The Royals pitching staff just walked you. And me. And the guy who was picking his nose in the car next to you yesterday on your drive home. Yes, that’s right, the Royals are giving out walks in a nightmarish fashion. And that’s what’s helped contribute to a putrid 0-3 start at the hand of the team that lost 103 games last season. Is all hope lost? Of course not. Is there reason to worry? Of course. Any time something goes so shockingly wrong and that’s the only data you have on a team, it raises eyebrows and causes worry. Now the question is how they respond. We might know pretty quickly what kind of a team this is.
- I know I wrote a whole piece about Duffy’s changeup yesterday, but something kind of crazy that I noticed when I was just scrolling through charts is that Duffy seemed to be getting much more spin on the ball on Monday. So, sure enough, I looked it up and going back to his start on June 1st last year, he had 25 of his 30 highest spin rate pitches on various fastballs on Monday. As advanced stats evolve and we start to learn more and more, spin rate has become one of the numbers that’s fashionable to quote and with good reason. It’s harder to hit a ball that’s spinning more. Of course that doesn’t mean it can’t be hit, but it’s far more difficult. Duffy’s average spin rate was 2,445 revolutions. His second highest was that dominant game against the Rays last August with an average of 2,381. So to add to the point that the changeup could be a real game changer for him, if he can continue to get this kind of spin rate, we could be talking about a very special season for the Royals ace.
- I mentioned last week that I was worried about the bottom of the order with Jorge Soler on the disabled list, and I have to say that my worries were not assuaged. Even with hits from Alcides Escobar and Raul Mondesi. Those two, plus Paulo Orlando and Cheslor Cuthbert are a combined 5 for 32 to start the season. The rest of the lineup hasn’t exactly been what you’d call good, so it hasn’t been the reason the Royals have lost, but at some point it will come back to bite them. I still really like the top six in this lineup with the ability to get on base and hit for some power. The problem is, rallies are going to be very quickly halted once the middle of the order finally gets going. I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m not thrilled with how much my concerns about Mondesi have already seen the light of day. Unless he shows something I’m not sure he’s capable of showing just yet, the Royals are going to have to make a quick decision on him and give one of the runners-up in the second base competition a shot.
- Whether you think this opening series was just a blip on the radar, or there’s pending doom for this team, it’s clear they’re going to have to get that bullpen in order. I still think it can be a solid unit, though obviously not as dominant as we’ve seen in the past. Kelvin Herrera is still good, if he gets to pitch at some point this year. I believe Joakim Soria will have a bounceback season. He looked much better in spring training to me. The question is how the rest of the arms fit. I think ultimately Travis Wood and Peter Moylan will be an effective, but unspectacular, tandem to get out lefties and righties respectively. I like Minor a lot and what we’ve seen from him, but I think the Royals need to be careful with overworking him. His second day in a row did not go very well Thursday, so he might be a guy who needs a day off in between outings, at least for the time being. My big worry is Matt Strahm. He was just so bad in his two outings and it makes me wonder if maybe he’s hurt. Craig mentioned his velocity on Wednesday, and that evened out, but the command he showed last year just hasn’t been there in his first two outings. Ever since that awful outing against the Reds on March 20th, he just hasn’t looked quite right. My recommendation would be for guys like Scott Alexander, Kyle Zimmer and Josh Staumont to be by their phone ready to go because they might be needed much sooner than expected.
- Maybe it’s me getting older or maybe it’s the World Series win in the very recent past, but I just find myself not getting as worked up over small stretches of baseball. Even when the Royals look as bad as they have in Minnesota, I have a much easier time these days reminding myself that baseball is different in that good teams lose a lot and sometimes bad teams even win some games. That’s not to say that the Royals are definitively good or the Twins are definitively bad, but these things do happen to both good and bad teams. What I will say is that the Royals desperately need to get off to a good start this season, and that’s still possible, even with this ugly first series. To me, there are some checkpoints during this season, and the first one doesn’t actually come until the end of April. They’re scheduled to play 24 games in the first month of the season and I think that the month is a success if they win at least 13 of them. That’ll be no easy task with the hole they dug themselves, but that’s the goal by the end of this month. The next one for me is somewhere about a week before Memorial Day where they can make some changes after the magical 40 game mark that Dayton Moore touts. Then it’s the All-Star break and ultimately the trade deadline. Let’s just start with April and hope for 13 wins or more.