It’s Monday morning and the Royals have just lost a four games in a row to the Cleveland Indians. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows the Royals starting rotation hasn’t been so hot (they rank 23rd in collective ERA) and the bullpen has generally been very good (they rank No. 1).
So maybe the sky is falling and the Royals absolutely have to do something about their starting rotation or maybe it isn’t and they don’t.
In 2015 — the year the Royals won 95 games and a World Series — the Royals starters ranked 22nd in baseball, the relievers were No. 2; pretty much where they stand now.
In 2015 the Royals lost four games in a row on May 24-27, three in a row on June 4-6, four in a row on June 29-30 and July 1-2, three in a row July 29-31 and four more in a row Sept. 4-7.
That doesn’t mean the Royals and their fans have nothing to worry about; maybe they do, maybe they don’t. That’s why we watch the games: to find out what happens.
But if you’re living and dying with each Royals win and loss, it’s worth remembering that even very good teams have their ups and downs. The Royals just lost four games in a row and it might not be the last time that happens this year.
Get used to it.
Chris Young and those home runs
On Sunday when Mike Napoli hit that first home run in the fourth inning, I took note of the fact that the wind was blowing out to right field, Cleveland’s ballpark is short in that area and the ball barely cleared the fence.
So back in Kauffman Stadium that’s not a home run.
But in the very next inning Young gave up three solo shots to right that would have been a home run anywhere. All three were hit by left-handers; all three were hit on sliders.
Young’s original problem was a fastball that lacked late life; on Sunday his slider was OK at times (by my count he got six swinging strikes on it), but in the fifth inning it flattened out and the Indians were all over it.
I think it’s safe to assume Young and pitching coach Dave Eiland will try to fix that problem.
Kendrys Morales’ slow start
On Sunday the TV guys said Kendrys Morales was off to a slow start, but we’re more than a third of the way through the season, so Morales’ situation is a little more dire than that.
Morales is hitting .145 from the left side, .327 from the right side and .191 overall. When he’s up there left-handed, teams are shifting him and giving him a lot of off-speed pitches to pull into those shifts. When Morales pulls the ball while hitting from the left side, his average is .086.
So what’s the answer?
On Saturday while batting left-handed, Morales got a cutter out over the plate and shot it through the open hole on the left side for a double.
It’s easy for me or anyone else to say Morales needs to go the other way against the shift, but just because it’s easy to say and hard to do doesn’t mean it’s not the right strategy. That’s exactly what Mike Moustakas had to do when the shifts were killing him; now it would appear Morales needs to do the same thing.
A reader’s comment
When Joakim Soria blew a save against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, I pointed out that Wade Davis was unavailable because Scott Alexander pitched poorly on Tuesday. That night Davis had to come in put a fire out and he pitched again on Wednesday, so he wasn’t available on Thursday. Later, I received an email from a reader, here’s part of it:
I think you miss the problem that lead up to the (loss) on Thursday.
We all know the rules that qualify a reliever for a save. Maybe Tuesday’s rally by Tampa Bay needed to be put down by Davis, but starting him in the ninth on Wednesday with a three-run lead was foolish planning or statistics padding. Have Soria or someone else start the ninth and try to earn an easy save, if they game is at risk then use Davis. He would have been available for the Thursday game.
My response: Players get paid for the numbers they put up so whether we like it or not, padding your statistics pays off. And a manager who helps his players achieve some of their statistical goals will be more popular in his own clubhouse than a manager who doesn’t.
Bottom line: if it’s a save situation and Wade Davis is available, Ned Yost is probably going to run him out there.
That not only keeps Ned popular in the clubhouse, it also covers Ned’s rear end with the media and fans. Imagine if he ran Joakim Soria out there in a save situation when Davis was available and Soria got lit up. If Davis came into the game with runners on, no room for error, gave up a single and the Royals lost, the media and fans would ripping Ned Yost apart; what kind of idiot doesn’t use the best closer in baseball in a save situation?
Yost didn’t get ripped when Soria blew the save on Thursday because he could say Davis wasn’t available.
We should never forget that big-league baseball is a cutthroat business and players and managers will do what they have to do to survive.
If your closer is available, use him in save situations.