When this 10-game homestand started, I said that the Royals needed to post a 7-3 or 8-2 record. Well, that’s already impossible, having started just 3-4. They can still salvage a winning week and a half with a sweep of the suddenly very young White Sox, but I have my doubts they can do that. The important thing is that the Royals are just 1.5 out of the division lead with a similar gap between them and a Wild Card spot. I wish I could get out my crystal ball and tell you what’s going to happen over the final 68, but at least for now, the Royals are right smack in the middle of everything, and that’s fun.
- Mike Minor is going to be an interesting piece of the Royals offseason as he has a $10 million mutual option that is a pretty safe bet to be declined by at least one side. That $10 million is a little too steep to pay for one season of a reliever, but it’s also a perfectly reasonable price to pay for one season of a starting pitcher. Of course, the fact that the Royals are actually in the race makes it unlikely that the Royals will be giving Minor a few starts at the end of the season. So what do they do? He’s been such a good part of this bullpen that you’d hate to lose him for next season, but you also have Scott Alexander, Travis Wood, Richard Lovelady, Matt Strahm and others as lefty possibilities in the 2018 bullpen. My guess is the Royals let him walk and he finds a three-year deal for more money than he should probably get from some other team, but it’s honestly a little difficult to imagine the bullpen working without him because of how good he’s been this year. Considering where he was last season, this is a surprising conundrum to have, but not a bad one at all.
- The Royals absolutely need another starter. Contending teams can’t have Travis Wood pitching every fifth day, that’s for certain. But I think if they can find the right fit, the rotation has a chance to look really good. I know Vargas has struggled in his last couple starts, but I don’t worry too much about him. Where people do seem to worry is about Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel. And look, I get it. Both of them have gone through stretches of multiple starts where they’ve looked more like DFA candidates than starting pitchers on a playoff team, but both have been really good lately. In Kennedy’s last six starts, he’s allowed eight home runs, which hurts the almighty FIP. But he’s also averaged a little more than six innings per start with a 2.68 ERA and just 26 hits over 37 innings. Hammel’s stretch goes back to the start of June. He’s lowered his season ERA from 6.18 to 4.81 by posting a 3.56 ERA in his last nine starts, averaging a touch over six innings per start. Neither pitcher is a world beater and Hammel certainly has an ability to go up in flames quickly, but they’ve both been really solid over the last few turns of the rotation.
- Danny Duffy’s start yesterday didn’t turn out great. I honestly think the heat just finally got to him after a phenomenal beginning to the game. If you saw him in the dugout after he was pulled, he looked like he was dripping about a gallon of sweat. Anyway, the point is that I’m willing to give him a bit of a pass for his dropoff in the fifth and sixth inning and focus on some serious pitch efficiency before that. Even with the last couple rough inning last night, Duffy is averaging 13.7 pitches per inning since coming off the disabled list. That’s the kind of efficiency you want to see. The one thing to keep an eye on is that Duffy got just five swinging strikes last night, which could very well have been by design. I mentioned the heat. If you’re in Kansas City, you know how hot it was. He very well could have been pushing for weak contact rather than swings and misses (though I hate that style for the most part). He had 11 swinging strikes in his first start back, then 13 in his second and then nine in his third. So there’s not a ton of reason to worry, but it’s worth keeping an eye on in Duffy’s next start.
- Brandon Moss is hitting a less than robust .205/.273/.410 this season, so it might be a little weird for me to say that he might be the key to the Royals making the playoffs in 2017, but they need another bat in that lineup and Moss has the ability to put up some monster numbers for weeks on end. Arbitrary endpoints and such, but he hit .337/.406/.737 over a 25-game stretch last season with eight homers and 18 RBIs. The guy is going to strike out, but when he gets on one of his hot streaks, you can absolutely accept that because he’s going to hit the ball hard when he makes contact. And all of a sudden, you look up and Moss has hit .333/.368/.611 in 38 plate appearances with four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. It’s a very small sample and we’ve seen him get hot before in a small stretch, but if Moss is able to get on track this season, the Royals offense has a chance to take on a very different look and feel with hitters up and down the lineup who have the ability to do damage. We have 10 more days before the trade deadline and nine games for Moss to show the Royals they don’t need to make a move to get a bat that they can either slot in the DH spot or move some guys around to help the DH spot.