I know I’ve said this before, but this is one of the most infuriating teams I’ve ever followed/covered. Some days they look like world beaters then other days they look like they might be one of the worst teams you’ve ever seen. They can lose by 11 runs one day and win by 11 the next. Typically, that might be sort of a hyperbolic statement, but they literally did that earlier this week against the Tigers, losing 13-2 one day and winning 13-2 the next. Add it all up and they’re pretty much a .500 team, which their 69-70 record would indicate. Mediocre can be frustrating, but when they get to mediocre by alternating greatness and horrific failure, it’s even more difficult to handle.
- As much as it seems sometimes that the Royals have no shot at the postseason, they’re still well within the playoff race. Still, I find my mind wandering toward next season a lot and I think about what the Royals need to remain competitive, which I’m sure they will attempt to do rather than rebuild. We can have the argument another day regarding whether or not that’s the correct decision, but if they do continue to try to remain competitive, one thought I have is to move one of their best players this season to a new position. Yes, that’s right. I would have great interest in Whit Merrifield moving to center field to replace Lorenzo Cain. Whit is a solid defensive second baseman, but he’s not great by any stretch and he’s been a good outfielder in the past and has said that he feels center field is his best spot. That would allow the Royals to go after a veteran second baseman like a Brandon Phillips or Ian Kinsler to pair with Raul Mondesi at shortstop which would give the youngster something of a mentor as a double play partner. The risk here is that the Royals would move Merrifield to center and then just re-sign Alcides Escobar, which would be a massive mistake. I really think it could make a lot of sense for the 2018 Royals if they don’t do that.
- I’m fairly certain a Royals pitcher going five innings and giving up one run makes him the new ace of the pitching staff, so that means that Sam Gaviglio is now the Royals ace after his performance against the Twins yesterday. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get the win in the game, which I’ll get to in a minute, and that’s sort of a huge problem. Yes, wins are always important so that’s one reason why it was a huge problem, but another reason is that when you get surprising outings like the one from Gaviglio, you have to capitalize. And when you think about what they’ve gotten from that fifth starter spot over the past few starts (remember the 12-0 and 17-0 drubbings?), they simply have to take advantage of games like this when they come along. Instead, the Royals were largely held in check for a second straight game by Kyle Gibson, a pitcher they definitely should have been able to handle. That just can’t happen. There are a number of games you can look at in a season when a team narrowly misses the postseason, but this is definitely one to look back on as a game they absolutely should have won and didn’t.
- And of course, the biggest reason they didn’t win is that Kelvin Herrera once again failed to hold a lead. I’m probably the biggest Herrera apologist out there, but even I can’t really defend what he’s done most of this season. Look, I think he’s hurt. I think he’s been hurt. I think the innings he’s thrown the last few seasons have finally caught up with him and started to catch up with him last season, but that doesn’t excuse the way he’s performed all too often this season. We know about the forearm issues he’s been dealing with, and they seem to pop up after only a handful of pitches in each outing. At this point, I don’t see the reasoning of continuing to test the forearm only to have to pull him after he’s thrown 18 pitches or whatever it is. Shut him down and hope that the rest at the end of the season is enough to make him an effective pitcher again next season. The issue, of course, is who closes? It can’t be Brandon Maurer, who I’m convinced has one of the biggest gaps between stuff and ability in baseball, but that’s something to worry about later. Oh, and for those who say the Royals shouldn’t have traded Wade Davis, I’ll tell you that I’m very confident you’re wrong. He also had multiple forearm issues last season. They should have traded him for a different return, which I said at the time, but that’s another story entirely.
- I’ve seen a lot of talk about how the Royals are too reliant on the home run this season, and that’s why the offense has sputtered at times. While I don’t disagree entirely with the notion, they were actually right in the middle of the pack in terms of run scored via the home run heading into action last night. They’ve scored 42.95 percent of their runs on the home run, which is 14th in baseball and right between the Diamondbacks and Nationals, two playoff teams in the National League. Yes, the number is higher than it was last season and the year before and the year before that, but adding the power that they have is certainly not the issue with this offense. Rather, the fact that they’ve played with a black hole in the bottom third of the lineup has held them back far too often. Giving away essentially three innings every game makes it difficult to win. There are lots of culprits for when the offense struggles, but the home run ball is way down the list.