Judging the Royals

Brace yourself: The Kansas City Royals probably will lose at least 60 games

Royals reliver Greg Holland (56) and catcher Drew Butera ) celebrate closing out the ninth inning Friday for a 4-1 win over the Angels at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals reliver Greg Holland (56) and catcher Drew Butera ) celebrate closing out the ninth inning Friday for a 4-1 win over the Angels at Kauffman Stadium. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Baseball is a game designed to make you fail. The best teams will lose 60 games, the best hitters will make outs 70 percent of the time and the best pitchers will still get lit up like a Christmas tree even when it’s not Christmas. The key to the game isn’t avoiding failure because youwill  fail; the key to the game is how you react to that failure.

Do you curl up in a ball and say woe is me, do you insist there’s nothing wrong and go out and do the same thing that made you fail the night before or do you figure out what went wrong, adjust and come back a better ballplayer?

On Thursday night Greg Holland faced six batters and didn’t get an out. On Friday night Greg Holland faced four batters and struck out three of them. Sounds like he figured out what went wrong, made an adjustment and came back a better ballplayer.

If rust is an issue, why not pitch Holland more often?

After Greg Holland blew that save on Thursday, manager Ned Yost said Holland had not pitched in four days, and Greg pitches better when he gets regular work. To back that theory up, in Saturday morning’s Star Andy McCullough had this nugget of information: when Greg Holland pitches with the three days of rest or less, his ERA is 1.65; otherwise, his ERA is 13.65.

So the answer is simple, right? Simply make sure Greg Holland works every three days.

Easy for you or me to say, harder for Ned Yost to do and here’s why: managers want to use their best relievers when it will do the most good — late in games when the team has a lead of three runs or less.

Say you pitch Holland in a blowout on Wednesday, so he can get some work, and then he pitches in a close game on Thursday and gets a save. If you need Holland in a close game on Friday, he’s probably not going to be available because he worked on Wednesday.

To demonstrate how this works, let’s go back to Friday, Aug. 7: Holland pitched and got a save in a 3-2 win.

The next day, Saturday, Aug. 8, Holland pitched again and got another save while striking out the side.

Because he had pitched two days in a row Holland was not available on Sunday, and Ryan Madson closed the game.

On Monday Johnny Cueto threw a complete game and Royals fans roared their approval when Cueto came out to pitch the ninth; it wasn’t a save situation and Royals fans did not want to see Greg Holland get some work — they wanted to see Johnny Cueto throw a complete game. Holland had his second day off in a row.

On Tuesday the Royals were up 6-1 going into the ninth. If Ned Yost had sent Greg Holland out to pitch to get some work, someone, somewhere would have been happy to call Ned a dunce; why not save your closer for save situations? Now Holland was up to three days off in a row.

On Wednesday things were lined up for Holland to pitch, but Ned Yost decided to let Edinson Volquez go out for the eighth inning, and we all know how that turned out. But if you think Holland should have pitched anyway, remember that if he’d pitched on Wednesday and Thursday, he wouldn’t have been available Friday night — and he was pretty stinking good Friday night.

I’ve heard fans complain that Ned needs to quit babying the starters and let them pitch deeper into games. Now I’m hearing fans complain that Ned needs to get the bullpen regular work. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too — unless you eat in the press box dining room. Then you can have a piece of cake, take another one for later and get a cup full of soft-serve ice cream to tide you over in-between.

Ned does not have it so easy.

How about a wet bar?

OK, writing that last bit about the soft-serve ice cream reminded me of a story: Jay Binkley (610 radio guy) was in the clubhouse talking to Brad Fanning (I think he works for some TV station when he’s not sitting next to me talking a blue streak and making sure I can’t concentrate on the game).

Jay, who does not look like he’s missed too many meals lately, (I’m one to talk) was talking about the new soft-serve ice cream machine and the machine that spits out that cheese goo you put on nachos. Jay pointed out that since the Royals started winning, conditions were improving in the dining room.

Ben Zobrist overheard and drily asked: "Is there anything else we can do for you guys?"

Sure, win 100 games and maybe we’ll get a margarita machine.

Back to baseball

I started covering the Royals in 2010 when the stadium was not filled to capacity every night. Back then the opposing team often had more fans there for batting practice than the Royals did. Back then you did not see Royal blue in the stands whenever the team was on the road. So I know a lot of Royals fans are fairly new to this team and might be fairly new to baseball.

That’s why I occasionally send out a tweet about some fundamental of the game. When I do that, some die-hard baseball fan will respond; "We already know that, dummy" — but not everyone is a die-hard baseball fan.

So here’s some advice the die-hards can ignore and the new Royals fans might take to heart; your team is still going to lose games about 40 percent of the time. Your favorite hitters will fail about 70 percent of the time. And Greg Holland and Wade Davis will get hit once in a while — do not freak out.

You’re still watching one of the best teams in baseball; enjoy it.

Holland’s ERA

Coming into that game on Thursday, Greg Holland’s ERA was 3.12; after that game is was 4.15. If they have a bad outing, it takes a long time for relievers to get their ERA back down because they don’t get enough innings. Greg’s ERA is going to look bad on the scoreboard for a while, no matter how well he pitches from here on in.

A Rusty report

Friday night Pedro Grifol was coaching first base and people wanted to know what happened to everyone’s favorite coach; Rusty Kuntz.

Thursday afternoon I was sitting in the dugout when Rusty walked by and went to the far end and stood on the steps. I wandered over to ask what was up and Rusty told me he came down with some virus or other and had to have an IV to get rehydrated. After that it was a little hard to understand what Rusty was saying because once I heard the word "virus" I backed up about 10 feet.

Here’s hoping Rusty if back soon; if he’s not, the quality of my baseball reporting is going to take a big nosedive.

Come meet Salvador Perez — and me

This Sunday Salvador Perez will make an appearance at Gameroom Concepts, 10440 Metcalf Ave. Sal’s going to show up at 11 a.m. and I’m going to be there a little earlier than that.

I’m fairly sure I won’t be adding much to the occasion — I’ll probably get trampled by people trying to get to Sal — but if you get bored enough, stop by and I’ll tell you some pretty funny baseball stories.

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