From the annals of “be careful what you wish for”, the Royals did score five runs yesterday…
- Look, we can’t act like we’re surprised when this happens to Jeremy Guthrie. I like Guthrie and have thoroughly enjoyed his run of getting #4 starter results despite mop-up man peripherals, but we have to know it could end at any time. If the season ended today, Guthrie would lead the AL in hits for the second straight year. He didn’t get bombed yesterday, and he was let down by his defense, but he also gave up a striking number of line drives. This is who he is. If he’s your #5 starter, you have a good rotation. If he’s your #4 starter, you probably don’t have a playoff-caliber rotation, which means by definition that he probably shouldn’t be starting for anyone in the playoffs. Thanks to Duffy’s injury, that has become a distinct possibility.
At this point, I would happily accept a guarantee that Guthrie starts Game 4 of the ALDS for the Royals, just as I would happily accept a Bugatti with a dent in it. The bigger issue right now is getting to the ALDS, which means winning the division, which means beating the Tigers. Guthrie has given up 17 runs in 13.1 innings to Detroit this year.
This is a problem, because the way the rotation is set up, Guthrie would start the Friday night opener against Detroit at Kauffman Stadium in ten days. The Royals have an incredibly well-timed off-day right before that series, ensuring that the bullpen is rested if nothing else. This also presents an opportunity to reset the rotation, skipping Guthrie and moving up James Shields and Jason Vargas a day.
The problem with this plan – aside from the obvious problem that it would require Ned Yost to place a higher priority on “winning at any costs” than on “standing by his players no matter what” – is that this would also move Danny Duffy’s spot up a day. Replacing Guthrie with Danny Duffy is worth ruffling a few feathers; replacing him with Liam Hendricks isn’t.
If Duffy’s shoulder is sufficiently healed, this may provide an opportunity to drop him back into the rotation on September 19th, keep Shields and Vargas on schedule, and move Guthrie to the opener in Cleveland on the 22nd. It’s possible the Royals could use Duffy returning from an injury to frame this in a way that doesn’t look like a demotion for Guthrie. I would be very surprised if this happens. But hey, this whole season has been full of surprises.
- Speaking of standing by his players no matter what: Omar Infante is batting 2nd tonight. Our man Jeff Flanagan is openly questioning this decision; Infante is playing hurt, and he’s not playing well, and those two things are connected. The problem is that the alternatives are shaky enough to give Yost all the reason he needs to stick with Omar. Jayson Nix can’t hit, and I don’t see the Royals giving Johnny Giavotella a chance now after he’s failed all his other ones.
Christian Colon can’t get healthy fast enough. Of all the sentences I’ve written this year, that might be the one that would have shocked me the most in March.
- Yost got a little flak yesterday for having Alcides Escobar bunt with runners on first and second and none out in the third inning, even though it worked, as Nori Aoki singled both runners in to tie the game.
I didn’t have a huge problem with that particular bunt. Of all the bunting scenarios, the one with runners on first and second and none out is the one where it’s most justified, because you’re advancing two runners instead of one. It’s still not a worthwhile tradeoff overall; the run expectancy chart says that teams in 2014 score 1.41 runs on average with men on first and second, none out, and 1.27 runs on average with men on second and third, one out.
But those numbers are close enough that it can be justified in the right situation: a below-average hitter at the plate (Escobar qualifies), and a contact hitter up next who is unlikely to strike out with a runner on third and one out (Aoki has one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball.) I probably wouldn’t have called for it myself, because the Tigers were up two runs already, so even if it worked to perfection (as it did) you still only tie the game. But on my Ned Yost Outrage Scale, this doesn’t register a blip.