Let’s start here: According to MLB’s awesome Statcast technology, Alex Gordon covered 122.3 feet while tracking down a deep drive from the bat of Justin Upton on Thursday night. His max speed was 18.6 mph. His route efficiency was 97.5, which is close enough to perfect. You can see it here.
The catch highlighted a 4-0 victory over Detroit, a series-clinching win that pushed the Royals’ record to 10-5 entering Friday’s series opener against Baltimore at Kauffman Stadium.
Before we get to baseball, the podcast recommendation this week is Sturgill Simpson discussing his new album on ‘All Songs Considered’; the random Tuesday album recommendation is “Payola” by Desaparecidos.
Ned Yost was asked on Thursday if Cain’s early struggles could be attributed to any sort of swing or mechanical issue. He downplayed that notion.
Here is what we know: Lorenzo Cain is batting .222 (10 for 54) in 15 games. His strikeout rate (28.6 percent) is pacing for a career high. His previous high with the Royals was 23 percent in 2012.
Cain, of course, has also walked nine times — his walk rate (14.3 percent) is also on track for a career high — and his on-base percentage is still a respectable .333.
One theory: After a third-place finish in the MVP voting last season, teams are pitching even more carefully to the 30-year-old Cain, which has resulted in longer at-bats, more strikeouts and more walks. Even as he’s struggled a bit, Cain has logged some good at-bats, in his usual fashion. Another theory: It’s early.
Cain’s ground-ball percentage is down from his career average, and his fly ball percentage is up, which also might offer an explanation. He is a hitter who, historically, has racked up his fair share of infield singles. So far, he’s not hitting the ball on the ground as much, and there have been fewer opportunities for that.
They are 10-5 now. That’s a 100-win pace. They probably won’t win 100 games. But yes, things have generally been pretty good so far.
It’s the Twee’est Mailbag in Baseball.
Ned Yost has described it as a “loose platoon.” If Dyson is offering something with his bat — and the bar for “something” might be pretty low — he will likely start against all right-handers. Paulo Orlando will fill in against tough left-handers. I don’t know what the exact percentage will be, but for the moment, I expect Dyson to play more than 70 percent of the time.
The Gore portion of this question is likely correct. Barring some sort of injury, the Royals’ next roster tweak regarding the 25th man (Gore) would likely involve adding an extra pitcher. The Royals’ starting rotation has been mostly excellent so far, but aside from Ian Kennedy and Edinson Volquez, the starters haven’t consistently gone deep into games.
The staff entered Friday ranked ninth in the American League in innings pitched (85 2/3 ). If the bullpen continues to be taxed, Yost has said the Royals would consider carrying an extra pitcher for a stretch to lessen the load.
The Royals have benefited from good health for much of the last two seasons — save perhaps for Alex Gordon’s groin injury last year. The beauty of the Royals’ formula is that they win with depth. For the most part, they could probably overcome an injury to one member of their core.
But if I were ranking their most indispensable position players — the players they could least afford to lose — the list would probably look like this.
1. Salvador Perez
2. Lorenzo Cain
3. Alcides Escobar
If Moustakas went down, the Royals could plug Christian Colon and perhaps Cheslor Cuthbert at third base and get by for a while. If Hosmer was out for an extended period, Kendrys Morales could play first and they could piece it together at DH.
But losing the defensive stability of Perez and Escobar would be significant — even if Raul Mondesi could come up and play shortstop. The Royals would also have Jarrod Dyson to fill in for Cain in center field, but Cain was the Royals’ most valuable position player in 2015 and losing his combination of defense and offense would be a blow.
Here is the latest on Kyle Zimmer. His timetable is fluid, but he’s been throwing side sessions in Arizona and he’ll progress to stints in extended spring training. As long as his shoulder cooperates, he will likely begin his season at Class AAA Omaha at some point.
I think the new Sturgill Simpson album is my favorite of 2016 so far. I thought his last album, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music,” was close to a masterpiece, though it wasn’t actually that accessible on the first couple listens. It took some time, at least for me. I think his latest, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,” retains the craftsmanship and outlaw country roots of the last album, but man, the new sound is inventive and awesome. It’s like Merle Haggard meets Otis Redding, and I love it.
Top three tracks on the album:
1. Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)
2. All Around You
3. Sea Stories
My friend Corban at Pitchfork pointed this out — I listened over this the first couple times — but the song “Sea Stories” also includes a references to playing “Goldeneye” on Nintendo 64, which has to be the lyric of the year.
On his last album, Sturgill covered When In Rome’s “Promise.” On the latest release, he did Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” Both were excellent. That’s some impressive versatility. I’d like to see him dip back into the 80s New Wave era, but four songs come to mind.
“The World Has Turned And Left Me Here” — Weezer
“All The Love” — The Outfield
“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” — Otis Redding
“Hold On, I’m Comin’ ” — Sam & Dave
1. Boulevard Wheat
2. Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
3. Raspberry Chocolate Ale
4. KC Pils
5. Long Strange Tripel
7. Pale Ale