The Battle Over Proper Baseball Etiquette: Royals Lose Series to Striving Blue Jays

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Leading up to this past weekend, the Royals had been building some positive momentum. They were still on top of the American League Central. They still had the best record in the American League. Then there was the two giant acquisitions they made earlier in the week to acquire Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist, which you would think puts Kansas City right in line for favorites to be in the World Series. Then the Blue Jays went out and got Troy Tulowitzki. And Ben Revere. And Mark Lowe. And oh yeah, that David Price guy. A lot of the Royals thunder went to Toronto by the end of the week and many felt like this was a series that could be a window into a bigger playoff picture. This was a loaded four game series that was not weak for the heart, so let’s dive in.

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Series MVP: Ben Zobrist

Well, that didn’t take long. In Zobrist’s first games as a Royal he showed why fans like me have been praising his value for so long. Zobrist was 5 for 15 in this series, with 3 home runs, 6 RBI’s, a walk, a double and his slugging percentage went up over 40 points to .480. Zobrist hit two of those home runs on Saturday, one from each side of the plate:

To me that wasn’t even the part of his game that got me super excited. No, what I really loved seeing in this series was Zobrist work a count. I don’t know how many 2-2 or 3-2 counts I saw, but it is nice to see considering how most of the rest of the Royals are free swingers. Zobrist started out the series batting down in the sixth spot in the order, which seemed like a misuse of his on-base talents. Luckily, by the last two games Mike Moustakas was on the bench so Zobrist got a shot at the second hole. He seemed to really enjoy being near the top of the order, as was evidenced by his 4-7 in those two games with all 3 of his home runs and 4 of those 6 RBI’s:

If Zobrist continues to perform like this the Royals won’t miss Alex Gordon as much as expected, with the team feeling most of his loss on defense. I’m already excited to see Zobrist float around defensively; left field one game, right field another, then some time spent spelling Omar Infante at second. It is still early, but if the Royals are unable to re-sign Gordon this offseason, they should definitely take a long look at keeping Zobrist. I have a feeling his bat in this lineup would be a major plus while his glove would be paramount.

TORONTO, CANADA - AUGUST 2: Edinson Volquez #36 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch in the first inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on August 2, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Pitching Performance of the Series: Edinson Volquez

Edinson Volquez has been the rock of the Royals starting rotation in 2015. While Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura have been inconsistent, Volquez has picked up the slack. When Jeremy Guthrie has had trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark, Volquez has slowed the other team’s offensive attack. That success continued on Sunday, as Volquez would compile his 10th quality start of the year, throwing 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs while walking 3(and hitting a batter; more on that in just a bit) and striking out 4. Volquez did a good job of moving the ball around, in and out and then up and down. He kept the batters off-balance by constantly changing the view and was very adamant about pitching inside. In fact, that leads us to the biggest news story from this series…

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Sunday Afternoon is Alright For Fighting

Here we go again. First there was Oakland. Then there was Chicago. Now Toronto? First, let’s look at what happened. In the first inning Edinson Volquez got a pitch a bit too inside and plunked Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson:

Now, Donaldson has been red hot as of late and had been killing Kansas City during this series. I don’t fault Volquez for pitching him inside and as far as I could tell that wasn’t intentional, although after listening to Volquez postgame there is a chance it was done on purpose(sidenote: there was also a feeling amongst the Royals that Toronto was stealing signs during this series):

At that point the home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Fine by me, nip it in the bud as fast as possible. Then in the 3rd, Volquez came back up and in with an off-speed pitch to Donaldson. No intent there, it was just a pitch that got away. If you know your baseball, you are aware that no pitcher is trying to hit a batter with an off-speed pitch; that is just illogical and defeats the purpose of what you are trying to accomplish. I can understand why Donaldson would be frustrated, but no way he was being thrown at, although that didn’t stop him from throwing a little swag into his walk to first:

Onto the bottom of the 7th inning and Ryan Madson is now in the game for Kansas City. Madson, on the 7th pitch of a 2 strike at bat, would hit Tulowitzki, which many felt thought should have been an automatic ejection. Once again, there was no intent there, as there was no way, that deep into the at bat and with a runner on second, that Madson is intentionally hitting Tulo. It was just a pitch that got away. Donaldson was up next, and on a 2-2 count he would come up and in on Donaldson. Once again, I get why Donaldson would be frustrated, but no way Madson is trying to hit him with two runners on base and the Royals still in a position that they can win the game. Donaldson at this point is irate, flat out screaming at Jim Wolf:

Look, at this point in the game I 100% agree with how Wolf had called the game. Wolf did a great job of figuring out what was intentional and what was just pitches that got away. Wolf even understood why Donaldson was so livid and let him yell at him; I can’t imagine many umpires letting a batter show him up like that, even considering the situation. This brings us to the top of the 8th and with 2 batters out and none out, Aaron Sanchez uncorked a pitch that would get him ejected from the game:

I believe that pitch was intentional on Sanchez’s part. I even understand that Toronto felt like they needed to retaliate. But Wolf was going purely off of intent at this point, and Sanchez’s pitch was intentional and that was why he was ejected. This leads me to a whole other topic that bothered me watching this game; the hitters(more specifically, Donaldson) getting angry about a pitcher throwing inside. I get any balls thrown at or near one’s head; no hitter likes that and I don’t blame them. But Donaldson seemed to have a major issue with the Royals pitching him inside and I am sorry but no hitter owns that plate:

Not only that, but the Blue Jays hitters are notorious for leaning out over the plate. No pitcher wants a guy getting that comfortable at the dish and no hitter should be diving out over the plate and not expect to get plunked:

All I kept thinking watching this was a)If these guys did that to Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale they would probably be in a hospital somewhere and b)this whole thing made Josh Donaldson look like a child. Back in April I felt like the Royals were being babies during that A’s series that got out of control. On Sunday it felt like the Blue Jays were being oversensitive to a normal part of the game. All hitters take note: the plate is not yours and yours alone. A pitcher is allowed to pitch inside, especially if you crowd the plate with all of your body armor. You dive over it, you get nailed. I personally felt like Jim Wolf did a great job in this game and understood what was going on. That being said, there was a part of me that wished someone would have gotten thrown out on the Kansas City side just so this whole mess hadn’t escalated. Even impartial baseball fans like Grant Brisbee felt like Wolf called a good game but might have been better off just throwing Volquez out. I know there was a lot of discussion that this could be an interesting matchup in the playoffs, but I would rather not revisit this. There was more nonsense that went on after this on Twitter, but I’m not even going to discuss that. Here are some more tidbits from Sunday’s melee:

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But wait, there is more! Time for the news and notes from this four game series:

  • I’ve been chronicling Mike Moustakas’ hit total as of late, since he toppled his 2014 total with a few months of baseball remaining. What I haven’t mentioned is his struggles over the last month. In July, Moose hit .188/.271/..306 in 23 games. The power has been there, as he has clobbered 3  home runs while driving in 8, but Moustakas has gotten away from what worked earlier in the season, which was hitting the ball to the opposite field. During July, Moose has pulled the ball 36% of the time, hit to center 37%, and only hit the ball to left 26% of the time. It seems simple to me, but if Moustakas can start taking advantage of the whole field again, I think we could see him start to climb out of his current slump. Moustakas ended up sitting out both Saturday and Sunday; Saturday he pinch hit and was hit by a pitch, which caused him to sit out the next day.
  • If(if) the Royals have to face off with Toronto in the playoffs, it might be best to keep Ryan Madson off that roster. In 4 games this season against Toronto, Madson has thrown 1.2 innings, giving up 9 hits, 7 runs(5 earned) while hitting a batter and striking out 3. Yes, that gives him a glorious 27.00 ERA this year against the Blue Jays. Whatever it is, it appears Toronto has his number.
  • Once again, Mark Buerhle stifled the Royals offense on Saturday. In fact since 2013, Buerhle has held the Royals to 9 runs in 5 games. Buerhle isn’t going to blow anyone away but he hardly walks anyone(4 walks during those 3 years against Kansas City) and knows how to pitch. It goes to show you, kids, it’s all about location, location, location.
  • Hold on to your seat; Wade Davis gave up a home run!!!

Now, Davis also had some back stiffness this weekend. I am going to go ahead and blame it on that:

Hey, credit to Jose Bautista to turn on that high 97 mph heater. But still, it was because of Wade’s back. That is my story and I am sticking to it.

  • For not being a base stealer(like, ever), Kendrys Morales sure knows how to slide:

He also knows how to properly celebrate:

Okay then.

  • Yordano Ventura was breezing along on Saturday before giving up a couple of blasts to Bautista and Donaldson in the 4th inning.  Overall, he allowed five runs on six hits and two walks over seven innings. Ventura seemed to hit a wall in that inning and was forced to fight his way out of it. He seemed to be throwing his off-speed pitches a bit more in this game, but he was still leaving his fastball out over the middle of the plate. Ventura is still young and I’m sure will find his way but right now he is learning it’s not as simple as having a fastball that reaches triple digits. It might not be this season, but he will get there. This is the second straight start I saw improvement and I think it was good that manager Ned Yost kept him in to figure it out. It’s the only way he will learn.
  • Johnny Cueto had a decent outing in his first game as a Royal. Cueto went 6 innings, allowing 7 hits and 3 runs while walking 2 and striking out 7. It doesn’t matter how many times I see him pitch, all I see is Luis Tiant. He even did a butt-wiggle in mid-windup to try and throw the Blue Jays hitters off.
  • Eric Hosmer’s 14 game hitting streak was snapped on Sunday. Hosmer has been red hot most of July, hitting .375/.417/.554 since July 1st. Hopefully we will see more of the same throughout August.
  • Finally, Aaron Brooks, a former Royals dealt in the Zobrist deal, had a great first outing in Oakland:

Congrats, Aaron. Hope this means an extended stay in the majors is in his future.

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Tweets of Royalty

Jul 31, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Home Plate umpire Angel Hernandez (55) calls Kansas City Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales (25) safe at home plate during the first inning in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-216426 ORIG FILE ID:  20150731_ajw_bt2_047.jpg
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY

So the Royals are still leading the American League Central after losing 3 of 4 to Toronto, now ahead of Minnesota by 8.5 games. The team will have a much deserved day off on Monday(their first since the All-Star Break) before opening a three game series in Detroit against the Tigers. It will be nice for Kansas City to not have to face David Price or pitch to Yoenis Cespedes during these three games. Hopefully they can win this series before heading home to take on Chicago for three at ‘The K’. Normally, August is when teams that are going to fade start doing just that; at this point I don’t expect to see Kansas City slip too much in the standings. Hopefully there is regular rest during one of the hottest months of the year for their starters and players like Moustakas and Sal Perez can get out of their slumps. It’s a new month but the Royals should have the same game plan; win the whole thing.

 

 

Houston, You Have a Problem: Royals Extract Revenge, Beat Astros

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If you think back to about a month ago, the Royals visited the Astros in Houston and that series could very well have been the worst series for Kansas City so far in 2015. Houston swept the Royals with many stating that the Astros were now the best team in the American League. A month later, Houston travels to Kauffman Stadium to play three against the Royals, but the results were not the same. Not only did the Royals take this series two games to one, they also trumped Houston in the pitching acquisition market, picking up Johnny Cueto from Cincinnati for the stretch run while Houston had picked up Scott Kazmir from Oakland earlier in the week. But this series wasn’t just trades, sunshine and lollipops. Oh no, there was also games played with action involved. So what else stood out this past weekend? Read on and hopefully we can delve into all that is Royal.

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Series MVP: Alcides Escobar    

This wasn’t the easiest category for this series, as the offense was shut down on Friday night against Kazmir and didn’t do much more on Saturday. Luckily, Alcides Escobar had another good series and even came away with a game winning hit on Saturday. Escobar went 4 for 13 this series, but the big thing was his single to right on Saturday night scoring Paulo Orlando for the winning run:

This also lead to another postgame dousing:

Escobar didn’t scorch the ball for his big hit but was able to poke it into the outfield, away from the constantly shifting Houston defense. No one hitter stood out this series, but a guy who gets on base once every three times and gets a game winning knock is as good a choice as any for most valuable.

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura throws in the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, July 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
(AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Pitching Performance of the Series: Yordano Ventura

On Tuesday, Yordano Ventura was sent down to AAA Omaha to make room for Jason Vargas who was returning from a stint on the disabled list. By the next day Vargas was scheduled for Tommy John surgery and Ventura was told to stay put. Ventura had looked awful on Monday against the Pirates but Sunday against the Astros he looked like the ‘Ace’ we saw most of last year. Ventura went out on a hot and muggy Sunday and threw 7 innings, giving up 6 hits and 1 run while walking none and striking out 5. Ventura ended up with a game score of 66, tied for the third best he has had this year and it was well deserved. Ventura did a good job of locating his fastball away from the middle of the plate and had a good feel on the off-speed pitch. I’m not going to sit here and tell you he is fixed or that he won’t have another bad start this year. No, but what I will tell you is that it appeared he got the message from management that he needed to up his game and he did just that to wrap up a series win for the boys in blue.

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More stuff and things happened in a wild three game set at Kauffman Stadium this weekend. Let’s go diving into the news and notes:

  • Dusty Coleman was sent down before this series and infielder Cheslor Cuthbert was recalled for his second stint with the main team. It seemed a bit of an odd move in the sense that Cuthbert has only played about 3 games in his career at second base and has never played shortstop:

The thought was that if something happened to Escobar, Infante would shift over to shortstop and Cuthbert would roll to second base. That seems like a dicey proposition but everything else seems to be working this season, so why wouldn’t this?

  • Manager Ned Yost gave some of his starters a day off this weekend. Lorenzo Cain had Saturday off while both Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas had Sunday off. This was a smart move by Yost, as we are in the dog days of summer and the Royals need these guys to be as sharp as possible late in the season. I don’t always hand out compliments to Yost, but for this he deserves it.
  • Hold onto your seat: Alex Gordon is already throwing:

Want more good news? He wouldn’t tell Ned about it:

Want even more good news? Gordon plans on taking batting practice later this week. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Gordon will be back sooner than expected, but he seems to be working at a pace that would hint toward that happening. Just saying.

  • The Royals employed an all right-handed lineup on Sunday against their ace, Dallas Keuchel:

Keuchel gave up a season high in hits with 10 against the Royals and was also hit hard early by Kansas City:

This continues the Royals success this year against other team’s aces:

Chalk another one up for the good guys.

  • There has to be a little bit of concern as of late with Salvador Perez’s hitting. Over the last two weeks Perez has a line of .154/.209/.231 and over the last month he is hitting .186/.220/.360. I don’t know which is more impressive in that span; only 18 strikeouts or the 3 walks. Yost has been giving Salvy regular rest, so this just seems more like someone who is not very selective at the plate. Fixing Salvy’s offense could become a major project soon if it doesn’t improve.
  • The Mike Moustakas watch is now over. Moustakas has reached his hit total from 2014:

I am a big fan of Moose’s turnaround. The guy has put in the work and the results are apparent on the field. I know Albert Pujols is having a nice return to form but I would vote Moustakas as the Comeback Player of the Year.

  • Carlos Correa is already really good. Like ridiculously good. I’m afraid of how good he will be with some more maturity.
  • Danny Duffy continues his turnaround since returning from the disabled list. On Saturday Duffy threw 6 innings, giving up 3 hits and 1 run while walking 1 and striking out 3. His game score of 64 was tied for the second best score he has accomplished this season. If Duffy continues to sparkle, and Yordano can pitch more like he did on Sunday, then the Royals rotation is starting to look more formidable than it looked even just a week ago.
  • Oh, and the Royals picked up that Johnny Cueto guy. I wrote a few words about it here. It’s worth your time.

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Tweets of Royalty

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If you noticed a little bit more of a hop in my step, it would be because of all the great things happening right now for the Royals. Kansas City takes another series, have a big lead in the American League Central, have the best record in the American League and now have Johnny Cueto to lead the rotation. Can things get better? I’m not going to sit here and tell you no. The Royals have the Cleveland Indians next, a team that’s pitching scares me but continue to under-perform.  After those three games the Royals will travel to Toronto for four against the Blue Jays and then three in Detroit. It’s not the easiest schedule but as long as the Royals win these series they remain the team to beat in the American League. So bring everyone else on; so far it appears this team can take it.

 

Dealer Dayton: Royals Land Zobrist, Prepare for October

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Just two days ago it felt like the Royals struck gold by picking up Johnny Cueto to help an ailing rotation. It was known even then that Royals GM Dayton Moore might not be done, as the team was looking for an outfielder/infielder to help cover Alex Gordon being injured and Omar Infante struggling. It was also well known that Kansas City was eyeing Oakland every-man Ben Zobrist. Zobrist is one of the most versatile players in the game and can play all over the infield and outfield and has over the last 6 years accumulated the fourth best WAR in all of baseball(38.1):

Dayton has seemed to turn into Kenny Rogers(the singer/fried chicken entrepreneur, not the left-handed pitcher), as he has pushed all of his chips in, acquiring Zobrist for two more pitchers, Aaron Brooks and one of the top Royals prospects, Sean Manaea. Like the Cueto trade lets digest this move and see how GMDM did.

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Let’s start with the prize for Kansas City at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box, Ben Zobrist. Zobrist was coveted by numerous teams(the Nationals seemed to be right there with the Royals for his services) and it’s easy to see why. Zobrist is the odd utility player who plays every day, so he is an everyday player just at different positions. Not only that, but he plays good defense in every spot he is thrown at and has an above average dWAR every year since 2009(although for this year he is sitting at -0.9). Zobrist has been one of the most valuable players in all of baseball during this span, getting MVP votes in 2009 and 2011-2012. To the average baseball fan Zobrist doesn’t scream ‘star’ nor does it appear as if he is the catch that many of us laud him for. But his value stretches past the versatility and defense. Zobrist has an OPS+ average of 123 in that span and offensively brings a mix of decent power and patience at the plate that is highly valued within the game. In fact Zobrist might be the oddball of this Kansas City lineup, as he has been averaging 74 walks and 51 extra base hits per season. Initially Zobrist will get the majority of the time in left field until Alex Gordon comes back, but also expect to see him play at second base and right field before the year is done:

He can also play some shortstop or third base if something would happen to Alcides Escobar or Mike Moustakas:

Zobrist has added a glove, a bat and depth that is immeasurable to this Kansas City team. It should be fun watching him play these next couple months as the Royals work toward reaching the playoffs.

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Now, onto the arms that are going to Oakland. First, Aaron Brooks is a right handed pitcher who has had a few stints in the big leagues the last two years. Okay, by that I mean he has appeared in 4 big league games. He is probably best remembered for an awful start in Toronto last year, where he only finished 2/3 of an inning, giving up 5 hits, 3 walks and 7 runs. Yes, that explains his 43.88 ERA in 2014. That being said, Brooks has been a solid starter for AAA Omaha this year. So far he has started 17 games, posting a 3.71 ERA in 106 innings and a WHIP of 1.303. Brooks was not a top prospect for the Royals and really his main use was depth, although if Brooks was starting games for Kansas City that means something drastically had gone wrong. It looks like Brooks is going to get a shot immediately for Oakland:

Brooks is an arm that Oakland GM Billy Beane likes and that the Royals really didn’t need. Hopefully the kid has some success for the A’s and is given some time to prove whether or not he belongs in the majors.

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Now to the key piece of the trade for the A’s, Sean Manaea. Manaea was one of the top prospects in the Kansas City farm system, up there with the likes of Raul Mondesi and Kyle Zimmer. Manaea is known for his mid-90’s fastball and a nasty slider but also has had some control issues in the minors. So far this year in 7 starts, Manaea has 3.1 walks per 9 innings…but also 11.1 strikeouts per 9! Obviously he has electric stuff and if he can get over his control issues would probably be a top arm in a major league rotation. The other issue is his health, which has been a problem early on in his career. Before he was drafted he had hip surgery for a torn labrum, which hurt his draft position and why the Royals were able to snatch him at the 34th slot in the 2013 draft. Manaea also didn’t make his first start this year until late June due to an abdominal injury. There is no way of knowing if the injuries are random or something that will follow him for the rest of his career, but it is something to take note of. It hurts a bit that Kansas City gave Manaea up in this trade, but Kansas City still has Zimmer, Miguel Almonte and Christian Binford, plus the new arms that were drafted in this past June’s draft. The Royals were going to have to give up someone for Zobrist and Manaea was probably a better choice than some of the other options. You must trade value to get value.

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So who won the trade? I think both teams can claim a victory on this, especially considering the two teams are at different places this season. The Royals get a quality bat and defender who can play multiple positions and fill in wherever needed. I would prefer Zobrist’s bat near the top of the order because of his high On-Base Percentage, but it looks like that won’t be happening:

So Zobrist helps fill a hole in Kansas City’s lineup that they needed. Brooks and Manaea will help Oakland now and in the future. Brooks looks to be getting a shot in the rotation this year while Manaea will be part of the future(as long as he isn’t traded; Beane likes to do that). The A’s are already looking toward the future while Kansas City has their sights on October. You have to give it to Dayton Moore; in just a few days he has acquired the top pitcher and bat on the market and have made the Royals the favorites in the American League come the playoffs. All that and Moore did not give up one piece of the main roster, keeping it intact for the rest of the season. The games still have to be played and there is still a lot of baseball to be played. But right now, we Royals fans can start dreaming of another ‘Blue October’. Even if a world championship doesn’t happen, there can be no blame laid on the doorsteps of the front office. Dayton and company have done what is needed to put the Royals in the best position to bring the World Series trophy back to Kansas City. Now it is up to the players to win the whole damn thing.

 

Sinking the Jolly Roger: Royals Make Pirates Walk the Plank

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I am not the biggest fan of interleague play. I get why it is interesting but after close to twenty years, it just feels played out to me. I’m sure for some it still has its appeal, just not for me. All that being said, I was excited for this three game series. The Royals would be going up against one of the best teams in the National League, a team that I’ve often referred to as ‘The National League Royals’. There are many similarities between the two teams, so it was almost a guarantee this series would be a fun one. Luckily for us, it was not only an exciting three games but it also went to the Royals as they won it, two games to one. Time now to see just how everything went down in these three games that were all sold out at ‘The K’.

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Series MVP: Eric Hosmer  

I believe it is safe now to say that Eric Hosmer has hit a hot streak. Hosmer might be one of the streakiest players on this Royals team(Alex Gordon is also pretty streaky) and it is always nice when the pendulum swings around to the hot side of the streak. Hosmer went 6 for 10 in these three games, with 1 double, 1 triple, 1 home run and 2 RBI’s. Oh, he also walked once and had a BAbip of .740! His average has jumped back over .300 for the first time since June 19th, and has raised his slugging percentage almost 20 points in the second half of the season. The best part of this is that Hosmer is driving the ball and doing so in critical situations. Right now, Hosmer’s wRC+(weighted runs created, which is league and park adjusted) is 126; the highest it has ever been since his recall to the majors is 120 back in 2013. If Hosmer can keep this up for the next few weeks(and I would say longer, but hey, remember, he is streaky!), he could help push this Royals team higher up on the food chain at an important time of the season, as the Royals will be playing Houston, Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit over the next few weeks. As if this wasn’t enough, Hos also hit an absolute bomb on Wednesday night, just a massive shot to right field:

That home run was also important for its significance:

I don’t think I will ever tell you that how Hosmer goes, so go the Royals. What I can tell you is that this offense is better when Hosmer becomes a force in the middle of this lineup. Right now, he is front and center when it comes to Royals producing for this team.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Edinson Volquez

What was the best signing for Dayton Moore this past offseason? I won’t fault anyone who says Kendrys Morales and at some point we might all say Kris Medlen(more on him in a bit), but as of right now I would have to say Volquez has been the best. Looks like I am not the only one:

‘Easy Eddie’ put forth another solid effort on Wednesday, pitching into the 8th inning, going 7. 2 innings, giving up 8 hits and 1 run while walking 1 and striking out 8. Volquez figured out early that Pittsburgh was having a hard time hitting his slider and he took advantage of that factor. It’s scary to think how bad this rotation’s numbers would be if you threw out Volquez’s stats. He has been vital for this team, saving the bullpen with an effort that garnered him a 66 game score, one of his better scores of the year. Volquez still has his days where he struggles with his control, but the majority of the time he is on his game and would have to be a lock for a starting spot when/if the Royals reach the playoffs. I might not always agree with Dayton’s offensive signings, but pitching-wise he has been a pitching prophet these last two years.

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There is so much more information to digest about this series. Let’s wander over to the news and notes sections of these three games against Pittsburgh:

  • Kris Medlen was activated by the Royals on Monday:

Medlen was almost immediately thrown into action later that night, as he would relieve Yordano Ventura. Medlen went 3.1 innings, giving up 4 hits and 4 runs(including a home run) while walking none and striking out 4. Just looking at the line you wouldn’t be too impressed. But the bigger story is Medlen was able to return from a second Tommy John surgery with good velocity and his home run to Travis Ishikawa continued the struggle he had this year during his rehab starts when facing lefties. I thought for the most part Medlen looked good and was consistently throwing strikes. As of now Medlen will be the long man in the pen, but there is always a chance we will see him in the rotation in due time. Luckily, Medlen is just happy to be on the team:

  • Speaking of Ventura, he continued his inconsistency this season on Monday with one of his worst outings of the year. Ventura went only 4 innings, giving up 10 hits and 6 runs while walking 1 and striking out 7. The biggest issue is that hitters are now sitting on Ventura’s fastball and practically ignoring his off-speed pitches, which is leading to hitters teeing off against him. This also explains some of his numbers:

Even Ventura realized how awful his outing was:

The Royals would send Yordano down to AAA when they activated Jason Vargas before Tuesday’s game. But Ventura didn’t even get out of town…

  • Vargas started Tuesday’s game(which I was in attendance for) and left in the 2nd inning, walking toward the dugout almost instantly after throwing a pitch to Pittsburgh’s Brent Morel. It was pretty obvious that something was majorly wrong after seeing his reaction from the pitch and Kansas City’s worst thoughts were validated on Wednesday:

There is a good chance that Vargas will not only miss the rest of this season, but also all of next season. If he does miss the 2016 season, there is one silver lining to this whole mess:

This also pushes up the need for another starting pitcher for the Royals, with names like Cueto, Gallardo and Price being bandied around. My guess is we see a lower level starter than that, more on the level of a Mike Leake or Aaron Harang. The one definite is that the Royals will need more pitching and need it soon.

  • The one positive of Vargas’ injury is that it gave Joe Blanton a chance to shine on Tuesday night. Blanton came in after Vargas left and threw like a man who knew he could be a roster casualty at any moment. Blanton went 3.2 innings, giving up 2 hits and no runs while while walking none and striking out 5. Not only did Blanton strike out 5, but he struck out the first 4 batters he faced! I think at this point in the season we can’t expect Blanton to throw like this every outing, but he has value and showed it on Tuesday. I think if he can moderate his lows a bit more he has a spot on this team and could stick around through the rest of the season.
  • Alex Rios continues to hit! Rios went 4 for 11 in this series with 2 extra base hits and a big hit on Tuesday night that helped the Royals rally and win. I don’t think Rios will ever blow us away, but a guy who is hitting .339 for July with an .388 OBP works for me. At this point, little victories are just that, victories. He also did this on Monday:

  •   Jarrod Dyson came up big twice in this series. First, there was the 2 run single in the 8th inning on Tuesday that helped Kansas City get on the board and eventually win. Then there was his huge bunt in the 7th inning on Wednesday to score Omar Infante:

I am not the biggest fan of the bunt, but when done correctly I am all for it and think it can be a huge weapon. Dyson bunting is a huge weapon within itself and it was done to perfection on Wednesday. One thing that manager Ned Yost has done this season compared to early last year is his ability to put a player in a situation that plays to his strength and letting him help the ballclub with this positive aspect of their game. Both situations were almost tailor made for Dyson and shows that a player just needs to be put in a situation where he can succeed.

  • One of the funnest parts of a Royals victory is the post-game celebration:

Don’t worry; Salvy always gets his man!

  • Finally, I have to say what a great crop of players Pittsburgh has. We got to see Gerrit Cole pitch a great game, Andrew McCutchen showed why he is one of the top players in the game and Starling Marte threw Eric Hosmer out at second base as Hos was trying to stretch a single into a double. I know it is still a ways away, but a Pirates/Royals World Series would be a lot of fun and would be great for these two organizations that have seen so much bad baseball over the last 20+ seasons.

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Tweets of Royalty 

Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez (13) dunks Mike Moustakas (8) after their baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals won 5-1. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Another series down, another series won by the boys in blue. Ever since late September it has felt like we are watching a dream sequence of this Royals team and I am going to wake up and find out it was all a dream. That is how good they have played and how night and day it is to a lot of last year. The Royals now have a funky next couple of days. First, they will play a make-up game on Thursday against the Cardinals, then Houston rides into Kansas City for three games at Kauffman Stadium. Houston has acquired Scott Kazmir from Oakland and the Royals have had some problems against him this year, so I’m sure not looking forward to seeing him and Dallas Keuchel throw against Kansas City. Hopefully the Royals can show Houston the same hospitality that the Astros showed the Royals earlier this year in Houston. Now is not the time to pump the brakes on the train; let’s keep the win train rolling right through the weekend!

 

No Love From Oakland: Royals Sweep A’s

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As the Royals headed to Oakland this past weekend there was a ton of speculation about just what might happen as these two teams clashed for the first time since April. Most remember that tension filled series a few months back, as what started as a rematch of a great wild card game from 2014 turned into a heated and bitter battle that saw fielders injured and batters getting thrown at. If you forgot or were in a coma back in April, here is my summary. So with all this said, there was hope that all the drama had vanished and these two teams would just focus on the game being played. The A’s came into the series on a bit of a winning streak and the Royals were just the team with the best record in the American League. So what unfolded? Just a fun three game series that sure didn’t bring the dull.

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Series MVP: Kendrys Morales 

I was wrong. When Royals General Manager Dayton Moore signed Kendrys Morales this past offseason, there was a lot of worry that the Royals had gotten rid of one regressing DH(Billy Butler) for another regressing DH(Morales). Morales was coming off of a disaster of a season, as he didn’t even sign with a team until a few months into the season and just never seemed to get his feet out from underneath him. Morales had a line last year of .207/.285/.347, an OPS+ of 83 and a WAR of -0.3. I was one of those worried that Kansas City got a player on the decline and locked him up for multiple years(he is signed through 2016 with a mutual option for 2017). Instead, Morales has been one of the(if not the most) consistent hitter for the Royals this season and has solidified the middle of the order for Kansas City. This series was no different, as Morales was 4 for 11 against Oakland this series, 1 home run, 3 RBI, and 2 walks and had a number of key hits for them this series. His clutch percentage this season is 0.6 compared to last year’s -0.5 and is close to his best seasons of 0.8 back in 2010 and 2013. Morales even got some time at 1B in this series, as Hosmer was the DH on Sunday, thanks to sprained finger on his left hand. Even when others in the middle of the batting order have been slumping, Morales has been the rock of this team. There is still another half of the season to go but at this point you would have to say that this has been a plus signing for Moore and shows sometimes a player will play above his peripherals. A great signing that continues to pay off for Kansas City.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Edinson Volquez     

Speaking of great signings this past offseason, it is safe to say that Edinson Volquez is also in the plus section of that category. Volquez continued to marvel on Friday night, throwing 7 innings, giving up 3 hits and 1 run while walking 1 and striking out 3. It was also a milestone game for ‘Easy Eddie’, as it was his 200th career start and he achieved his 1,000 career strikeout. It was Volquez’s best game in over a month, as he had a game score of 69, his best since May 17th against the Yankees. At this point it appears that when Volquez keeps his walks down(2 or less) he seems to shine. When he walks 3 or more, he seems to struggle a bit more. One would assume more baserunners mean more trouble, and the walks have always been Volquez’s big issue throughout his career. The positive is that with some of the Royals younger pitchers struggling this season(Ventura, Duffy) Volquez has been a steadying force in the rotation and has kept his team in games while eating innings in almost every start. In fact so far this season he is averaging 6 innings a start, well above the rest of the Royals rotation. As we get deeper into the season, the need for a starter like Volquez is a must and will help keep the team atop the American League hierarchy. Now, if only the Royals could get some of his consistency to rub off on the rest of the rotation…

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas, right, scores beneath Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt in the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 28, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

‘C’ is For Clutch

Let’s venture back to the 6th inning in Sunday’s game. Jesse Chavez was still on the mound for Oakland as they led the game 2-0 and he would give up a leadoff double to Mike Moustakas followed by a single to right from Kendrys Morales. Chavez would get Eric Hosmer to fly out to center field, with neither runner advancing. This would bring Salvador Perez to the plate and he would hit a chopper to third base. Max Muncy fielded the ball cleanly but with Moustakas chugging it home, Muncy would throw the ball high to catcher Steven Vogt, allowing Moose to score and also allowing Morales to get to third base while Perez would safely advance to second. Chavez would then intentionally walk Alex Gordon, loading the bases and making it possible for a force out at any base. Alex Rios would follow by hitting a fly ball to center field, a sacrifice fly and a productive out, to score Morales and tie the game, while Perez advanced to third. To cap off  the Royals rally, All-Star hopeful Omar Infante would line a single to right, scoring Perez and putting the Royals in front for good. The Royals have been about as clutch as humanly possible this season, leading the American League at 3.06 clutch percentage. In fact, the Royals are one of only 4 teams in the league hitting above average in those situations. There is a lot to be said for a team that steps up when necessary, but when you are doing it as often as Kansas City it also means you have the best record in the American League. Can you imagine just how much higher this stat would be if the Royals took a walk even occasionally?

Kansas City Royals' Eric Hosmer flings his bat after hitting a two-run single off Oakland Athletics' Jesse Hahn futinh the third inning of a baseball game Friday, June 26, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

There was much more that went on in Oakland. Here is just a few items of note:

  • Most of us were wondering if there would be some retaliation from the A’s in this series from their last encounter in Kansas City, but it appeared revenge was not on the menu. There was some concern after Franklin Morales hit Steven Vogt on the wrist Friday night, but no one took it as a purpose pitch. Speaking of Vogt, I felt for the guy this weekend. Between the hit by pitch and a couple other instances of balls hitting him while he was behind the dish he was the definition of the walking wounded.
  • I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but the gap between the Royals and A’s defense was very present in this series. I’ve mentioned this before when comparing the Royals to other defenses, but I feel it can’t be stressed enough. While the Royals are near the top of the league in Defensive Runs Saved and UZR, the A’s are near the bottom. If you want to point to some of the struggles Oakland is having, looking at a UZR of -23.9 for a starting point. I hate picking on Marcus Semien, but his problems are very apparent. Semien was basically a second baseman and third baseman before this year, so in some ways Oakland should have seen some of this coming when they shifted him to shortstop. The A’s are always good at moving players around the diamond and getting as much as they can out of what they have. Sometimes though the focus on offense hurts them on the defensive side of the coin.
  • Chris Young bounced back from his rough start last weekend against Boston to hurl a 6 inning, 1 run outing. Young is currently sitting at 69 innings so far this season, and one wonders how deep the Kansas City coaching staff will let him continue to start this year before he is shuffled back to the bullpen. Royals manager Ned Yost has mentioned he has an innings limit in mind; I have to believe he probably isn’t too far off from that total.
  • Omar Infante continues to hit, as he has now gotten a hit in 12 of his last 13 games. The current top vote-getter in the American League at 2B, Infante is hitting .360 over the last 2 weeks, with 5 doubles, 6 RBI’s and a BAbip of .419. The Royals are still looking at possible second base trade possibilities before the deadline, but for now Infante is earning his keep in the lineup.
  • Wade Davis came close to losing his streak of innings pitched without allowing a home run. Marcus Semien hit a ball off the wall in left center Sunday afternoon that was a little too close to the top. I did a little digging, and the last time Davis gave up a dinger was on August 24, 2013 to Ian Desmond of the Nationals at Kauffman Stadium. I don’t know if we will see this streak fall this year but it really puts in perspective just how impressive Davis’ performance these past couple years is.
  • Salvador Perez’s reached a milestone with his home run Sunday afternoon:

Congratulations to Salvy on this achievement, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to gain control of the ball afterwards:

Although I think Salvy might know who has it:

I’m going to die laughing if a guy named Mike Stone actually has the ball. If not, Mike Stone is getting unjustly blamed for being a jerk.

  • Speaking of milestones(not #mikestones), Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie piled up his 1,000th career strikeout on Sunday. A nice achievement for a guy who is not a strikeout pitcher. The Royals were able to procure this ball though, so Mike Stone can’t be blamed for keeping another ball with significance.
  • And finally, Mike Moustakas continues to put himself in the front of the comeback player of the year category:

Not only are those numbers highly impressive, but Moustakas is also currently sitting at 85 hits for the season. In 140 games last year he got 97 hits.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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With only three games remaining on the road trip, the Royals are 5-1 so far with Houston on the track for the next series. The Astros could be a fun series, since they have played above expectations this year with a nice core of younger players. The Royals are surely going to try and stretch out their 5.5 game lead in the American League Central before Minnesota ventures into Kansas City this upcoming Thursday for a 4 game series. Right now this Royals team is looking unstoppable, but we have all seen what happens once you assume it is easy sailing. Hopefully Hosmer, Cain and Escobar can all get healed up this week and the Royals can take two more series. The All-Star game is around the corner and should give this team a much needed break. At this point, the positives far outweigh the negatives as we approach the halfway point of the season. Revel in this, Royals fans; we are truly seeing one of the best teams in Kansas City in years. If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then you must be a Cardinals fan…

 

 

Jet City Jaunt: Royals Win Series Against Mariners

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Coming off of a disappointing series against the Boston Red Sox(which between that and the fact I am on vacation I chose to not write about), the Kansas City Royals ventured to the West Coast and started the week with a 3 game set against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have been a major disappointment so far this year and most of the hope was that Seattle wouldn’t start finding their way back during this series. There were a number of positive developments in these 3 games for Kansas City, many of which helped them take 2 of the 3 games. So how did they do it? Let’s venture onward into a series that kept the Royals in first place in the American League Central.

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 22:  Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals scores on an RBI double off the bat of Mike Moustakas in the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 22, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Series MVP: Alcides Escobar

I’ve made no secret over the years that Alcides Escobar is one of my favorite Royals and has been since his acquisition from Milwaukee back in December of 2010(for some guy named Greinke; what is he up to lately?). There have been a lot of questions surrounding Escobar and whether he should be hitting leadoff for Kansas City(and I go back and forth on this topic) but if the main purpose of hitting at the top of the order is getting on base, then Escobar did that in spades in this series. Escobar went 7 for 13 in these 3 games with 2 RBI’s and a BAbip of .583. He would also score 3 runs and raise his average to .285 on the year. Escobar was a big part of the 7 run 4th inning on Wednesday night and his double later in the game pretty much sealed the deal. Escobar has been All-Star caliber this year and looks to be finally getting the recognition he has been deserving of these last few years. As long as he gets on base at a clip like this I am okay with him batting at the top of the order and helping to make things happen offensively for the Royals.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Joe Blanton

I think we all knew when this series started that Joe Blanton would outduel “King” Felix Hernandez on Monday night in Seattle. Um, you didn’t? Well, pretty safe to say none of us would have. Blanton was flat out dealing on Monday, going 6 innings, 2 hits and 1 run while walking none and striking out 7. In fact, Blanton held Seattle in check after Robinson Cano’s home run in the bottom of the first inning and didn’t allow another hit until Austin Jackson’s double in the top of the 7th inning, which lead to him being taken out of the game. This was only the second start for Blanton this year and he would put up a game score of 71 with this sparkling start. In fact, in Blanton’s last 6 appearances(2 starts, 4 relief outings) he has gone 19 innings, given up 2 runs, striking out 19 and allowing batters a BAbip of .229. Blanton’s signing has looked like a genius move by GM Dayton Moore and has shown that added depth within any and all organizations is a must. The Royals have been hit hard by pitching issues so far in 2015, and luckily the Royals had a Joe Blanton tucked away in Omaha to start the year and pick up some of the slack. Sure, Joe Blanton isn’t going to any All-Star games any time soon(although we Royals fans would vote for him, wouldn’t we?) but that doesn’t take away from his importance to this ballclub. Who knows how many more starts Joe will get, but he has at least shown that if the Royals need him he can be a very serviceable replacement in a tight squeeze.

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Now onto some news and notes on the Royals 3 games in the Pacific Northwest:

  • Omar Infante had a big 3 run double in Wednesday night’s game and within the last couple weeks has not looked like the guy we’ve all wanted to take a long walk off a short cliff this season. Since the beginning of the Milwaukee series, Infante is hitting .395, driving in 5 runs while getting 4 doubles in that span. Before that Infante hadn’t gotten an extra base hit since he had a double in New York on May 17, almost a month before. I don’t know if the All-Star balloting has lit a fuse under him or if is just seeing the ball better, but if the Royals are stuck with his contract for 2 more years, they are going to need more hot stretches like this to validate his spot in the lineup.
  • Mike Moustakas put together another solid series, going 5 for 13 with a home run on Wednesday night and 3 runs driven in. Moose would also have a pair of 2 hit games in this series, 25 multi-hit games so far this season. To break that down by month, he had 11 such games in April, 6 in May and 8 so far this month. I know there has been some concern about Moustakas’ power and how it seems to have been sapped a bit by his new approach to hitting the ball to the opposite field, but if that means he sacrifices some power and gets on base more, I am all for that. To top off all the great Moose talk(and so far he has been my favorite story to follow this year), he is now sitting at 83 hits on the season. In 2014 he got 97 hits total. Total. Chew on that for a bit.
  • Danny Duffy returned to the team on Wednesday and threw a very positive outing on his return. Duffy only went 4.2 innings, giving up 8 hits and 1 earned run while walking none and striking out 4. His pitch total was a bit high(88 pitches through not even 5 innings) but in a lot of ways this start wasn’t about 3/4 of these numbers. What was most impressive was that at some point during his stint on the disabled list he worked on his motion to the plate and smoothed it out. In fact, that is the smoothest I have ever seen Duffy throw. I don’t know if this was worked on in his side sessions with the team, or if it was worked on while he was in the minors, but whomever got in his ear, “kudos”. The one stat that was the most evident of this new motion was the zero in the walks column. Duffy has long had issues with control, but he was consistently ahead in the count in this start and it proved to benefit him well. Now, let’s see just how consistent this makes him…
  • Former Royals prospect Mike Montgomery shut down Kansas City on Tuesday night, throwing his first major league shutout. Montgomery went 9 innings, giving up 5 hits and no runs while walking zero and striking out 10. Montgomery was once a top prospect in Kansas City’s farm system but started having control issues in 2010 and seemed like a lost cause by the time he was packaged in the James Shields deal in December of 2012. Tampa Bay dealt him to Seattle this spring and has found some success so far in Seattle. I’m really glad to see him make it to this point but a part of me can’t help but wonder if he would have been able to turn things around with Kansas City.
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 23:  Center fielder Lorenzo Cain #6 of the Kansas City Royals makes a running catch on a ball off the bat of Dustin Ackley of the Seattle Mariners in the seventh inning at Safeco Field on June 23, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Tweets of Royalty

 

Kansas City's Alex Rios beats the throw home to Seattle catcher Mike Zunino, scoring on the bases-clearing 3-run RBI double by Omar Infante.  Kansas City scored 7-runs in the inning.   The Kansas City Royals played the Seattle Mariners Wednesday, June 24, 2015, at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Last week there was two ways to look at the series against Milwaukee and Boston; either worry about the way Kansas City played against Boston or figure the team went 5-2, which is a record I will always take every week. So far this week, the team is 2-1 with 3 games scheduled against Oakland this weekend. You know, that A’s team that Kansas City had issues with back in April. You don’t remember? Here is a refresher article if you forgot what happened that series. I know I’m hoping for a calm 3 games where no fireworks are set off(we have a week before that holiday hits). Also, the All-Star balloting is still going on and obviously we are all voting Royal and last week I took a look at how ridiculous people are being about the voting. Finally, it will be nice to see former friend Billy Butler this weekend, but anything less than winning the series this upcoming week will be considered less than a success. The Royals are up 3.5 games over Minnesota as of this writing and hopefully that can be stretched out to 4 or 5 games by Sunday. Let’s get off the West Coast and head back to the midwest on Monday against Houston. This very well might be the Royals longest stretch this year on the road and the team won’t be back at home until July 2nd against Minnesota. Until then, the Royals are stuck living off the road and fighting off the competition.

 

 

 

 

Calm Down, It’s just an All-Star Game

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If you follow baseball in any manner, then I am sure you have heard the anger, the scorn, and the horrow spewed out by baseball fans who feel the voting for this years All-Star Game in Cincinnati is “making the game look bad” and “is not fair” to all the players who really deserve to go. You see, at this point there are eight(yep, 8!!) Kansas City Royals that would be starting in this year’s ‘Mid-Summer Classic’ and if you ask most fans they would tell you that is a travesty. That is, except for us Royals fans. We love it. We love that we are eerily close to starting our entire starting nine this year despite the fact that two of those players(Omar Infante and Alex Rios) have no business being in the Great American Ball Park on July 14th unless they have bought a ticket. But once again, we love it. Everyone else seems mad about this but they really shouldn’t be and I’m about to tell you why…

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Let’s start with the most obvious reason: this is an exhibition game. Seriously folks, this is a game played in the middle of the season that does not count in the standings and is purely just a chance to watch all the best players in the American League take on all the best players in the National League. Before interleague play it was one of the few chances to see players from your favorite team play against players you never see because they are in the other league. So if you were a Royals fan you never got to see guys like Tony Gwynn, or Dwight Gooden(in his early years) because they were National Leaguers. Nowadays though, it is no big deal to see guys from the other league, as there is a good chance you already played them during the season. Just look at last year’s World Series; the Royals and Giants played each other in August, so it was two teams who had faced off just a few months earlier. This game is purely for fun and players just aren’t going 100% for the most part, as they don’t want to get hurt in a pointless exhibition. But what about home field advantage going to the winner of the game?

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Before 2003, home field advantage in the World Series switched off every year. Odd years was the American League, even years were the National League’s. But after the 2002 All-Star Game ended in a tie, Major League Baseball decided to switch things up. You see, before then, the All-Star game really didn’t matter; sure, it was great for your first couple times you appeared in it or if you were playing in your home park. But otherwise, it was a game that was getting in the way of a couple days off and it was played as such. Back then, most managers tried to get as many of the players into the game so they would get an All-Star appearance in. Now, MLB tries to play it as “the game matters”. Problem is, the players still would mostly prefer four days off. Sure, you won’t hear them publicly say they don’t want to play in the “game that matters”. Hell, they’ll even say in public that the game is important and might give their team home field advantage in the World Series. But go look back year by year; players continually sit out the game. Sure, there are starting pitchers that can’t play because they started the weekend before the game. Some have legitimate injuries and need the extra days of rest. But a lot of them just don’t care because they understand it’s an exhibition. Sure, the guys like to be there, cheer on their team or watch the Home Run Derby; it is still an honor and they appreciate it as such. But many players take it for what it is: a game for the fans that doesn’t count in the big picture. Home field advantage is great, but if you get that far into the season, you should be able to win anywhere, road or home.

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There is also the argument that you should want the most deserving players to start in this game, the players who have had the best seasons up to this point. I get this argument and for years I fell in line with that. You don’t have to look far to see a perfect example of a player getting voted in that shouldn’t have: Derek Jeter in 2014. I know someone just threw their keyboard across the room right now by me saying that(probably a Yankees fan) but the fact is Derek wasn’t the best shorstop statistically in 2014. In fact, if we are going by just their play on the field, Jeter wouldn’t have even belonged on the All-Star roster. But Jeter was in his final season in the big leagues and it was a way of honoring him. Fine, I get that and even accepted it last year. But don’t fool yourself; this proves once again it is more about the exhibition than the home field advantage. For years, Hall of Fame caliber players have appeared in the All-Star Game for one last hurrah. I am perfectly fine with this, as I understand the game is just for fun. But if you are going to be okay with a player like that being honored and appearing in the mid-summer classic, you have to also acknowledge that whomever starts the game really doesn’t matter either.

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The other part of this silliness is the fact that most players who start the All-Star game normally only last the first 3 innings. That’s right, all this uproar about the Royals players starting and most of them will only play the first few innings. Yep, sure worth all that anger that is consuming you, huh? Maybe this would be a bigger problem if the starters played all 9 innings but they very rarely do. So you prefer Jose Altuve to Infante at second base? Well, more than likely Altuve will be in late in the game when it might matter more and it will completely negate the argument of having him start. In games like this it almost matters more on who finishes the game rather than who starts it.

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As a Royals fan I think I shoud clarify something here. I agree with most of you in saying Infante doesn’t deserve to start in this game and is purely getting in because of the Royals rabid fanbase. Look at it this way, non-Royals fans. Before 2014, our team really didn’t matter much for close to 20 years. We have seen some absolutely putrid baseball in that span and for quite awhile we were the laughingstock of the sport. But now we matter and it has re-energized the fans. Sure, I wore my Royals appearal all the time in this span; I am a die-hard. I will be here till the end and I have no problems with that. But some fans needed a little poke. That poke was winning. The Royals are a good baseball team now and have given the fans a reason to support them and be proud. The voting has been so skewed toward the Royals because this is a hungry fanbase. We’ve been starving for years for good baseball and now that we are getting it, it is causing everyone to step up and vote. Hey, we are even doing it legitimately ! Trust me, even I thought there was some sneakiness going on, but outside of a few instances of writers getting suspicious e-mails , it appears voting is truly on the up and up. Winning causes fans to be more involved, and Royals fans had 30 years of no playoff baseball; just imagine how most of us feel,  like this might not happen again for a very, very long time. So as fans, we are taking advantage of the team’s success.

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The one other thing to remember here is that outside of Infante, the other 7 possible starters are legitimate candidates for the All-Star Game this season. Sure, a few of them might not be having the best season at their position, but they are all putting up numbers worthy of an All-Star selection. Look at someone like Mike Moustakas, who has turned his career around this season and is having a career year. Sure, Josh Donaldson is raking this year and is probably having the better year, but Moose is still an All-Star in my mind. Go ahead, go down the list-Cain, Gordon, Escobar, Hosmer, Morales and Perez; all worthy of being at the game in July. This would be a different case if they were having bad seasons, but they aren’t. Starting or not, these guys all should probably be All-Stars-except for Infante. Even we don’t really want him on our team. But we want our guys at the All-Star game and unfortunately, he is a Royal.

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15:  Kansas City Royals Fans hold up giant heads of Alex Gordon #4 and Salvador Perez #13 of the Kansas City Royals in the stands during Game Four of the American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

So all you non-Royals fans, calm down. This is a one year anomaly that even we acknowledge will probably never happen again. Let us have this moment. I was fortunate to be at the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City and as much as I talk about it being an exhibition, it is still a fun exhibition and a game that I am glad I can say I was in attendance. I highly recommend everyone who is not a Royals fan to go online and put your votes in; this is a fun exercise and one in which you can celebrate your team’s best players. How does the old adage go? “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. So join us and let’s see just how competitive the voting can get. Instead of getting angry about the results it might be better to just join in and try to topple this monster we have created. Trust me, the rules for the balloting is the same for you guys as it is for us; we are just taking advantage of it more. Let this be fun instead of sounding like old men telling kids to get off their lawn. The whole point of this is purely fun. Also, if the voting doesn’t change before it is all said and done, I think we should make Mike Trout an honorary Royal and give him his on Kansas City uniform. Just a thought. I have to go now; I have important things on my schedule:

Remember #VoteRoyals(and #VoteNori) and vote often at http://www.royals.com and http://www.mlb.com . Let the good times roll.

 

 

 

Our Defense is Better Than Your Defense: Royals Roll Over Twins, Take Back First Place

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When last we checked in on our Central Division heroes, they were wrapping up a series with the Rangers thanks to the power of one Salvador Perez(or should we start calling him ‘The One’?). So expectations weren’t too high headed into Minnesota, as Kansas City had been floundering offensively and the hope more than anything was to not fall back any farther in the division. But what wonders do amaze, as the Royals came into town, showed a little bit of offense that we had been missing, a whole lot of defense that we have gotten used to and some very solid pitching. This formula apparently gains you a series sweep and a 2 game lead in the American League Central. Niiiiiiice! So lets journey up north and dissect a fun 3 games.

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Series MVP: Salvador Perez

When you’re hot, you’re hot. Perez continues his stealth hitting at the dish with a 5 for 11 series against Minnesota, including a home run on Tuesday that was a no-doubter:

Just perfect(outside of Physioc on commentary) and even Sal knew that was gone. Salvy would also take a walk in this series(color me shocked!) and raised his slugging percentage almost 20 points. Maybe the funnest stat from this series was Perez’s BAbip of . 500 in this series. In a lot of ways Salvy is the heart of this team and he adds so much to this team not only on the field but in the clubhouse. He also makes sure his pitchers have plenty of baseballs:

When Perez is cold he has even worse plate discipline than normal and seems to swing at every pitch thrown his way. But when he is hot it feels like no one can get him out. Lucky for the Royals he is on the hot side of that spectrum right now and is help an offense that has been lackluster over the last few weeks.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Chris Young

During some of the Royals series’ there isn’t one starter who performs good enough to get this honor. Then there are times when all 3 outings are deserving, like this week. I’ll discuss Jason Vargas’ outing on Monday and ‘Easy’ Ed Volquez’s start on Wednesday later, but the man of the hour was the almost flawless outing of Chris Young on Tuesday. Young would throw into the 7th inning on that night, finally leaving after allowing his first hit of the game to Trevor Plouffe. Yep, on the same night of the Giants Chris Heston throwing a no-no against the Mets, Young held the Twins hitless for over six innings. Chris would go 6.1 innings, allowing 1 hit and no runs while walking 3 and striking out 2. Another great outing for Young and he continues to make it hard on the Royals when it comes to what to do with their rotation, especially once Danny Duffy is ready to return off the disabled list. I’ve even heard mention that Young deserves an All-Star spot this year; look, I know we are voting for as many Royals as possible this year but this might be just a tad far-fetched(just a bit; I’ve been pleasantly surprised at Young’s results so far this year). What I can tell you is that until Young struggles on a regular basis, he will be a part of this rotation. The Royals don’t expect him to perform like this all year, so they are already thinking ahead to ‘Plan C’. For now though, lets just enjoy the ride.

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Sparkling ‘D’, As Always  

The Royals defense has almost become a thing of legend these last two years. On a weekly basis, we could sit here and sift through highlight reels of the Royals making sensational play after play. This week there were a number of phenomenal plays, like Alex Gordon’s great catch on Tuesday:

There is a reason that man won the Platinum Glove Award last year for the American League. Not to be outdone, Alcides Escobar put on quite the display on Wednesday:

 

Oh, there was also this play on Monday:

Finally, #ShortstopJesus made one more phenomenal play on Tuesday:

If you want an idea why Kansas City continues to stay at the top of the division while Cleveland bounces back and forth, all you have to do is look at the two teams defense’s. The Royals have 42 defensive Runs saved, Cleveland has -12. The Royals UZR is is 30.2, the Indians is -11.8. I’m not trying to pick on the Indians as much as point out how two teams that I have often felt are very similar seem to play the game in two completely different ways. One wonders if we would be discussing a Cleveland/Kansas City pennant race if the Indians defense improved even to just league average.

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And the Best Throw of the Series Goes to…

Look, baseball has a very long season. Loooooooong. There is going to be times you lose your cool as a player and vent on the field. It happens to the best of them. On Wednesday night, Torii Hunter of Minnesota lost his cool, big time:

Well, if I knew it was going to be that kind of party, I would have brought some one dollar bills! I know there was some snarkiness coming from Royals twitter this week about Hunter, but at the end of the day this stuff happens. It’s not like Hunter represents the organization like this on a weekly basis. The man lost his cool, was aggravated and then vented. Probably won’t be the last time that ever happens in his career either. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this. Plus, he had great form on that jersey throw. I’m not so sure the Royals right fielder could have pulled that off. I just hope Hunter realizes he might have gotten Royals manager Ned Yost excited:

Oh, Neddy!

 

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Onto the news and notes section of this series held in the Twin Cities:

  • I mentioned earlier how the rotation put up some quality starts during this series. On Monday, Jason Vargas put together his best start of the season(according to his game score and my eyeballs) by going 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and no runs while not allowing a walk and striking out 2. Young followed with his superb outing and then Edinson Volquez sparkled as well, going 7 innings, giving up 6 hits and 1 run while while walking 3 and striking out 6(and compiling the same game score as Vargas this week, a 64)on Wednesday. Two months into the season it is obvious the rotation is the weak link on this team, but when they pitch like this it gives one hope that they might be turning a corner.
  • I’m starting to think Jason Frasor is the bullpen version of Jeremy Guthrie. Over his last 8 outings he has not allowed an earned run, but good lord has he allowed baserunners! Over those 8 innings, Frasor has given up 10 hits and 7 walks while striking out 2. He also might be the poster boy for anyone against pace of play in the game, as Frasor feels like the pitching version of Mike Hargrove’s ‘human rain delay’ routine. Bottom line though, he has  a big zero in the runs column, and at the end of the day that is all that matters. I just wish he wouldn’t walk the tightrope every outing.
  • Raise your hand if you thought halfway through June that Mike Moustakas would still be hitting regularly to the opposite field? Not so fast, Neddy. You can’t blame any of us for feeling this wouldn’t be a regular thing. But now that it is, I have become giddy:

Moustakas has rejuvenated his career and it makes one ask the question we asked when Moose and Eric Hosmer first came up; if you can only keep one of them when free agency hits, who do you keep?

  • It’s safe to say that Alex Rios might have some lingering effects from his hand injury earlier in the season. In the 9 games since his return, Rios is hitting .129/.182/.161 and has a BAbip of .167. If you remember, Rios had a lingering hand issue last year that sapped his power while he was playing for the Rangers and even that injury has not completely healed. In those 9 games he also has only one extra base hit, a double on June 7th. The Royals need a healthy Rios to produce but hand injuries have a tendency to take longer healing. I hope the Royals have Paulo Orlando on speed dial.
  • Speaking of slumping hitters, the Royals fanbase has been wondering just how long manager Ned Yost will stick with Omar Infante at second base with his lackluster play this season. I decided to look at just the past month(May 10th through June 10th) and the numbers are frightening. Infante has a slash line of .174/.179/.217 and his BAbip is .200. Even worse, he has only 3 extra base hits in this span and WALKED ONLY ONCE!! Look, I firmly believe that if you aren’t producing, the very least you can do is get on base in some capacity, either by walking or stepping into a pitch and taking one for the team. Infante is doing none of that and his defense, while not bad, hasn’t been as sparkling as it should be. Christian Colon has only started twice in this span and Infante has only sat out a game once. At the very least, Infante should be sitting a few days a week if this is what he can do at this point. There’s also this little nugget of information:

Don’t feel sad enough yet? Omar still has two years left on his contract. Ugh.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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The sweep puts Kansas City in a prime position this weekend, 2 games ahead of Minnesota in the American League Central as the Royals head to St. Louis. It should be another heated weekend as the best record in the AL meets the best record in the NL. Hopefully Kansas City can ride this hot streak through the weekend and into next week’s matchup against Milwaukee. Best case scenario? Win the series against the Cardinals and extend their lead in the division. Worst case? Lose series to St. Louis and let Minnesota and Detroit catch up to them. Either way, it’s nice to be back on top.

 

Questions With Getzie: The Front Office Edition

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       “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in…”

It’s hard as a writer to lose one’s muse. The muse becomes a never-ending fountain of productivity and topics. Sometimes you lose that muse and you never get it back, a whisper in the wind. Sometimes the muse returns and becomes part of the front office of your favorite baseball team. The last time we checked in with one Christopher Getz he was getting cut by the Toronto Blue Jays and was ready to visit that special place in the baseball sky(retirement, not heaven). Well, since then Getz became a part of the Kansas City Royals front office, as he is now an assistant to Royals GM Dayton Moore. With that said (and the Royals back in first place) I thought it would be a great time to let the Phoenix rise again and let Christopher answer some of your questions (or how I think he would answer them). So without further ado, here is the glorious return of ‘Questions With Getzie’!

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Getzie! Great to have you back!-Ryan, Overland Park, KS

Thanks! Golly, it is fantastic to be back. I haven’t had a chance to interact with the fans much since my return but it is great to hear from you guys and that you all remember me!

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Chris, give us an idea on what your job entails, especially the player development portion of it. Thanks.-Brandon, Odessa, MO

Shucks, that is a great question! The player development part of my job is fun, as I go around within the Kansas City minor league system and get to work with all the young prospects the Royals have. We work a lot on fundamentals, like fielding ground balls:

Also, lots of bunting. We work on LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTS of bunting.

As to the assistant to the GM part of my job, I get a lot of coffee. I think it wouldn’t hurt if Dayton cut back a bit.

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Chris, any advice on dealing with bloggers who like to downplay your performance on the field?-Omar,  Puerto La Cruz, Anzoategui, Venezuela. 

Gosh, that’s a tough one. The media can be difficult at times but you have to learn how to deal with the lows and highs and try to even them out. I had a blogger write about me a lot. He at least amused me. In the end, there are lots of ways to deal with pressure:

Also, it would help if your OPS+ was better than the 43 you currently are sitting at.

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Chris, why won’t you return my calls?? Why???? I miss you!!!!-Lee, Kansas City, MO

Seriously, get a grip Lee. You have to move on without me. I am glad you tore that shrine of me down in your house. It always made me uncomfortable.

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What’s it like hanging out with George Brett while watching a game?-Joel, Eudora, KS

Gee, it’s great! I could do without a lot of the swearing, especially since that gets worse as the game goes on. Also, I’ve heard his story about crapping his pants in Las Vegas like 23 times now. I think I get the point.

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Chris, just wanted to let you know I’m glad you got to return to Kansas City. I am really enjoying myself in Anaheim. I’ve never seen so much playing time! Plus that Scioscia guy is a great manager. All my best!-Johnny, Metairie, LA

Glad to see things are you going well for you, you whippersnapper! Sciosc is a great guy and it’s good you are getting to work with him. I mean, he’s no Yosty, but he’s got some great qualities. Keep up the great work…oh, and I’ve also voted for you 35 times in the All-Star balloting. Just don’t tell Omar!

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Getzie, who are some of your mentors throughout all your years in baseball?-Darin, Lone Jack, MO

Gosh, I have so many! Here are some of them:

Those guys were all great, even my dad. But none have really been the wind beneath my wings like Dayton and Neddy. Those two guys are my heroes and are the reason I am here. No one else has ever believed in me like they have. They even thought I was ‘mistake free’! Also, Frenchy was a great mentor. I miss that guy.

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Chris, at your best were you better than Omar Infante is this year for the Royals?-Craig, Gardner, KS

Yes.

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Getzie, what are some of your greatest moments during your time in baseball?-Pete, Independence, MO

I actually have talked about this before:

Also, that one home run I hit in Atlanta. The stars were aligned that night.

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Chris, Mark Teahen said he leased his apartment to you when you were first traded to Kansas City. He made it sound like you were going to make a mess. Is that how it went down?-Jeffrey, Columbus, MO

Okay, first here is what Mark said:

Here is the truth. Mark’s apartment was a mess. There was plastic on the furniture because Mark didn’t use silverware…or plates…or cups. It was a pigsty when I got there. By the time I left it was spotless. He also charged me an arm and a leg for rent. He should have been paying me for making that place look like an immaculate palace. Silly Teahen.

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Christopher, I can’t believe I am about to say this, but I almost miss you. Omar is awful. You might just be better than he is at this point. I can’t believe I just said that. I just threw up in my mouth a bit.-Sean, Emporia, KS

I get it. It shouldn’t be that way. Carlos Febles, Tony Abreu, Luis Alicea, Esteban German, Ruben Gotay, Tony Graffanino, Jed Hansen, Tug Hulett, Steve Jeltz, Chico Lind and the ghost of Jerry Adair are all better than Omar is right now. Frank White would roll over in his grave right now if he wasn’t alive. Actually, Frank at 64 could hit better than Omar right now. At the very least Christian Colon deserves the bulk of the playing time right now at second. We at least agree on this.

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Golly gee, it was so great to catch up with all of you. We should do this again sometime soon. Also, Dayton told me to tell you guys to go to royals.com and #voteroyals. If you write in my name for the All-Star game balloting that would be swell. Have a great day everyone and I’ll catch you in the funny pages!

 

 

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