In almost any other division, the Royals would be toast. There are teams that have raced out to fast starts in both East divisions and both West divisions. Then there’s the two Centrals where nobody has run away. So if you’re looking for the Royals to stay close to a pennant race, that’s a great thing. If they can make up the ground, it’s phenomenal, but I fear it will do nothing more than provide false hope and could negatively impact the future of the franchise. I guess what I’m trying to say is if they’re going to make a run, they better do it and not just hang around enough to convince the front office that they shouldn’t focus on the future.
- Speaking of the future, one of the Royals demotions this year could have interesting ramifications on later editions of the team. The emergence of Jorge Bonifacio led the team to send Jorge Soler to Triple-A to make sure he was getting at bats. On the surface, that’s disappointing, but there could be an added benefit. Because of his service time coming into the season, if Soler remains in Omaha until after the All-Star break, the Royals would gain an extra year of club control. When the trade was initially made, we all figured the Royals had control of Soler from 2017-2020, but an extra year (his age-29 season) could be absolutely huge for this team given that they should expect to be contending again by those latter seasons of his club control. To be conservative, let’s say Soler would need to remain in Trilpe-A until at least the last full week of the month, but adding an extra year of Soler team control would be a very nice extra benefit of Bonifacio becoming a solid every day player.
- Kelvin Herrera had another just really bad game last night. Here’s a wild thought: e’s is throwing too many strikes. Yeah, I said it. Maybe this should be a bigger article, but you might have noticed that Herrera has been getting hit a little harder this year. Through Wednesday’s action, it was really trouble with the slider, having allowed a .320 average and .720 slugging percentage, but his fastball has been hit harder and his changeup has been much less effective, even if the numbers against it have still been fine. Last night’s issue was on the fastball. I just feel like the command isn’t there, even thought the control mostly has been. A big difference to me is that Herrera is throwing the ball in the strike zone 58.4 percent of the time compared to a career average of 50.1 percent and the highest full season of his career by a full seven percent plus. They’re not really making any more contact on pitches inside the strike zone, but there are more of them to make contact on, thus the increase in batted balls. Add in that more of his pitches outside the strike zone are just outside the strike zone and he’s given up much more contact on those pitches as well. So yes, the slider is an issue and a big one. I think maybe as big a problem is that he’s leaving it in the zone too much. He’s increased his zone rate on his slider by a full eight percent this year. But I think the other pitches spending too much time in the strike zone has been an issue for him as well. The stuff is clearly still there. Some effective wildness might do him good.
- It’s kind of interesting that since the calendar flipped from April to May, the Royals have been pretty much what a lot of us expected them to be. They score enough runs to win some games, but the pitching is uneven. After just vomiting all over themselves in April, they’re 19-17 since the start of May, which is actually an 86-win pace. They’re scoring 4.2 runs per game and hitting a little more than a home run per game. That kind of all fits into what I thought they’d be when I predicted them to win 86 games. Now, there are a couple things to point out here. One, an 86-win pace over 36 games does not mean they’re that good, but it’s a good chunk of the season that they’ve played like one. Unfortunately, April was a reality. That means that in order to wipe that out, they need a stretch as bad as that month was good. I’m not so sure I see this team going on a 16-7 run, and certainly not before they’re able to get Danny Duffy and Nate Karns back, which is probably when they need to have that run happen. I’m not entirely sure there’s a point here other than that it’s very difficult to basically take a full month off and hope to be just fine in the end. Like I said at the start, they’re just lucky the division is so mediocre. They still have a shot at it because of everyone else.
- This is a huge road trip coming up for the Royals. They have the chance to face two of the worst teams in baseball and another team missing the best player in baseball with a thoroughly mediocre roster outside of him. My guess is this team doesn’t have a run in them, not with Danny Duffy and Nate Karns out, but these nine games are all likely winnable, so if they’re going to pick up a lot of wins without losing too much, this would be the time. This weekend against San Diego looks like a legitimate opportunity for a sweep given how bad the Padres are, but the Royals have to get the job done, which is something they’ve struggled with on the road this season.