Judging the Royals

Can the Kansas City Royals get back in the race?

Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon celebrates his solo home run against the Detroit Tigers in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game.
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon celebrates his solo home run against the Detroit Tigers in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game. The Associated Press

One day, not too long ago, Chris Young and I stood by the Royals equipment room talking about “spin rate.” Surprisingly, spin rate is not a metric measuring how hard political spokespeople work to explain Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Wall Street or whatever the heck Donald Trump has said lately.

Spin rate is how many times a ball spins on its way from the pitcher’s hand to the catcher’s mitt. I’d heard Chris had a high spin rate and that was part of the reason his upper-80s fastball is hard to hit.

I’m assuming sabermetric fans are now on the edge of their seats, riveted by this scintillating tale of a spinning baseball and everybody else is wondering if I have a point and whether I’ll make it in their lifetimes.

O, ye of little patience.

While we were talking about spin rate, Chris said he didn’t think the Royals season was over because they hadn’t had their run yet. At some point in the 162-game marathon most teams will have a hot streak and the Royals hadn’t had theirs — now they are.

But is it too little, too late?

Since Aug. 1 the Royals have played 16 games and gone 11-5. If you want to know what’s changed you might start with pitching: in the month of July the team ERA was 5.27, in August it’s been 2.69.

Since turning the calendar page the hitting has been somewhat better — .226/.284/.351 in July, .252/.293/.397 in August — but the pitching has been keeping them in games and Wednesday night was no exception.

On Wednesday night, the Royals were getting no-hit through 6  2/3 innings, but Yordano Ventura was pitching his rear end off and keeping the score 1-0 Tigers. Eventually Eric Hosmer walked to end Anibal Sanchez’ perfect game, doubled to end his no-hitter and homered against Shane Greene to put the Royals in the lead.

Rumors that Hosmer then cooked a gourmet meal for his teammates and laundered everybody’s uniforms cannot be confirmed, but he did put the team on his back and allowed the Royals to sweep the Tigers and get back to .500.

The Royals are now 60-60 with 42 games to go, but according to FanGraphs still have just a 1.3 percent chance of making it to the postseason.

Where the standings stand

I’ve got no idea if that 1.3 percent chance of winning is accurate but it might be comforting to remember that the numbers-crunchers thought the Royals would win 72 games last year.

Numerical guesswork aside, that doesn’t change the fact that the Royals are nine games behind the Indians and three games behind the Tigers. Kansas City will see each team six more times, so they can do some catching up during those 12 games. But the Royals will also need some outside help.

Don’t look up

I’ve told this story before, but I’ve reached an age where I’ve told every story before so like my friends and family, you’re just going to have to suffer through it.

When Luke Hochevar made his major-league debut he was leaving the bullpen when Fred Kendall — Jason Kendall’s dad — gave Luke a piece of advice: “Hey, kid … do me a favor and don’t look up.”

Luke said he ran to the mound thinking what the heck did that mean and once he got to the mound did exactly what he was told not to do; he looked up. He’d never pitched in a park the size of Kauffman Stadium before and when Luke looked up and saw that upper deck and all those people he thought what any rational human being would think: “Holy (cow)!”

Fred Kendall was suggesting Luke concentrate on the catcher’s mitt and not everything surrounding the catcher’s mitt and that’s still pretty good advice.

If you’re running a marathon or climbing Mt. Everest (I’ve done one of those, although I’m not sure what I did met the technical definition of “running”) you don’t think about how far you still have to go; it’s overwhelming. So you simply concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

Right now that’s pretty much what the Royals need to do; all they can do is play one game at a time and try to win that day. Right now the Royals need to concentrate on that day’s game and Royals fans should probably do the same.

And whatever you do; don’t look up.