We were going to lose eventually. It’s never fun to lose by one run, because you can always find half a dozen ways in which the game result turned on a split-second play or a questionable ball/strike call or a groundball with eyes. We beat the Tigers by one run on Opening Day, so call it even. And since the Tigers are more likely to be in the thick of the division race, so long as we’re all drinking the playoff Kool-Aid together you’d much rather have the win against Detroit.
I only caught the first inning of this game on TV, so most of these observations are off the play-by-play. Take them for what they’re worth.
- This was my first glimpse at the home broadcast (I watched the previous games on MLB.tv, which provided the Tigers’ feed) since Fox Sports picked up the TV rights. It’s obvious that the production values are higher, but what caught my eye were the commercials. I always thought the Royals’ commercials were the perfect synopsis of the team, because they were almost invariably poorly conceived and ham-handedly executed. Many of them were downright juvenile; it was like the team ran their commercials by a focus group made up of fourth-graders.
The commercials I saw today had an edge to them. Cue some foreboding music. Narrator speaks in a deep, gravelly voice: “Things change. It was the end of days for the Jumbotron. We brought it down” – as we watch Billy Butler taking batting practice – “with respect, and with batting practice” – as
I love the concept; it’s about time the Royals try marketing to grown-ups for a change. I have just one problem with the commercial: the special effects of the baseballs exploding on the scoreboard look like someone spent ten minutes on a Mac adding some video clip art to the scene. Come on, guys. If you’re going to go to all the trouble of making a commercial, don’t give us special effects that call to mind Luke Skywalker making his final approach on the Death Star.
- Man, Joey Gathright is fast. Bunt single, stolen base, run scored. That he was thrown out eight times in 17 attempts last season is just criminal. Someone needs to be fired for that.
- Man, Billy Butler’s hand-eye coordination is just sick. He battled Scott Baker for nine pitches in the first, at one point getting a piece of a fastball that was a foot inside immediately followed by a slider that was down and away. It’s getting to the point where his hand-eye coordination might be too good – he can hit just about any pitch, but he’s also swinging at just about every pitch. Butler was an OBP beast in the minors, and needs to get back to that.
- Of course, he finished the at-bat with a single right up the middle to plate Grudzielanek. He may not be an OBP beast, but he's a beast. Only, for the second time in three games, he was then thrown out trying to advance when the throw from the outfield was cut off. On Wednesday, the decision was defensible, because there was a play at the plate and decoying the cutoff man to plate an insurance run was a smart move. Tonight’s decision was not smart – Grudzielanek was going to be safe either way.
Teahen led off the second with a double which might have scored
- The Royals only got that second run thanks to a dumb decision by Matt Tolbert, the Twins’ rookie second baseman (no, I hadn’t heard of him either – Baseball
- I don’t want to unduly alarm anyone, but the Royals scored three runs and have scored a total of 16 runs in 38 innings. More to the point, they didn’t draw a single walk tonight, and now have eight walks in four games. Neither Gordon nor Butler has drawn a walk yet. OBP, guys. No. Brainer.
- John Bale allowed ten hits and four runs in 6.1 innings, and struck out just two. Despite this, it looks to me like a pretty good start. He was a groundball machine – 13 groundouts to four flyouts, and seven of ten hits were on the ground as well, four of which were infield singles. He’s not going to give up four infield singles a game, not with this infield defense. As long as he keeps the ball down and it takes three hits to score a run, he’s going to be fine. If it’s going to take a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice squeeze to score the winning run against him every time out, he’s going to win more often than not.
- It’s early, but Hillman seems to favor the set lineup. Four games in, and with the exception of Gathright taking over for DeJesus after David reinjured his ankle, the lineup has been identical in all four games. Hillman’s lineup against the lefty Kenny Rogers was the same as against all three RHP. I would have thought Hillman would have used Matt Tupman one time, if for no other reason than to let the kid play in a major-league game before he returned to
- We’ve held our breath waiting to see how Hillman would handle this situation, and the answer is: for the first time all season, Tony Pena was slated to bat with the Royals losing in the 6th inning or later – Hillman pinch-hit for him with Alberto Callaspo.
I can say, without a trace of hyperbole, that this is the best sign yet that Hillman knows what he’s doing. Pena is a legitimately excellent defensive shortstop, but his game-winning blooper on Opening Day is the only time all season he has reached base safely. Callaspo is a marginal major-league shortstop; there are a lot of managers who simply would not pinch-hit with him for Pena under any circumstances because they feel the defensive hit is too great. Hillman is not one of those managers. Thank God.
- Jimmy Gobble. My goodness. You guys saw this; all I see is three lefties up, three lefties walking back to the dugout. Three lefties named Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, and Justin Morneau. My goodness.
While many right-handed relievers were formerly failed starters, for whatever reason most of the lefty specialists in the majors were groomed as relievers in the minors or very early in the major league careers: from closers like Billy Wagner and B.J. Ryan to setup guys like George Sherrill and Damaso Marte to LOOGYs like Steve Kline and Trever Miller.
Gobble, on the other hand, wasn’t a full-time reliever until last season, his fifth in the majors. He really seemed to come into his own after he dropped more sidearm against LHB in late May. Now that he has a defined role, he might be ready to really flourish. I wouldn’t use an Arthur Rhodes comp – the reason it took
I may have said this before, but remind me again: why did we need to sign Ron Mahay?
- Ramon Ramirez completed the bullpen’s perfect day, which means that Carlos Guillen’s home run off Brett Tomko remains the only run given up by the bullpen in four games. Their combined line: 10.2 innings, five hits, one run, three walks, 16 strikeouts. As recently as 2006, the bullpen’s ERA for the year was 5.41. The ability to put together an effective bullpen on the cheap is one of the easiest ways to discern the good GMs from the bad ones. I guess that means you all know who’s going to be #1.