Powered by the biggest win of the season Sunday, and the random sight of a Royals fan wearing his powder-blue Billy Butler Kauffman Stadium giveaway jersey as I drove by the corner of Grand and Wabash in downtown Chicago after the game, it’s time for a notes column. This one is set to the chronological rhythms of yesterday’s game.
I haven’t written about him much, if at all, so far this season. But if you really think that Kyle Davies has turned the corner in 2008…well, think again. Going into yesterday’s game, he had a 1.46 ERA – and as many walks (12) as strikeouts. Even after his performance yesterday his ERA stands at 3.12, the best in the rotation. It’s a fraud. He’s thrown 26 innings, he’s walked 14 and struck out 13, and he’s allowed 29 hits. The results have been as good as they have for two reasons: he hasn’t allowed a home run yet, and opposing hitters are batting .367 with no one on, but just .216 with men on base.
Davies is not a groundball pitcher, so the home run rate can’t hold, and the performance from the stretch is also unsustainable. Even in
Jeff Fulchino isn’t the most unlikely player the Royals have ever called up, but he has to be on the short list. I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the farm system or anything, but I take it to be a bad sign when the Royals call a player up and my first reaction is, “who?” Nothing compares to the immortal Eduardo Villacis, of course, but Fulchino ranks up there with Steve Stemle, a strike-throwing non-entity who was called up in 2005, and spent most of the next two years drawing a major league paycheck on the DL. (Hey, good for him – I’m always happy when a minor league lifer makes some major league coin.)
Fulchino’s a veteran minor league starter who spent 7 years with the Marlins before the Royals signed him as a reliever. This is where I’m supposed to write, “and he was a different pitcher out of the bullpen,” only that’s not really the case. In 38 innings for
(Late update: after due consideration, it appears the Royals have re-considered their position. Fulchino was sent down, and Peralta is back. Just keep Joel off the mound when the tying run’s at the plate in the ninth.)
Oh, and remember when people were saying that Yasuhiko Yabuta was coming around? Yeah, not so much. He’s got a 5.46 ERA, and hitters are batting .297/.377/.492 against him. His ex-teammate in
The Royals’ modest two-run rally was capped by another RBI single off the bat of Jose Guillen. I’m sure you all know this, but to reiterate:
Jose Guillen through May 5th: .165/.198/.306
Jose Guillen since: .377/.389/.640, 19 doubles, 9 homers, and 43 RBIs in 43 games.
Guillen deserves a column all on his own, but the point I want to make is that even as Guillen has turned his season around, his plate discipline (never good to begin with) has declined to non-existent. He had five walks through May 5th, just two since, and the last one came May 15th. Since then, he has hit .356 with a .611 slugging average in 152 plate appearances, and thanks to a couple HBPs he has a .362 OBP.
Jose Guillen has gone almost 6 weeks without a walk – and in that time he has a .362 OBP. He’s threatening to single-handedly destroy one of the prime directives of sabermetrics. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but I can’t help but be impressed. I mean, Vladimir Guerrero would be impressed.
- 10-10 tie, end of the 6th.
Hillman deserves all kinds of credit for being aggressive in the bottom of the inning, pinch-hitting for Callaspo with the score 10-6, two on and none out, and getting a key single to continue the rally. And DeJesus just continued what to this point has been his best season; he’s hitting .309/.370/.470, including a .364/.427/.616 mark since May 27th. Last season was the worst of his career, the result of his batting average dropping 35 points for no reason – he didn’t strike out any more than usual, and his power and walk rate were roughly in line with previous years. It looked like a fluke then, and it looks like a fluke now. I’m thinking my trade proposal that would have sent him to the Cubs for Pie and Cedeno may not have been such a good idea…
…particularly because with Mike Aviles, who needs Cedeno? His two-out, two-run double tied the game. He’s hitting .328 with a .625 slugging average. He has more total bases in 64 at-bats (40) than Pena has in 164 AB (32). It’s been years, maybe over a decade, since any hitter came up and made this dramatic an impression in the first 2-3 weeks of his career with the Royals. I’ll let those of you who go to the games respond – is he a hit with the fans at the park? There was pandemonium when he tied the game yesterday, but that’s to be expected when you come back from seven runs down.
I think I’ve said this before, that one of the most compelling reasons why I’m such a big fan of Dayton Moore is that the vast majority of his moves look far better six months after the fact than they do at the time they’re made. It looks like he’s fooled me again. I didn’t like the Ron Mahay signing at all. I didn’t think the Royals needed to spend $4 million a year on a situational reliever, but specifically a left-handed situational reliever. The Royals had Jimmy Gobble, John Bale, and Neal Musser already on hand, and adding a fourth lefty specialist to the pile made no sense whatsoever.
Except that John Bale made a stunningly successful transition to the rotation in spring training, and then was stunningly unsuccessful in the regular season, both in terms of pitching and in remembering to take his frustrations out with his non-throwing hand. And then Jimmy Gobble decided to see how far he could push the envelope with the concept of the LOOGY, as he’s been deadly against LHB (.118/.167/.265) but is reaching the point with RHB (.410/.510/.744) that has left-handed hitters debating the merits of trying to switch-hit for the first time in their lives. Ignore his 8.15 ERA – Gobble’s usage is so bizarre that many of the runs charged to him are the fault of other relievers, and many of the runs that are his fault are charged to other relievers. But you can’t expect to get a full inning out of him, and by and large Hillman hasn’t tried.
Mahay, on the other hand, went two scoreless innings yesterday to get the win, the day after he went 1.1 scoreless to earn the hold. He has pitched more than an inning 15 times in his 32 appearances, which is almost unheard of in this day and age for a left-handed reliever. The reason for this is that he has almost no platoon split – for his career, RHB hit .249/.340/.394, LHB hit .229/.309/.391, and much of that OBP difference is explained by intentional walks. This year LHB are hitting much better than RHB, although that’s a sample size fluke.
One of the biggest criticism I have of the LaRussa-ization of bullpens is that so many relievers, particularly lefty relievers, have been pegged as one-sided specialists even though they have the ability to get both sides out. Mahay is too good a pitcher to be limited to one-batter appearances. Gobble is not. Hillman has correctly differentiated between the two, which is why Gobble is averaging 3.4 batters per appearance, and Mahay is averaging a fraction over 5.
I still believe there should be a spot on the roster for Neal Musser, who in
(Now, why the Royals just called up Horacio Ramirez instead of Musser…I have no answer for that.)
What more can I say about Joakim Soria? I know he’s the Mexicutioner, and I don’t want to discourage poster Jack Jester from his hard-hitting reporting on the crime wave sweeping the nation, but I really would like to call him Mr. Sandman. Not the Sandman in the Mariano Rivera, “Enter Sandman” way, but more like the “Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream” way. He’s the guy who puts everyone into a tranquil sleep when he comes in, no matter how wild and crazy the game was before he showed up. Before Soria, would any Royals fan have felt safe in the ninth inning yesterday? Of course not. A seven-run comeback, both teams scoring in double digits, 30 hits, 13 walks, a game that took nearly four hours to play…why would anyone expect the ninth inning to be easy?
But when Soria came out for the ninth, were any of you worried? I know I wasn’t. And that’s what Soria provides – a sense of tranquility that hasn’t been seen in these parts in over ten years. He's not just ridiculously effective – he’s also ridiculously composed. On a day like Sunday, it's like he’s the only sane man in an insane world. He never appears to be caught up in the tension of the moment – he never even appears to be aware of the tension. I noticed this in his very first save opportunity, a week after his major league debut, when he struck out the final two Blue Jays to end the game. You’d expect a rookie in his fourth appearance to be a little pumped, a little psyched, a little stoked. Soria trudged off the mound and exchanged…no, make that he accepted high-fives from the other Royals. He was acknowledging that his teammates were happy for him, but he personally didn’t see what the fuss is about.
I know Mariano Rivera has the Sandman name locked up, but Mr. Sandman would have been perfect for Soria. But so long as he continues to make hitters look positively stupid every time he takes the mound, I suppose the Mexicutioner will do just fine.