For the third straight season and the fourth out of the last five, the American League will be represented from a team out of the Central division, which is a stark contrast to the first 17 years of the division when it represented the AL just four times. With the Indians return trip to the Fall Classic, they have the most trips in the division with three. The Royals and Tigers each have two and the White Sox have one. To date, only the Royals and White Sox have won it all out of the Central, so if you’re into division pride, you’re rooting for the Indians no matter who they face.
- You might recall hearing about how the Royals were the toughest team in baseball to strike out in 2015 and then became much easier to strike out (though still tougher than average) in 2016. It was at least part of the reason for the offensive decline. It’s easy to see where they went wrong. In 2016, among players with at least 200 plate appearances, Jarrod Dyson led the team with an 11.6 percent strikeout rate. There were 22 total Royals who accumulated at least 200 plate appearances in 2015 or 2016. 10 of the 12 lowest strikeout rates belonged to the 2015 Royals players. Of the eight players with 200+ PA for both versions of the Royals, only Dyson’s strikeout rate actually dropped from 2015 to 2016. Some might look at that and say there’s a good chance that reverts, but this is also a team that’s getting older and presumably slower. The biggest culprits were Alex Gordon (+7.4 percent) and Salvador Perez (+7 percent). I feel like Perez made a conscious change in approach, but Gordon concerns me. If his wrist is healthy, I think he probably gets closer to his 21.8 percent mark in 2015, but you never know. To me, getting Mike Moustakas back along with Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain cutting down on the strikeouts will be the key to getting that under control in 2017.
- There’s a lot of talk about the 2017 payroll after Dayton Moore’s comments, but we don’t talk much about the seasons beyond that. I get it, but it’s still interesting to me. As it stands right now, the Royals have $42.75 million guaranteed to four players (Gordon, Joakim Soria, Yordano Ventura and Perez) with another $16 million owed to Ian Kennedy if he doesn’t opt out of his contract following the 2017 season. They also have basically two arbitration eligible players in Kelvin Herrera and Christian Colon. If Herrera ends up as the Royals closer because of a Wade Davis trade, he’ll probably get about $10 million in arbitration. If not, he’d be more around $7.5-$8 million probably. And Colon could get about $1 million, I guess. So let’s call it $10 million for the two. That means the Royals have $52.75 million in allotted to six players with another $16 million possibly for another. Oh yeah, there’s also $3.5 million in buyouts to Chris Young and Omar Infante. Move to 2019 and there’s $39.75 million guaranteed to Gordon, Perez and Ventura with another $16.5 million potentially going to Kennedy along with a $1 million buyout for Soria. My point is that unless the Royals farm system starts to really produce some serious talent, this team isn’t dropping too far in the payroll rankings any time soon. I’m not really sure what it matters right now, but I find the payroll discussion fascinating and wanted to throw that in.
- I feel like I’ve written about this before, but maybe not, and even if I did, why not talk about it again? There’s a lot of talk about the Royals shopping Dyson. And I get it. He’s in the last year of arbitration. He’s not a star or anything. And his skills are seemingly redundant with guys like Billy Burns on the roster. I just don’t think he’s getting traded. The Royals value clubhouse as much or more than basically any team in baseball and Dyson is such a valuable piece to that clubhouse. I just don’t see the Royals wanting to break that up. Plus, there’s the fact that Dyson is significantly better defensively than any of the other options in the system and can actually be useful offensively, as his .340 OBP in 2016 proved. I suppose I could be way off here, but Dyson’s value to the Royals is huge and he won’t cost very much in 2017, even in his final year of arbitration.
- Another thing that makes me believe Dyson is too valuable to this roster is the fact that I think the Royals have to consider playing Cain in right field a great deal during the 2017 season in order to keep his legs healthy. At this point in his career, I actually believe the Royals best defense is Dyson in center and Cain in right, so that actually kind of works out. A healthy Cain could potentially come close to putting up at least some facsimile of the value he provided in his amazing 2015 season and allow the Royals to hopefully find their way back to the postseason next year. The organization had talked a lot about that alignment heading into 2016, but I think Dyson’s injury at the start of spring training really put a damper on all that. Who knows? Maybe 2016 turns out differently without that Dyson injury and Cain plays more right. I doubt it, but the butterfly effect is always sort of fun to think about. Anyway, what I’m saying is that I really think the Royals best chance to win as the roster is currently constructed is Dyson in center a lot of the time and Cain in right. Now, if they can go land a big free agent like a Dexter Fowler or Josh Reddick, the formula changes, but I’m operating under the assumption that won’t be happening, so we can readjust if it does.
- When MLB announced they were adding instant replay, I loved it. I loved the idea that they’d be getting the call right finally. Now, a few years into it, I’m convinced the system doesn’t work. I mean, sure, it works, but it doesn’t really Even when they get the call right, the lead up to it is just executed so poorly. First a manager tells the umpire he might challenge, then the team replay official in the clubhouse watches the replay. After enough time to walk the dog and stop by QT for a drink, the decision has been made to challenge. Then the replay official in New York will look at the play from about a dozen angles over a 47-minute period and ultimately will shrug his or her shoulders and say that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the call. No. My idea isn’t different from most, but I’m going to tell you anyway. First, I think all stadiums should have a replay official in house watching every play as it happens. Any close play is going to be challenged anyway (and don’t tell me that teams can be out of challenges because all they have to do is ask the umpires to take a look and they usually will), so any close play will be looked at and determined without much of a blip in the game anyway. And most importantly, I don’t care what the call on the field was. Make the replay judgment without that in mind. If the umpire called him out, but the replay showed he was safe even with a sliver of a doubt, then he was safe. It just needs to be better. You can get off my lawn now.