The baseball season is really long. I know that we say that all the time. You hear the clichés that it’s a marathon and not a sprint and all that good stuff, but sometimes, even with all that, you lose track of just how long the baseball season is. And I think sometimes you lose track of how different it is than other sports because of that length. For example, while it seems like the Royals are playing much better, there’s still a lot of doubt in the back of people’s minds. Losing one of their best players doesn’t help.
I think some of that stems from losing a game to one of the worst teams in baseball on Wednesday with their sixth or seventh starter on the mound. But I think a lot of it is that the grind of a baseball season is something that makes you forget easily. The Royals are 9-5 in their last 14 games. They were 12-6 in their first 18 games. Those two stretches both extrapolate to 100+ win seasons. Now, there’s a pesky 3-11 stretch in there (35-127), but it’s easy to lose track of just how long the season is. The key, of course, is more 100+ win pace stretches and less 35-win pace stretches. This season has seen highs and lows and in betweens already and there’s still 115 games to go. Buckle up.
- One of the lows came Thursday when it was announced Mike Moustakas was put on the 15-day disabled list with a torn ACL. When I saw the news, I felt sick to my stomach. I had a feeling that the injury was worse than they were letting on during the series in Minnesota, but I didn’t expect this. Brett Eibner finally gets his shot after campaigning for it the last year and two months, but I didn’t want him to get it like this. Now is when we learn what kind of a team the 2016 Royals are going to be. They have the ability to win without Moustakas. Cheslor Cuthbert is more than capable of playing third base. And if he’s not, Hunter Dozier is tearing it up in Triple-A. And if he’s not, they can go make a trade for a guy like Martin Prado or even Aaron Hill. It’s time now for Kendrys Morales to shake off his season-long slump. It’s time for Eric Hosmer to really be the man. It’s time for Lorenzo Cain to show why he finished top three in the MVP voting last year. It’s not easy to make up for the loss of your power hitting third baseman, but they’re going to have to find a way. Honestly, I’m just sad about this.
- Darin Watson wrote about the upcoming roster crunch yesterday with Mike Minor due off his rehab assignment by June 9, Chris Young making good progress in his recovery, and Kris Medlen sort of hanging around doing something. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the pitching staff shakes out over the next few weeks. Let’s just pretend Medlen isn’t coming back for a bit because I think they’re going to take their time with him. When Young comes back, he’s going on the big league roster. They’re not going to cut ties with him because of a few bad starts and an injury just 1/6 of the way through his contract. We know Minor is on the big league roster too, so what to do? We know that Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar and Joakim Soria are safe in the bullpen. That leaves Scott Alexander, Brian Flynn, Peter Moylan and Chien-Ming Wang as possibilities to go. Alexander has been fantastic, so I think he stays. Moylan has been pretty good too and was great in Triple-A. I think he stays. So my choices are to bid adieu to Flynn and Wang. I know that some will argue that Wang has been really good, but his 16.2 innings have basically all been extremely low leverage. Maybe the Royals could deal him to a team for a low-level prospect or cash or something, but that’s where I find the room. The question then is who hits the rotation. Personally, I’d probably keep things the way they are in spite of Gee’s rough outing against the Twins on Wednesday. Let Young and Minor work in the bullpen for a bit. They might be needed for the stretch run and their arms will be fresh. The Moose news makes it pretty clear how he finds his way off the 60-day DL and on to the 40-man roster, though.
- How impressive has Whit Merrifield been? Man, oh man. Full disclosure here, I didn’t think it was a great idea to have him on the big league roster, but I also believed there were worse ways to fill a 25-man roster spot than to have a guy who can play who can capably play a whole lot of different positions and can really run. But the bat has surprised me the most. I know he came to spring training having added some muscle, but I’ve been impressed with the contact he makes. Heading into last night’s game, he only made soft contact 11.8 percent of the time and had a line drive rate over 40 percent. The sample is smaller than Alcides Escobar’s on base percentage, but it’s still not something I expected to see in a sample of any size. I have my doubts if he can keep it up. I mean, a handful of games doesn’t, and probably shouldn’t, change anyone’s opinion about anyone, but he’s been a nice addition to the team. It looks like he might get an extended look hitting second for the Royals, too. Hopefully, he’s up to the challenge.
- I’m not completely sure even I believe the theory I’m about to expound, but it’s something that’s crossed my mind. I wonder if Wade Davis is holding something back for when the Royals are in a position that they really need it. It’s kind of a crazy theory and doesn’t seem like Davis at all, but the reason I say it is because of his performance on Tuesday night to get the save. You may recall he loaded the bases by giving up a hit and walking two batters. Nobody was out. At that point, he was throwing 93-95 MPH or so and didn’t look like the guy we’ve grown to love. Dave Eiland came out for a visit and, just like that, he was throwing 97 mph, getting great movement on his pitches and looking like the guy who has destroyed American League (and I guess National League) hitters for the last two-plus seasons. Just that he had that in the tank and went to it when he needed to is what made me wonder if he’s been holding back. Pitching an extra month is hard and it’s nice to have some bullets in reserve. Just something to think about, I guess.
- I’m trying not to overstate this, but the next 23 games could make or break the Royals season. It’s not that they couldn’t make a crazy run if they don’t do well in these 23 games because, you know, it’s a long season and stuff. It’s just that it would make it a lot harder if they don’t do well. In those 23 games, they play six against the White Sox, seven against the Indians and four against the Tigers. They also mix in a series against the Orioles, who are good this season and the Rays, who have a surprising amount of power and always have pitching just sitting around. I’m not sure what a good number for these 23 games is, but I think they have to be looking for 13-10 and no less. Provided they don’t win six of those 13 against the Orioles and Rays and struggle against division foes, that should put them in a really good position to head into the middle of the season. The good news is that it feels like they can still play better, in spite of their record over the last couple weeks. The bad news is this is going to be a really tough stretch. They make it out of this in good shape, and I’ll feel good about picking them to win the division.
- A little advertisement to close things out here. On Friday, June 10, the Pitch Talks series will be coming to Kansas City in conjunction with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Hall of Fame induction of Andre Dawson and Tim Raines. Noted Expos fan and historian Jonah Keri will be on hand along with Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison from The Drive on 610 Sports, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star and Arturo Marcano of ESPN Deportes. Also on the panel, and this is where it’s pretty cool, is BP Kansas City’s own Mike Engel and Darin Watson along with two great friends of the site, Minda Haas Kuhlmann and Max Rieper from Royals Review. It’s going to be a very, very cool event that I’d recommend anyone who can attend does. Make sure you use promo code “bpro” to save $5 on tickets. If you’re not into saving, that’s cool. Tickets are $25 and the doors open at 7pm on June 10.