Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

A quick desktop background with the ALDS game dates for you. Click for full-size.

The actual 25 man roster for the ALDS is out and, unlike I did earlier, the Royals did NOT forget to add Josh Willingham. Two players not on the active roster for the Oakland game, Jason Vargas and Tim Collins, are on with Jayson Nix and Raul Ibanez not being active for this series.

Vargas is a no-brainer, Collins is interesting. While I assumed that the Royals would go with six relievers, I have to tell you that Tiny Tim was not very high on my personal pecking order for that spot. Frankly, I might have gone with Louis Coleman, but then we are kind of splitting hairs on this one.

When your choices are Downs, Bueno, a couple of Colemans and Liam Hendriks, it is hard to be critical of taking Collins….or any of them. Listen, if this series goes right, we will never see Collins, nor have to debate whether he was the right choice.

Beyond that, I love that Colon is in over Nix and Gore is still active over Ibanez. It makes complete sense…..so what the heck is going on? World upside down!

We have waited 29 years to speculate on playoff rosters, so let’s do it twice in a week.

The Royals can revamp their 25 man roster for the series with the Angels and it really comes down to just a few questions at this point.  We know, for example, that all five starters will be on the roster – well, we think we know anyway.

Jason Vargas wills start Game One with Yordano Ventura and James Shields following.  The Game Four starter, if necessary, is undetermined at this point, but we do know that Danny Duffy will be available out of the pen in this series and is ‘in consideration’ to start a Game Four.  Now, if Duffy does make a relief appearance, the Royals might well opt to trot Jeremy Guthrie out to start the fourth game (the only other option would be Vargas on short rest). They will want to keep their options open and hence, all five starters will be on the twenty-five.

We also know that Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Brandon Finnegan and Jason Frasor will hold down the first five  spots in the bullpen.  It would not surprise me if the Royals opt to carry just one more reliever, probably Scott Downs or Francisely Bueno.  I personally would roll with ten, knowing that Duffy and/or Guthrie would be available for at least the first two games of the series as well. Ned Yost, however, has always, always worried about running out of pitchers, so look for at least the big five plus one reliever to be on the roster.

Not only do you know what the lineup will be, you also know the order in which they will bat.  The starting nine will certainly be joined by Eric Kratz and Jarrod Dyson, giving the Royals 11 position players and 11 pitchers.  Should the premium be placed on being able to pinch run and pinch hit at will over having an extra relief arm, then it pretty easily becomes Christian Colon, Jayson Nix and Terrance Gore filling out the roster.

That group of twenty-five would seem to be the most likely.  It will be interesting to see what the brain trust in blue comes up with.

EDIT: In my haste to push something out this morning, I managed to forget Josh Willingham, who will and should be on the 25. In my world, Nix is out Willingham is in, but I fear that Yost/Moore may opt for Nix over Colon.  Also, they wouldn’t keep Ibanez over Terrance Gore…..would they?

Amazing

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First off, I’d like to apologize for the lame title to this post. Because there isn’t a proper adjective for last night. It just doesn’t exist.

This one is going to take some time to process. I sat in the parking lot at The K after the game for an hour. Gridlocked and exhausted. Got home. Attempted sleep. Woke up. Started typing. And there’s absolutely no way I can do this game justice. No way.

Enough happened last night you could write a book. A Robert Caro sized book. And I don’t even know how to construct this post. Do I go inning by inning? Player by player? Stream of consciousness? After watching a game like that, the one thing I understand is there are no rules. Only postseason baseball.

(Before I get ripped in the comments for an inaccuracy or mistake, Rex Hudler would like you to know that this is not an excuse, but I’m working on about four hours of fitful sleep. I haven’t read any other game recaps. Nor have I seen highlights. I’m relying on my scorebook and my memory. Both are 100 percent unreliable.)

Let’s start with Ned Yost.

Last night absolutely was like a sadistic dream of his come to life. So many bunting opportunities. So many bullpen options. So many chances to completely screw everything up. #Yosted, right? And he teetered on that line all night long. So much disaster. Yet he comes out smelling of champagne.

Turn back the clock all the way to the first inning. I’m convinced the “pick off” of Billy Butler from first base was a set play. Hosmer was on third after drawing a walk. Butler on first after singling home the Royals first run. Alex Gordon was at the plate and was down 0-2. Butler then walks – walks – what looked like 30 feet or so to second base. He gets in a rundown, the A’s wait until Hosmer breaks for the plate, they throw home and Hosmer is out and the inning is over.

On the surface, it’s interesting strategy. On the execution, it’s really kind of dumb expecting Butler to stay in a rundown long enough to get Hosmer home.

However – and this is the way things are going for Yost – as Hosmer gets tagged out at home, Giovany Soto injures his thumb on the play. Soto was in the game to control the Royals running game. He had thrown out around 50 percent of attempted base stealers this year, much better than his catching counterpart Norris who had only gunned down 17 percent.

Of course that matters later.

Not much for Yost to do through the middle innings. The Royals score two in the third to take the lead. Mike Moustakas dumps a single to left, advances on a sacrifice bunt and scores on a Lorenzo Cain double. Cain then scores on a Hosmer single.

— Time for a side note on some individual performances. Moustakas came up three times. I believe he hit the ball to left field all three times. Simply amazing. Two fly outs and the single. Cain had two massive hits, driving in two runs. I really don’t want to call a particular performance “clutch,” especially in the third inning, but that’s how it felt. It’s cliche to say, but the Royals needed to capitalize on their opportunities. It’s relevant to write that because it’s something they haven’t consistently done all year. And Cain came through.

Yost changes the game in the sixth inning. James Shields gives up a single to Sam Fuld and a walk to Josh Donaldson. At 88 pitches, Yost pulled him. I still haven’t seen or heard anything from Yost this morning, so I can’t react to his reasoning for pulling Shields. So I’ll just write how I reacted to the moment: I couldn’t believe Yordano Ventura entered the game at that point. The A’s lineup was so lefty heavy, I thought the better choice there was Brandon Finnegan. And if Jonny Gomes – the guy who slayed the Royals in Boston with a sixth inning pinch-hit home run – comes up, I don’t really care. I have faith in Finnegan to get guys out, no matter the platoon split.

Of course that matters later.

Ventura gives up a laser shot to Moss to dead center and the A’s retake the lead. A single and an out later and Kelvin Herrera comes in and gives up a couple more hits. Five runs. The K turns dark.

This isn’t a second guess on my part. I don’t like bringing in Ventura at that spot for a couple of reasons. For one, he threw 73 pitches just two days prior. For another reason, I don’t like bringing a starting pitcher out of the bullpen with runners on in the middle of an inning. Especially a young starter like Ventura. For Yost and all his push-button managing, he goes outside the box and comes up with something really bizarre and misguided. I just didn’t understand the move. And it really backfired.

The game stays 7-3 as the Royals come up in the bottom of the eighth. Escobar singles. He steals second – at that point, the Royals second steal of the night. After an Aoki groundout, Cain gets his second clutch hit, driving home Escobar.

7-4.

Cain steals second – the Royals third steal of the night. Hosmer walks. Butler lines a single, scoring Cain and moving Hosmer to third. Butler was another key contributor with two run-scoring singles.

7-5.

Terrance Gore pinch runs. Gore steals second – the Royals fourth steal of the night. Luke Gregerson uncorks a wild pitch and Hosmer scores with Gore going to third.

7-6.

Gordon walks. Gordon steals second – the Royals fifth steal of the night.

This is the point where I told anyone who would listen, you have to pinch hit for Sal Perez. Perez to that point, looked like the Perez of the last couple months at the plate. That means he looked awful. Yost sticks with his catcher and Perez strikes out.

Of course that matters later.

Infante also goes down on strikes, but the Royals pull within a single run. The summary of the inning reads like this: Three singles, two walks, four steals, a wild pitch, and three runs.

Yost managed the late innings with his bullpen as if he had the lead. That was always going to be the plan. No matter what, Herrera was going to throw the seventh. Wade Davis had the eighth. And Greg Holland was taking the ninth. This was the script written well in advance. Yost wasn’t going to ad lib.

Holland wobbles in the ninth, walking the bases loaded. After the first walk to Fuld, Perez commits a passed ball, allowing Fuld to go to second. Moss gets the intentional ball four and Reddick walked behind him. Fortunately, Lowrie flies out to right to end the inning.

The obvious – and correct – move was to lift Moustakas for a pinch-hitter to lead off the ninth. Yost sends up Willingham, who was acquired for exactly this kind of situation. Willingham follows the plan and dumps a single to right. Jarrod Dyson enters as a pinch runner. Escobar bunts him to second. Dyson steals third – the Royals sixth steal of the night.

Nori Aoki clubs one to right field that was plenty deep for Dyson to score.

7-7. Delirium.

Do you remember the Royals post game celebration in Chicago after they clinched a postseason spot? Rex and Ryan told Joel Goldberg to tell Aoki, “Kanpai” which is Japanese for “cheers.” Aoki screamed it several times. I loved it. I am particularly proud of this tweet I sent after Aoki’s sac fly to tie the game.


This is where the insanity level gets pushed to the red zone. Finnegan finally enters the game in the tenth. And the kid was nails. Three strikeouts and one single in the tenth and eleventh. After Yost threw his Three Relievers of the Apocalypse, he still needed some shutdown relief. He got it from a kid who was on a college campus when the 2014 season began. What a draft pick.

On the bottom half of the innings, the Royals twice got their leadoff man on with singles. Twice the next batter bunted the runner to second. Twice the runner on second advanced to third on a ground ball to short. Twice the Royals stranded the runner on third.

In the Oakland half of the eleventh, Coco Crisp fouled off a pitch and strained his hamstring. He went to the field for the bottom of the inning, but decided he couldn’t continue. Gomes entered the game in left and Fuld moved to center.

Of course that matters later.

To the twelfth…

Finnegan returns to the mound and walks Reddick to start the inning. Yost replaces him with Jason Frasor, his last short reliever in the bullpen. At this point, only Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie remain. Reddick moves to second on a sac bunt. He goes to third on a wild pitch. Not the best night for Sal. Alberto Callaspo steps to the plate. Callaspo worries me. Not because he owned a .290 OBP, but because I’ve seen enough of him to know he can handle the bat. He rarely gives anything away. And he got a good pitch and lined it for a single.

Gut punch. 8-7, Oakland.

Bottom of the twelfth, Cain grounds to first. Hosmer crushes a ball to the left-center gap. This is my slow-motion moment of the night. The ball kept going, going… I looked to the outfielders. I realize they are going to probably collide. I hope they drop the ball…

They did collide. It turns out the ball hit off the top of the wall. I don’t think anyone got a glove on it.

Return to slow motion… I think to myself, there’s no way someone caught the ball. It seems like an eternity, but the ball appears… Rolling away from the outfielders. Pandemonium. Hosmer with a triple.

Remember, Crisp was out of the game with a hamstring issue. Gomes and Fuld isn’t the same as Fuld and Crisp. Does a healthy Crisp make that catch? I don’t know, but maybe he plays it off the wall, holding Hosmer to two bases instead of three. Who knows? Baseball, man.

Colon steps up. I’m surprised we aren’t seeing Raul Ibanez, who was on the roster for the game. Something about needing a professional at bat runs through my brain that clearly can’t focus because the decibel level is punching through the clouds. Colon hits a chopper that goes about 45 feet in the air. The ball travels 45 feet down the third base line. Hosmer runs on contact. Donaldson can’t barehand the ball.

8-8.

What just happened? Jeremy Guthrie starts to throw in the Royals bullpen. I’m hallucinating, seeing visions of an 18th, a 19th, a 20th inning. The stadium is vibrating.

The A’s manager goes match-up and brings in his left-hander to face Alex Gordon. Gordon had a difficult night, a walk the only time he reached. He fouls out on the first pitch.

Up steps Perez. The guy I wanted removed from the game in the ninth. The guy who is swinging at anything in both the 816 and 913 area codes.

Melvin goes to his bullpen and brings in Jason Hammell. What did I say earlier about bringing a starter into a game with runners on base? Oh, yeah…

Colon steals second. That’s the Royals seventh steal on the night. Remember how the A’s wanted Soto behind the plate to neutralize the running game as much as possible? Granted, with these track stars, that’s probably not going to happen. But the A’s and Melvin clearly thought their best chance was with Soto behind the plate. When Soto exited the game in the third that was a potential game changer. Obvious in the twelfth when Colon steals on a pitch out that Norris doesn’t handle. It’s a good pitchout, but he takes his eyes off the ball, it pops out of his glove and Colon gets to second without a throw. Seven steals by seven different players. Six steals of second. One steal of third. Run, run, run.

With Colon on second and Perez at the plate, I don’t need to tell you what happened next. From Mark Simon at ESPN:

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9-8. Ballgame.

I’m not sure, but I think the stadium lifted off the ground. Just to be thorough, we broke every single law of physics known to man.

The most insane game I’ve ever witnessed. Many Yost moves and non-moves backfired at the moment, but they all – all – ultimately formed the recipe for victory. What happens if he brings Finnegan into the game in the sixth? What happens if he pinch hits for Perez? What happens if he doesn’t steal or bunt all night? (Forget that last one. That’ll never happen.) What happens if he brings Ibanez up in another crucial situation? Some moves were #Yosted at the time they happened. But everything – everything – came up perfect for the Royals and Yost. If you see him walking by a casino, grab him, pull him inside and roll some dice. At this point it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll win.

A couple of personal notes that I would just like to share. My six year old nephew was at the game with his parents. His dad caught him a foul ball off the bat of Eric Hosmer. He stayed up way past his bedtime and thinks last night was the most awesome night of his life. I’m pretty sure it was. Also, today would have been my grandfather’s birthday. Answer Dave at Big League Stew was kind enough to link to my story about him just before the Wild Card game. I absolutely thought of my grandfather when the Royals walked it off.

Another note: I will not compare this game to Game 6 (or Game 7) of 1985. Apples and oranges. Different scenarios, different players, different eras. What happened last night stands on it’s own. We don’t need perspective. We saw it. We cheered. We cried. We high-fived and hugged total strangers. It was brilliant. That’s more than enough.

Finally, there are so many trivia factoids from this game. I can’t digest them all at the moment. So much has been made about the A’s and their playoff record in elimination games with Billy Beane as GM. Whatever. How about the Royals going 7-0 in their last seven postseason elimination games? Chew on that for a little bit.

Then here’s my favorite trivia from the night:

That was the second post season winner-take-all game that went 12 or more innings.

Welcome back to October, Kansas City.

Sensory overload – at least that’s what I’m calling this headache this morning.  It couldn’t be the six hours of drinking, could it?

If you are reading this, you were at or watched or read about last night.  I hope you saw it all, because it was one of the most entertaining baseball games in quite a long time.  Forget that it was our Kansas City Royals that were involved.  This was one great game: not greatly played or managed, mind you, just a tremendous spectacle to view.

You want a recap?  I can think of nothing better at this point than a simple presentation of Craig’s scorebook from last night:

Brown Scorebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s what a twelve inning playoff win looks like, boys and girls.

While I was all ready to transfer my 38 year hatred of Chris Chambliss onto that two home run hitting SOB named Brandon Moss, all is now forgiven. Bizarre baserunning in the first?  Forgiven.  Ventura instead of Herrera in the sixth?  It’s okay. Bunts, bunts and more bunts? All the bunts, it’s fine.

We move onto the Angels.  Last night was fun/thrilling/unbelievable, but the real playoffs start on Thursday (yes, that’s sarcasm). Momentum, they say, is only as good as the next game’s starting pitcher, so who do you go with on Thursday and Friday, knowing the Royals will have Shields ready for Sunday’s return to Kansas City?

Duffy, if healthy and despite his issues last weekend, would be my choice, but I can see a case for Vargas, as well.  Hell, after last night’s magic, I could tolerate Guthrie even, just because my heart is filled with freaking joy.

Bring on the Angels.  Analysis later, let’s bask in the magic of last night for a little while longer.

As reported often and most everywhere, the Royals set the 25 man roster for tonight’s game.

Once we heard yesterday that the Royals intended to have only nine pitchers on the roster, we pretty much knew that Christian Colon AND Jayson Nix AND Raul Ibanez were going to be active tonight.  The rest was all pretty much certain.  For the record, the eligible position players tonight:

  • Perez, Kratz, Butler, Hosmer, Willingham, Infante, Escobar, Colon, Nix, Moustakas, Gordon, Cain, Aoki, Ibanez, Dyson and Gore

Hell, with sixteen eligible spots, even I probably put Ibanez on the roster!

Now, the pitching staff contained the six guys everyone knew would be there: Shields, Herrera, Davis, Holland, Frasor and Finnegan.  It got a little funky when the final three spots went to starters Duffy, Ventura and Guthrie and not to more relievers and did not include Jason Vargas.

There was some talk on Twitter last night that moving players in and out of the 25 man post-season rosters was not quite as flexible as we were led to believe. One person stated that the Royals would actually have to DFA Guthrie if they wanted to NOT have him on the active twenty-five.  I have not been able to confirm that as I am not sure anyone knows the actual rules and, if they do, will not reveal all of their nuances.  That could well be untrue, by the way, as I didn’t spend my morning trying to ‘confirm’ any of this – sue me.

Anyway, roster rules of order aside, one could envision Danny Duffy coming on to get a lefty or two as he today or yesterday would have been his normal day to throw between starts.  Ventura, who struggled through four innings on Sunday, maybe an inning if this game goes into the 11th or 12th tonight?  While I would have thought Vargas would be the designated long man/multiple extra inning guy, the Royals instead opted for Guthrie, who would be available on three days rest.

Hey, I don’t hate it.  Did anyone really want to see Francisely Bueno, Scott Downs or Aaron Crow pitch in the biggest game of the last 29 years?  Bases loaded in the top of the 12th with Mike Trout hitting?  I’ll take a tired Ventura over one of those three.

Game on, boys.

 

Twenty-nine years in the making and we’re a few hours from the first pitch of the Wild Card game.

It’s the Royals against the Athletics. The Royals arrive in the postseason on the back of another strong second half of baseball. The A’s staggered to the finish line, coughing up a chance to win the West to settle for a play-in game. After the All-Star Break, the Royals won 41 of 67 games – a .612 winning percentage second only to Baltimore’s .657. Meanwhile Oakland won just 28 of 66, a miserable .424 winning percentage.

A hot team against a team that’s ice cold. But baseball is a funny game. In the second half, the Royals scored 264 runs and allowed 240. The A’s scored 258 and allowed 247. Such a narrow margin between the two teams in the run column, yet the Royals surged to 13 more wins.

And this is one game, winner-take-all. Anything can happen. We can see a 10-0 blowout or a 2-1 nail-biter. With James Shields and Jon Lester on the mound, I know which way I’m leaning, but… Baseball is a funny game.

WC_Offense

Maybe you don’t see it from the graph, but the offenses are a study in contrasts. The Royals .263 batting average is second in the AL. Their OBP is ninth because they don’t take a walk. On the year, Royals batters accepted a free pass 380 times, last in the league. Nearly 100 walks fewer than league average. On the other hand, the A’s walked a league-high 586 times. Over 100 walks above league average. Josh Donaldson (10.9 percent), Derek Norris (12.2 percent), Brandon Moss (11.6 percent), and Coco Crisp (12.3 percent) are the A’s who have a walk rate above 10 percent. That rate isn’t especially meaningful, it’s just one that jumps out because it’s double digits. By comparison, Alex Gordon is the only Royals regular who has a double-digit walk rate. And he’s barely on the right side at 10.1 percent. As you know, the lack of walks on the Royals isn’t skewed by one or two bad apples. It’s an epidemic.

Neither team hits for much cumulative power. The A’s are an odd bunch. They rank 12th in the AL in doubles, first in triples and are in the middle of the pack at 8th in home runs. The Royals play more of a gap to gap style of ball, finishing fourth in doubles, fifth in triples. You know where they finished in the home run race. (Last. In case you’re new here.)

Yes, the Royals are the first team to qualify for the postseason after finishing dead last in walks and home runs in the regular season. Quite a feat. This is truly a team only Dayton Moore could have assembled.

WC_PitchingR

At first glance, the advantage goes to Oakland. Higher strikeout rate, lower walk rate, better ERA and xFIP. Maybe if this was a best-of-five series. But this is a single game. So it’s Jon Lester and the bullpen. Aaron had a great breakdown of Lester on Monday, so I’ll direct you there for a more comprehensive look at the A’s starter. To simplify things, let’s just put it this way: Lester has helped those averages in a very positive way for Oakland.

If this game is close – as I suspect it will be – the starting pitchers will give way to the bullpen in the late innings. We know about the Royals killer triumvirate of Herrera, Davis, and Holland. Oakland doesn’t lack in the bullpen department, either.

WC_Bullpen

Sean Doolittle stepped into the closer role in mid-May. Since taking over he’s posted a 2.27 ERA while limiting opponents to a .139/.181/.219 slash line. Of note here, A’s manager Bob Melvin isn’t shy about using Doolittle for more than an inning. He threw two innings twice since becoming a closer. Because the Royals basically owned the A’s this year, Doolittle made only one appearance, pitching the eighth in a 7-3 whitewash last August 14. He retired Mike Moustakas on a line out to left, surrendered a single to Lorenzo Cain, then got Christian Colon on a fly ball to center before striking out Jerrod Dyson to end the frame.

The A’s setup men are more than capable as well. Luke Gregerson and Fernando Abad form a potent late inning right-left combo. Neither walk batters. If the A’s are in a pinch and need a strikeout, they will likely turn to Ryan Cook who has whiffed 50 batters in 50 innings of work.

It’s true the A’s stumbled in the second half. But it wasn’t because of the pitching. Oakland’s strongest month on the mound was in September. The pitchers closed the season strong. If the Royals don’t go up to the plate with a plan, they may not have much of a chance against Lester and company. Ummm… Yeah. I don’t think any Royal hitter has gone up to the plate with a plan all season. Why start now?

WC_Lineup

This is the lineup Melvin will use against the right-handed Shields, per Roster Resource. That leaves several right-handed bats on the bench such as Jonny Gomes and Geovany Soto. Sam Fuld is a left-handed bat who could be used as a pinch runner late in the game. Craig Gentry is their main speed threat, but he’s out after suffering a concussion a couple weeks ago.

It looks like Shields will see only two right-handed batters. I heard speculation on MLB Radio on Sirius/XM that Melvin may decide to go with Soto at catcher instead of Norris. The thinking is, Soto would better neutralize the Royals running game. He’s thrown out nine of 17 would be base stealers this year, a 53 percent success rate. Norris on the other hand, has gunned down just 17 percent, nabbing just 12 base runners in 72 attempts. Personally, I think with offense at a premium, Melvin will go with Norris at least to start the game. Lester being left-handed may help, but he’s not known for his skill in holding runners. He hasn’t picked off anyone this year – actually his last pickoff came in 2011 – and he’s allowed 16 steals in 21 attempts this year. Soto may enter the game in the later innings to try to keep the Royals from running roughshod. Although good luck stopping Dyson and Terrance Gore.

WC_LINEUP2

If you think Yost runs anything different out to start the game, you haven’t been paying attention. This has been the lineup the last eight games. At this point, it’s gospel.

But goddamn, what a horrible lineup. Escobar doesn’t take a walk and has a .317 OBP, but he’s leading off. Hosmer slugs under .400 and has nine home runs on the season, but he’s cleanup. The best hitter on the team has somehow dropped to sixth. From what I can tell, these machinations are due to finding some sort of right-left-right-left balance. Holy crap. This is a Hall of Fame dumpster fire of a lineup.

Yet Escobar has been hot since moving to leadoff. In 15 games at the top spot, he’s hit .375/.412/.484 with five extra base hits and three walks. Since returning from his hand injury at the end of August, Hosmer has slugged .489 with eight doubles, a triple, and three home runs. And after a scorching hot August where giddy Royals fans were chanting M-V-P when he came to the plate, Gordon has stumbled down the stretch, hitting .190/.333/.286. Yost is playing the hot hand. And it’s been working. Sometimes, it’s good to be the king.

Despite hot and cold streaks and despite the fact the Royals won five of seven, this looks like a very even game to me. Hell, it’s one game for everything. At this point in 2014, nothing would surprise me.

I remain cautiously optimistic.

Are you confused about who can and cannot be on the Royals’ 25 man roster for the post-season?  Welcome to the club, kids.  The rules have changed this year and made it quite a bit simpler from past seasons.  Perhaps the best summation I have found is this “if the player was anywhere in your organization prior as of midnight of August 31st, you can assume he is or can be made to be eligible for the post-season”.

Thanks to TheCubReport.com, I think this may be the actual current post season eligibility rules:

A club’s Active List (25-man roster) must be submitted to the MLB Commissioner prior to the start of each post-season series (LDS, LCS, and World Series). 

1. All players on a club’s MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) prior to midnight (Eastern) on August 31st are eligible to be included on a post-season Active List (25-man roster).

2. A player on an MLB club’s Disabled List (7-day, 15-day, or 60-day) or Restricted List (Prohibited Substance Suspension or extended Bereavement Leave only) is eligible to be included on a post-season Active List only after spending the minimum number of days required to be served by a player on that list.

3. Any player on the Disqualified List, Ineligible List, or Restricted List (for reasons other than extended Bereavement Leave or a Prohibited Substance Suspension) as of midnight August 31st is ineligible to be included on his club’s post-season Active List.  

4. A post-season eligible player who is placed on an MLB Disabled List, Bereavement List, Paternity Leave List, or Restricted List (Prohibited Substance Suspension or extended Bereavement Leave only) prior to the start of a post-season series can (with the approval of the MLB Commissioner) be replaced on his club’s LDS, LCS, or World Series Active List by a player who was on a Reserve List or Inactive List of a minor league affiliate from that organization prior to midnight August 31st. The minor league player must be added to his club’s MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) before he can be added to the club’s Active Roster.   

5. A player on a post-season Active List (25-man roster) who is injured or leaves his club on Bereavement Leave or Paternity Leave during a post-season series can (with the approval of the MLB Commissioner) be replaced on his club’s Active List prior to the conclusion of that series by another eligible player, or by a player who was on a Reserve List or Inactive List of a minor league affiliate from that organization prior to midnight August 31st. The minor league player must be added to his club’s MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) before he can be added to the club’s Active Roster. Also, a a pitcher must replace a pitcher and a position player must replace a position player. 

6. If an injured pitcher or position player is replaced during a post-season series, the injured pitcher or position player is ineligible to be reinstated to his club’s Active List (25-man roster) for the balance of that series and the next series (LCS or World Series). 

For added fun, a team can change the make-up of its 25 man roster before EVERY post-season series and, yes, the Wild Card game is considered a ‘series’.  As such, the Royals can designate 25 players to play tomorrow night against Oakland and WHEN they win, change that group of 25 for the series with the Angels.

From a practical standpoint, what does this mean?

Very simply, Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Jeremy Guthrie probably will not be on the 25 man roster for Tuesday’s game.  You could make a case for Jason Vargas not being necessary as well, but there is the chance that James Shields is struck by lightning twice (because once will not be enough to strike down James…and I’m only half-joking) and the Royals might need a guy to go multiple innings.  Also, these two teams could play to a 1-1 tie for 14 innings and it would be nice to have Vargas available instead of having to go with, say, Mike Moustakas on the mound for the 15th inning of the most important game in 29 years.

So, who will the Royals go with tomorrow?

Let’s break it down, starting with the pitchers:

  • DEFINITELY:  James Shields, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland
  • ALMOST CERTAINLY: Jason Vargas, Brandon Finnegan, Jason Frasor
  • LIKELY: Francisely Bueno, Scott Downs and one of the Colemans.
  • MAYBE: Liam Henriks and Aaron Crow probably get discussed and I would not be totally shocked to see Duffy included with the idea of him coming in to get a big out or two in relief.  Guthrie possibly as well, because this organization loves them some veteran presence.

That is ten pitchers in my likely, almost certainly and definitely categories: which seems like a lot for one game.  It seems like a hell of a lot  when you consider that the HDH bullpen trio of destruction did not pitch on Sunday, has Monday off and will have Wednesday off as well if, WHEN, the Royals win, and as such Yost could and should plan on using Herrera and Davis for two inning a piece if the situation warrants.   Still, you don’t want to be in extra innings and start running short of pitchers.  You don’t want to have Scott Downs face any right-hander, including you, me, your mom or your little sister.  While this provides Ned Yost with plenty of opportunities to ‘manage’, which is sometimes not always a great idea, you pretty much have to roll with it now.

Besides, last year the Wild Card teams had 10 and 11 pitchers on their roster, I find it hard to believe the Royals are going to diverge much from ‘the book’.  Ten pitchers it is.

That leaves fifteen spots for the position players (I ran that through a spreadsheet, so I know it’s right):

  • DEFINITELY: Alcides Escobar, Nori Aoki, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, Omar Infante, Mike Moustakas, Jarrod Dyson, Eric Kratz
    • That is the usual starting nine, plus Dyson and a backup catcher.
  • ALMOST CERTAINLY: Josh Willingham
    • I am pretty sure half the fanbase thinks that Willingham’s only at-bats of they year were the two strikeouts looking against Detroit. His body is breaking down on him, but I still like Josh coming off the bench with runners on-base.  Just having him on the roster will give Bob Melvin something to think about in the late innings.  The more a manager thinks, the more likely he is to over-think.
  • LIKELY: Terrance Gore, Raul Ibanez, Christian Colon or Jayson Nix
    • I know, I know – Raul Ibanez?!!  No, he is not on MY playoff roster, but I have a hard time believing he won’t be on Dayton Moore’s. He is the left-handed pinch-hitting complement to Josh Willingham.  Now, Raul really can’t hit anymore and Ned Yost is unlikely to actually pinch-hit for anyone, but….
    • I am not sure Gore makes it onto the ALDS 25 man roster, but with some extra spots to play with for one day, not only does he make it, but he is right behind Dyson as to ‘most likely to appear’.
    • The Royals have to carry a spare infielder and, hell, they might even start him over Moustakas against Jon Lester. Christian Colon played yesterday for the first time in three weeks and I still like him in this spot way better than Nix and Moustakas, for that matter.
  • MAYBE: Lane Adams, Carlos Peguero
    • It would make sense to not carry Ibanez and add one of these guys or even keep both Colon or Nix. In theory, Peguero is as likely to run into a pitch as Ibanez and Adams could also pinch-run or play defense in the outfield so Yost could use both Dyson and Gore to run in key situations without regard for defense the next inning.

Suffice to say, there are a lot of options for the Royals to consider as they create this one day 25 man roster.  It will be interesting to see what Moore and Yost come up with and even more interesting to see what they come up with for the Angels series.  That’s right:  THE ANGELS SERIES.  There are no critical spirits here at the Authority today!

Jon Lester. A name that sparks dread in Royals fans thanks to the memories of the nine losses they have endured the 13 times they’ve faced the lefty since 2006. And it’s not just that he’s beaten them so many times, it’s that he has made them look like little leaguers being toyed with in many of those games. His average game score against KC is 63, and he has posted four games with an elite-level 80 game score or better. Worst of all was the no-hitter he twirled against them in 2008 (with a game score of 94) that kicked off a 12 game losing streak. 2014 against Lester did not go well either. Due to a fluke of the schedule and Lester being traded, the Royals faced him three times in a span of just over three weeks in July and August. This was during one the hottest stretches of the Royals season, but they lost all three games to Lester. They went 16-3 against pitchers not named Lester between the first and last time they faced him.

Here are the ugly details of all 13 games:

via Baseball-Reference.com

via Baseball-Reference.com

If you want to reach for a silver lining there, the Royals have won three of the five times they’ve faced Lester in Kauffman Stadium. He has only been slightly more effective pitching at home in his career, with a 3.50/3.66 home/road ERA split. But this won’t be a normal road game. Something tells me the KC fans will be trying to get in his head the same way Pirates fans did to Johnny Cueto in their Wild Card game last year.

Here is how the usual 2014 starting nine have fared vs. Lester in their careers, sorted by most plate appearances:

lester v royals players

Christian Colon is 1-for-1 with an RBI single against Lester

Batter-pitcher stats are some of the most over-used and useless stats out there because, except in extreme situations, they are too small of a sample size to mean anything. In hopes of expanding the sample sizes, I tried to find other lefties the Royals have faced who have a similar pitch mix and velocities to Lester. Unfortunately I can only find one who I consider a close match: Reliever Jerry Blevins. But the nine Royals have only faced him for a combined 19 PAs.

Lester has a wicked pitch mix that features a 92 MPH fastball that he throws about half the time, an 88 MPH cutter thrown a little under a third of the time, and a 75 MPH bender used for around 15% of his pitches. All three are nasty and get great results, so hitters can’t sit and hope for one of his weaker pitches, because they don’t exist. It is tough to find comparable pitchers mostly because he throws his cutter more often than any other lefty. And why not, when he can make it start from well out of the strike zone before dancing over the corner at the last moment:

via Washington Post/PitcherGifs

Still, I selected nine other current lefties I decided were the closest matches. Here is their pitch data for 2012 through a few days ago:

lester comps

via FanGraphs.com

Like I say, most of them are really not that close, so take the following for what it is worth. But I totaled up Royals hitting results against all 10 of the above pitchers in an attempt to see how they’ve performed in their careers in a larger sample against Lesterish pitchers (sorted by OPS):

lester comps v royals hitters

Still not huge samples.  But it’s not encouraging that Billy, with the platoon advantage, has scuffled so much against these lefties, and it looks like a tough match-up for Alex, the team’s biggest offensive threat this year. Overall though, the team OPS is not too shabby.

That’s enough doom and gloom. Anything can happen in one game, and the Royals have an ace of their own to start. To end with some positive juju, here is the only homer the Royals have hit against Lester:

There is a ‘z’ or an ‘x’ (depending on your publication) next to Kansas City in the standings today:  the Royals are in the playoffs.  Forget for a moment the debate over whether a wild card one and done game is the real playoffs and just enjoy the fact that your Kansas City Royals are going to be playing baseball when the majority of the teams will be headed home for the winter.  Not sure if you noticed, but it has been a while since that has happened.

When I was seven years old, my dad bought me a three pack of 1971 Topps baseball cards.  I’m not sure what the deal was, but they came in a plastic package where you could see the top card of each stack:  Joe Keough of the Royals was on top of one of the stacks.  My dad was a farmer, a nose to the grindstone dawn until dusk worker.  Sure, he was a sports fan, but had no interest or knowledge of how baseball cards were distributed.  He thought with a Royal on top, that meant the whole stack would be Royals.

“There’s a new team in Kansas City now,” he said. “That would be a good one for you to follow.”

With that, I was a Royals’ fan.

Now, I’m an old guy (even older than Craig!) and being a Royals’ fan back then meant listening to Denny on 980 AM out of Shenandoah, Iowa (we were on a farm east of Lincoln, Nebraska, so the reception was, shall we say, ‘cracklily’ at best), checking the box scores in the paper and occasionally seeing the Royals on Monday Night Baseball (remember that, fellas?) or on the Saturday afternoon national game.  Every game televised?  Hah! Internet? Not even close. Sports radio? None.  And yeah, I actually did walk uphill to school in snowstorms…

While it was hard to follow the Royals from 200 miles away, it was easy to be a fan of them.

They won 88 games in 1973 and 91 more in 1975 and then went to the playoffs seven of the next ten years. Even after the 1985 World Series, the team still was more of a winner than loser.  Amos Otis and Cookie Rojas gave way to Willie Wilson and Frank White.  Dennis Leonard and Paul Splittorff gave way to Bret Saberhagen and Mark Gubicza.  And a guy named George Brett was pretty good, too.

Then came the strike of 1994 and it suddenly became hard to be a Royals’ fan.  They didn’t win 80 games for eight seasons before managing 83 in 2003 and then Kansas City went nine more seasons before posting another winning record.  The Royals were cheap…and stupid. Scott Elarton made an Opening Day start, Mark Redman was an All-Star and Ken Harvey/Calvin Pickering/Justin Huber were going to lead us to the promised land.

Blogging became a thing.  Craig and I, neither of whom actually lived in our mothers’ basement, started our own blogs, but merged not long after.  We searched for hope in the depths of Mark Teahen’s advanced stats.  We debated Kila Ka’aihue versus Mike Jacobs versus an old Jose Guillen.  We watched Trey Hillman destroy Gil Meche (I still wear my powder blue Meche jersey by the way – and yes, internet cool kids, it is okay to a) wear a jersey and b) wear one of a player not on the team). We listened to Dayton Moore talk down to us and Ned Yost be grumpy.

There were debates over whether David DeJesus smiled too much and Billy Butler didn’t smile enough.  Alex Gordon wouldn’t adapt and listen to coaching.  Ryan Shealy and Luke Hochevar listened too much. We were told that Tony Pena Jr. would someday hit and we had to watch Emil Brown run the bases.  Zack Greinke burst on the scene, quit, went to the bullpen, won a Cy Young and then went all jerkstore on us. Hey, we all endured a lot:  even you young whippersnappers.

We can debate the playoff roster Sunday night and maybe, just maybe, argue over whether James Shields should be brought back on short rest for a one game playoff with Detroit to decide the Central Champion on Monday. There will be much to debate, discuss and agonize over very soon.

For now, though, the Kansas City Royals are going to play in the post-season no matter what happens today and tomorrow.  Enjoy the weekend, folks, we have all earned it.

And yes, I still have that Joe Keough baseball card.

 

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