Yesterday, Clark wrote about the Royals position in the upcoming trade deadline. Today, that feels just a little more urgent with the realization Chris Young is turning into a starting pitching pumpkin.
Young completed three innings yesterday before he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the fourth. (Yes, that happened. More on that in a few graphs.) He allowed five hits – two of them home runs – and four runs in those frames. Hey, everyone has a rough start or two. More troubling than his line in securing nine outs was the fact he required 68 pitches to get them.
In the last month, Young has made seven starts for the Royals. Here’s the damage:
36 IP, 5.5 SO/9, 3.3 BB/9, 2.5 HR/9, 5.50 ERA, 6.54 FIP
I know… Arbitrary endpoints and small sample size. Meh. Any way your parse the above numbers, they’re not good. Especially given his recent track record of fading as the season rolls along. I bet after the season if you are able to talk to Ned Yost or Dayton Moore, they will tell you the plan was to use the All-Star Break to reshuffle the rotation so Young would receive the optimal amount of time to recharge his batteries. Except the rainouts and schedule backlog, along with the other starting pitching issues, forced them to lean on Young more than they would have liked. He went on short rest just ahead of the break and then started on the first Friday back. The mileage of the season is starting to wear.
“These things have a way of working themselves out.”
That was Yost earlier this month when reporters asked what he would do with the presumed surplus of starting pitching. Things change quickly in the baseball landscape. Jason Vargas is gone for the rest of this season and all of the next. Yordano Ventura was optioned and then recalled before his car even warmed up for the trip north on I-29. And now Young is running short of fuel. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like a surplus. And we still have to wait and see how these things are going to work out.
The Royals are 20 games over .500 and have a comfortable lead in the Central. According to Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report, the Royals have a 95 percent chance to reach the postseason. Yet nothing is guaranteed.
Young can probably be allowed a couple more starts, but I would wager that by this time next month, the Royals will bump him back to the bullpen. The trade market opened up yesterday with Scott Kazmir going to Houston for a pair of prospects currently playing in High-A ball. The centerpiece of the deal for Oakland is Daniel Mendgen, a catcher with impact bat potential. From BP’s analysis of the trade:
When you add up the elements here there’s the makings of a realistic 55 Major League catcher and the potential for a true Role 6 if it all comes together. That’s a rare bird indeed, and a reflection of Houston’s aggressiveness in making a push this year that they were willing to sacrifice him from their system to do it.
Kazmir is playing out a two year deal he signed with Oakland in December of 2013. He’s earning $11 million this year and that bumps by $500k since he was traded.
He’s presumably on the “second tier” of starting pitchers available on the trade market. Meaning he’s not Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels, rather a guy who can give you solid innings in the middle of the rotation every fifth day. The price for that appears to be at least one ascendant prospect and another with projectable back end of the rotation stuff. Given the position the Royals are in currently, that’s a move Moore and company should be willing to make.
A couple more notes about Thursday’s makeup game…
There was a bit of a debate that could be had about how Yost handled his pinch hitters. When Yost lifted Young in the top of the fourth inning, it was with runners at first and third and two outs. We are playing by National League rules. (Don’t get me started on this. It’s a separate blog post that will run thousands of words.) The Royals were down by two. It was a scoring opportunity against a savvy starter who had seemingly found his groove in the previous two innings. With Young unlikely to get through the fourth inning on the mound, I thought it was absolutely the correct call to lift him for Kendrys Morales in that situation. I don’t care for your argument that it was too early to burn a pinch hitter or whatever. I like Morales up with a runner on third. When your pitcher is piling up the pinch count, doesn’t go deep into games anyway, and when you have a quality bat on the bench, why wouldn’t you go to that bat in a run scoring situation. If you “save” Morales for later, there’s no guarantee he will have a similar moment to make an impact. After all, a run in the fourth counts just as much as a run in the ninth.
Naturally, this bit the Royals and Yost when Alex Rios and Omar Infante led off the top of the ninth with back to back hits to cut the Cardinal lead in half. Jarrod Dyson walks and that brings up… the pitcher’s spot in the batting order. How to people even tolerate this nonsense? (I know… Another blog post.)
The Royals, as we all know, generally play with a three-man bench. They have Drew Butera as the backup catcher, Dusty Coleman as the utility infielder and either Paulo Orlando or Dyson as the fourth outfielder. It’s ridiculously thin, but Yost eschews the pinch hitter with gusto. Before Thursday, the Royals had used a pinch hitter 17 times all year, the fewest in the AL by far. Second to last is the Twins and they’ve sent up 38 pinch hitters. It’s just not part of Yost’s managerial tool kit. So when the team travels to the NL park, they seem to be handcuffed even more than your typical AL team.
So by going to the pinch hitter in the fourth, Yost needed another in the seventh (Orlando) when the pitcher’s spot rolled around again. That left two choices for the ninth: Coleman or Butera. The Unwritten Rules mandate your backup catcher can only be used as the last man off the bench, so Yost turned to Coleman. He isn’t having a good debut as a major leaguer. Coleman was overmatched by Trevor Rosenthal, couldn’t put the bat on the ball, and left the tying run at third. I heard the complaints about Coleman and I understand that, but the way Yost handles his regulars and his bench largely renders Coleman irrelevant. Until he becomes relevant. Like in the ninth inning of a one run game. National League baseball.
And by the way, those “defensive indifference” calls in the ninth on the Dyson and Escobar steals of second… Total horseshit. How on earth can the lead run in the ninth inning be allowed to move to scoring position and the official scorer call that indifference? Protecting Molina’s caught stealing percentage, I guess. Just another reason to love The Cardinal Way.
Thankfully, we can close the book on the St. Louis series. There may be sentiment that it would be cool to meet again in October, but I disagree. I was rooting against the Cardinals more than usual last October and I will do the same this year. Let’s keep this in the regular season, thank you very much. That’s plenty for me.