Fine, they pulled me back in. I guess that’s what being a fan is all about, though, right? It doesn’t take a ton to get you to start thinking about the scenarios that they could actually pull off the improbable comeback. And yes, it would be quite improbable. It would probably be more improbable than beating the A’s in the Wild Card game, and more improbable than coming back against the Astros in the ALDS. Say improbable one more time. The analyst in me sees all these teams between the Royals and a playoff spot and the clock ticking and knows the odds are pretty slim. The fan in me somehow has them finishing 93-69. It’s quite a juxtaposition of thought.
- I think what Danny Duffy has done this season, and especially lately, has made what Yordano Ventura is doing get lost in the shuffle. And that makes sense. Duffy is pitching like a legitimate ace, while Ventura is pitching like a solid three and maybe a slightly overmatched two. But that’s okay because if Duffy is the ace, that’s what the Royals need from Ventura. He’s now given up three runs or fewer in eight consecutive starts. In that time, he’s lowered his ERA from 5.15 to 4.46. He’s averaged about 19-20 outs per start in that time, which is exactly what the Royals need from their rotation. He’s lowered his walks enough that they’re not killing him. He’s striking out a few more, but still not as many as we know he’s capable of. He’s just been very solid. Now, this is the second straight year that he’s put together a nice run in the second half of the season, so forgive me if I’m not setting off alarms like I was silly enough to do last year, but this is a solid stretch of pitching, and if the Royals are going to make the playoffs, he has to keep this up. But dream for a second about a Royals playoff rotation this year of Duffy, Ventura and Ian Kennedy. Those three have given up 13 runs in 75.1 innings in 11 August starts. That’ll play. They just have to, you know, get there.
- Don’t look now, but Alex Gordon is heating up. He now has a nine-game hitting streak in which he was hitting .382/.462/.706 with three homers and five walks. He’s hitting the ball much better and seems to be doing a better job of not pulling off the breaking stuff that was causing so much swinging and missing. He’s still striking out a fair amount, but he’s always struck out a fair amount. It’s been an absolutely awful season for Gordon, there’s certainly no getting around that. He’d been worse before this stretch than either of his two terrible seasons in 2009 and 2010. Some wondered if the contract was a complete bust. Some probably still do, and that’s justified. Whatever your feelings about Gordon, I think it’s pretty clear that if he’s hitting, the Royals have a good chance to do some damage, and the way he’s been hitting lately is really encouraging. He’s looking a lot like the Alex Gordon of old.
- If you want to dream a little about the postseason, the path is murky at best, but the Royals are at least in a position to make some serious noise. They currently trail the Yankees, Tigers, Mariners and the Orioles for the second wild card spot and are tied with the Astros. That’s five teams they have to separate from to get to playoff position. The good news, if you’re scoring at home, is that the Royals get the chance to face the Yankees, Tigers and Red Sox over their final 41 games. In the division, they also still have six games left against the Indians, so all hope there isn’t lost (though it’s close). It’s cliché time here at BP Kansas City. The Royals can’t get ahead of themselves. They can only win the game they play. They can’t control what the opponents do and they can’t win Thursday’s game on Wednesday. The key here is to make up chunks of games. Their three against the Yankees and Red Sox each are huge series. I worry about the Royals in Boston with all the home runs they allow, but they have to win those series at a minimum and probably sweep at least one. As for the Tigers and Indians, they really need to take four of six from Detroit, but if they want any hope in the division, five of six is the minimum to win from the Indians. It would be great if they could get to maybe September 9th and five games out. Closer is obviously better, but that seems like a somewhat realistic goal if you’re dreaming. It’s a long shot, but it’s not impossible. Yet.
- Without knowing all the details, I don’t want to get too deep into judging this, but yesterday it was announced that Rob Manfred would like to add a pitch clock by next season as well as limit shifts and reliever usage. All of this has been brought up before, but I’d just like to say that I’m not in favor of any of this. On the pitch clock front, I don’t especially care that much. I think the pitch clock has actually been a positive thing in the minors and doesn’t change the game much, if at all. As for shifts and reliever usage, yeah, it can be annoying when your favorite player hits a rope into right field that’s fielded by the second baseman, but that’s just strategy. And yes, Terry Francona going to the bullpen 78 times in one inning can get exhausting, but, again, that’s the strategy of the game. It seems like they’re looking for a combination of scoring more runs while taking less time, and that’s just not an easy thing to figure out. You want to shorten the game? Limit the time the umpires can review plays. Anything more than a minute or a minute and a half is likely too long. I think baseball can always get better. Maybe there should be 154 games instead of 162 or maybe rosters should be expanded in some way to help keep players healthier, but these changes mentioned by the commissioner seem like change for the sake of change and they won’t do anything to especially enhance the game. If that’s the case, then why bother?
- And for a nice ending note, the Royals have outscored their opponents 32-8 over their last five games. That works for me.