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RECAP: Royals 3, Tigers 1; The Ian Kennedy Show

It’s not about the Royals offense. These days, it’s never about the Royals offense. On Monday in Motown it was about Ian Kennedy and his continued evolution moving him closer to the front of the Royals starting rotation. With six-plus innings on one run ball, here are Kennedy’s numbers over his last four starts:

26 IP, 16 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 7 BB, 22 SO

For those of you inclined to more complex mathematical formulas, that works out to a 1.04 ERA in that stretch.

Naturally, the gopher ball continues to be an issue. He surrendered a solo shot on Monday. But since allowing four in that brutal game against Cleveland on July 20, he’s coughed up just three over the last 31 innings. That’s an impressive 0.87 HR/9.

You may be asking yourself, “Is Kennedy really this good?” Of course not. This is a nice counterbalance to a brutal stretch in early June where he was pummeled in three consecutive starts. Still, as David Lesky noted in these parts on Monday, Kennedy has been solid enough in his debut season in Kansas City.

Entering Monday’s contest, Kennedy owned a 2.3 WARP. Not stellar by any stretch. Solid. It ranks 47th among pitchers on the Baseball Prospectus leaderboards. You may not like the amount of cash the Royals offered to secure a “solid” starting pitcher, but this is baseball economics in 2016. Yordano Ventura, Chris Young, Edinson Volquez and Dillon Gee combined have provided 0.6 WARP.

A Very Royal Run

This is how things get happen when it’s the Royals offense. A single to open the game by Paulo Orlando. He moves to third on an infield single and throwing error. And then scores on a sacrifice fly.

Instant Offense

How about Alex Gordon? A six game hitting streak is modest enough, but he went 2-3 on the night with a walk and a run scored. Four and a half months into the game recaps and this may be the first Gordon mention.

Eric Hosmer Batting Stance Tracker

1st PA – Toe tap
2nd PA – Toe tap
3rd PA – Toe tap
4th PA – Leg kick
5th PA – Leg kick

Mondesi, King Of The Bunt

Let’s talk for a moment about Raul Mondesi and his proclivity to bunt. As noted, he collected his fourth bunt base hit this season, most on the Royals. Plus, the bunt pushed across an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. He also sacrificed in the ninth. That’s all good, right? Eh, I’m not so certain.

We know Mondesi sped through the Royals system and his bat has always lagged behind the glove. Remember how we grumbled when Ned Yost was steadfast in his decision to leave an overmatched Alcides Escobar at the plate in key situations late in the game when a pinch hitter would have made better baseball sense? Remember how Yost said that someday… someday! Escobar would be a key player on a contending team and the Royals needed to prepare him for such situations. And who could forget about Yost keeping Escobar’s dome healthy.

Like everything Yost discussed the last couple seasons, this move was prescient. And golden as it turned out the Royals really did depend on Escobar in key situations. ALCS MVP, anyone? So why aren’t the Royals and Yost extending the same treatment to Mondesi? I’m not even talking about taking the bat out of his hands in what could be considered key or clutch situations, this applies to other plate appearances. In addition to his four bunt hits, he’s attempted to sacrifice eight times. In 64 plate appearances, Mondesi has squared or laid down a bunt in 12 of them. That’s over 17 percent of his times at the dish. That’s too high.

Naturally, the evening I choose to write about this, both bunts lead to runs, and lord knows the Royals need the runs. Still, you can’t help but thing Mondesi could certainly benefit from taking his cuts at the plate in a major league environment. That would be the long view. It’s frustrating the Royals don’t see this.

Up Next

Game two of the series continues with the marquee pitching match-up of the week. Danny Duffy against Justin Verlander. Something tells me you’ll be watching.

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