Remembering Yogi

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I woke up this morning, opened up Twitter and was met with the news that Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra had passed away at the age of 90. As a rabid baseball fan, this saddened me beyond words. Sure, we all know that death is inevitable, but at times it seemed like Yogi would live forever. Yogi Berra was everything good about baseball, a man who loved the game and loved the people inside of the game. I have never heard anyone say a foul word about Berra nor do I think I ever will. From all accounts he was a great human being, a man who was a Veteran, serving during World War II and was widely known for his witty and timeless quotes. You probably know the stats, as he was a 18 time All-Star and part of 10 World Series championship teams. Rather than just throw out a bunch of numbers or quotes (which there are equal of both) I thought I would throw out some little known facts about Yogi, the player, the person and the baseball man.

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  • Back in 1950, Berra accumulated 656 at bats while striking out only 12 times. 12 times!  In an era where some batters strike out 1/3 of that amount in one game, this is an insane feat. In fact, the most strikeouts Berra ever racked up in one season was 38 back in 1959. If you are like me, a guy who hates how much batters strike out nowadays, this is a great accomplishment that holds up immensely today.
  • On the other end of that spectrum, Yogi was not one to take a walk very often. Berra’s highest walk total was 66 back in 1952. Berra was a notorious bad ball hitter, which proved to be very successful for him.
  • Berra was originally shunned by the St. Louis Cardinals, as they instead signed catcher Joe Garagiola. Then Cardinals President Branch Rickey though had ulterior motives, as he was about to leave to work for the Dodgers. Unfortunately, Rickey was too late as the Yankees offered Berra the deal Garagiola got from St. Louis and Berra would forever be a Yankee(except for 4 games as a Met in 1965).
  • Berra once drove in 23 runs in a doubleheader when he was in the Class B Piedmont League. True story.
  • David Seideman wrote an article about Berra once for Forbes.com and told this story about Yogi:

One my favorite all-time Yogi Berra stories you’ve never heard involves a friend named Mark who was a huge Yankees fan. He once brought an 8×10 photo for him to sign at a charity golf tournament. Mark delicately put his signed photo in an envelope and took it home. He later pulled it out, only to discover that Yogi had signed it— not to Mark, but to himself: “To Yogi, Yogi Berra.”

  • Berra was not a very big man-listed as 5’7″, 185 lbs-which led to many great quotes about his stature. Former Yankees GM Larry MacPhail once said when Berra was signed by New York that Berra looked like “the bottom half of an unemployed acrobatic team.” Former Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain would tell a police officer who was arresting him for a DUI that Berra “might not be as tall as the front of your car.”
  • Berra’s mentor was former Yankees catcher Bill Dickey, whose number Yogi took. Berra would later say “I owe everything I did in baseball to Bill Dickey.”
  • Yogi once met the Pope:

Reporter: “I understand you had an audience with the Pope.”

Yogi: “No, but I saw him.”

Reporter: “Did you get to talk to him?”

Yogi: “I sure did. We had a nice little chat.”

Reporter: “What did he say?”

Yogi: “You know, he must read the papers a lot, because he said, ‘Hello, Yogi.’ ”

Reporter: “And what did you say?”

Yogi: “I said, ‘Hello, Pope.’ ”

  • Yogi stories are the best:

“My favorite Yogi story,” says former Yankee first baseman Roy Smalley, “is about the time he went to a reception at Gracie Mansion [the residence of New York’s mayor]. It was a hot day and everybody was sweating, and Yogi strolled in late wearing a lime-green suit. Mayor Lindsay’s wife, Mary, saw Yogi and said, ‘You certainly look cool,’ and he said, ‘Thanks. You don’t look so hot yourself.’ If that isn’t true, I don’t want to know it isn’t.”

  • Berra was considered a clutch hitter throughout most of his career. Pitcher Early Wynn declared Berra “the real toughest clutch hitter,” grouping him with Cleveland slugger Al Rosen as “the two best clutch hitters in the game.” Berra had a career postseason line of .274/.359/.452 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI’s over 79 playoff games.
  • Despite his size, Berra was a great receiver. Berra was quick mobile and a great handler of pitchers, and was the first catcher to leave a finger outside the glove, a style most other catchers eventually emulated.
  • Berra wasn’t just a great receiver. Yogi would position his teammates on the field, putting fielding shifts in place decades before managers were doing so on a regular basis. “Why has our pitching been so great? Our catcher, that’s why,” Casey Stengel once said.
  • Yogi once caught an entire 22 inning, 7 hour game against the Tigers.
  • According to the win shares formula developed by Bill James, Berra is the greatest catcher of all time and the 52nd greatest non-pitching player in major-league history. I am not one to argue with Bill James.
  • Berra’s peak salary in during his playing career was $65,000 a year in 1957, at least according to Yogi.
  • Berra would capture a pennant twice as a manager: once for the Yankees(1964), once for the Mets(1973).
  • In 1996, Berra received an honorary doctorate from Montclair State University, which also named its own campus stadium Yogi Berra Stadium, opened in 1998, in his honor.
  • Yogi is one of only five players to win the American League MVP award three times.

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There is so much more that could be said about Yogi Berra, and all of it would be worth the read. I think more than anything though, Yogi was what is great about this game of baseball. In no other sport is the past and present woven together quite like baseball and many players of the last ten years acknowledge that they were better players and people because of Berra, including Derek Jeter and Craig Biggio. If you write about baseball in any manner, you should be writing about Yogi Berra and what he meant to you and the game of baseball. Berra was witty and funny, charming and magnetic, a family man and a baseball man. More than anything, Yogi was Yogi and baseball is better because of that. Thank you, Yogi.

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It’s Not Easy Being On the Royals Playoff Roster

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It’s that time of year, where the leaves turn colors, the hoodies are dragged out of the closet and, if you are lucky, your favorite baseball team can start thinking about the playoffs. This also means that as a fan you can start piecing together how you think your team’s playoff roster will look. As a Kansas City Royals fan, we never knew this was a ‘thing’, since up until last year we never had to worry about the Royals playing October baseball. But with Kansas City’s magic number currently sitting at ‘3’, it is pretty safe to say they will be playing past October 4th and hopefully deeper into the postseason. With that said, I was asked over the weekend what I thought the Royals playoff roster would look like. So here is my guess, although to be honest it looked a bit different than on Friday.

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Catchers(2): Salvador Perez, Drew Butera

Infielders(5): Eric Hosmer, Ben Zobrist, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Christian Colon

Obviously, this was fairly easy, since you have the four starting infielders and a backup. Originally I felt like Omar Infante would get picked over Colon, despite the fact that Colon is more versatile whereas Infante is solely a second baseman. Then Omar came up with an oblique injury on Friday, which could sideline him for close to a month if not longer. As most also know, Zobrist can also play the outfield so he could almost be counted as an infielder and an outfielder if necessary.

Outfielders(5): Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Rios, Jarrod Dyson, Jonny Gomes

There was some debate just a week ago that Rios could be on the outside looking in for a roster spot due to his poor performance most of this year. Then he went out last week, continuing his hot hitting since his return from the chickenpox(which is not a minor league team in the Frontier League) and pretty much sewed up a spot for the playoffs. In my mind this pushed Paulo Orlando off the team, as I think the Royals will want Jonny Gomes’ bat for pinch hitting late in the game or against a tough lefthander. I had an argument with someone over Gomes being on the team, as I am of the belief that he was acquired for the sole purpose of being used in the playoffs while this other person who will not be named believes he won’t because the Royals aren’t using him much. I guess we will see, but in the playoffs I can’t see the reasoning behind six outfielders, or having Orlando on the team for solely defensive purposes. But, there might be a spot for him otherwise, which I will get to later.

DH(1): Kendrys Morales

Starting Pitchers(4): Johnny Cueto, Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Kris Medlen

This seems pretty self-explanatory, especially once Danny Duffy was sent to the bullpen. I still laugh when thinking about some of the Royals fans believing that Cueto might not be on this roster if he continued to under-perform. The wild card in this group is Yordano Ventura; if he pitches like he has over the last 4-6 weeks then he will be a solid number two. If he reverts back to his form from earlier this year there could be an issue. I also think Medlen could be a major player, which seems a bit inconceivable considering where he was at when the season started(starting the climb back from Tommy John Surgery). This isn’t the most solid group but if they can go 5-6 innings every game in the playoffs, hopefully the bullpen can do the rest.

Relievers(8): Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales, Danny Duffy, Luke Hochevar, Chris Young, Greg Holland

Speaking of, the bullpen is still a strong suit for this Kansas City team but not quite the monster it was last year. Greg Holland has fallen from grace and it was announced earlier today that Wade Davis is the closer going forward while Holland’s role on the team is to be determined. It also came to light that Holland has been dealing with an elbow issue since the All-Star break and isn’t reliable enough to close games for Kansas City. I’m not shocked to learn Holland was hurt, as I have suspected it most of this year, but this puts a giant question mark into the playoff roster. Can Holland be relied on to perform in any close game, even if that means coming in as early as the 6th inning? Or is he past the point of being trusted in such a situation and be completely left off the roster? I really don’t have an answer to this, but I also know manager Ned Yost is a loyal person and might keep Holland around for that reason only. The other options would be to leave him off while adding Paulo Orlando to the team, trusting that a 7-man bullpen is good enough in the ALDS, or you add young pitcher Miguel Almonte to the pen. Almonte has been a mixed bag so far in September and probably isn’t ready for the big stage, but he does have electric stuff and if used in the proper situation could be a viable option. IF Holland is left off the roster, Orlando very well could be the one given the nod.

July 03, 2015: Kansas City Royals Manager Ned Yost relieves Kansas City Royals' starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (11) in the seventh inning during a Major League Baseball  game between the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The Royals won in ten innings, 3-2.

The other roster question for the bullpen is whether to go with Chris Young or Jeremy Guthrie as the long reliever. I know there some Royals fan snickering right now for even mentioning Guthrie, but hear me out. Over the weekend I felt like it could be Guthrie, since he was given the starting nod once Duffy was shuffled to the pen and because Chris Young hasn’t been used much over the last couple months. In fact, in August Young didn’t throw more than an inning in any outing, and only appeared in five games during the entire month. Young does have a 2 and a 3 inning outing so far in September, but I would imagine his arm isn’t stretched out like it normally would be. Plus, I couldn’t imagine Young, an extreme fly ball pitcher, to see any action in Toronto, New York, or even Arlington or Houston’s ballparks. Those ballparks are pretty much all hitter’s parks, or in other words a nightmare for a guy who gives up lots of fly balls. So the only action Young would see would probably be at Kauffman Stadium and that cuts down how often you could use him. But then Guthrie looked atrocious on Tuesday night against Seattle and pretty much assured that he would be left off of any and all playoff rosters. Great guy, but Guthrie has had an awful season that isn’t getting better. So Young gets the nod over Guthrie, but hopefully there won’t be much of a need for him come October.

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So there you go, my guess as to what the Royals first round playoff roster will look like. Like I said, there could be a few slight changes to this and with a week and a half left in the season there is the possibility someone else could get hurt or there could be a need for a bit more depth in an area I hadn’t thought of. At the end of the day it is great to even be able to have this conversation, no matter how much bickering goes on about which player stays or goes. With September being a rough month, I think I speak for lots of Royals fans by saying “let’s just start the playoffs already”. Trust me, it will be here soon enough, as we get to engulf ourselves in another ‘Blue October’.

Alex Rios Has Awoken!

Kansas City Royals’ Alex Rios hits a double off Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Gavin Floyd during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

2015 has not been the season that either the Kansas City Royals or Alex Rios were counting on when Rios signed a 1 year, $11 mill dollar contract on December 19th of last year. The Royals might not have expected 2012 Alex Rios(where he hit .304./.334/.516 with 25 home runs, 91 RBI’s and an OPS+ of 126) but was hoping for a bit more production than the Texas Rangers got from Rios in 2014(4 homers and 54 RBI’s with a 97 OPS+). Instead, Rios was hit by a pitch the first week of the season and hadn’t rebounded from it since. That is until Rios came down with a case of the chickenpox(yes, that is still a thing) and has been lighting the ball up since his return on September 8th. In fact, Rios has probably gone from a man just on the outside looking in for a spot on the ALDS roster to the very probable starting right fielder when that game gets underway on October 8th.

Apr 6, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals right fielder Alex Rios (15) connects for a two run home run in the seventh inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
(Denny Medley-USA TODAY)

As late as one week ago it appeared that Rios wasn’t going to be on the Royals Division Series roster, as he had been struggling all year and the team had the likes of Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson, both better defensively than Rios, and Jonny Gomes, a solid bat off the bench that kills lefties. Royals manager Ned Yost was continuing to play Rios every day, for a couple of reasons. For one, he had just gotten back from his bout with the ‘pox’ a week earlier and deserved at least a chance to get back into a rhythm. The second reason is in that same vein, as the team was hoping Rios would hit a hot streak and take off, earning himself a spot on the roster, as the Royals would love to go with the hot hand(funny choice of words there) headed into October. There is also that bit about the Royals paying him a decent amount of money; we can act like that isn’t a reason but I would be shocked if it wasn’t. Now, to say Rios has been hot in the last two weeks might just be an understatement.

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Since Rios’ return on September 8th, he has a line of .366/.386/.610 for an OPS of 996 and a BAbip of .394. The part of this that illicited a ‘Wow’ out of me was his slugging, a robust .610 in that span. Over the last few years, Rios lack of power has been a major concern since throughout his career he has shown he can accumulate a decent amount of extra base hits which is what the Royals were hoping for when he was signed. Problem is that Rios has dealt with hand and wrist issues over the last few years which seem to have sapped his power. Rios dealt with an ankle and thumb injury last year with the Rangers, then seemed to be battling a re-occurrence of that thumb inury in Spring Training earlier this year. Then there was the fractured hand he received thanks to a wild rookie on the Minnesota Twins that halted his good start to the season during the second week of April. Hands and wrists are very important to batters, as that is where a lot of the power a hitter shows comes from. Rios can probably blame the regression of his career on these injuries, as they seemed to have sapped most of his power he showed even as recent as 2012.

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But you wouldn’t know that his power numbers have dipped these last couple seasons if you have watched him in September. Like I said, his slugging this month is .610, as he has 4 doubles, 2 homers and 5 RBI’s. Throw in a couple walks, a stolen base and 8 runs and you are looking at a man who might have realized his chance of getting to the playoffs might be slipping through his own fingers. What is really great about these numbers is how far they have jumped in just a few short weeks. Rios’ slugging percentage is up 30 points while his OPS is up over 40 points. Even his on-base percentage is up 10 points while he has doubled his home run total,  all this in just a few weeks. Breaking it down even farther, just within the last week Rios is hitting .375/.400/.583 with 3 of those extra base hits during that span. I have to believe that Rios has leapfrogged Orlando for a spot on the Royals playoff roster, a spot that would break a streak you don’t want to be a part of in baseball.

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If Rios makes the Royals Division Series roster, he will have broken a streak that no player wants to be a part of; he has played the most games of anyone active in baseball right now without playing in a playoff game. Rios’ streak of 1679 games over 12 seasons is the most in baseball at the moment, with the next man also looking to break his streak this season, 1392 games by Jose Bautista of Toronto. If Rios plays in just one playoff game he will fall off this list, as the next two players look to disappear off this list as well(Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion). Chase Headley follows them 1109 games, but that could fall as well with the Yankees possibly making the Wild Card game. If that happens, Adam Lind of Milwaukee would become the active player without a playoff appearance with over 1100 games by that point. As much as there are some great names on this all-time list(Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and George Sisler just to name a few), as a player you want no part of this. That is yet another incentive for Rios to keep up his hot hitting.

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There is no guarantee that Rios will 100% be on the playoff roster, but with only two weeks remaining in the season it looks like a good bet that he will be and start in right field for game 1 of the ALDS. The Royals really haven’t gotten what they expected from Rios this season(and I wouldn’t expect him back in 2016) but he has gotten hot at the right time. There are a lot of choices for the motivation, whether it be being left off the roster, wanting to break his streak of avoiding October baseball or even the threat of shingles, but what can be said is the Royals need Rios to hit like he has lately to help them next month. Many players have come out of nowhere to become October darlings, guys like Mark Lemke. I wouldn’t have any problem with Rios’ name being added to that list, even if it means negating what the previous five months have shown us about his production. At this point, it appears Alex Rios is awake and making pitchers pay for it. Let’s hope this Rios sticks around for another month.

Dirty South Is No Longer Dirty

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Go back to October of last year. The Royals are one out away from wrapping up the ALCS and making their first trip to the World Series since 1985. The Royals have their closer on the hill to finish Baltimore, a job that Greg Holland has done countless times over the previous three seasons. I can’t get the image out of my head, as Mike Moustakas throws the ball over to first baseman Eric Hosmer and the celebration has begun for Kansas City, including Holland and catcher Salvador Perez embracing in-between the mound and home plate. It was simple back then; Holland comes in and closes the door on another Royals win. Despite the fact that it has been less than a year since that happened, it seems miles away from where Holland is at right now. In fact, the question is being asked: Can the Royals afford to keep Holland as their closer as the playoffs loom?

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It all started during Spring Training. Scouts talked about how the Royals bullpen arms looked a bit haggard after playing deep into October and more specifically that Greg Holland looked tired. There was some concern back then, but it appeared to be nothing to concern ourselves about once the season started. Early on Holland seemed fine, although his velocity was down a hair. Instead of consistently hitting 96 mph, Holland was only cranking it up to 93 mph with the occasional 94-96 sprinkled in. Then on April 18th, he was placed on the disabled list for a ‘right pectoral strain’. Holland would sit out until May 6, which saw his activation and return to the team.

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Despite the fact that Holland was back and swore he was healthy, something didn’t feel right. The numbers showed it as well. Throughout May, Holland was only striking out 7 per 9 while averaging over 8 walks per 9 innings. He was still stranding runners at a proficient rate(over 80% of the time) but it did appear that location was an issue, as was a dip in velocity. In May, this wasn’t a major issue. Holland had missed most of the first month of the season so it was understood it might take a bit to get his legs underneath him. That’s fine, as the Royals were winning and Wade Davis and the rest of the bullpen could pull some of the extra weight.

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June, July and August saw his strikeouts go back up to a normal rate and walks would go down to about 4 per 9 innings. Holland has always been a bit of a tightrope walker, so in some ways these months it was par for the course. The only difference was the velocity. What was once a consistent 96 mph for Holland had now become a 93 and sometimes closer to 91. His other pitches seemed to be on par velocity-wise, although his curveball has seen a dip as well. What has always been great about Holland was the fastball was a way to set up the slider, which is normally his “go to” pitch. Problem is that with his fastball velocity now diminishing, it makes the disparity between the two pitches a little bit less. It also appeared during these months that Holland wasn’t comfortable on the mound, as his wind-up and arm slot didn’t seem consistent. My worries from earlier in the year started coming back in August, as it had been awhile since Holland had looked right and I still wasn’t convinced he wasn’t hurt.

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Let’s go back to August 13th. The Royals are playing the Angels and are holding the lead as Holland comes in to lock down the game. Twenty nine pitches later and the lead is gone, as Holland had given up 4 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks. It was the first game Holland had pitched in four days and the next day Royals manager Ned Yost talked about how Holland was a pitcher who needed more regular work and the team would try to use him more regularly. A couple of interesting points came out of this. First, here is a comment from pitching coach Dave Eiland about the concerns with Holland:

“Everything hasn’t really fallen into place the way he’s wanted to,” Eiland said. “But he’s fine. I have absolutely zero concerns about him. I mean, there’s things I address with him all the time, just like the other 12 guys I have, that we’ve got to stay on top of. There were some things I saw last night, but I’m not going to publicly say what they are.”

But it wasn’t just the issues that we will not speak of. No, there was also this from Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star about what rival scouts had seen in Holland during this period:

A survey of rival evaluators revealed a diagnosis that is both simple but troubling. With his fastball velocity reduced, Holland can no longer overpower batters at the plate. He has also struggled to throw strikes with his breaking ball, a reality that is common knowledge among his opponents. So he has become more prone to walks, while hitters can square up his fastball.

It makes sense, as his fastball makes his off-speed pitches more important. But when he isn’t able to get them over for strikes, then Holland has to either fall back on the fastball or keep trying his breaking ball. It is a lose-lose situation.
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The consistent work, which is what the Royals had claimed was the biggest issue with Holland this year, was not held up like we were told. Holland would pitch about every 2-3 days during August, but near the end of the month Holland had what Yost referred to as a “cranky arm” and had four days between appearances, August 22 to August 27. On the 27th, Holland came into the game in the 9th inning, with the Royals up 5-1. Holland gave up 2 runs in his inning of work and it was what many have said; velocity was down on the fastball and he couldn’t locate the breaking ball. Luckily he was able to get out of the jam and preserve the win for the Royals. The ‘consistent work’ theory does have legs to it as Holland would come in the next night against Tampa Bay and throw up a bunch of goose eggs. In fact, if you look throughout August, if Holland pitched back to back days, or within a day of his last outing he seemed sharper and his pitches had more break. He even had a few outings during this month where the fastball was back up around 95-96 mph. It didn’t stay, but it was there for awhile. When there were longer stretches between outings, Holland not only had lower velocity on the fastball, but his breaking ball couldn’t find the strike zone.
Aug 14, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Drew Butera (9) talks to relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City won the game 4-1. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
(John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports)

So far in September, Holland has been a ghost. His first game this month wasn’t until September 8th, nine days between appearances. He didn’t give up a hit or a walk, but the velocity was back down again. He would look a little bit better the next night against the Twins, as he would toss another inning in a loss. The Royals have decided within the last month to only bring Holland in whenever the game is close or he has  a save situation, which seems like a recipe for disaster. If consistent work helps him be sharper and gives his pitches more bite, you get him in every few days. Doing this saves you from an outing like Tuesday night in Cleveland. Holland came in to preserve a 2-0 lead against the Indians, Holland’s first appearance in five days. Early on it was obvious he did not have his stellar stuff. In fact, Holland didn’t even have that 91-93 mph fastball he has been using most of this year:

It was as bad as you would think. Luckily, Holland got out of the jam:

Late last week, Mike Petriello of MLB.com looked at Holland’s velocity AND spin rate. Take a look for yourself:

Okay, you might be asking “what does spin rate cover and how does that affect a pitcher’s pitches”? Good question! Here’s Petriello from a piece on Holland:

We know that high spin for a fastball correlates with swinging strikes, so that spin rate decline is just as alarming as the velo drop. As you’d expect, the decline we’re seeing has led to fewer missed bats. Through Aug. 14, which is the last peak on those graphs, Holland’s strikeout percentage was 27.3. Since then, it’s down to 20.0 percent.

It also has been noticed that Holland isn’t using that fastball as much as before, instead trying to rely on his slider:

Through Aug. 14: 48.5 percent fastballs, 44.9 percent sliders
Since Aug. 15: 38.2 percent fastballs, 57.3 percent sliders

The problem is, his slider has now seen a velocity drop as well, down to 83.18 mph in September(it was in the 85 mph range for most of this year). So even if the 87 mph fastball isn’t the norm going forward, it does appear that Holland is dealing with more than just a “cranky arm”. My theory that he has been hurt most of this year just took a giant leap forward this week.

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So where do the Royals go from here? It’s obvious that Holland isn’t as reliable as in years past, but I’m not 100% sure you take him out of the closer’s role. I know that sounds crazy, so hear me out. Wade Davis is the Royals best reliever. I think we can all agree on that. If you are like me, you believe that being “the closer” is just a name for the guy who wraps up the game. I am of the belief that you want your best reliever to pitch in the highest leverage situation, whether that be in the 7th, 8th or 9th inning. With that said, in those situations I want Davis on the mound, not Holland. If that means the 9th inning, so be it. Unfortunately, most managers don’t think that way and we can count Yost among that group. But the coaching staff is aware of Holland’s troubles and it seems they are at least monitoring the situation going forward:

“If it gets to be an issue, we’ll evaluate it,” Yost said. “It hasn’t become an issue yet. People want to get nervous because he’s throwing 90 or 91 mph. That’s fine. But right now, it really hasn’t become an issue. If it does, we’ll evaluate it.”

That seems like the team is willing to play with fire, at least until postseason. Come October we could have a different story:

“We’re not going to jeopardize anything once the playoffs starts,” Yost said. “We’re going to make sure (Holland is) 100-percent ready to nail it down. And when you talk to him, he’s like ‘I got this.’”

No pitcher will tell you different(well, maybe Matt Harvey) but it does appear as if the Royals are trying to be loyal to Holland while also acknowledging a move might have to be made. Relievers on average have a short shelf life and closers seem to only stay in that role for a couple years at a time, on average. I am still of the belief that Greg Holland is hurt and while the Royals have tried coaxing him and his arm all throughout this season to get him to the playoffs, at this rate Holland might just be another arm down in the pen come October. Some of us Royals fans have referred to Holland over the years as “Dirty South” due to the filthiness of his pitches and the way they drop out of the strike zone. As of right now, there is nothing filthy or dirty about Holland’s pitching repertoire and that doesn’t seem to be changing. If that is case, I’m not for sure I want to see Holland pitching in October and I hate the thought of that.

 

 

Free As a Bird: Orioles Continue Royals Slide

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It feels like weeks since I have done a review of a Kansas City Royals series and in some ways it has. Life sure has a way of getting in the way of fun, although there is little joy in Mudville right now. That’s right, the Kansas City Royals are on a downward projectory with only a few weeks left in this regular season and the villagers are freaking out. Well, some of them are. I am not. In fact, I say lets get this losing cycle out of the way. The Royals struggled a bit this past weekend in Baltimore, a series that saw the Orioles take two of three from Kansas City. There was some good, some bad and even the downright ugly. Let’s meander over and see what all this series meant for the Royals of Kansas City.

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas, right, celebrates his grand slam with teammates Ben Zobrist (18), Kendrys Morales and Lorenzo Cain (6) in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Series MVP: Mike Moustakas

On the surface, it wasn’t a blow away series for ‘The Man We Call Moose’. But it’s hard not to give this achievement for one lone game when it is one of the best in franchise history. On Saturday, Moustakas went 3 for 5, hitting 2 home runs and driving in 9, which is a new Royals record:

So what is even better about this? How about the fact that this monster achievement could have entirely been the source of a ‘mechanical adjustment’:

Still not impressed?

Here is the 2nd home run, the one that pushed him to 9 RBI’s in the game:

Overall, Moustakas went 4 for 14 in this series, with a total of 11 RBI’s. Over the last month we have gone from Moustakas going back to his pull-happy days of 2014 before reverting back to the Moose we saw earlier this season, that opposite field hitter we call ‘Oppo-Moose’. It has been a crazy season for Moustakas, one that was more of a struggle than any of us knew. Word got out this weekend about his mother passing away last month, as she had been battling cancer over the last couple of years. It has been something Moustakas has been dealing with for awhile now and I’m sure it weighed heavy over the last month. Hopefully Moose can finish the year strong and possibly even reach a plateau, like that 20 home run mark, since he is only two away.

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(Most Talked About)Pitching Performance of the Series: Johnny Cueto 

The most talked about topic with the Royals nowadays is the performance of Johnny Cueto and why he is struggling so much. It’s pretty obvious that Cueto has hit a bump in the road, which wasn’t helped by his start on Sunday night. Cueto went 6.1 innings, giving up 11 hits and 8 runs(7 earned) while walking 1 and striking out 3. It gets worse when you go back to August 21st, which is five starts ago and when this stretch of confusion sat in for Cueto. In those five starts, Cueto has thrown 26.1 innings, giving up 48 hits and 30 runs(28 earned) while walking 5 and striking out 20. That leaves Cueto with an ERA of 9.57 and opposing hitters have a BAbip of .417. It’s even worse when looking at hitters slash line against him: .390/.411/.675. So what is going on? Oh, there are theories and so far no one theory is the sole answer. The Royals felt like he was tipping his pitches for awhile, or that he wasn’t getting as much movement on his pitches as he normally does:

That was debunked Sunday, as his pitches had good life and there were no noticeable tipping going on. Injured? He says no and has been saying no for weeks. Lost command of his fastball and hung some off-speed pitches? Early on, yes, but not really recently. He has been leaving more pitches up in the strike zone than normal, as normally he would keep the ball down more. There is also this; Rob Neyer recently wrote a piece on Cueto and I found this very telling:

One odd thing about Cueto’s pitching in recent weeks: the range of speeds on his fastball seems to have gotten significantly smaller. Prior to his last seven starts, his fastballs in a game typically ranged from 87 to 96 miles an hour. In his last seven starts, though? Cueto hasn’t thrown a single fastball slower than 91. His two-seam fastball and his change-up are his second and third pitches, and those also have shown less variance lately. Which might suggest that he’s a little too amped up, and is simply overthrowing.

So there is that as well. Funny thing, his strikeout to walk ratio with the Royals is better than when he was with Cincinnati, in fact better than at any other time in his career over a full season. More than anything it appears he has hit a slump where he is leaving the ball up and losing confidence. That has made some of us ask some very poignant questions:

Some Royals fans have suggested he be left off the playoff roster. That isn’t happening. He still has about 4 starts left this season and after that will determine his fate. At worse he comes out of the pen, or becomes the fourth starter. It would be insane to keep Cueto off the playoff roster considering his status in the league over the last five years. I know I have my concerns, but I’m also not majorly worried…yet. It does appear that a wise sage doesn’t agree with my estimate:

It will be interesting to follow. What we do know is that even if this keeps up, the Cueto trade isn’t the worse in Royals history:

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It sure seemed as if Moustakas and Cueto were the only talking points in this series, but they weren’t. A visit to ‘Charm City’ brought some news and notes for these Royals:

  • I mentioned that Moustakas had his one monster game, but Lorenzo Cain put together a good series for the Royals. Cain was 4 for 13, with 2 home runs and 3 RBI’s, with both homers coming on Friday night. Cain is continuing his push in the American League MVP race, one in which he will probably come up short but should end up in the top five. In fact, Cain is hitting .310/.362/.643 so far in September and looks to continue that into October as the Royals push for their first championship since 1985.
  • Royals manager Ned Yost has started using a more logical batting order as of late, moving high OBP hitters like Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist batting 1-2 while Alcides Escobar has slid back down to 9th in the order:

I’ve been highly critical of Yost over the years, but since last October it’s almost like he has become a wizard and figured out that logical managing is easier than he thought. I love this move and have zero complaints about it. Good job by Neddy. There. I said it.

  • If there is a major concern I have with this club, it is the bullpen. One issue is the lingering physical issues Wade Davis continues to battle:

As if that wasn’t enough, Greg Holland’s velocity has fallen and it can’t get up:

But there’s more! Looking at the bullpen’s numbers over the last month and they are posting a -0.1 WAR and a 4.71 FIP, both ugly numbers. Strikeout and walk rates aren’t too bad but the ERA is around 3.79 in that span, very human for this stellar pen. It gets worse. Over the last two weeks, they are the worst bullpen in the American League, posting a -0.5 WAR, a 5.91 FIP and an ERA of 6.00. Their strikeout rate in this period is the middle of the pack, but the walk rate is the second highest in the league and their HR/9 is only ahead of the Red Sox. This is alarming since this group has been one of the hallmarks of this team the last few years and what was once a guarantee now seems like a question mark. Hopefully the bullpen ship can be righted before October, otherwise more rocky waters could be on the way.

  • Finally, don’t look now but someone has woken up Alex Rios! Rios was 5 for 10 in this series, with 2 doubles, a home run and 3 RBI’s against Baltimore. In fact, since returning from his bout with the chickenpox, Rios has a line of .353/.368/.647 and looks to be positioning himself for a spot on the playoff roster. There have been many discussions about whether or not Rios will be on it, considering you have Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando as better defensive options and Jonny Gomes as a major bench contributor, but if I was asked right now I would say he is on it. He might never have the power he had even three years ago, but if he can hit like he has over the last week than he has a valuable spot on the roster.

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Tweets of Royalty 

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Only twenty games remain in this 2015 regular season for the Royals as their ‘Magic Number’ sits at 11. I think we can all agree this isn’t how we pictured things wrapping up in September, but Kansas City now has some work to do as time does start to run out. The Royals travel to Cleveland for four games this week, a great chance for this team to get back on track and knock off a few wins so some of the panicky Royals fans can calm down and enjoy the next month. Look at it this way; they can either slump now or slump once the playoffs begin. I will take now. It seemed elementary just a month ago but now it might take a little bit of work. If the Royals are going to clinch soon, they are going to have to do it within the division. Honestly, that’s how this should go down. Step 1, get back to basics. Simple as that.

Baseball After 9/11

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I just finished the 30 for 30 short “First Pitch” on ESPN, where they discuss President Bush throwing out the first pitch before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series and how that all came about. As always, this was a great short film that took us back to that time where in a lot of ways innocence was lost. The best part of it for me was recognizing how vital baseball was for this country to help it heal and try to move on from the tragedy of 9/11. Yesterday was the 14th year anniversary of that ominous date in history and rather than me write about, I felt a gallery of pictures from when baseball returned on September 17, 2001 was more fitting(and a few from when the Yankees returned to Yankee Stadium. They played the 17th in Chicago against the White Sox). This was the first day that Major League Baseball would return to playing games after 6 days off and it is hard not to see all the heavy hearts in these photos.

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New York Mets Mike Piazza rounds the bases on his two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium in New York, Friday, Sept. 21, 2001.  (AP Photo/Jeff Zelevansky)   Original Filename: BRAVES_METS_NYS216.jpg
                    (AP Photo/Jeff Zelevansky)

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New York Police Department Counter Terrorism Agent Sgt. Kevin Mikowski watches from a camera platform during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony before the New York Mets baseball game against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
                 (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
The Citizenship Through Sports Alliance (CTSA), a national organization that promotes sportsmanship among athletes, announced Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2002 that this photo by Associated Press photographer Mark Lennihan won first prize in CTSA's Good Sportsmanship Photo Contest.  The photo, from the first Major League Baseball game played in New York after the Sept. 11 attacks, shows New York Mets' Rick White, wearing an NYPD cap, embracing Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones before their game at Shea Stadium Friday, Sept. 21, 2001 in New York. CTSA says it sponsored the photography competition to raise awareness of the value of good sportsmanship. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
            (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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394801 05: New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani gestures before the Mets'' game against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium in Flushing, NY September 21, 2001 in the first major sporting event in the New York area since the World Trade Center disaster. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Allsport/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Allsport/Getty Images)

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Some of baseball’s great announcers also helped put this day in perspective. Here is former Cardinal’s announcer Jack Buck’s 9/11 poem:

Maybe most remembered for the day baseball returned was Mike Piazza’s dramatic late inning home run:

I could write more about this topic, but I feel in some ways I won’t be able to do it justice. There is always discussion about how baseball isn’t ‘America’s Pastime’ anymore, that football has passed it. But when times are hard, we turn to baseball. Baseball is woven into the fabric of America, so in some ways it will forever be what we turn to for escape from the reality of life. Fourteen years ago, we needed baseball and baseball needed us.

 

 

The Dark Knight and His Competitive Spirit

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There have been a lot of good times recently for the New York Mets, as they took over the lead in the National League East a few weeks ago as they try to make their first postseason appearance since 2006. They have a gaggle of young arms that any team in baseball would drool over if they had in their possession. They even acquired Yoenis Cespedes to help in their playoff run, hoping his impact bat and shotgun arm can help lead them to the ‘Promised Land’. But not so fast; Matt Harvey isn’t sure he can pitch much more this year.

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This all began earlier this week when Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, claimed that Harvey had a pitch limit this year that the Mets didn’t agree with. In fact Boras claimed it was the doctors who were imposing that limit:

 “This is not a club’s decision. This is a doctor’s decision,” Boras said. “Any club that chooses to defy a surgeon’s wishes is putting the player in peril.”

Obviously, Mets GM Sandy Alderson disagrees:

Alderson’s position seems to be that he intends to keep pitching Harvey, except for one more missed start, and that they would watch him closely and take it on a “case-by-case basis” should the Mets get deep into October. Alderson said it has been his understanding that they mostly need to avoid “fatigue” or a loss of “rhythm” (that means he can’t be expected to pick up and pitch after a lengthy layoff).

The Mets have been very cautious with Harvey so far this year, his first back from Tommy John Surgery, even going so far as using a six man rotation for a portion of the season(despite Harvey’s insistence it was “robbing him of innings). What is most interesting is that Boras says it’s the doctors who have laid down this innings limit:

In fact, it seems like no one can agree on what, if any limit, should be imposed on a pitcher returning from this invasive surgery:

Okay. So we know what the Mets think, and we know what Boras thinks. What about Harvey? In an article by Jon Heyman on Friday, he wrote this about Harvey:

“Both men do agree on one thing, and that is that Harvey badly wants to pitch. Alderson suggests this is all about Boras trying to limit the innings. But Boras said he has nothing to do with the number.”

So Matt wants to pitch, even using the word ‘badly’. Ummm, about that…

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Word got out on Saturday that Harvey agreed with the innings limit Boras was discussing earlier in the week:

Wow. Just wow. Here is a full comment that Harvey made:

“I’m the type of person, I never want to put the ball down. Obviously I hired Scott, my agent, and went with Dr. Andrews as my surgeon because I trusted them to keep my career going and keep me healthy. As far as being out there, being with my teammates and playing, I’m never going to want to stop. As far as the surgeon and my agent having my back and kind of looking out for the best of my career, they’re obviously speaking their mind about that.  Like I said, I hired Dr. Andrews to do my surgery. I hired Scott for a reason, and that’s to prolong my career and put me in the best possible position. Moving forward with that, I have one start in mind, and that’s Tuesday.”

Okay. So Harvey sounds very political here, almost like he doesn’t want to anger anyone involved. But it also sounds like someone got to him, like his agent. Let’s all be honest here; Scott Boras is known to put his wants and needs in front of his clients. Oh sure, he will tell you he is trying to do what is best for his client by putting them in a situation where that player can get above market value dollar wise. But who does that also benefit? Scott Boras. This feels like Boras convinced Harvey that the safer thing to do is stop now, for his future and his career. He might have even convinced him that Dr. Andrews had him on a pitch limit. But it doesn’t sound like this decision was made solely by Matt Harvey and Matt Harvey alone. So there is another question; is Harvey hurt?

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Harvey seems like a competitive guy and would want to be a part of the Mets playoff run if he could be. So this response makes one think he might just be hurt:

I’m not so sure we would even be debating this topic but Harvey has always struck me as a guy who was competitive to no end. But his comments on Saturday didn’t seem like someone who wanted to garner some postseason experience: Harvey was asked if he was hurt and replied “No. Not at all.” At this point we have to assume that he is telling the truth and his reconstructed elbow feels fine. Hey, if he is hurt then I have no issue with Harvey saying so and wanting to not push it. But if he isn’t then it seems odd that such a top level player would rather not take part in the playoffs, the whole reason most players even play the game.  If all this is so, it is easy to ask: how long will Matt Harvey still be a New York Met?

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It’s obvious the relationship between Harvey and the Mets is damaged. The Mets have been playing all season like Harvey could be a part of the team if October came calling. Now, not so much. Bob Klapisch wrote about this scarred relationship between the Mets and their star player. It’s apparent to everyone that Harvey seems out for himself:

“It tells you plenty about what comes first for Harvey: he wants to win, but not without prolonging his career. Harvey is not about finishing off this mini-miracle season in Flushing, but about his next stop, his next contract and perhaps his next team.”

Klapisch also goes on to mention that Mets management has never been too overly fond of Harvey:

“He could easily be traded. Look, Mets’ ownership has never been particularly fond of Harvey; they’ve never loved him the way they do David Wright, the ultimate company man. Harvey has always given off the vibe of an independent contractor. Fierce, but in it for himself.”

So with the Mets loaded in young arms like Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard, it is logical to think Harvey could be traded for a solid bat for the middle of their order. You hate to get rid of a top level arm like Harvey has, but one wonders if the damage to this relationship is severed so far it can’t be undone.

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey, left, speaks with manager Terry Collins in the dugout after he left the baseball game with the Miami Marlins in the eighth inning in Miami, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The Mets won 8-6. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
                        (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

One more topic that should be brought up to this argument; innings pitched might not be the proper barometer to measure how far Harvey should go this season. In fact, it would appear the better argument is pitches thrown.

Boras was comparing Harvey to other pitchers who returned from Tommy John Surgery and the differences between problems they have and the innings pitched by each pitcher. So instead of innings, what would total pitches look like?

You can even say that he hasn’t even gotten yet to his total thrown from 2013:

Look, going by pitches gives you a better idea of how much stress has been put on the arm and especially if you break it down farther by taking into accounts pitches per inning. The innings limit is nice, but if you really want to make sure Harvey stays healthy, wouldn’t this be a better way to keep track of his arm?

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So where do the Mets go from here? I have to believe there is still an outside chance Harvey pitches in October, maybe as a reliever, but pitches nonetheless. But what this issue has brought to the forefront is that Matt Harvey isn’t the team player he had been potraying himself to be. Instead, he is focused on contracts and what his total earnings will be at the end of the day. It also shows you the weight that an agent can have on a player. There are certain teams that Scott Boras is on good terms with and tends to do a lot of business with…and then there are the Mets. I can’t imagine Harvey will feel much love from much of anyone anytime soon, as he has put himself on an island by himself:

What I can promise you at this point is that this won’t be forgotten anytime soon by Mets executives or fans. I guess both can take solace in the fact they still have Bartolo Colon:

Sure seems a long ways from this:

Trust me Matt, Mets fans will remember what you look like now. Oh, they will remember.

 

Motown Mowdown: Royals Win Series Over Tigers

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Sure, there are series’ that are ho-hum and feel like just another day at the office. Then there are ones that are more important, or at least important to the mind. As we speak the Detroit Tigers are in last place in the American League Central, a once strong powerhouse now turned into a tamed kitty. Over the last five years we have seen the Tigers spank the Royals on such a regular basis that most of us got used to the routine. But the last two years have been a different story, as Kansas City has held their own and even taken a number of important games from the Tigers. So to say it felt good this week to see the Royals take two of three from Detroit would be an understatement. To see Kansas City pound the ‘Boys from Motown’ well, that felt great. Two blowouts of a division rival is enough to put the biggest smile on any fans face. So how did we get here? All it took was some solid all around baseball to get to your answer.

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Series MVP: Kendrys Morales   

There was some tough competition for this honor, as Lorenzo Cain and Ben Zobrist both put up some hefty numbers in these last three games. But Kendrys Morales was an offensive juggernaut against Detroit, going 8 for 14 with 2 home runs, 8 RBI’s, a BAbip of .600 and raised his OPS over 20 points. The first of his two home runs was hit on Tuesday night, in the Royals one loss in this series:

Morales would get another deep blast on Wednesday night, driving in 3 runs that night.

He came just a few feet short of a third home run in this series on Thursday, but had to settle for a double and 4 RBI’s. Morales is currently sitting at 98 RBI’s with four weeks left in the season but I can almost guarantee he won’t reach the all-time leader for RBI’s by a Royals designated hitter. Hal McRae owns that honor, driving in 133 runs back in 1982. Morales has shown this year that he still has some gas left in the tank(I will fess up to being one that thought he had begun his regression) and has been a vital cog in the middle of this Royals batting order. Morales has been hot as of late(.327/.417/.635 over these last two weeks) and hopefully he can continue this hot streak all the way into October.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Yordano Ventura  

Most concerns about Yordano Ventura were alleviated with his start on Wednesday night, a start that showcased just how dominate he can be. Ventura went 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 1 run while walking 1 and striking out 11. That is two consecutive starts that ‘Ace’ has struck out 11, a feat only duplicated by a few other Royals:

In fact Ventura has looked more like the pitcher we envisioned he would be this year over his last five starts, stringing together some numbers that can put a smile on even the most pessimistic fan’s face:

In some ways he just made the Tigers hitters look silly:

The most impressive part of his outing was how Ventura was able to mix his curveball and change-up in with his electric fastball. In fact, Ventura used his fastball only 57% of the time, while his curve was used 25% and the change-up 16%. Going back to the end of July and Ventura was using his fastball more(62%) while only using his curve sparingly(14%), even throwing in a few cutter’s. When Yordano has a good feel for his off-speed pitches he can set batters up with his fastball and then get them by throwing something off-speed. He has been able to do that a lot more this past month and if this is the Ventura we see the rest of the season, he easily locks down a spot in the postseason rotation.

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Down Goes Detroit! Down Goes Detroit!

The Royals offense is a curious thing. It’s not nearly as bi-polar as in year’s past, but it still has their moments. Then there are games like Wednesday and Thursday, where the Royals bats were so hot that I expected to see smoke rising off of them. Kansas City was able to get Detroit’s starters out of both games early, leaving the Tigers bullpen to try and stop the bleeding. Problem is, the Tigers pen is one of the worst in baseball. The Tigers pen has a -0.3 WAR so far this year(28th in baseball), 2nd highest FIP, 71% LOB percentage(26th in baseball) and an ERA of 4.76, the 2nd highest in baseball and highest in the American League.

So you can see why the Royals eyes got larger and feasted on this atrocity of a bullpen. It should be no surprise why Morales, Cain, Cuthbert, Orlando and Zobrist all contributed with home runs in this series and why the offensive numbers were off the table for these three games. In years past Detroit has been able to get away with a creaky bullpen due to their solid rotation and aggressive hitting. Now that some of those key parts have been traded and the team has had to deal with injuries, that pen becomes a giant bullseye for all teams to target. Knock out the Tigers starters and you have a good chance of picking up a ‘W’.

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Plenty of more goodness coming from this series win for the Royals. Brace yourself; time to spill out some news and notes from this first week of September:

  • Alex Gordon was activated on Tuesday, which was great news for those of us that worried Gordon would be lost for the rest of the season when he went down back in July. Instead, he made a quick recovery and got a heroes ovation in his first at bat back:

He would get a sac fly in that at bat, helping put Kansas City on the board. Gordon is a big part of this Royals team and having his back is nothing but a plus. It appears he will be batting 6th most of the time this month, but don’t be surprised if we see him hitting leadoff come October:

It’s great to have Alex back but if you want to understand the true depth of this team, check this out:

It’s almost like the Royals didn’t miss a beat. It does appear as if Alex will be rested fairly often, as he has been in the lineup about every other day since Tuesday. I am totally on board with this, as we want him as rested as possible before October rolls around. So yes, I am excited Gordon is back. But I’m not the only one:

  • The Royals beefed up their bench on Monday with an acquisition of Jonny Gomes from Atlanta:

Gomes has postseason experience and will mostly see action against left handers, as per his success against them:

He also isn’t too shabby playing at ‘The K’:

If things got bad enough, he could even fill in out of the bullpen:

He also can fight off a pack of wolves:

Good acquisition by Dayton Moore, as Gomes could be a solid bat off the bench in the playoffs. It also appears as if this trade was made because of the uncertainty of Alex Rios’ condition. Speaking of…

  • Word trickled out on Tuesday that Rios and Kelvin Herrera both came down with a case of chickenpox:

It’s a little unclear how this affects the team going forward. It looks like both players will be cleared to return in about another week, but chickenpox is much worse if you get it as an adult:

So it will be interesting to see if there is a period where Rios and Herrera play at not quite full speed. The good news is that it appears no one else on the team came down with the illness. It also appears as if we don’t have to worry about Morales and Gomes:

  • The September call-ups have begun:

There is a good chance we see quite a bit out of these guys, as manager Ned Yost rests his regulars throughout this month. It also appears this could be all we see of players recalled from the minors:

Some of these players have already become a necessity. All saw action in this series and Cuthbert saw starts in the last two games:

It also helps when you blow the other team out of the water for two straight nights. Just saying.

  • Justin Verlander started against the Royals Tuesday and was coming off of his one-hit effort against the Angels last week. But Verlander has a history with Kansas City:

Verlander went 6.2 innings, giving up 7 hits and 4 runs(2 earned) while walking 1 and striking out 4. The Royals didn’t dominate him but you could also say the same about Verlander. Maybe it’s because the two teams play each other so much, but it definitely seems like the Royals are not fooled by Verlander. Verlander might look more like the Verlander of old, but the Royals are not impressed.

  • The Royals celebrated their ‘Franchise Four’, which was selected by the fans before the All-Star game this summer. George Brett, Frank White, Bret Saberhagen and Dan Quisenberry were chosen for this honor and it was great to see three of the honorees on the field this week:

All four men hold a special place in my fandom, as they were all prevalent stars when I began watching baseball in the 1980’s. It was also great to see Frank White out there, as he has been at odds with Royals management over the years and has only been at a few games since his firing a few years ago. I had been asked when this voting was going on who my four would be, and this was who I chose. I think there are legitimate arguments for the likes of Willie Wilson, Kevin Appier and Amos Otis, but I think the fans chose the right four. Hopefully we get to see White return next month to throw out a first pitch before a playoff game. Yes, fingers are crossed.

  • Finally, Johnny Cueto struggled in his start on Tuesday, the third straight start he has had issues. There was lots of concern about Cueto, but I’m not one of them. If he looked like he was compensating on the mound for an injury, or even had a loss of velocity I would have my worries. But it appears his problems are purely location:

Dave Eiland has already worked with Cueto and they think they have fixed an issue with his arm slot. Remember, three starts is a small sample size and while it is a bit concerning, we are talking about one of the best pitchers of the last four years:

Now, if he struggles again this weekend…

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Tweets of Royalty

Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain (6) celebrates with Salvador Perez after Cain hit a solo home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

So 29 games remain in this regular season for the boys in blue and the magic number continues to dwindle:

Most of us have been in a playoff frame of mind for awhile now, but Kansas City not only has to lock down the Central, but also home field advantage in the playoffs. Regulars will be rested during this month, but they also need to keep their eyes on the prize. The White Sox are headed into Kauffman Stadium this weekend to take on the Royals and while they haven’t performed up to expectations this year, they have given the Royals fits throughout the year. Kind of like that gnat that lingers and won’t go away, no matter how often you shoo it away. So by no means will this be an easy series. At this point, every win is another game closer to lowering that magic number. There will also be a battle for the 4th starter spot for the playoffs, which at this point looks to be between Kris Medlen and Danny Duffy. Three games up, hopefully at least two go in the win column. Steady wins the race, as has been the case all year for the Kansas City Royals.

An Ode To Alex

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I don’t know if you heard or not, but Alex Gordon was activated off the disabled list earlier this week and returned to left field for the Kansas City Royals. Gordon is the Royals best player and in a lot of ways is the definition of what is right with the Royals. With that said, I figured I would celebrate his return with some Gordon highlights from over the years. If you are like me, you will fawn over every great play he makes; it’s just how it goes. It’s just Alex Gordon doing Alex Gordon things.

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Welcome back, A1! I think I speak for a lot of fans by saying we’ve missed you these last six weeks. Let’s hope we aren’t seeing the last couple months of him in a Royals uniform. Let’s hope this is only the latest saga in a future Royals Hall of Fame career.

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