Now we get to figure out if the Royals recent nine-game winning streak (or 10-1 stretch if you like to extend it more) was nothing more than a dead cat bounce or if their recent stretch of less than stellar play is just part of the ebbs and flows of a long baseball season. At the break, they were just one game over .500 and then lost four of five. With the nine-game winning streak, they’re a solid 12-8 since the break. Keep that up and they’ll win 89 games, which should be enough to make the postseason. They just need to make sure last night’s win was the beginning of playing well again and not a random blip in the midst of a big offensive slump.
- I loved the trade to bring Melky Cabrera back to the Royals. I thought it was an inspired move to pick someone up who could help to fill in at either designated hitter or outfield to give guys a day off and to maybe get some of the weak bats out of the lineup. Instead, Cabrera has played for Jorge Bonifacio. By doing that, the net gain on the trade was basically zero. Neither Cabrera or Bonifacio are especially good defensively, but both have been at least somewhat valuable hitters this season. The issue in the lineup wasn’t Bonifacio. The issue in the lineup was and is mostly Alex Gordon, but also Brandon Moss. Now, I completely understand that you don’t want to take Gordon’s defense out because it’s stellar. I also completely understand that Moss is able to carry a team when he gets hot. But if Cabrera continues to get his regular playing time in place of Bonifacio, the trade will have been mostly a waste. With 55 games to go, my ideal playing time scenario would be for Gordon to play 30 games, Moss 35-40 and Cabrera and Bonifacio get about 50 each. You’re still getting everyone playing time, but the guys who are hurting the offense the most just don’t get as much. I think it’s a scenario that makes sense. We’ll see if they employ it.
- With the Indians injury issues, I think 90 or 91 wins takes home the Central, which is a 35-20 finish for the Royals. They’ve done that once this season, but with their streaky nature, basically anything is possible. I think they only need 86 or 87 wins to take home one of the Wild Card spots though, which is just a 31-24 finish. That’s a 91-win pace for an entire season, which is less wins than they’ve been on pace for since May 1, so that’s something that seems very doable for them. With about half their games left against teams who are at least decent, it’s not going to be an easy road for them to make the postseason, but they have their road map in place. Win about 63 percent of your home games and 55 percent of your road games and that gets it done. It’s not easy, but making the playoffs is inherently not easy. That’s what happens when you dig such a deep hole so early in the season. It takes a long time to dig completely out.
- I expect the Royals to scour the waiver wire over the next couple weeks trying to continue to add to their team. I know they were working up to the deadline to try to add some additional starting pitching, so don’t be too surprised if that’s where they turn. Remember, if a player is put on waivers, a few things can happen. If the player is claimed, he can either be let go to the claiming team for nothing, while that team has to absorb the whole salary, or he can be traded to that team for a player either not on the 40-man roster or another player who has cleared waivers, or he can be pulled back and then cannot be traded for the rest of the season. If he clears waivers, he can be dealt to anyone…or no one. Anyway, I think they could continue to work on a Marco Estrada deal as I expect him to clear waivers. They could also look to Scott Feldman if he comes off the DL (please no), Ivan Nova or maybe even R.A. Dickey. My guess is they don’t really see a need for a position player, though a utility guy like Jed Lowrie or even Sean Rodriguez might be able to work during this time period. You’re not likely to get a star in August, but you can get a guy who can fit nicely on a roster to help round it out. I won’t be surprised if they do nothing, but I imagine they’ll keep on looking for help.
- This is a continual talking point in Kansas City, but the bullpen seems to have a lot of people awfully concerned. And I get it. Kelvin Herrera has been shaky at times. Joakim Soria has seven blown saves and recently gave up the winning run in the ninth inning against Baltimore. The rallying cry has been mostly that Soria shouldn’t pitch the eighth inning. And if there was someone demonstrably better, I’d be all about that, but my question is if not Soria, then who? You could go with Mike Minor, who gave up a run last night and has given up runs in three of his last four games and give of his last night. You could go with Brandon Maurer, who has electric stuff but got lit up the other night and has a 5.86 ERA. Or maybe it’s Scott Alexander who randomly suffers from a complete inability to find the strike zone. Peter Moylan has been great, but he’s better served as someone who isn’t pigeon holed into a role because he can be used when needed throughout the game. I didn’t mention Neftali Feliz, but the guy the Brewers DFAed earlier this year who has struck out just 10 batters in 15 innings doesn’t seem ideal either. The point here is not that the Royals bullpen is doomed. I think quite the opposite. It’s very deep and filled with quality pitchers. While Soria isn’t an ideal option, he’s one of many options with plenty of good points but also with flaws. Heading into play yesterday, the Royals had the eighth best bullpen ERA in baseball and the seventh best bullpen DRA. This is a good unit. It just doesn’t have the dominant forces it once did. The Royals have some issues, but the bullpen as a whole really isn’t one of them.