After yesterday’s rather uninspiring 2-0 loss, I happened across some evening talk radio where the controversy (because it is 2016 and any discussion MUST be a controversy) had boiled down to whether Yordano Ventura should have started the game over Chris Young. Hey, I understand the question, but in the brief time I was driving, this topic spanned and survived four phone calls.
The Royals managed three hits, could not score Alcides Escobar from third with no one out, nor could they move Kendrys Morales from second after a lead-off double, but sure, a different starting pitcher would have made all the difference. Of course, that is just some after game talk and likely forgotten by all this morning. Except by me, of course, because I hold grudges and judge others…it is 2016 after all.
There are sound reasons we can speculate on why Ventura, owner of the best pure stuff on the starting staff, did not get the game two – essentially a second Opening Day – nod. The one most talked about, of course, was the emotional stability angle. Let’s face it, over the first half of last season, Ventura was kind of a freak show. He went down like he had been shot due to a thumb cramp. He jawed at Mike Trout for hitting a baseball. Quite honestly, I have a hard time believing Yordano Ventura was a guy that other Royals particularly enjoyed playing baseball with for the first half of 2015.
Now, he did ‘straighten up and fly right’ over the last few months of last season and could lay claim to being Kansas City’s best starter in August and September, but it is not hard to envision Ned Yost and others wanting to have Ventura prove himself mentally a little further. On the day the World Series’ rings are handed out in front of the team you beat to win them? Maybe the calm veteran Chris Young makes a little more sense.
The emotional discussion is all speculation, of course. Yesterday’s start was to be Ian Kennedy’s before his hamstring got tight and had he made that start, I don’t think anyone says anything: even late at night on the radio. There are also real live baseball reasons to opt for Young over Ventura, as well.
Foremost among those is simply that the Royals had slotted Ventura to start this Friday’s game well in advance of Kennedy’s injury. Pitchers, as we know, are delicate flowers these days and disrupting one’s routine is something to be avoided. Young, as we saw in 2015, is adept at handling a disruption in his routine, however minor it might have been to slide Ventura up a few days to pitch. That point, however, pushes back to the emotional side of this discussion which I already have decided was overblown.
What the Royals did have and knew they would have on Tuesday was an all hands on deck bullpen with the game sandwiched between three off days. In Young, they have a starter who will top out at six innings and one the team is going to want to ration innings over the course of the season. Why not use him on Tuesday when you can go to the pen early, knowing you have two off days to follow? The Royals then can turn to Ventura, a pitcher who is quite capable of going seven innings, to start off a stretch of ten straight games with no days off.
Let’s also not dismiss the idea of having the soft-tossing Young sandwiched between the rotation’s two hardest throwers, as opposed to having Volquez and Ventura facing opposing teams on consecutive days throughout the season. While there are enough differences between those two to make having them pitch consecutively a minor issue, if you have the opportunity to split them and do so on a day when you can save an inning or two on Young’s arm, why not?
In the end, it is good to be the defending World Champions with the majority of your roster returning. We can debate things simply to have something to talk about. How has this franchise changed? I will leave you with the second game lineup from ten years past:
C – John Buck, 1B – Doug Mientkiewicz, 2B – Mark Grudzielanek, SS – Angel Berroa, 3B – Mark Teahen, LF – Emil Brown, CF – David DeJesus, RF – Reggie Sanders, DH – Mike Sweeney, P – Joe Mays
Now, THAT, is something to talk about.