Mondesi is back, but not even his wizardry can save the Royals
We missed Adalberto Mondesi, we are hopeful about Brady Singer's shoulder and we wonder what the Royals are doing with Jackson Kowar. And Colby Wilson is keeping his fingers crossed for Kumar Rocker.
Did we just witness the Royals’ worst loss of 2021?
It’s a fair question that I began considering during Wednesday’s 6-5 defeat to the Tigers. The game wasn’t as close as the score would make it appear, even though the Royals brought the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. It was their sixth consecutive loss and they’ve now dropped 11 of their last 12. And this is a team that lost 11 in a row a little over a month ago!
To me, yes…This was the worst loss of the season for the Royals.
They got six combined quality innings from Brady Singer and Carlos Hernández. It was the bullpen that coughed up a lead and took the loss. Losses from the bullpen are always tough.
Adalberto Mondesi and Salvador Perez did the work to provide the lead with a pair of home runs. The offense may be sputtering, but there are still a couple of dudes in the lineup that are capable of doing damage anytime. They’re trying to carry this team.
The Tigers are supposed to be the worst team in the AL Central. Although that is now up for debate. The Royals have now been swept by Detroit not just once, but twice this season.
The loss extended the current slide. Who knows how long this one will last?
I’ll turn this over to my friend Colby Wilson for his Three Takes and will follow up with a few additional thoughts from Wednesday’s game.
Three Take Thursday: Mondesi bliss
It’s easier to have takes when Adalberto Mondesi is around.
He was back on Wednesday, back to doing Mondesi things—hitting dingers, holding it down at short, looking on as defeat once more wriggled into the proceedings for the Royals against the Tigers. But he’s back, once again, and that leads to the first of our three takes this Thursday.
Take One: When Mondesi is right, he’s perfect
Sweet Gracious God.
Listen, I know the Royals are absolutely mired in it right now—when Tarik Skubal and Johnathan Schoop are working you like a speedbag at this point in their careers, it’s just not great. But the sun shines a little brighter and the birds chirp a little louder and the game is more fun with Adalberto Mondesi just out and about doing baseball shenanigans.
Yeah, it was one game and yeah he was 1-for-4 and yeah he could be back on the injured list by the time this goes live. He’s a ponderous, unpredictable purveyor of baseball joy and if he decides he needs my hamstrings or obliques in his quest for health, I’m honestly not doing much with them and he’s welcome to them.
Take Two: No one has to be at fault when a baseball season is bad.
These last few games have been bad—you shouldn’t get swept by this year’s Tigers. The Royals have won once since June 5 and are a Mike Minor shove away from multiple double-digit losing streaks already this year.
If this continues, it should very obviously be the fault of somebody. But why?
Obviously, there is some culpability among the players. Had anyone known Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler would be well south of the Mendoza line by this point in the season, simply being within shouting distance of .500 would be considered a badge of honor. Five regulars have an OPS+ below 80; this is a lineup that, currently, doesn’t work all that often.
But the lineup didn’t force management to rush Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar into roles that, with hindsight, they weren’t quite ready for. They also didn’t force Matheny to pitch Tyler Zuber and (I am so sorry to even think it, let alone type it) Wade Davis long past the point where it was obvious their no longer had it.
And Danny Duffy is hurt. So is Andrew Benintendi. And, perennially, Mondesi.
And they’re 30-36.
You can disagree with (and I do) how they handled some guys and you can disagree with (and I do) how committed they’ve continued to be to certain players. But this is a team that’s among the bottom-10 in baseball across-the-board indicators of success—wRC+, wOBA, chase percentage, hard-hit percentage against, barrels against (10 percent of all swings have resulted in barrels by opponents!). And they’re a decent two weeks from .500.
Should Matheny coach ‘em up better? He was dealt a Michael A. Taylor, that’s a losing hand before you even see the flop.
Should the development be better? It’s a little disconcerting that they whiffed on the debuts of both Lynch and Kowar, but if you’re dominating at Triple-A, there’s not much sense in letting young prospects keep doing that for an extended period of time.
Should they have spent more money in the offseason? To what end, other than tying up payroll and potentially blocking guys when they get ready so you can chase a Wild Card, maybe, into September?
Going 15-9 in April ruined this for everyone. Without a ton of luck, this was going to be a transition year, and now it is and guys are taking their lumps. If you believe in processes, this is one for the Royals.
Take Three: Don’t overthink the draft
The draft is coming in a couple of weeks. If you want high-level analysis on that, I implore you to find Clint Scoles of Royals Academy, sit at his feet and soak up knowledge like a novice monk learning from the Dalai Lama. Go to Clint for expertise. Come to me for the obvious stuff.
And if Kumar Rocker is hanging around on the board at No. 7, take him and don’t look back.
I understand why the league elected to move the draft back a few weeks and not interfere with the goings-on in Omaha during the College World Series. Of MLB-related items of the past Rob Manfred-era number of years, it’s among the least objectionable possible. A guy trying to help his team advance at that level could do without the added concern of draft position, and it will (should?) behoove the league to have as many of these guys as possible at the draft itself. Even the protestations of lost development time during short-season strikes me as short-sighted; with almost no exception, you could push short-season ball back a few weeks and it wouldn’t affect much of what is occurring at the higher levels of the organization.
But with the extra few weeks to think and evaluate and overthink and over-evaluate, you can do that thing that often happens during the NFL Draft and use that spare time to pick apart a player you love just because.
Don’t do that with Kumar Rocker.
I know the MLB Draft is a crapshoot based around projectability three, four, five years into the future and that for all I know Khalil Watson is the next George Brett. In 2017, I recall developing some very strong opinions about J.B. Bukauskas. Still rooting hard for that guy. But Rocker has that certain something not many ballplayers have, and it doesn’t seem tied to his results or spin rate. Whatever it is, he has it and you should want it on your baseball team.
Singer’s shoulder is barking
Brady Singer started and looked fairly sharp through three innings. So it was a bit of a surprise to hear that Hernández was warming in the bullpen. It was even more a surprise when he came out of the bullpen at the start of the fourth inning.
A little bit later, the club announced that Singer was lifted as a precautionary measure due to right posterior shoulder tightness.
Apparently, it’s been an issue over the last several days. From Mike Matheny:
“It (the shoulder issue) popped up after his last start. Just something that we were going to be cautious with. We knew going in to today that we were going to just see how he was feeling, try to limit the work if we needed to and he got to the number that we were talking about after talking with the medical team and he did a nice job making some good pitches in tough spots.”
Matheny said that the limit on Singer was just for Wednesday’s start, depending obviously on how he feels going forward.
Singer himself had this to say:
“It happened after the last outing. Kind of bothered me all week there. Threw a side session, still kind of felt it. But I wanted to pitch and that was the plan to go out there and pitch. I didn’t know about the three innings, but that was obviously Skip and the rest of the coaches and the training staff trying to protect me.”
There’s a lot to unpack here. His shoulder bothered him not just after his last start, but also during the time between starts. It sounds like the discomfort never really went away. The Royals decided it was fine for him to throw a limited number of pitches and Singer indicated that he felt fine during the game.
It certainly didn’t affect his velocity.
Potential shoulder issue aside, we are now firmly in unchartered territory with a pitcher’s workload. After last year’s Covid-shortened season and with a stable of young arms the Royals are going to depend upon, there will be increased scrutiny regarding how the club handles their usage of starting pitchers.
Singer was coming off back-to-back starts where he threw 104 and 106 pitches, his highest pitch counts of 2021. He’s now made more starts and thrown more innings than he did in 2020. Pairing Singer and his mid-90s sinker and slider combo with Hernández with his 100 mph sinker coupled with a curve is a nice change of pace that, as we saw on Wednesday, can be challenging for opposing lineups.
The curve was absolutely working for Hernández.
When you pair that potential knee-buckler with some serious heat… I’m not one to self-promote the ol’ Twitter account, but I felt good about this one:
The combined line for Singer and Hernández:
6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO
As the Royals look to manage workloads, it’s entirely possible we’ll see more of this kind of tandem. It can be crazy-effective and it can also give the Royals plenty of options, including shuffling how frequently pitchers take the mound. The staff has to be on board, obviously, but there’s something here that just might work.
Welcome back, Mondesi - part two
Colby mentioned Mondesi’s offense above, but I wanted to note about how improved the Royals’ infield defense is up the middle with Mondesi back in the field.
Replays showed that Mondesi did apply the tag on the runner. Just a heady, athletic play. The Royals are a better team with Mondesi in the lineup and on the field.
Relief for Kowar?
Late in Wednesday’s game, Jackson Kowar was up in the bullpen. That’s interesting because the Royals media notes have listed Kowar as the starter for Friday’s series opener against the Red Sox. Here’s what Matheny had to say about that:
“We don’t have a starter necessarily right now, for Friday, we’re going to just kind of wait and see. Really wanted to get him on the mound on the field. It was kind of depending on how that went with Josh, trying to find a good spot for Jackson. But he’s always going to be in that conversation, he’s versatile, he’s built up but he could also pitch for us out of the pen. It was kind of his bullpen day yesterday, so we just kind of pushed him back a day to have an available arm if we needed it.”
I’ve listened to that quote several times. I transcribed it. I’ve read it. And I’m still not sure I understand it. Other than the Royals haven’t really settled on a starter for Friday.
Were they seriously considering bringing Kowar in, out of the bullpen, with runners on base in the top of the ninth? Kowar hasn’t pitched in relief since his sophomore year in Florida when he made one appearance out of the bullpen. I’m not averse to moving pitchers to the bullpen, but that just seemed like a bad time to consider Kowar in relief.
Although this is the Royals and really…who knows what they’re truly thinking? I guess we’ll find out on Friday.
Rays 7, White Sox 8 — 10 innings
The Sox needed just two batters to score their gift runner on second to walk off the Rays. Yasmani Grandal had the honors. Chicago almost blew this one, squandering a 7-2 lead as the Rays chipped away in the middle innings.
The South Siders now own baseball’s best record.
Orioles 7, Cleveland 8
What’s the deal with these high-scoring close games? When Cleveland wins, you can bet that José Ramírez was the sparkplug. His single in the third gave his team the lead and as the Orioles botched a rundown and threw the ball away, Ramírez ultimately ended up at third. Just go find the video.
Twins 7, Mariners 2
Nelson Cruz bashed a three-run home run in his return to the Pacific Northwest, but Josh Donaldson and Andrelton Simmons both left the game with injuries.
The Red Sox come to town for three starting on Friday. For now, the starter listed by the Royals for Friday remains Kowar.
Friday — Nick Pivetta vs Jackson Kowar
Saturday — Martín Pérez vs Kris Bubic
Sunday — Nathan Eovaldi vs Brad Keller
The Red Sox are currently 42-27 on the year and are in second in the AL East, a game behind the Rays.