What a gut wrenching way to end a series and head into an off day, huh? It sure feels like there’s been a lot of those lately, and it’s mostly because there have been. The Royals have gone 5-5 in their last 10 with literally every single one of the five losses winnable games. That’s how you miss the playoffs. Luckily for the Royals, there’s still time, though there isn’t much of it.
I said sort of tongue in cheek that the Royals would need to go 39-14 in their final 53 to make the playoffs. I didn’t expect it was a possibility. Now they have to go 18-5 the rest of the way (maybe less if you don’t think 90 is the number). Can they do it? Sure. Will they? I’d guess not, but we’ll find out soon enough.
- After the last loss, it seems that Royals social media was determined to find a scapegoat and determined to make it Joakim Soria. And I get it. When Soria has been bad, he’s not only been bad, but he’s been detrimental to the team. He’s given up leads like it’s going out of style. He’s fifth on the team in losses in spite of throwing just the eighth most innings. I thought Soria would work his way out of it after some early season struggles that seemed to be a little on the unlucky side. Boy, was I wrong. That’s not to say he hasn’t had his moments because he has been very good at times, too. Still, the way he’s pitched is unacceptable. And even so, to say he’s the number one reason the Royals aren’t in line to make the playoffs is simplifying the issues too much for my taste. It’s easy to see the numbers and make that connection, but he is just one of many issues this team has faced this year. They’ve lost their number two and number three hitters for large chunks, if not most, of the season. They lost their closer. They lost their left fielder and when he’s played, he’s mostly been a remarkably bad hitter. Their first baseman is maybe an average hitter this year. They led off Alcides Escobar for months with a sub-.300 OBP. The fifth starter spot in the rotation has been an unmitigated disaster. It all contributes. It’s easy to see Soria turning wins into losses and think he’s the problem, but it’s too long of a season for one person to be the I’ve probably been a Soria apologist at times this year, but that’s not what’s happening here. That’s just saying there’s plenty of blame to go around. Darin Watson has more on this.
- With regard to the bullpen, one player I feel is getting overlooked a bit is Brian Flynn. He’s been fantastic this season, putting up numbers I think were expected of him last season before his injury. You may remember that he was turning heads in spring training 2015 and then got caught in a numbers crunch before getting hurt very early in the season. He came to camp this year and really wasn’t as good, but a lot of that seemed likely to be rust. All he’s done is post a 2.36 ERA in 45.2 innings. He’s given up just 5.9 hits per nine and has allowed an opponent’s TAv of .262. Yeah, he’s maybe walked a few more than you’d like and he doesn’t seem as dominant as you’d think he would be, but he’s done a nice job for this team this season. It’s also worth noting that he had that bad start against the Indians. As a reliever, he’s posted a 1.87 ERA in 43.1 innings with even better peripherals. That one start really threw things out of whack. Between his work and what Peter Moylan has done against righties (.232/.283/.284), I’d use those two as the seventh inning tandem on days Matt Strahm isn’t available. Relegate Soria to the Wang role or something and call it a day.
- I’ve seen a lot of people talk about Escobar’s option and how the Royals should decline it, pay the buyout and just move Raul Mondesi to shortstop next season. I get the logic. The guy has a .298 OBP. He seems significantly slower than he once was and his defense isn’t what many believe it to be (in my opinion). But at the same time, the option is for $6.5 million, which is a pretty insignificant outlay for a guy who has been worth 5.6 WARP over the last almost three seasons. In fact, with a win being worth roughly $8 million on the open market, Escobar has either been worth about that $6.5 million salary or more in five of his six seasons with the Royals when you measure it by WARP. When you add in that Mondesi is hitting a gentleman’s .179/.227/.268 on the season, I’m not so sure turning shortstop over to him next season is the best idea in what many believe is the final season of a championship window. Sure they could go out and sign Erick Aybar or Alexei Ramirez or something, but even if it’s a cheaper deal, how much cheaper is it going to get for a free agent in a weak market? Is it worth disrupting the clubhouse like that? I wouldn’t say so. As long as Escobar is batting in the bottom third of the order, I’m more than happy with him on the team in 2017. No, he’s not exactly an elite defender and he can’t really hit, but he’s out there every day and gives you pretty solid value for that $6.5 million.
- There was a discussion on The Drive on 610 Sports the other day about Kendrys Morales and if he’s done enough to garner a qualifying offer from the Royals with his recent hot streak. My answer on Twitter when Danny Parkins brought it up was that it isn’t crazy to think he might have. I didn’t think he would get a QO when I said it isn’t crazy to think that way, but it got me thinking about Morales in general a little bit. What’s interesting is that he’s had two different stretches of 45 games where he’s been basically unplayable, especially as a DH. And then he’s had two other stretches (one he’s currently in) where he’s been out of this world good. I mentioned them in my piece on the Royals MVP yesterday. Now, you can’t do this statistically. It all counts. But still, in his two crazy hot streaks, he’s hit .463/.514/.968. Wow. The rest of the year, he’s hit .206/.277/.336. So the question is if he’s the consistent force the Royals saw last season or if he’s now, as he’s aged, morphed into a guy who can truly carry a team for two weeks at a time and be as hot as anyone on the planet but is a disaster otherwise. My guess is somewhere in between. It’s hard to argue with the 26 home runs, but as a DH, his overall .258/.325/.463 leaves something to be desired. As for his future with the team, I still believe the Royals will look to utilize Mike Moustakas, Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier all in the same lineup if possible, and that means no Kendrys on the team. I could see a scenario where they trade one or two of the third basemen and Morales sees that $11 million mutual option and thinks it makes some sense and the Royals agree. In that case, sure, I could see him back, but that seems like a long shot here. In spite of all this, it’s sure fun to watch Morales when he’s scorching hot like this. Hopefully it continues for, oh, about 23 more games.