You can’t win them all.
That’s how the cliche goes. Allegedly.
The Royals were dropped by the A’s by a score of 11-3 on Tuesday, ending their eight-game winning streak.
It’s a game that, were you able to extrapolate the entire season, from beginning to end, to examine the pitching match ups, you would have circled on your calendar as an obvious loss. Jeremy Guthrie versus Jon Lester. That loss is as guaranteed as the Royals not removing a poor bullpen arm from their roster because they’re frightened they would lose him to waivers. That’s how guaranteed this loss was on paper.
But they don’t play these games on paper. At least that’s what I’m told. No, they play on the field and that’s where the Royals have been invincible the last couple of weeks. So, what the hell. Play the game. Because as Joaquin Andujar once said, “Youneverknow.”
Sadly, it went about as expected.
The Royals rotation has been pretty good this summer. Really good. But don’t let anyone tell you Guthrie has been anything but the weak link. Yes, he’s thrown some gems. He was especially sharp his last two outings. But he is the Royals least effective starter as ranked by fWAR and his peripherals are pretty lousy. Just for fun, here’s the Royals rotation as ranked by fWAR:
James Shields – 2.6
Yordano Ventura – 2.0
Jason Vargas – 1.9
Danny Duffy – 1.8
Jeremy Guthrie – 0.9
Guthrie is the guy you’re nervous about every time he takes the mound. Sure, he can give you a game like he did against the Diamondbacks last week, but he’s a few more times as likely to throw one like Tuesday. And that’s one of the continuing underlying issues with this team. Guthrie seems like a decent guy. He originally signed for $11 million for 2014, but restructured his contract to knock $3 million off that sum. But he will collect it – with interest – should his mutual option for 2016 not be picked up by either party. According to Fangraphs, Guthrie has been worth around $5 million this year. With eight to nine starts left on his season, there’s no way he’s going to provide value for his contract. Hey, not everyone signed to a contract will. However, I’ve always argued that the Royals, given their market, must be smart enough to avoid those kinds of expensive mistakes.
I’m not trying to be a downer. The Royals are in first place, after all. It’s an exciting time to be a fan. But as Clark wrote last week, it’s fine to be a fan and disagree with the front office on how they value certain players. It’s why, while I’m hopeful the Royals can win the division (or the Wild Card), I remain wary of this team for the future. There are too many bad decisions that happen. Guthrie just happened to remind me of one last night.
(And I’m not even going to mention Bruce Chen. Wait, I just did. To pay that guy $4.25 million is… Unwise. But you probably knew that. Shame Dayton Moore and the Royals brain trust didn’t know that. Could have had some payroll flexibility at the deadline.)
I haven’t done much reading about the game, but I wonder if the narrative will circle around about how the Royals always seem to have this “moment” to capture the fans, but can’t capitalize.
I’ve seen this theory before. It goes something like, “The Royals play well enough to get people on the bandwagon. They finally go to the game. Fill the stadium. Then they put up a stinker in front of 25,000+ and lose 11-3.”
If that happens, please don’t buy into that narrative.
We’ve discussed this before, but the Royals are one helluva streaky team. And streaks end. Sometimes bad baseball will be played. Last night, the Royals announced an attendance of greater than 27,000 with walkup sales of over 9,000. That’s impressive. That’s a signal that the fan base is buying what you’re selling. And lord knows, the Royals need that kind of support and they need to hold on to it tightly. Yes, last night was disappointing. But a game like that was going to happen sooner or later.
The Royals didn’t “choke” in front of a large crowd last night. They didn’t feel “pressure” and they didn’t fail to come through in the “clutch.” They lost. To a better pitcher and a better lineup. That’s baseball.
The beauty is, the Tigers lost last night, too. The Royals are still in first. And the beat goes on.