During the first week of the season, I asked some people in and around the Royals at what point they think season statistics start to have some meaning. Most of the players gave very vague answers, but manager Ned Yost said he thinks trends start to emerge after two weeks or so.
Well, that’s exactly where we are right now. There is a caveat to be made here, that spotting a trend is very different than predicting the rest of the season, but a few things stick out:
▪ The pitching has been terrific, particularly the rotation, which is where many see the Royals’ biggest weakness. They have a 2.89 ERA, including 3.07 by the starters — the starters are actually holding opposing hitters to slightly lower numbers than the relievers.
▪ During spring training, I heard speculation both inside and outside of the Royals that Edinson Volquez might struggle, particularly early. The thinking was that he was coming off a career-high workload, much of it in high-stress situations, and there would be a natural hangover. Instead: a 2.04 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 17 2/3 innings in three starts.
▪ I might be rooting for my prediction here, but Eric Hosmer is off to a strong start: .313/.353/.458. He looks more confident than ever at the plate, his swing finding a better balance between control and violence.
▪ Omar Infante is hitting .324. I’d speculate about his shoulder being healed, but he’s had a few awful looking throws in the field. Still, he’s hitting.
▪ Six of Mike Moustakas’ 10 hits have gone for extra bases, including four homers. I have no idea what to make of this. But it’s interesting.
One quick programming note: starting this week, I’m hoping our silly little time suck here will include more from Facebook. Being more inclusive is why I changed the name from Twitter Tuesday, so if you’re not already, please check out my Facebook page, and give a like.
As always, thanks for the time, and thanks for your help.
This silly job has taken me to 24 of the 30 major-league baseball stadiums and 29 of the 31 NFL stadiums, and unless there’s a huge surprise waiting, I am saying with supreme confidence that Oakland Coliseum is by far the worst stadium in both sports.
Many years ago, back when I was in college, I was talking with a writer who’d been around for decades. We were standing in the old Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, which would soon be replaced and I’m sure is why I asked his favorite and least favorite stadiums.
“They’re all beautiful,” I remember him saying. “They’re like supermodels. You can have your favorites, and your personal tastes, but in the end you’re deciding between supermodels.”
I adore the spirit of his answer, but would posit that the Coliseum is the last remaining warthog among a group of gorgeous supermodels. It is ugly from the outside, and much uglier on the inside. It is leaky, and smelly, hopelessly outdated and acknowledged by everyone who cares as a dump.
Other than missing my family or being sick, I have never not wanted to go to a game. A huge part of that is the feeling of being inside these structures. Oakland Coliseum is the exception that proves the rule. Oakland is on the butt end of a lot of jokes, but I actually like the city, and not just because my sister lives there. The weather is usually great, it’s convenient, and there’s a lot of good and casual restaurants.
But that stadium is the equivalent of an unkept port-a-potty in an otherwise pleasant park.
Other stadiums that aren’t as awesome as they should be …
Minute Maid Park: Too many pieces of flair to make sense.
Yankee Stadium: The shift to emphasize big-money corporate sales over big-passion fan sales was good for profits, bad for atmosphere.
Busch Stadium: It’s fine, nothing wrong with it, but I feel like that franchise should play in something better.
MetLife Stadium: Just a big ol’ hunk of concrete.
Georgia Dome: Has the personality of a strip mall.
Raymond James: Has the personality of a strip mall merry-go-round.
Levi’s Stadium: Awkward location for fans, and for being so new and expensive, just a little underwhelming.
The only answer that matters is whatever weekend your best friends can make it. That’s it. Everything else is frivolous. But, since this is all frivolous...
How about June 24-26 against the Astros? Nobody knows nothing, and most people would argue for the Blue Jays (Aug. 5-7), but to me the Astros are the biggest threat to the Royals in the American League.
I love their team. They have a 5-foot-6 power hitter, a slugger who looks stolen straight from RBI Baseball, a future multiple-time MVP at shortstop, talent all over the outfield, and the reigning Cy Young winner. Chris Devenski — and this is silly to say about someone with 5 1/3 career innings — could help solve some things in their bullpen.
But, truly: Do it whenever your friends can make it.
I disagreed with what Lee wrote the other day, about Young looking worse because of the pitchers he’s been matched up against.
Young has looked bad because he’s given up 21 base runners in 8 2/3 innings in his last two starts, not because Collin McHugh and Sonny Gray have pitched well on the other side. The league is hitting .333/.397/.550 against Young through three starts. That has nothing to do with who the Royals are hitting against.
He’s fighting his command a bit, and by the nature of his raw stuff, Young is always a guy who pitches on the edge. He’s different enough, and smart enough, and gutsy enough, and deceptive enough to get away with it most times. But when it goes wrong, it tends to go very wrong.
Now, I don’t think we should make too much of this. He gave up 10 runs over two starts last year, and was bombed by the Red Sox in June. The context was much different then, because expectations were lower, and his ERA was under 1.00 on Memorial Day.
He’s the kind of worker and competitor that you trust. I’m not going to pretend to know exactly what the root problem has been these last two starts, but I do think Young has earned the right to work out of it.
But there are some peripheral causes for concern here, too. He’s not getting particularly unlucky. He’s walking too many, and when he misses his location, he’s missing them in the absolute wrong spot — Josh Reddick’s homer the other day is the perfect example.
Young will and should take his next start, and it’s hard to imagine legitimate reason to bump him after one more bad day. But I do believe the coaches are and should be thinking about potential replacements, whether that’s Dillon Gee (he’d be my pick) or Danny Duffy, or someone else.
Hey, a Facebook question! There are a lot of possible answers here, including:
1. Expectations are higher.
2. More fans means more opinions.
3. More new fans means more fans who aren’t necessarily used to the idea that baseball is a looooooooooooooong season.
4. Disappointed fans are almost always louder than happy fans.
5. There are actually not more spoiled fans, but the mechanism of social media always means certain voices or thoughts are heard clearer than others.
I tend to think this is largely No. 5, with elements of the other four sprinkled in. I do believe people complaining about the Royals right now are worth laughing at. At some point, the Royals are going to go something like 4-8 over a two-week stretch, and even then the freakouts will likely be unwarranted.
Here’s a good guide: Try to imagine whether you’ll remember in three weeks whatever it is you’re pissed off about today. If the answer is yes, then you might have something. But it’s more likely that the answer is something like, “No, I will not remember that my team’s 8-4 start included a few moments that weren’t awesome.”
But, anyway, let’s have a little fun...
Gordon is on pace to strike out 257 times this season, which is at least four things:
1. Much less than a thousand.
2. Far too many.
3. A pace for a new major-league record.
4. Not even close to what Gordon’s season total will be.
I would point out that Gordon is the proud owner of a track record that shows him to be a terrific baseball player. A year ago, he was hitting .231 with a .359 slugging percentage after 12 games. The year before, he was hitting .250 with a .292 on-base percentage.
He turned out to be an All-Star in each of those seasons, with offensive numbers that put him around 20 percent better than the league average and among the game’s best left fielders.
In 2012, he was hitting .149/.245/.234 after 12 games (with 16 strikeouts). He finished the season at .294/.368/.455 with 51 doubles.
We never really know the athletes we watch. That goes for fans and media, and it’s a point that we should never forget. But Gordon has always struck me as among the least money-driven athletes I’ve ever covered. I can’t get inside his head, but I also can’t imagine a bad 12 games being caused by financial security.
Especially since three of his last four seasons have started with a rotten first 12 games.
Oh, man. The most incredible thing I’ve seen in person was the 100 meters at the London Olympics. Even by Olympic standards, that was a breathtaking collection of human speed. Some who saw Usain Bolt win in Beijing say it was the more impressive race, but Bolt ran faster in London, and did it by far the fastest race in human history.
I noted this in that story, but before that race, the second-fastest time in Olympic history was 9.82 seconds. Tyson Gay ran 9.80 seconds, and didn’t medal.
I’ve been lucky to see a lot of amazing moments in person. Jim Edmonds’ catch in center field at Kauffman Stadium and, now that I think about it, Carlos Beltran’s catch in center field at Kauffman Stadium. The pre-Thanksgiving version of Tiger Woods on a tee box. LeBron James in the open floor. Buddy Hield in a loss at the Fieldhouse. Kevin Durant at the Fieldhouse. Von Miller in the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers throwing across the field and across his body. On and on.
But, really. I don’t know what I can see that will top that race in London.
Man, this is hard for me. Our older son is barely 2, so we’ve got some time here for technology and research and education to evolve, but my wife and I have talked about it. A lot.
Knowing what we know right now, I would do everything I could to keep my sons away from football. I feel hypocritical and a little conflicted in saying that, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I want my kids to make their own decisions as much as possible.
But I just don’t see how the reward is worth the risk. I take no joy in saying that, and I want to be clear this isn’t an attack on football. I love football, and believe there are great lessons and memories and bonds to be found in the sport.
But there are so many other sports that offer the same thing, without the same risk of brain damage. That’s as simple and compelling a reason as I can think of.
The shame of this is that football is doing a rotten job of protecting itself, and I’m only partially talking about how the sport’s leadership has so obviously deceived the public and its workforce about the risks.
For instance, I’ve been disappointed in hearing recent comments from Bruce Arians. Everything I’ve read about Arians has made me believe he’s thoughtful, smart, and keeps a relatively healthy perspective about sports’ place in the world.
But saying people who don’t want their kids to play football are “fools,” and then doubling down by saying, “It’s not dads, it’s moms,” is simply stupid. It’s hard to read his comments and not think he and others in the game are afraid and feel threatened, and it’s hard to read the research and hear the stories and not think they have good reason to be afraid about the sport’s future.
Again, I love football. There is so much about the sport that’s good, including things I want my sons to experience and know.
But we’re not talking about knees, or shoulders, or ankles. We’re talking about brains. We’re talking about functionality, and personality, and the very thing that makes each person interesting and unique. I just can’t understand why I would want to risk that for my children.
Once more, this is not an attack on football. I hope the landscape is much different by the time this is a serious conversation in my house. But for now, I believe baseball or basketball or soccer or golf or tennis or any number of other sports would be just fine for my sons.
That’s a high bar.
I saw where Teicher picked 10 wins, and that seems to be where most are with this team. The schedule looks manageable, even favorable, particularly in the beginning — where you can build momentum and belief.
I’m on the other side. I see a team that will most likely be without its best player for at least a chunk of the season, lost its best cornerback, has not added an offensive playmaker, and was stripped of a third-round pick in an egregious overreach by the commissioner.
Also, I believe one of the most overdone things in all of sports is looking at an NFL schedule in April and trying to determine whether it’s favorable or difficult. You might as well flip a coin 16 times.
To me, this feels like a year where the Chiefs will take a step back. I don’t mean a 2011 step back, but I see some bad signs. At the moment, it feels more likely than not that the Chiefs will miss the playoffs.
The Sean Smith departure, in particular, is a much bigger deal than a lot of Chiefs fans seem to think. I’m sure this is something we’ll talk about more as the offseason goes along.
Please pardon the much-too-literal reading of your question and much-too-corny answer, but: I actually like changing diapers, poopy or otherwise. As a parent, you only get this time once, and I know it’s weird, but I like being able to make my kids more comfortable.
I thought about this the other night. The worst part about being a parent might be having to wake up at 3 in the morning because your kid is crying for some unknown reason and never really be able to get back to sleep. But, also, the best part about being a parent might be getting to wake up at 3 in the morning because your kid needs you, and you can find him in tears and have him smiling in moments.
Let me repeat: I know this is weird. I expect nothing but eye rolls and mockery and questions about my sanity here. But it’s how I feel.
Now, to the point: Billy Butler’s career trajectory makes me sad. We talked a little about this on the Border Patrol, but Butler has regressed from a star three years ago to a part-time DH now. He is currently hitting .150/.190/.250. He has as many hits (three) as double plays. If you knew nothing about him, you would wonder why he’s in the big leagues.
I like Billy. I’ve always liked him. I’ve liked him as someone to talk baseball with, and I’ve liked him as a hitter. I think he could make for a great coach someday, if that’s what he wanted and he was able to smooth some rough edges. But right now, he looks lost.
The end was always going to come sooner for Butler than others. That’s what typically happens with players of, um, a certain physique. He does not have the athleticism to hold off the aging process. Even at his peak, he did one thing exceptionally well, and once that one thing slipped, the end would come quickly.
But Butler only turned 30 this week. If a typical player took the sharp turn downward in his mid-30s, most baseball people I talked to expected it to happen to Butler in his early 30s.
Using hindsight, it started at 28.
I hope I’m wrong about Butler. I hope he has some good years left.
A top 10? A top 10!
A pointless disclaimer: We all have our different tastes, and part of mine happens to be a complete disinterest in fiction. I’m obviously leaving a lot of favorites out, including “Sweetness” by Jeff Pearlman, “Like Any Normal Day” by Mark Kram, “In The Garden Of Beasts” by Erik Larson, and “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman.
But, anyway, here goes:
10. The Soul of Baseball, by Joe Posnanski. A beautiful story, beautifully told.
9. Gang Leader for a Day, by Sudhir Venkatesh. Incredible and unique.
8. Dream Team, by Jack McCallum. So much damn fun.
7. Truman, by David McCullough. One of several McCullough books that could’ve made the list.
6. Crazy for the Storm, by Norman Ollestad. Fascinating memoir that touches on so many issues, including father-son relationships.
5. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. Terrific match of subject and author. Fastest 656-page read I’ve ever experienced.
4. Where Men Win Glory, by Jon Krakauer. Loved this book so much I didn’t even mind that reading it is emasculating.
3. Joe DiMaggio, by Richard Ben Cramer. This book goes so many places.
2. The Last American Man, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I never read Gilbert’s much more famous book, but this is an enthralling read.
1. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. A masterpiece of reporting and writing on one of the incredible human stories in history. The movie does not do this justice.
I hear questions like this every so often, but my understanding is that anyone who was on the active roster at any point gets a ring. Dusty Coleman gets the same ring as Lorenzo Cain.
The fuzzier line is which employees and scouting staff get which rings (the players’ rings are better and more expensive than the rings given to the ushers’ supervisor). The Royals drew a bigger circle than most in determining who got a ring, but even still, there were people who worked every day of the season for the team and were left out.
This reminds me of the time last year when someone asked Eric Hosmer about Ben Zobrist’s approach at the plate. Hosmer said something like, “He’s the only one in here with discipline, on and off the field.”
At the big-league level, guys are not going to make major changes to their approach. Not often, anyway, and not without major intervention.
I also think the narrative about the Royals free-swinging ways has been overdone in at least a few respects, the most obvious being that the coaches and front office would love their team to take more walks — just not at the expense of other factors they value.
You can’t emphasize everything, in other words, and the Royals’ decision to emphasize athleticism, aggression, defense and speed is part of why they don’t hit a lot of homers or take a lot of walks.
Just using two recent examples, Alex Rios’ walk rate dipped from 4.4 percent with the Rangers in 2014 to 3.7 percent with the Royals last year. Ben Zobrist was at 10.3 percent in 2013, 11.5 percent in 2014, 12.2 percent with Oakland in 2015 and 11.0 percent with the Royals in 2015. Kendrys Morales actually posted a career-high walk rate last year with the Royals. I don’t know that you can make any conclusions with numbers like that, but environment can play a small part, I’m sure.
But the bigger factor is in who the Royals target.
I love this question, even if the north-south is mixed up here.
The idea of State Line Road has fascinated me since I was old enough to be fascinating by anything other than matchbox cars. I sleep a half-block from State Line Road, and there is probably not a day that goes by I don’t think about something relating to this.
I can’t tell you how many times my wife has rolled her eyes at me when I’ve said something like, “Hey, do you realize we just went through six cities and two states while walking the dog?” She thinks it’s dumb that I sometimes brag my jogging route is so long it goes to another state and back, and she’s right, that is dumb, but she married me, so the joke is on her.
Once, I was driving south on State Line toward my house when I saw a wreck. The accident was bad enough that at least one of the people involved was woozy, and couldn’t get out of the car. I called 911, told them what happened, and they asked which state I was in. It was like the 911 version of Who’s On First:
Me: Well, I’m on State Line Road.
911: But which state are you in?
Me: I don’t know. I’m on State Line Road.
911: I need to know what state you’re in.
Me: There are cars on both sides of the road.
911: You have to tell me what state.
The worse of the two involved cars was in the northbound lane, so I said Missouri, but what the hell, right?
As best I can tell, the road is the literal state line. But I don’t know that. Like, when there’s construction, who pays? Do they split it? I assume they split it. But who gets to pick which side gets the work? So many questions.