Judging the Royals

Kendrys Morales shows why you shouldn’t give up on a player too soon

Kansas City Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales.
Kansas City Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales. jsleezer@kcstar.com

At one time or another, certain Kansas City Royals fans have wanted to give up on Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Wade Davis. Some of those same fans have also wanted to fire manager Ned Yost and general manager Dayton Moore.

Fans are often impatient; teams can’t afford to be.

The latest case for patience being a virtue is Kendrys Morales. Morales got off to a slow start in 2016; he hit .226 in April, .163 in May and there were plenty of people questioning whether Morales was done as a big-time offensive contributor.

But then Morales found his stroke. Since then, the Royals DH has hit .360 in June, .516 the last 14 days and .533 over the past week; now nobody’s talking about Morales being finished.

So is it that simple; all you have to do is wait for a player to figure things out?

Unfortunately the answer is no, but knowing exactly when to cut a player loose is a judgment call, not an exact science. Teams invest a lot of money in players and want to give those players every opportunity to succeed. Nobody wants to pull the trigger on a player too soon and then have that player figure things out with another team.

And before you let a player go, you need a better option.

Cutting players and firing managers is easy, replacing them is quite a bit harder. The Royals did not cut Omar Infante loose until Whit Merrifield played his way onto the field. The Royals found a better option at second base and only then was Infante let go.

The Royals believed in Kendrys Morales, did not have a better option at DH and now their patience has been rewarded.

Fans (and the media) can learn something from that.

Danny Duffy is another example

On Monday night, Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy threw eight innings while giving up six hits, two runs and no walks; the Royals beat the Cards 6-2.

At times Duffy has scuffled, but it seems pitching out of the pen has improved his performance as a starter. When guys are starting, they can make the game too complicated; they might try to save pitches for later at-bats, get a hitter out three different ways or pace themselves so they have something left in the later innings.

When guys are pitching one inning at a time, they can hit the gas and come right at the hitters; here’s my best stuff, try to hit it.

Duffy says he’s taking the reliever mentality and using it as a starter; just throw his best stuff as long as he can and see where that takes him. On Monday night, it took him through eight innings and Duffy was still throwing 97 mph in his final inning of work.

Every player goes through ups and downs, but right now being patient with Danny Duffy is paying off.

When leading after six innings the Royals are now 31-4

That stat shows what the Royals want to do; grab a lead and give the ball to their best relievers. It’s also what every other team wants to do; when the Royals are trailing after six innings their record is 6-30.

So when the starting pitcher leaves the game and what the score is when he leaves is important; if the starting pitcher doesn’t go six innings most teams will have to use lesser relievers until they can get to the best guys at the back end of the pen and a lot of games are lost in the fifth and sixth innings.

And if his team isn’t leading when the starting pitcher leaves, managers would prefer to save their best relievers for a better shot at a win. Lesser relievers are put on the mound and that often leads to more runs for the opposing team.

Scoring at least four runs is important

When the Royals score more than three runs their record is 33-9; when they score three runs or less their record is 6-26. When the Royals offense scores three runs or less, the Royals pitching and defense needs to be just about perfect and most nights that’s hard to do.

Tuesday night the Royals are starting Yordano Ventura and his season ERA is 4.54. But in his last two starts Ventura’s thrown 13  1/3 innings and given up only one run.

If the good Ventura shows up on Tuesday, the Royals’ job gets quite a bit easier.