There’s something glorious and fun – and demoralizing – about the Royals singles train. Death by a thousand paper cuts. This is a team that has lived this way for the better part of two seasons. Probably longer, but you don’t notice it so much when they’re losing. Maybe because the singles train doesn’t make so many appearances for a losing team.

The Royals rode the train again in Game Two of the World Series on Wednesday. It’s become a theme of the last two postseasons. Lacking pure, consistent power, the Royals have to string together hits in order to hang a crooked number on the board. It can be effective.


Source: FanGraphs

When the Royals broke the game wide open, the frame opened with a walk. What followed were five singles and some ill-advised bunt attempts. The hardest hit ball of the inning – the Lorenzo Cain line drive to center – was caught for an out. Death by a thousand paper cuts, indeed.

I’ve tried to catch up on my reading during the off day, but probably failed at that. There’s so much to digest when your team is playing into October. Analysis, too. One thing I heard yesterday on MLB Network Radio was speculation the Royals would opt to keep Kendrys Morales’s bat in the lineup at Citi Field, so they would move Eric Hosmer to right field. It can be very difficult to keep the car on the road sometimes.

There’s simply no way that a team that prides itself on its defense would weaken itself at two positions just to keep a bat in the lineup. No way. Besides, we know with Ned Yost and his love of pinch running for his designated hitter, the odds are always long that Morales would be in the lineup for the full nine no matter where the game would be played and under any set of rules. Plus, Hosmer in right? Woof.

Time for a mini rant: Baseball needs to get its act together regarding the DH. With interleague, a pool of MLB umpires no longer restricted to each particular league, and the foolish way they award home field in the World Series, it’s time MLB reached a consensus here. It’s cute they still have the pitchers hit in the NL and that some relish the strategy – I mean who doesn’t get out of their seat and jump up and down when a manager pulls a double switch? – but the difference in rules puts teams at a massive disadvantage. For the Mets, they have to find a capable bat to use in the lineup. For the Royals, they have to remove a bat they are paying millions of dollars just for that purpose. Can you imagine any other sport doing this? “Hey, you’re going to want to find a guy who can hit, but in the most important games of your season, you can’t use him three or four times. Depending on the outcome of the All-Star Game.”

Insanity.

Morales is hitting .250/.302/.500 in the postseason. He is tied for the team lead with four home runs. The Royals will absolutely miss his bat and the threat of power in the middle of the order. They can survive. All aboard the singles train.

Yordano Ventura gets the start in Game Three. Going over some of his tendencies, I noticed he’s throwing his change less in the postseason. He’s moved away from that pitch and is throwing more two-seam and cut fastballs.

Ventura_Use2015

His favored off speed pitch remains the curve, which he continues to use the ahead in the count.

This will be Ventura’s fifth start of the postseason, and searching for adjectives, I’d say he’s been steady. That’s what the Royals will need on Friday. The bullpen has two days of rest and with Chris Young still slated to start Game Four, it would be helpful if Ventura could go deeper than the sixth inning, but it’s hardly necessary. I’ve been harsh on Yost in this space for his reluctance to remove his starters and turn the game over to the bullpen, so I’ll continue to beat that drum. Let’s not forget how Ventura does each time the batting order turns over.

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+ sOPS+
1st PA in G, as SP 28 252 228 18 56 7 2 3 16 59 .246 .307 .333 .640 84 83
2nd PA in G, as SP 28 244 220 27 53 6 1 5 22 58 .241 .316 .345 .661 90 83
3rd PA in G, as SP 25 184 162 25 44 14 3 6 19 37 .272 .348 .506 .854 143 122
4th+ PA in G, as SP 8 13 11 0 1 0 0 0 1 2 .091 .231 .091 .322 -4 -9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/30/2015.

He’s worse than the league average on the third time through the lineup. If it’s a close game, Yost needs to keep him on a short leash and trust a rested bullpen. The Royals have two wins in their pocket and feel in control, but one bad game can wash that good feeling right away.

Clark discussed Johnny Cueto’s performance yesterday. I’m still shaking my head in amazement. You can make the case that his start on Wednesday was the best by a Royal in the postseason. Yes, that’s going back through the glory days of the 1970’s and the Bret Saberhagen dominance in ’85. Here are the top seven starts ranked by Game Score:

Rk Player Date Series Gm# Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc ERA WPA RE24 aLI
1 Johnny Cueto 2015-10-28 WS 2 KCR NYM W 7-1 CG 9, W 9.0 2 1 1 3 4 0 122 70 80 1.00 0.271 3.510 .805
2 Bret Saberhagen 1985-10-27 WS 7 KCR STL W 11-0 SHO9, W 9.0 5 0 0 0 2 0 92 64 79 0.00 0.201 4.550 .337
3 Johnny Cueto 2015-10-14 ALDS 5 KCR HOU W 7-2 GS-8, W 8.0 2 2 2 0 8 1 91 62 78 2.25 0.227 2.009 .712
4 Bret Saberhagen 1985-10-22 WS 3 KCR STL W 6-1 CG 9, W 9.0 6 1 1 1 8 0 132 88 78 1.00 0.264 3.066 .773
5 Danny Jackson 1985-10-13 ALCS 5 KCR TOR W 2-0 SHO9, W 9.0 8 0 0 1 6 0 113 76 76 0.00 0.556 4.550 1.227
6 Dennis Leonard 1977-10-07 ALCS 3 KCR NYY W 6-2 CG 9, W 9.0 4 2 1 1 4 0 97 65 76 1.00 0.287 2.651 .603
7 Danny Jackson 1985-10-24 WS 5 KCR STL W 6-1 CG 9, W 9.0 5 1 1 3 5 0 125 80 75 1.00 0.247 3.066 .782
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/30/2015.

In his two “great” starts, Cueto has allowed just three runs in 17 innings. You could easily see how he could’ve held both opponents off the board. One bad pitch in the ALDS and if the double play is made in the World Series. Had Cueto been just average, and not thrown one of the worst postseason starts in history (forget Royals history for a moment, we’re talking in baseball history) we would be marveling at how he is a true ace and has carried this team.

We normally take the weekends off in this space, but if you check back, I would imagine there will be a few posts. The World Series is kind of a big deal.