The Royals drop another one in Baltimore...literally
A blunder in the outfield opens the floodgates. But Salvy added to his dinger total! And at this point, isn't that all that matters?
You never want to be watching a Royals game and have your thoughts turn to Chip Ambres. You just don’t.
It’s even worse when you can’t decide which Chip Ambres incident you’re recalling. Is it the time he dropped a fly ball in the ninth inning with two outs that would’ve secured a victory? Cleveland continued to rally in that game, hanging 11 runs in the frame to win 13-7. It extended a Royals losing streak to 11 games. They would go on to drop a club-record 19 in a row. Or was it the time he and fellow outfielder Terrance Long converged on a fly ball with two outs in an inning, looked at each other and both started jogging in to the dugout. I kid you not. The ball dropped for a single. At the time just prior to this the Royals held a 1-0 lead against the White Sox. The Sox scored three runs because of this boneheaded “defense.” The Royals lost 6-4.
So it was the most unpleasant of flashbacks to watch this in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 9-8 loss to the Orioles.
Obviously, circumstances are much, much different from when Ambres wore a Royals uniform. That 2005 team was the worst club in franchise history. The Royals aren’t riding a double-digit losing streak. This wasn’t to secure a victory, it was to preserve a tie. Still…
I just can’t for the life of me, figure out what Edward Olivares is doing drifting over from center field and cutting in front of Dozier. I totally understand the center fielder has priority, but said center fielder needs to have the awareness to understand that just because the priority is his, he doesn’t need to make the play. Especially if the right fielder is calling for the ball from almost the moment it left the bat. And has a much shorter distance to travel to the ball.
The inning was already a disaster. This was just pouring gasoline on a raging dumpster fire. Two runs came across on the error. Two more scored when the next batter, Ryan Mountcastle, took Jake Brentz deep. By the time the horror show was over, the Orioles sent 12 men to the plate and scored nine.
Somewhere, Chip Ambres smiled.
Colby will discuss this in his weekly takes below, but even though Dozier wasn’t at fault for the miscue on Wednesday, he is having just a disaster of a season—both at the plate and in the field. He holds the distinction for logging the most innings on the club at third base and the second-most in right field. At those two spots, the Royals are a -28 Defensive Runs Saved. Yes, you read that correctly. A -28 DRS from two positions. And it’s not exactly a coincidence that it’s the two positions Dozier has played the most.
The Royals have assembled a defensive alignment with perhaps the strongest backbone in the majors. They have Gold Glove-calbre defense up the middle at catcher, second base, shortstop and center field. Not everyone in that group is going to win the award (or the Fielding Bible award at their position), but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see all four defenders in the final three. Basically, with strength up the middle, the Royals have built what should be a rock-solid defense.
And somehow they are rated the 17th best defense according to The Fielding Bible with just a +1 DRS.
That’s just amazing.
Three Take Thursday: King Salvy, the Dozier problem and the tantalizing potential glut of pitching
Look, Craig covered this above, or below, or wherever he elected to talk about the absolute debacle of last night’s Baltimore game. The Orioles, in the throes of being the Orioles, put up a nine-spot in one inning of the saddest baseball you will ever watch. It was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable and remain so, several hours later. On the broadcast, I believe it was pointed out the Orioles hadn’t scored nine or more in an inning since 2015? Let’s just move forward, shall we?
Take One: Go off, King Salvy
First, let’s just look at our buddy hitting dingers.
Here’s home run number 39:
Number 41 was dropped…into the fountains!
And last night’s addition:
Could genuinely watch that man hit dingers all day and have a grand time.
He’s doing things no catcher has done in a long time and most of the catchers who did it before him wound up in Cooperstown. When you’re doing things that put you in the company of Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza, consider that a successful season. Two months ago, I argued that, while his season is great (and has only gotten better), Salvy’s chances to actually win the American League MVP Award were somewhere south of nonexistent. Crud team, unfavorable sabermetrics, Shohei Ohtani existing—pick a reason, there was a good one to simply hope Sal garnered enough support to sneak into the top-10 for the first time in his career. Now consider, among AL bWAR leaders:
Ohtani has cooled (not enough to not be MVP necessarily, just enough to open the door a wee bit).
Marcus Semien and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will probably cancel each other out.
Cedric Mullins and Jorge Polanco are on rat teams every bit as bad or worse than the Royals, and those dudes aren’t catching nearly every game.
Carlos Correa plays for the Astros and will always be One Of The Dudes Who Cheated, regardless of his actual body of work this season.
… and suddenly there’s a path where José Ramírez, Aaron Judge and Salvy are vying to for legitimate votes, only Salvy is having a season rivaling many of the prime Bench years, with defense to back it up. It’s insane that we’re talking about this, but if (and this is a huge if, given how hot he’s been lately) Salvy stays hot in September, breaks the record for home runs by a catcher or even [fans self nervously] becomes the first catcher with a 50-homer season? That case for MVP goes from low rumblings to a dull roar to perhaps something even greater.
Take Two: The money is spent, just slide Hunter Dozier to the bench
For reasons known but to God and Dayton Moore, the Royals saw Hunter Dozier back up a break-out 2019 with a pretty pedestrian 2020 and decided they needed to buy up the last few years of team control in order to… well, I don’t rightly know. It never actually made a ton of sense at the time and since this season Dozier is running the saddest two-man race ever between Eugenio Suarez for the status of Worst Player in Baseball, it makes even less sense now.
At least they can’t get out of the deal without trading him for negative-pennies on the dollar before the end of 2024 at the earliest. So there’s that.
Dozier has been bad this year. He has actually never been all that good at the big-league level with the exception of 2019, although it’s hard to fault anyone for anything that happened to them in 2020. Either way, what’s done is done, Dozier got the bag and now he’s essentially unplayable.
So stop playing him.
Seriously, there’s no upside for a 30-year old who can’t hit and also can’t be played anywhere on the diamond without grading out as a replacement-level defender or worse. When you’re having to bat him ninth behind Michael A. Taylor and Hanser Alberto, and it’s a logical and sensible move because they have both been more consistent hitters than Dozier this season and that’s not a joke and there’s no punchline, then exploring other opportunities might be mutually beneficial for all parties. Failing at that, you don’t have to give him 450 at-bats a year that might otherwise go to someone who can serve some sort of purpose beyond being around just because you already paid him.
Take Three: Is… is there going to be TOO much good young pitching?
Problems that are classified as ‘good problems’ come with some real ‘hand-curling-around-a-monkey’s-paw’ intensity because good problems are just that—problems.
[I bet Craig $5 that I could use the word ‘problems’ three times in a sentence and have it make sense. Pay up hoss.]
This much pitching, if it keeps on the way it is? Problem. A good one, but a problem because there are only five rotation spots to go around and someone of the Brady Singer—Daniel Lynch—Jackson Kowar—Carlos Hernández—Kris Bubic—Asa Lacy sextet is going be left out in the cold over the next year, and that’s before we even address whatever might happen with Frank Mozzicato by 2024 or 2025 at the earliest.
Bubic has already shown a propensity for success as a bullpen swing guy, and his destiny may lie there eventually. He would be an incredible fail safe should any of the other five falter and still get regular work if they don’t, a dime-store version of what the Dodgers have done with Dustin May and Julio Urias at various points in their careers. But at some point, that asset is too valuable to waste in long man/spot-starter duty, no matter how effective they might be in the role. A trade would be sensible, particularly since (as noted above) Dozier isn’t the long-term answer at third (or right, or anywhere else), Adalberto Mondesi’s health is, largely, theoretical and there remain long-term questions in the outfield that even Andrew Benintendi’s arrival and Kyle Isbel’s ascent can’t quite put to bed yet.
But who of that above group would you get rid of? Each has shown potential to be something special and no GM wants to be known as the guy who got pantsed in his generation’s Doyle Alexander-John Smoltz deal. The Royals have been big on giving their homegrown talent every opportunity, which is smart given that’s how they’ve maximized their success in the past—nurturing talented players into the best versions of themselves.
But to win two pennants and a World Series, they took a swing and dealt Wil Myers. James Shields helped hang a pennant; Wade Davis threw the clinching pitch in the 2015 ALCS and World Series and was briefly the most dominant reliever who ever lived. It’s hard to argue against the result. At some point, a similar deal will be on the table for one of the young arms. The fallout could change the fate of two franchises, but no pressure.
Twins 3, Cleveland 0
Minnesota starter Joe Ryan retired the first 19 batters he faced and finished with seven shut out innings, allowing just one hit. Ryan arrived in Minnesota in the Nelson Cruz trade with Tampa.
Tigers 5, Pirates 1
Miguel Cabrera had his first four-hit game in three years leading Detroit to victory. He singled three times and hit a double while driving in three. Going back to Tuesday, he’s now collected hits in seven consecutive at bats.
White Sox 1, A’s 5
Oakland nicked Sox starter Dallas Keuchel for eight hits and five runs over 5.2 innings. Five different A’s batters drove in a run. Frankie Montas locked up the Chicago bats, allowing just six hits over seven innings while striking out seven.
The Royals Tragic Number drops to six in the Central. It’s down to eight in the Wild Card race. Yes, I’m aware the Royals have been virtually eliminated from all postseason consideration for months, but I’m the kind of guy who watches and waits until things are officially settled. No, I’m not saying there’s a chance.
Get the Royals out of Baltimore already. Carlos Hernández takes the mound against John Means with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 CDT.