Well, that was… uninspiring.
The Royals, as you may have heard, after what felt like the longest two game series in the history of the game, arrived in Boston around 5am on Thursday morning. They weren’t making excuses because they are the best team in the American League, and damnit, excuses are for teams like the Tigers. But they were probably tired. And so it goes.
The result was a lackluster 4-1 loss to the Red Sox.
Boston starter Wade Miley has been a little better since the All-Star Break, with a 3.99 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 39 innings before facing the Royals. He’s an inconsistent starter that has to have his teammates scratching their heads every fifth game. Which Wade Miley will show up today? On Thursday, we know the answer.
On the flip side, you have Danny Duffy. It feels like he, too, is inconsistent. Yet the game logs and results tell a bit of a different story. Since his return from the DL at the end of June prior to the game in Boston, the Duffman had thrown 60 innings with an ERA of 2.85. However, he had just whiffed 28 batters against 19 walks. I’ve written about Duffy’s declining strikeout rate, and when you frame it in terms of his SO/BB ratio, it looks even less appealing if that’s possible.
While I personally find the Red Sox struggles hilarious, they still have a league average offense. Scoring 4.53 runs per game (third best in the league and above the average of 4.28 runs per game) while slugging .410. The slugging percentage is a little less impressive, but still slightly above league average. In other words, the reason the Sox are in the basement of the AL East isn’t because of the bats. These guys can hit. When you have a starter like Duffy who is struggling to throw strikes and isn’t missing many bats (he got a swinging strike on nine of his 98 pitches, which is actually pretty good for him of late) a team like Boston is still going to get their knocks. As we’ve learned, sequencing matters. So when Boston put together two singles, a double and a triple in the bottom of the third, it was good for three runs.
The problem for the Royals was they were unable to force Boston to their bullpen in a timely fashion. Residing in the AL Central as the Royals do, we know all about the crimes of the Detroit relief corps. Well the only bullpen in the league worse that the Tigers is the Red Sox. (Hey! That’s Dave Dombrowski’s music!) When they are only summoned to get five outs, you’re not doing yourself a real favor.
If you truly want to know what kind of night it was, look at that eighth inning. They finally get Miley out of the game, put two runners on, yet fail to score. Oh, and those two runners? They reached via an error and a walk.
Somebody told me there’d be days like these.
A couple other notes…
— It seems as though there is much rejoicing over the Royals beating their PECOTA projection of 72 wins.
The angst over a computer and what they think of a particular team, never fails to amuse me. McCullough, who wrote the chapter on the Royals for the Baseball Prospectus annual, gives a nice breakdown on why the system overlooked the Kansas City nine.
The bottom line is the system has a difficult time projecting the value of defense and a lock-down bullpen, the two absolute keys to the Royals success. This makes sense. Unsaid in the article is the factor of a manager who knows how to use said bullpen. Let’s be honest and give some credit to Ned Yost. While the arsenal found in the Royals bullpen is a gift any manager would love to have at his disposal, is there any guarantee another manager would use it correctly? Maybe the quality of the arms makes any manager look like a genius, but I’d like to think that Yost (and pitching coach Dave Eiland) knows this collection of arms in a way that gives them an ultimate advantage. Sure, H-D-H is automatic, but they’re not available every night. Injuries and fatigue play a roll in a six month regular season. Yost has done a great job managing his pen.
So about that projection: PECOTA still hates your Royals. They are projecting a 20-22 record over the final 42 games. Yes, that feels like a low number of wins, from a team that has won over 60 percent of their games over their first 120 contests. It still hasn’t made the adjustments to the flaws in the system listed above.
I know some of you take umbrage with PECOTA, but it’s a projection. I figure the same people who are trashing it today, would be lauding it if they had projected 95 wins for the Royals. Whatever. It has no bearing on how a particular team performs. Hate on the system all you want. I prefer to figure out the why.
— Alex Gordon is heading to Omaha on Sunday to start his rehab assignment. I don’t need to tell you, but this is outstanding news.
He expects to play for about a week before returning to Kansas City. That seems like a sensible amount of games. Enough for him to get his timing back, and to see how his groin responds to a series of games. If everything goes according to plan, I would imagine he would be back on September 1st against the Tigers. It will be a much welcome return.
Gordon’s impending return gives the Royals about a week to decide how they will adjust their lineup. It’s painfully obvious the Royals would be a more dangerous offensive team if they have Gordon hitting leadoff with Ben Zobrist behind him. That puts their best two hitters at avoiding outs at the top of order. Revolutionary. Defensively, what’s going to happen? I’ve been on record saying I hope Yost removes Omar Infante permanently. His defense is slightly above average at second, but doesn’t come close to making up the ground he gives away with his bat. Baseball Prospectus has a visual breakdown of WARP by position per team. (WARP is their version of WAR.) No team has gotten less value from a position this year as the Royasl have received at second base. And you want to know something? Since Zobrist has been playing second, he’s added 0.3 WARP to the total. Here’s how it looks:
By the way, their production from center and left ranks fourth and fifth best respectively in the league.
— Finally, Yost wouldn’t commit to Jeremy Guthrie remaining in the rotation. After Kris Medlen’s strong outing on Thursday, I would imagine he’s the top candidate to replace him.
The Royals were probably hoping to avoid placing Medlen in the rotation in 2015. He’s on board for 2016. However, a combination of his performance, his ability to recover from an outing, and the dreadfulness of Guthrie, means the Royals may accelerate the timetable. That’s not a bad thing as it could potentially give the Royals another rotation option as they focus on October.
— After the loss and the Twins victory last night, the Royals magic number remains at 29.