankle by a line drive, Everett Teaford came in to pitch four spectacular innings of relief, that could have meant a lot.  Unfortunately, the Royals banged into three double plays on their way to turning 13 baserunners and two wild pitches into just three runs.

SATURDAY

The Royals started out the game by playing three and a half innings of just crappy baseball (that’s a scientific term, by the way) and then followed it up with some inspired play that turned a 9-2 deficit into a 9-9 tie.  The Royals lost when their best reliever, Greg Holland, surrendered two singles and a wind aided double that Jarrod Dyson (who did not have a good two games in the field) just could not quite reach.   That one hurt, folks.

Of course, the news of Saturday really was the two bench clearing brouhahas that netted the Indians three ejections, the Royals some badly needed adrenaline and spawned a Twitter war that eventually included John Rocker and Chris Perez (two great minds at work there).  

Hey, I don’t mind Shin-Soo Choo jawing at Jonathan Sanchez after being hit.  It was Sanchez who obliterated Choo’s season by hitting him last year.  Sure, it was not intentional and yeah, Choo overreacted, but I get it.   Hell, Al Cowens once charged Ed Farmer after grounding out for similar reasons.    I also don’t mind Mike Moustakas jawing at Jennmar Gomez after the retaliatory beanball.

What I do mind, however, is a career .232 hitter in Jack Hannahan injecting himself squarely into the middle of both situations.  Obviously someone did something bad to Jack prior to the game as he was in the middle of both jawing sessions immediately and with great fervor.   It might well be that Hannahan was doing his job as a good veteran and upholding all the unwritten rules of baseball: notably, standing up for your teammate and then smacking down a young player running his mouth.  I freaking hate baseball’s unwritten rules, mainly because the enforcers of said rules are usually bad ballplayers with .232 career averages like Jack Hannahan.

SUNDAY

A bad call at first that should have ended the third inning, coupled with a missed foul ball by Eric Hosmer, turned into a six run debacle for the Royals.  That was followed by three more two out runs in the fifth and the next thing you know, Mitch Maier is pitching.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ROTATION

but you knew that already…

The Royals scored 18 runs in a three game series at home and were basically blown out of two of those games and it all really comes down to starting pitching.   After a dynamic first time through the rotation, the Royals starters have dug deep and early holes for their team the second time through.

We will give Bruce Chen a pass here as he was hardly great in Oakland, but did get through five innings allowing three runs:  that’s far away the best second start performance.   Since then, Hochevar, Sanchez and Mendoza combined to throw 10.2 innings and allowed 24 hits, 17 earned runs (21 total), 9 walks and logged just 5 strikeouts.   That required the bullpen to throw another 17.1 innings in which they were tagged for 11 more runs. 

Now, we can pick and choose, take out the performance of Tim Collins and Louis Coleman and knock 7 runs off that bullpen total without breaking a sweat.   All the really does, however, is point out that when you go to the bullpen before the fifth inning for three straight games (and before the sixth in four straight), a manager is eventually going to find a guy who doesn’t have it that particular day.  If a good reliever is effective three times out of four and Ned Yost has to use 11 relief appearances in 3 days…well, you do the math.

The starting five is neither as good as they were in the first five games or as bad as they have been the last four  (I mean, they can’t be THAT bad, right?  RIGHT?!).   The strain of one very average start and three bad ones strung together is very apparent, however, and could not have come at a worse time for a young team trying to get off to a quick start. 

ONE YEAR IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER

Not a big fan of the ‘the Royals got off to good starts in past years and ended up with bad records so this isn’t that bad’ school of thought.  I will take ten years of good starts and you can take ten years of bad starts and I bet I end up with a better overall record than you do.

The 2012 Royals bear little resemblance to the April 2011 Kansas City squad and this young group was fired up and confident entering the season.   Now, they have been swept at home and lost the Oakland series in a gut wrenching and rather historical fashion.   Alex Gordon is hitting .118 and Eric Hosmer has swung for the fences all the way to a .216 start.

You can point to defensive miscues in each of the last four losses that have contributed mightily to the team’s downfall and baserunning errors before that which hurt the team as well.  This is a young team making mistakes and not finding a way to overcome them.   This is a team that is not hitting well when they pitch well and not pitching well when they do score runs.

It is just nine games into a 162 game grind.  Five point five percent of the season is gone.   Halfway through the fourth quarter of the first NFL game of the season.   Just past first stage separation on a journey to the moon.  Two-thirds of the way through the appetizer on a date (well before you figure out she’s weird and not even close to noticing that glob of eye shadow in the corner of her eye that will preoccupy and annoy you the rest of the night).

We get all that.   Even the most reactionary Royal fan gets that.  This is a young team from an organization that has no recent success to fall back on in hard times.  How many losses, misplays and flat out bad luck (I’m looking at you and your dink hits Shelley Duncan) can they absorb before all the swagger is gone?  

Yeah, it’s early, but this team could ‘it’s just one game’ itself into being ten games under .500 before the end of April.   Something good needs to happen to the Kansas City Royals and it needs to happen soon.   

Something good like Danny Duffy out-dueling Justin Verlander.

50-50-62

We talked about the 50 wins, 50 losses, 62 games that are up for grabs principal last Thursday.  I am trying to keep track of which games land in which category, but it is, of course, quite subjective.   For the record, Saturday’s extra inning loss certainly goes in the ’62’ column and, despite the end result of blow outs, I am tempted to put Friday and Sunday’s losses into the ’62’ as well.   Both of those games really turned on a missed defensive play (not to mention a bad call) which the Royals were unable to overcome.   That is where I will put them for now, pending a good argument to move one or both.

xxx

 

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