A season in desperate need of it was injected with some fun last night, and not just because Danny Duffy pitched the game of his life.
Start with the strikeouts. Nobody — not Zack Greinke at the height of his powers, not Bret Saberhagen in an odd-numbered season — ever struck out so many in a Royals uniform. He induced 35 swings and misses, and because everything is measured in baseball, that is tied with Clayton Kershaw for the most in any game in the last 15 years.
By Bill James’ Game Score — and apparently we have to specify, because there are different versions — it was the second best start ever by a Royals pitcher.
Only Dick Drago going 12 innings — that’s not a typo — and giving up just one run while striking out 13 scores higher than Duffy’s line: eight innings, one hit, no runs, one walk, 16 strikeouts.
That means Duffy ranks higher than the franchise’s no-hitters, and higher than every complete game anyone ever pitched.
Here is the complete list of pitchers who’ve struck out at least 16 and allowed two or fewer baserunners and no runs since 1913, according to the awesome Baseball Reference:
Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Johan Santana, Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood and Nolan Ryan.
Here are the last 10 pitchers to put up a Game Score of 95 or better, before Duffy: Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw (twice), Jaime Garcia, Vincent Velasquez, Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, Jake Arrieta, Chris Archer, and Cole Hamels.
It was all-time stuff, and we haven’t even mentioned Duffy’s best moment of the night. It is best seen, rather than described:
Sports are the best sometimes.
This would surprise me, but I said before the season I’d be surprised if they were below .500 this year, and, well, here we are.
The case for them to be better focuses on the fact that, at the moment, the Royals are getting C+ or worse production from every position in the lineup save catcher, which is a B, maybe B+.
Every starting pitcher except for Danny Duffy has been worse than expected, though Edinson Volquez has been better lately, and Ian Kennedy hasn’t underperformed that much. The bullpen has been good, but not dominant. The defense has been good, but not like the last few years.
Maybe you believe this is the new normal, that the grind and investment of consecutive runs to the World Series has tapped this roster out, and that’s fine. Alcides Escobar will be 30 this December. Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Paulo Orlando, Jarrod Dyson, Edinson Volquez, Ian Kennedy, Chris Young, Wade Davis, and Joakim Soria are all in their 30s. This roster has more guys who’ve likely already had their best season than otherwise.
But I think they’ve got one more run of contention in them. They’re not that old. I still believe Eric Hosmer has a monster year in him. Mike Moustakas will be healthy. I think Gordon’s wrist is bothering him more than anyone is letting on. Sal Perez remains one of the game’s best catchers. Duffy is entering his prime. I’m intrigued by Raul Mondesi playing second base, and perhaps some shortstop.
More than anything else, this group just seems tired to me. Worn down. And it’s easy to understand why. Going to three consecutive World Series is a huge ask, particularly for a team that relies so heavily on relievers and athleticism. Guys only have so much in the tank.
This is a group that’s always enjoyed playing together, always been at their best when motivated by pride, and always answered when counted out. All of those things will be in play next year.
One more run. I think they have it in them.
Again, I understand the doubt...
... but it has been about more than injuries. I don’t think people appreciate what an unrelenting grind it is to play 162 games in 183 days, all across the country, against the best players in the world. Then add a month of intensity during the postseason. Two years in a row.
I know that will be read like excuses, but it’s also explanation.
I actually agree with the sentiment that the injuries are not as much a part of the disappointment as is sometimes made. The Royals have covered those fairly well. I just think the bigger issue is a group wearing down.
But remember that with one last year together, and free-agency coming, they have every reason in the world for one more strong season.
I may be the worst person to ask this. Because what does “baseball town” mean, exactly?
If it means that people here like baseball, I think that’s been proved beyond question, not just by the attendance and TV ratings and the parade, but by the quarter century of suck that preceded it. That people actually stuck around should be all anyone needs to prove the point.
If it means that more than 30,000 people from one of baseball’s smallest markets will continue to show up every night, and show the same enthusiasm as when the team was the best in the sport, then I reject your false construct and the idea that fans should be obligated to spend their money a certain way to prove loyalty.
I am quite sure I’m taking your question far too literally, but I’ve just never thought of Kansas City as A Baseball Town, or A Football Town, or A College Basketball Town, or The Soccer Capital Of America, or any of the other things some people like to label when it’s convenient.
Kansas City is all of those things, at different times, to different people, and it’s also a great food town, a great arts town, a great beer town, a great tech town, a great humidity town, and so much else.
I believe that the last two years changed the way Kansas City will view baseball for a generation. But I hope the standard isn’t attendance and TV records every year, no matter the result, because among other things I think that lets the team off the hook for needing to produce a winner.
Oh, and one more: it’s a great neighborhood town. My wife and I talk about this all the time. I love where we live, for a lot of reasons, but I could name so many neighborhoods around town that would also be great.
Kansas Citians take pride in a lot, but that’s one I feel gets overlooked.
Sure, but this is also true:
Fisher is just 25 years old. Offensive linemen tend to age well. Fisher has made noticeable improvements every year he’s been in the league. He’s among the highest paid left tackles in the league right now, but by the time the deal kicks in, he’ll have been passed. The salary cap goes up by about 10 percent every year.
The other thing that’s easy to miss — and thanks to Terez for bringing this up — is the replacement cost. Left tackles are really, really hard to find. They don’t hit free-agency, and good ones aren’t often left where the Chiefs have been drafting. We’ve seen what happens with a bad offensive line, and Alex Smith is more dependent than most on whether his line allows pressure.
I’m also operating under the assumption that the $40 million in guarantees is not totally guaranteed. NFL contracts are complicated, and some money is guaranteed, some is only guaranteed for injury, sometimes agents even try to pass off certain incentives as guarantees.
But, mostly, yeah. I think in a few years the Chiefs are going to have a good and slightly overpaid left tackle, but I don’t know that they had great options to do anything else, and there’s a logical case to be made that market forces are such that he won’t be overpaid.
My guess has always been Oct. 16, for the game at Oakland, but I am basing that primarily on three things:
▪ I have no idea.
▪ A month or so into the season seems like a decent guess.
▪ If it’s close, it makes sense to wait until after the bye week to give him an extra week.
I will say that the Chiefs have sent subtle signs — indirectly and otherwise, public and otherwise — that Houston will be back sooner than a lot of us expect. I know some inside the organization who believe he’ll only miss two games. I don’t know.
What I do know is that the Chiefs are going to have a hard time without Houston. NFL defense is all about rushing the passer and playing the pass, and Houston does both as well as anyone.
It’s a big ask for Dee Ford to serve as a primary pass rusher, and if the Chiefs aren’t able to pressure quarterbacks, then the secondary is going to be asked to hold coverage beyond realistic expectations.
The idea of such an inexperienced secondary playing behind a weakened pass rush is one of the biggest reasons I’ve been thinking 8-8 while most are seemingly more optimistic.
I like to make jokes about training camp and the preseason, but this is a legitimate issue the Chiefs will have to work out, and if they show enough progress it’s reason to bump expectations up by a few wins.
I am not sure what more the NFL can do to tell people that preseason games are dumb, and I’m not sure what more fans can do to make it clear they don’t care because football.
The preseason should absolutely be cut down to three games, if not two, but the owners still make money on the preseason so the issue is more complicated than just saying, “these games stink, let’s use common sense here mmmkay?”
If you have a ticket to next weekend’s game — and, hopefully, it’s either part of your season-ticket package or maybe you just found the ticket under your windshield wipers — the pro move might be to get there around noon, tailgate, maybe go into the stadium to take a picture or watch the first series, and then go home.
I’m skipping one preseason game this year. I feel like that’s doing my part.
Oh I’ll tell you what I’d do!
I’m expecting the Royals to (finally) use the DH as a roving landing pad for regulars to take a half-day off.
Assuming they don’t sign a full-time DH, the first thing is I would see if Cuthbert can play second base. The Royals have experimented with this, though never seriously. They have every reason to get serious with that experiment now, including telling Cuthbert to play second base in winter ball, and seeing what it looks like in spring training.
If the answer is yes, then you have a ton of flexibility. Cuthbert can be your backup second baseman, third baseman, and (I assume) first baseman. Play him at third, and DH Moose. Play him at second, and you can play Mondesi at short, and give Escobar a day off*. Play him at first, and Hosmer can DH.
* Salvador Perez’s playing time has overshadowed Escobar’s usage and decline. Best I can tell, nobody has played more games or innings at shortstop the last four years than Escobar, including the playoffs. I don’t believe it’s a total coincidence that his OPS has declined from .694 in 2014 to .614 in 2015 to .592 this year. His defense has also regressed, and if you watch the games regularly, you’ve probably noticed he lacks the bounce he used to have on the field.
If he can’t play second, you still have the other options. And you can also use the DH to give Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain days off their feet.
The point here is that the Royals have long wanted to have that DH spot open to give a not-young-anymore roster some rest, so if they can’t find a bat this offseason, they do have a nice fallback option.
Because even if they do have a full-time DH, they’re going to want to find some days for Gordon, Cain and Escobar to rest a little.
That’s baseball, man. Pitchers break. That’s what they do. Only three of those players have had Tommy John surgeries while on the Royals payroll, but if that’s where you’re going with this, the information from this database put together by MLB Player Analys is interesting.
A few facts:
▪ Since 2010 — admittedly, I picked this timeframe randomly — the Royals have had nine big-leaguers undergo Tommy John surgery. You have to decide whether this is relevant to you, but two of them (Jason Vargas and Felipe Paulino) had the surgery after coming to the Royals from other organizations with injury markers.
▪ Around the division, the Indians have had five, the Tigers six, the White Sox five, and the Twins two.
▪ Just scrolling through the database quickly, the Diamondbacks have had eight, the Braves 10, and the Red Sox nine, and that’s just through the “B’s,” so the Royals are not an outlier.
▪ If you include minor-leaguers — and you probably should, since this would be an organizational philosophy — the Royals are closer to the middle of the pack. The Braves have had 26, the Rangers 28, and the Dodgers 34. The Royals have had 23. To give you an idea how the numbers can change when you add the minor-leaguers, the Twins’ number just from two to 24.
This happens all across baseball. Literally from coast to coast, and literally from baseball superstars all the way down to teenagers who will never pitch beyond junior varsity.
More than other sports, baseball is local rather than national. There are a lot of reasons for that, but one of the byproducts is that when your time is spent focusing on one team you can lose track of the broader context.
Now, that being said ...
... would anyone disagree with this?
It’s worth noting a few things here, including the fact that Wade Davis has not had Tommy John surgery, and that UCL injuries are not nearly so simple that you can say one night caused it.
But if your bigger point is that there are costs of winning championships, then sure, absolutely, without question.
If Davis does end up getting the surgery, I don’t know how anyone could think it wasn’t worth it. Davis’ dominance on both sides of the rain delay in game six of the ALCS is one of the greatest performances in a two-year postseason run full of them. He will be remembered forever in Kansas City for that night, a remarkable performance in a moment his team needed it.
We don’t need to go over all the reasons this is a false choice, but yeah, if there was a way you could’ve grabbed Wade Davis during that rain delay and told him his elbow would give out in the next year if he went back on the mound ... I’m guessing he would’ve gone back to the mound.
Do you have any idea how many worse things I’ve been called than “Derek” or “Keith?”
Also, I am the sixth Samuel in my family. I believe the third rode in a covered wagon, and there were two more before him. I could not look more like a Sam, is what I’m saying.
So, this is a really interesting question. The only part that I’d change is “right now.” TV money has long controlled professional and major college sports. This is not new.
Last fall, Tom Verducci wrote this terrific piece about game six of the 1975 World Series. One of the many takeaways was that even back then, there was a weariness of TV’s impact on the games.
Those concerns have evolved, and taken various twists, but it’s still essentially the same story. The complaints about the marriage of TV and sports are now old enough to have grandchildren.
Your specific question here hits on what could fairly be called the single most consequential issue across all major sports — growing TV rights fees.
This is better explored as a standalone, 3,000-word examination — and, really, maybe I should get started on that — but the shorter version is that major sports are being funded by non-sports fans through cable bundles that disproportionately funnel money to sports networks.
As more people decide to quit cable — more than two million people have cut cable and satellite subscriptions over the last three years, and the pace is accelerating — networks have less money to spend on all programming. Because sports networks tend to be the most expensive in all cable subscriptions, they will be (and already are) the ones most affected.
Now, there’s another side to this, too. League executives like to say their programming is more valuable than ever, because unlike the vast majority of shows, games are DVR-proof. Nobody records games to watch later, just like nobody records the Grammys and watches them the next night.
In that new context, advertisers are willing to pay a premium to be on shows where their ads will actually be seen, rather than fast-forwarded through.
This trend has all sorts of consequences, including that many new or renovated stadiums have lower seating capacities as the emphasis is put on suites and improving the in-game experience rather than bulk ticket sales.
Beyond all of that, though, this has the potential to create work stoppages or otherwise disrupt the economic constructs of your favorite league.
Deadspin had an interesting look at this the other day, though the piece leaves open a lot of questions. Another thing to keep in mind is that baseball’s CBA is the next to be negotiated, and that league is in such good financial shape that the major points appear to be more about so-called “quality of life” issues — a shorter schedule, more daytime getaway games, easier travel, and perhaps a taxi squad.
So this may be an issue we’re still years from grappling with. Or, perhaps, it’s coming faster than anyone realizes.
Yeah. Maybe this is something I need to look into.
I’ve actually done the timeshare presentation. It sucks, but you’re getting something out of it, at least. You’re getting a room on the beach for a wild discount, so if you’re complaining about holding your obligation you should’ve just paid the extra few hundred dollars or whatever.
Also, and maybe I just got lucky, the woman who did our presentation was very cool. I think I was like 24 years old, and she knew I had no interest or means to buy a timeshare, and didn’t want to waste her time. We both moved on fairly quickly, though I did carry some level of shame for being such an obvious mooch.
A political convention, on the other hand, appears to me to be a gathering of craziness. And not just craziness, but craziness with an agenda.
Now more than ever before, attending a political convention sounds a little like hell on earth — terrible jokes, contrived “moments,” so many lies, misleading rhetoric, and waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy too many balloons.
And it lasts four days?
Honestly, I would rather eat my own toe and wash it down with the weeks-old sippy cup of milk I found in my backseat the other day than attend one of these things.
Being old is mutually exclusive from being sensitive to alcohol-fueled stupidity around your kid.
This is something I think a lot about, actually. Our kids are too young for this to be an immediate issue, but they grow up fast, and it’s hard to know where the responsibility of the parent to protect and explain ends and where the responsibility of others to not act like morons begins.
I assume their first exposure to drunk idiots will involve sports, in some form. I’m a firm believer in not sheltering kids too much, but nobody wants to intentionally expose young kids to idiots.
This isn’t really what you’re asking about, but I do think teams are going to have to continue to develop different “neighborhoods” in their stadiums, to figure out how to attract both families and young singles.
This is one of the many subtle things Sporting KC does so well. And with much bigger stadiums, there’s no reason the Royals and Chiefs shouldn’t be able to copy some of that.
This is important beyond the obvious. For most of us, the best memories we have of going to games are from our childhood. I know that’s how it is with me. It’s in the best financial interest of leagues to create these connections with people early, because those are the connections that last.
If a kid gets to high school or beyond without feeling a sport, it becomes so much harder to get them as adults, and by extension, to get their kids.
Revenue is growing, everywhere, so these are not immediate concerns. But it would seemingly be so easy to designate certain parts of a stadium — and I’m talking about more than the Little K, or the carousel — for families.
And, yes, I recognize the self-serving part here considering I never really thought about any of this before having kids.
This is an impossible question. Breakfast is the best.
I love bacon, of course, but I also love pancakes and Belgian waffles and sausage and omelettes and sunny-side-up on toast and a bacon-egg-tomato-and-avocado sandwich and hash browns and the under appreciated avocado on toast and a good egg casserole and I am almost always craving fruit in the morning. I even love a Clif bar on the go. Breakfast is so great.
But if I’m at a diner — and I feel like this type of question should be answered while imagining yourself at a good, cheap diner — there is an 85 percent chance I’m ordering huevos rancheros.
Eating Mexican food for breakfast feels like a life hack.