Five hours to go. Let’s hope that
- I compared Guillen with Meche yesterday, so it’s worth revisiting The Epic in light of his last three starts, which have been the most dominant three-start stretch for him since last May – 20 innings, 3 runs allowed, 12 hits, 4 walks, 18 Ks. His ERA has dropped half a run in that stretch, to an above league-average 4.22, and he’s won three consecutive starts for the first time in a Royals uniform. His peripherals (106 Ks vs. 46 BBs, 138 hits and 14 HRs in 141 IP) now look slightly better than last year. His ERA is higher, but that’s in part because he’s surrendered only two unearned runs this year, compared to 10 last year. Whereas last year he started on fire but was below average after mid-May, this season he has a 3.28 ERA since April ended. And with Greinke emerging as our #1, Meche compares favorably with any team’s #2 starter. The Royals have their problems, but the top half of the rotation is not one of them. Just so long as John Buck keeps getting his head shaved every fifth day.
- The top half (or bottom half, depending on your perspective) of the bullpen is in pretty good shape as well. Soria, Ramirez, Mahay, and Nunez have combined for 183 innings – and as a group have a 2.02 ERA.
Yet somehow, the team has a 4.60 ERA which is just 12th in the league. The gap between the haves and the have-nots on this staff is enormous. Fortunately, most of the have-nots, a roster spot they have not.
- Zack had his third double-digit strikeout game in his last 24 starts. That equals the total of every other Royals pitcher in the last seven years combined. He set a career high with 11, and if a few groundballs didn’t find holes he would have had a chance for a few more. Marks to shoot for: the last Royals pitcher with 12 Ks was Kevin Appier, in September 1996. The last with 13 Ks was Appier, the start before that. The last (and only) with 14 was Mark Gubicza, on
- As you may have heard, Alex Gordon became the first Royal ever to draw five walks in a game. I could point out that two of those walks were intentional, which means that twice the opposition intentionally walked Alex Gordon to face the guy who pinch-hit for him 10 days ago. I could also point out that Gordon’s the first major leaguer since Barry Bonds in 2004 to draw five walks in a game without scoring a single run. But let’s not spoil the moment.
Splash may not be hitting all that well, but at least he’s doing something right. Yesterday was just the culmination of a trend – since June 10th, Gordon’s walked 28 times in 43 games, so despite a .237 average in that time he has a .360 OBP. Sometimes the walks follow the power, but sometimes the power follows the walks. The boom is coming. I can feel it.
- The Mexicutioner has now reached the New York Times. The revolution is nigh. Soria really belongs in a higher league at this point. On Tuesday night, he clearly didn’t have his best stuff, he was laboring and working slowly, he was having trouble throwing strikes, Buck had to come out to the mound to talk to him at one point. It's impossible to not love the guy.
With two strikes on Jack Cust leading off, he shook off Buck several times, and then with everyone expecting the curveball, he threw a straight fastball on the outside corner that Cust is still looking at. When everyone expects him to drop the Guillotine, he switches to the Sniper Rifle instead.
It's impossible to not love the guy.
- Now that Dayton Moore has solved the riddle of the Royals’ bullpen, can he work on the other massive weakness that this team has – the complete inability to catch pop-ups? It was amusing to hear Frank White the other day, when a lazy flyball dropped between Grudzielanek and Teahen in short right field that cost Meche a run, talk about how this has been a problem for the Royals all season. No offense, Frank – I know you’ve been managing in Wichita for a few years and haven’t been able to watch this team regularly in a while – but this has been a problem pretty much since you retired. I never feel safe on any flyball that’s hit between the infield and the outfield – the Royals let at least one of these drop for a hit at least once a month. As Bannister found out yesterday, not even infield pop-ups are safe.
Can someone take charge here? This isn’t a problem of defensive ability – it’s a breakdown of hierarchy, because no one seems to know who is supposed to take charge. Come up with a simple protocol: the centerfielder always has the right-of-way, outfielders always take charge over infielders, and the shortstop always takes charge in the infield. Presumably the Royals have a protocol like this, but for over ten years, they haven’t followed it. And it’s getting kind of tiring.
- Speaking of Bannister, his transition to becoming the new Nolan Ryan continues apace. In five innings, he walked four, struck out seven, and threw 111 pitches. It’s kind of cute, honestly. But as I keep emphasizing, the only significant difference between his performance this year and last year is that balls are finding holes this year. Last year his BABIP was .262, which we knew was unsustainable. This year, it’s .310. Regression is a bitch. Bannister knows that, which is why he’s trying to miss more bats, but recently the cost has been high. In his last 7 starts, he has 30 strikeouts in 37 innings – but 20 walks as well. Hopefully he’ll still be in uniform in six hours, giving us two more months to see how this experiment progresses.
- Mike Aviles. My goodness. He has 26 extra-base hits in 49 games. That projects to 86 extra-base hits in a full season. Jimmy Rollins, on his way to an MVP award last year, had 88. Hanley Ramirez had 83. It’s been a long time since the Royals lost anyone of consequence in the Rule 5 draft, but just remember:
- After DeJesus and
- Ross Gload’s continued deployment at first base every day is the single most compelling piece of evidence we have that Trey Hillman, when all is said and done, has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. Or
So we need to tolerate Ross Gload’s .333 slugging average because of his defense – but it’s okay to let Jose Guillen play right field on a Hoveround? Is anyone buying this crap?
- Quick trade rumor analysis:
Mahay for Donald? Favorable – Donald has an above-average bat and an average glove, and in a best-case scenario would be comparable to, I don’t know, Aaron Hill. He could either play a strong 2B, or play SS and allow Aviles to move over to 2B. Worst-case scenario, he’s Callaspo insurance. But this rumor is fading.
Mahay for Brandon Moss? Maybe. Moss reminds me of where Teahen was two years ago – a LH-hitting corner outfielder with mid-range power, decent walk rate, but tons of Ks. Teahen, unfortunately, has regressed from age 24 to 26, but two years ago he looked like a hell of a commodity. Moss doesn’t have Teahen’s 2006 season on his resume, of course, but I’m impressed that he’s hit as well as he has in the majors (.291/.348/.456 in 103 AB) as a part-time player. But he just adds to the glut of potentially-average outfielders on the team; he’s 10% better than Mitch Maier or Shane Costa, and is that worth trading for?
Grudzielanek to the Twins for anyone, now that they need a second baseman? If this means German plays 2B until Callaspo gets sober, sure. If this means moving
Zack Greinke for – NO.
Ross Gload for – YES.
I’m still waiting for the trade that no one expects to go through. We’ll know soon enough.Update: I'll be on with Kevin Kietzman at 810 WHB at 4:05 CDT this afternoon. Hopefully we'll have some trades to talk about. (And no, I don't know of any secret trade that's about to go through. I do know they're talking, though.)