Rain didn't prematurely end Wednesday's game; would you complain if it had? Colby Wilson offers his thoughts on the developing trade market, St. Louis BBQ & giving Hunter Dozier the Soler treatment.
The only thing better than losing an eighth consecutive game is losing an eighth consecutive game twice delayed by the weather.
The previous sentence is written wholly tongue-in-cheek. There’s nothing good about an eight-game losing streak. Nor is there anything good about a five-game losing streak. Or a six-game losing streak. There’s especially not anything good about an 11-game losing streak, but that was so long ago, who really remembers that? Especially when those other single-digit losing streaks have happened since then.
There are plenty of teams that have endured stretches of bad baseball. Those are, by definition, bad teams. I’m kind of amazed by the fact the Royals had consecutive losing streaks of five, six and now eight games in the month of June. It’s probably happened before. And it’s probably happened before to the Royals. But this is something.
Anyway, I hope you’ve subscribed. Losing streaks love company.
Colby Wilson will lead things off today. As always, thanks for hanging with us…especially during another one of these losing streaks.
Three Take Thursday: It’s time to start thinking about selling. And there’s no buying the myth of St. Louis BBQ.
I’m attending to some personal-life things this week, so perhaps you’ll find these takes to be briefer than some of my other rhapsodic episodes. But I promise, as God is my witness, that the never-ending spiel of nonsense you’ve come to expect will return in short order.
To the takes!
Take One: There’s a St. Louis-Kansas City BBQ rivalry and no one told me.
Most of what I know about St. Louis starts and ends with the tentpole items. Bad beer, worse baseball fans and the inability to hang on to a professional football team spring to mind first. Barbecue is roughly 4033rd on the list and apparently it should be higher?
You all saw the Tweet, and since I’ve blocked the Cardinals on Twitter as a personal choice, I won’t share it here. Whatever problems I have with voting for Cardinals players for the All-Star Game (I wouldn’t do it if I was paid for the privilege, but your mileage may vary) pales in comparison to the umbrage I take with those people comparing their barbecue to Kansas City’s.
I’m Capital-S Southern and as such, when we get together, barbecue is often the meal of choice—everyone likes it and if they don’t, it’s probably a good idea to learn that on the front side so you can be sure that person never joins your family. And I have been all around this little blue rock and tried all the various barbecues, including the year I lived in Memphis and pretty much ate nothing else. Carolina, Texas, that abomination that is Brooklyn—some version has entered my belly at some point along the way.
(Alright, that’s a lie. I wouldn’t eat Brooklyn barbecue if I was starving to death. Man has to have a code.)
My point here is that I have consumed a lot of barbecue; only Kansas City barbecue is worth scheduling an entire week’s worth of meals around, not only because it is delicious but also because there are no diminishing returns on Kansas City barbecue. Eat it for lunch on Monday, dinner on Friday and every meal in between and it remains perfect. I don’t know how this even became a thing but it shouldn’t be. St. Louis—the city and the barbecue—can kick rocks.
Take Two: Do the Jorge Soler Experiment with Hunter Dozier
If moving Soler to the two-hole seemed ballsy, that’s because it was. I can’t think of a baseball player who is a worse fit for the prototypical No. 2 hitter than Jorge Soler, but the idea—get him looking at better pitches in front of Salvador Perez and Carlos Santana—is rooted in what amounts to sound logic around here.
Whether or not it works for Soler is immaterial—he’s been such a tire fire this season that trying anything is better than running with the status quo. But a better question is when will they do this with Hunter Dozier?
Dozier has something Soler doesn’t—namely, a profile of patience, a history of walks and using all fields and taking what is given to him by the defense. Yes, 2020 is a very small sample size relatively, but that 14.5 percent walk rate was tied with Mike Trout—yeah, that one!—for 16th in baseball a year ago. Imagine putting that guy in front of Carlos Santana, he of the career 15.5 percent walk rate.
Dozier’s big problem has been Soler’s big problem in 2021: a desire to pull literally everything. I think we all prefer this spray chart from Hunter Dozier…
… to this one…
A year ago, Santana saw 4.40 pitches per plate appearance and Dozier sat at 3.90. This year, Santana is still at 4.08 (a concerning drop worth its own deep dive at some point), but Dozier has held steady at 3.88. Put him in front of Santana and that duo starts wearing pitchers out with five and six-pitch at-bats right out of the gate, and maybe it would start encouraging Dozier to do the same thing that made him successful in the first place—using all fields with success.
Take Three: The first trade domino is falling soon, and it could (should) be the first of many
In the ability to be proactive, the salvage mission portion of the 2021 Royals season will begin in earnest by… probably the start of next week. It is a holiday weekend after all and nothing that happens against the Twins is likely to move the needle enough to force a reconsideration of that stance. The Royals are Bad this year. We’ll always have April.
Anyway, it’s time to consider which of the usual suspects might be donning new uniforms before August, but two of said suspects are almost certainly out. Danny Duffy has always wished to be buried a Royal, and with his 10/5 rights firmly in hand, he can do just that. Perhaps his new role as hybrid opener/long man would irk him enough to accept a move which, if you can piss off a franchise icon you definitely should. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here; I just don’t think you can completely rule it out either.
After a couple of seasons of holding on to Whit Merrifield and hoping everything else catches up to him, it seems unlikely the Royals will sell on him at his lowest possible point. There are the untouchables because of youth (Brady Singer, Andrew Benintendi), impossible contract situations (Soler, sadly), and Salvador Perez (is Salvador Perez). And there are the players whom only the Royals would consider rostering at this point; I don’t think it’s necessary to name any names here.
But that does leave a few, and potentially a few who could fetch a return. For Mike Minor and Carlos Santana, it makes sense to wait until the market ripens closer to the deadline to see if it’s reasonable to go ahead and make a move this season. Speed always has a place in the postseason, so I could see a market developing for Jarrod Dyson and someone, somewhere, is always going to look at Michael A. Taylor and the massive holes in his swing and say, “I can fix that.”
But it’s coming soon. If I had to put a finger on it, I’d say Ervin Santana and his many many years of experience starting, relieving and being an excellent clubhouse presence will be the first move and when the floodgates open, I expect a flurry of moves to clear off anyone standing in the way of the Royals future. August and September are going to look a lot different.
The return of Lovelady
I have to be completely honest here. I never thought we’d see Richard Lovelady back on a major league mound, in a Royals uniform, again. I just never understood why the lefty couldn’t catch a legitimate chance while the back end of the bullpen continued to smolder.
Finally, Lovelady got the call when the Royals placed Wade Davis on the 10-day IL with a forearm strain. He made his 2021 major league debut last night and turned in a solid performance. Here’s a swing and a miss on a rising heater.
Welcome back, Lovelady!
Of course, because being called up by the Royals these days is like being hired to drum for Spinal Tap, five batters in to his evening Lovelady was nailed in the midsection on a J.D. Martinez comebacker. He was in some obvious discomfort and removed from the game. We await the results of whatever tests the Royals will run. I’m leaning bizarre gardening accident over spontaneous combustion. Even though dozens of people spontaneously combust every year, but isn’t widely reported.
Swingin’ with Salvy
I didn’t write it, but was certainly on the “Salvador Perez Needs A Rest” bandwagon that was filling up this week. Since taking that foul ball off his face mask earlier in the road trip, Perez was 2-24 with 11 strikeouts. Yet there he was on Wednesday, with three hard-hit balls (and another one not so hard-hit) yielding three singles and a home run.
I don’t look at these kinds of charts enough, but I should. Here are the pitches Perez put in play.
That elevated changeup was the one that Perez crushed over the Monster.
At least some Royals fans experienced happiness last night.
Honestly, that’s fantastic. Imagine going to Fenway Park to see your Royals, getting Monster seats and catching a Salvador Perez home run? Have a night Royals Fan Family.
Tigers 9, Cleveland 4 — 7 innings
Tigers 7, Cleveland 1 — 7 innings
Bad news if you’ve shifted focus to the battle for the AL Central cellar. Apparently, Miguel Cabrera is allowed to do damage against teams other than the Royals. He hit his 494th career home run in the nightcap.
Twins 3, White Sox 13
The Josh Donaldson/Chicago White Sox feud is entertaining, yet entirely predictable. Who do you root for? It’s a real dilemma.
Yasmani Grandal overshadowed everything with two home runs and five driven in. Gavin Sheets and Andrew Vaughn also did some heavy lifting at the bottom of the Chicago order.
A day game and a merciful end to an abysmal road trip. Kris Bubic will get the start this afternoon against Nathan Eovaldi. First pitch is scheduled for 12:10 CDT.