3 UP 3 DOWN
After taking a month off for summer vacation (or at least it seemed that way with a 7-19 July) the entire team is up now. The Royals are 12-5 in August and are starting to make fans pay attention again. The playoffs are still a long shot, but the burst has served to let fans and management know they haven’t packed it in and quit on the season despite playoff chances looking bleak.
Alex Gordon is catching fire. After a highly disappointing first two-thirds of the season plagued by injury and the Mendoza line, Gordon has finally found his stroke. He is helping carry the Royals during the hot start to August. In his last 8 games Gordon is hitting 400 with an OPS over 1.200. He also has 3 home runs and 2 doubles in that stretch and the team is 7-1 in that span.
The starting pitching has been much better of late. Danny Duffy has been magnificent for a few months, but now his rotation mates are catching the disease. The Royals staff is putting up a 2.71 ERA over their last 19 games…and that includes a 12 run outing against Tampa Bay. The emergence of Duffy has been matched lately by Ian Kennedy and to a lesser extent Yordano Ventura. To highlight the fact the Royals have given up just one run in each of their last 4 starts.
Paulo Orlando. The darling of mid summer has cooled a bit before the fall. He is hitless in his last 16 AB and has drawn just one walk in that time with 6 strikeouts. The next 6 weeks will be important for Orlando and the Royals. If he gets back on track there will be reason to believe the Royals have a good starting outfielder to go with Gordon and Lorenzo Cain. If he goes into a slump then there will be questions once again on who should play that position for the Royals in 2017.
Salvador Perez. It’s been another year of innings taking their toll on the Royals backstop. Over the last month he is batting .160 with just 2 home runs. Worse he has struck out 25 times and walked 0. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Nil. Of course he still has great value to the team with his defense and game calling but it looks like the workload is taking its toll once again.
Edinson Volquez. The one starter who hasn’t joined the pitching parade of late is Volquez. In his last 4 starts he has given up 22 runs in 23 innings. Hitters are batting .350 against him with an OPS of nearly 1.000. Volquez was someone many fans wanted traded to make the team better for the future. To this point he has not rewarded Dayton Moore for keeping him in the fold.
Football is finally back (kinda) as the Chiefs lace them up for the first time Saturday against Seattle. After spending a few weeks at camp here is what I’ll be watching in the first preseason game.
This is a unit that was a liability at the beginning of last year but came a long way. The Chiefs added to the unit with Mitchell Schwartz and draft pick Parker Ehringer and gave a contract extension to Eric Fisher. In many people’s eyes they have gone from liability to strength in one year. They get a true test against a stout Seahawks front seven.
Back Up QB
It was a real race before the signing of Nick Foles last week. He seems certain to be the back up to Alex Smith now, but there is still a position battle. Tyler Bray, Aaron Murray and Kevin Hogan now seem like 3 guys for one spot. It will be interested to see who even gets to play out of the three and then who looks the best.
Head Coach Andy Reid was on the show this week and when asked about the corners who could play opposite Marcus Peters he said “Gaines is the guy.” The Chiefs have given lots of guys reps at right corner in camp but it appears they want Gaines to take the job. It will good to see where he is coming back from injury last year.
No offseason move got as much scrutiny as the drafting of Tyreek Hill. His off the field issues made headlines right after his pick, but the attention lately has focused more on the field. He has elite speed…which is visible in practice…but can it translate to the field? He needs to prove that this preseason. How he does will also impact the futures of Knile Davis and D’Anthony Thomas.
Three Up, Three Down
There isn’t a more popular guy this side of Salvador Perez. Whit has begun his major league career with 40 hits in his first 28 games and reached base safely in all but two of those. He is hitting .333 and is playing a good second base. Expectations are high but baseball is littered with older players (27 at his debut) who have started hot and faded. Anyone remember Jeremy Hazelbaker earlier this year? The 28 year old rookie had 5 home runs and an OPS of .988 in his first 28 games and now is back in the minors. Let’s not put Whit in the Royals HOF quite yet.
The latest All Star voting results are out and Salvy is again leading all American League vote getters. He has 2.7 million votes…just ahead of David Ortiz. Perez is leading all catchers in average, slugging, home runs, rbi, runs and is second in doubles. That and he’s the best throwing catcher in the league. He and teammate Eric Hosmer would start for the AL if the game were held today. CF Lorenzo Cain is just on the outside looking in currently in 5th in OF voting.
When things looked bleakest for the Royals starting rotation Danny Duffy stepped in. Since building his pitch count up he has been the teams best starter. Since moving to the rotation he has an ERA of 3.25 . He has 42 k’s and only 7 walks and the team is 5-2 in those games. Duffy has helped keep the Royals rotation afloat.
The rest of the rotation, especially on the road
The Royals are struggling at the front right now. Outside of Duffy no Royals starters are outperforming expectations to this point of the season. They are 10 games below .500 on the road and are giving up a run per game more on the road than at home.
Down and out. Hat tip to the Royals though for eating salary and clearing the roster space for younger players like Merrifield and Brett Eibner to come up and perform.
He is DOWN in the minors now on a rehab assignment. Getting Gordon back should boost an inconsistent Royals offense. The outfield will be crowded with Eibner up and Orlando hitting well, but the Royals need a healthy and consistent Gordon to make another deep run in the AL.
We have our first look at what Vegas thinks about the Chiefs a week before the NFL Draft. CG Technologies (formerly Cantor Gaming) has released point spreads for every game in the first 16 weeks of the NFL. Judging by those spreads the Chiefs are expected to go 8-4 with 3 games as a pick em. The only game not listed is the finale against San Diego.
The Chiefs are favorites in all their home games including 5 games of a touchdown or more. Vegas only has them losing one divisional game…at Denver…with the game at Oakland a pick. The complete details are available at vegasinsider.com The Chiefs games are broken out below.
Week 1 7 point favorite over Chargers at home
Week 2 pick in Houston against the Texans
Week 3 3.5 point favorite over the Jets at home
Week 4 4 point underdogs at the Steelers
Week 5 Bye
Week 6 pick in Oakland against the Raiders
Week 7 8 point favorite at home against the Saints
Week 8 1 point underdog at Indy
Week 9 7 point favorite over Jacksonville at home
Week 10 4.5 point underdog at Carolina
Week 11 7 point favorite over Tampa at home
Week 12 3 point underdog at Denver
Week 13 pick in Atlanta
Week 14 4.5 point favorite at home against Oakland on Thursday night
Week 15 9 point favorites at home against the Titans
Week 16 1.5 point favorite at home against the Broncos
Week 17 Line not listed at San Diego
After back to back AL pennants and a World Series title much credit has been given to Dayton Moore and his foresight in building the Royals. One thing that hasn’t been discussed was an error he made early in his tenure but learned from and corrected.
One of Dayton’s forgotten goals and theories was you wanted 1000 innings out of your starting 5. It’s a great goal…but one almost no team accomplishes. Injuries are too common and young pitchers are rushed to the big leagues on innings limits which make that goal nearly impossible to achieve. It appears now Moore has shifted strategies.
Last year the Royals brought Chris Young and Joe Blanton to camp with no real spot in the rotation or pen. Call it insurance, call it depth or call it luck but the Royals ended up getting 22 starts and 13 wins out of them. This year its Mike Minor, Dillon Gee and Chien-Ming Wang picked up from the island of misfit toys. To me they may be the secret to the Royals success this year.
Many pundits have tagged the Ian Kennedy signing as the worst in the off season. Leaving his final spring training start with the same hamstring injury that sidelined him last year isn’t helping the Royals argument there. They paid Kennedy 70 million dollars over 5 years to eat innings and get outs. That might have been too much, but for less than 10 million dollars Dayton Moore bought some insurance.
Moore seems to have realized 5 starters aren’t going to get you through a season and bringing up prized prospects for spot starts isn’t a good use of service time. He has instead found reclamation projects to provide depth for a suspect rotation. Some might argue the rotation isn’t suspect but let me make a case….Chris Young is aging, Kris Medlen has had two tommy john surgeries, Yordano Ventura still has immature moments and, as mentioned, Ian Kennedy is already having issues.
This is where Moore may have been at his best again this season. This year he will pay Mike Minor, Dillon Gee and Chien-Ming Wang a total…total…of 5.75 million dollars. That’s 3 guys with starting experience waiting in the wings. Break glass in case of emergency.
The bull pen will get the headlines but a sidebar should be saved for Dayton Moore’s starting pitching insurance. It may be the unsung signings that save the Royals and take them toward another October.
Royals excitement is beginning to build once again as we are just a few weeks from Spring Training. As they enter the 2016 season the team has a chance to go from underdog to dynasty. They have set them up for a chance to truly make baseball history with another championship.
There is no doubt the Royals have already accomplished a lot by coming back from 30 years of hibernation to back to back World Series appearances and a title. That has revived a fanbase and energized a community. What it has done for Kansas City is immeasurable. Now, the Royals can take the footprint they’ve placed on Kansas City and plant it on the sport as a whole.
In the history of baseball only 14 times has a team won back to back World Series. It hasn’t happened since the Yankees from 1998-2000. Just going back to back would put the Royals in elite company. However, the Royals lost the year before…meaning they would be back to back Champions with 3 straight appearances. That has happened only 8 times in history. For various reasons the Yankees have dominated the sport through its history. This is no different. The Yankees have accomplished the back to back and 3 straight appearances feat 6 times. Yes, 6 of 8.
That means if the Royals win another Championship this year they will join the 1929-30 Philadelphia A’s and the 1972-74 Oakland A's as the only non Yankees to win back to back titles with 3 straight World Series appearances. The first championship in 30 years was magical for the Royals. Another one would be historic.
List of Back to Back World Series Championships
Consecutive Appearances In Parenthesis
1910-11 Philadelphia A’s
1915-16 Red Sox
1921-22 New York Giants
1927-28 Yankees (3 straight)
1929-30 Philadelphia A’s (3 straight)
1936-39 Yankees (4 straight)
1949-53 Yankees (5 straight)
1961-62 Yankees (5 straight)
1972-1974 Oakland A's (3 straight)
1977-78 Yankees (3 Straight)
1992-93 Blue Jays
1998-2000 Yankees (3 straight)