It was a smashing good time
The Royals dominate in a total team victory over the Angels.
This was one of those games that could give someone a bit of optimism for the future. Nearly everything clicked: The starting pitching got the Royals through five and the bullpen shut down the Angels for the next four frames. The bats strung together some timely hits. The baserunning was aggressive. (A little too aggressive in one instance.) The defense was solid enough.
Add it together and it was a 7-0 victory for the Royals. For the fifth time this year, they’ve won three in a row. Even with the debacle where they lost 40 percent of their roster and dropped three of four just ahead of the break, the Royals are still two games better than .500 in July. They are 12-10 for the month.
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Greinke was hell on the Angels lineup the first time through.
We’ve been over this at length this season: You know how the Royals emphasized throwing first-pitch strikes way back in spring training. You know how they’ve failed at that emphasis…Entering play on Monday, Royals pitchers had thrown first-pitch strikes at a rate of 57.6 percent, the lowest in the majors by over a percentage point. It’s a staggering display of pitching ineptitude. For one night, Greinke sought to turn that on its head.
In that first time through the order, Greinke delivered nine first pitch strikes. That’s perfection. Hell, he perfected perfection by throwing his first two pitches for strikes on six of the first seven he faced. The one time where he didn’t get ahead 0-2 was when Max Stassi led off the second by flying out on the first pitch.
By working ahead in the count with frequency, the Angels batters—subpar in even the most optimal of circumstances—were simply overwhelmed. Greinke entered the game with a 4.9 SO/9. He punched out five of the first nine Angels batters he faced.
Oh…what about the swing and miss? Over his previous 15 starts, Greinke got a swing and miss 7.5 percent of the time per FanGraphs. In that first turn through the order, Greinke got 10 whiffs.
The tone was set immediately as he charged after the leadoff batter, Shohei Ohtani, with the fastball.
That was a called third strike, but Greinke was recording the swings and misses on the four-seamer and cutter and change. Everything was working. And then there was this beaut.
It was a 67 MPH curve to strike out Luis Rengifo to close out the first.
This was a pitching masterclass from the veteran. The kind of performance you dreamt about when the Greinke signing was announced back in March. Everything was working. While watching Angels hitters flail at an 89 MPH four-seamer, I couldn’t help but think that hitting a baseball has to be the absolute most difficult thing to do in all of sports. These guys can time and square up triple-digit heat. That’s why they’re major leaguers. Greinke was making them look foolish on his upper 80s smoke. Baseball is amazing.
Overall, Greinke induced 13 swings and misses on Monday, a season high.
Greinke finished with just a 25 percent CSW% which seems a little low. Angels hitters fouled off 24 of his 93 pitches on the night. Thinking about it, this is the roadmap for Greinke’s success. He’s simply not going to miss a ton of bats, but he’s got the arsenal to keep the hitters off balance. That’s going to translate to a ton of foul balls.
This is a chart of the called strikes and whiffs that Greinke generated in his five innings of work.
Can you make sense of the method of attack? Don’t bother trying to answer the question, because I don’t think you can. The four-seamers are all over the place. The cutter is in and out, up and down. The curve is tantalizing. The change is off the dish but irresistible. I’m not going to buy that this kind of mix and location will deliver the same results on a different evening, but I’m also not going to complain when I watch hitters flail—and flail—at trying to hit Greinke.
With the strikeouts, Greinke reached a milestone. Specifically, with his whiff of Andrew Velazquez to close out that first time through the order, it meant that Greinke had sole possession of 20th on the all-time strikeout list.
It will take pitching into 2023 for Greinke to reach the 3,000 strikeout mark. I hope he does. It’s crazy fun to watch a player climb the all-time leaderboards. In the early 90’s it seemed like every time George Brett did something, he was passing Hall of Famers. It’s been a long time.
I’m not going to say this was vintage Greinke, because we’ve seen plenty of vintage Greinke and that pitcher isn’t around anymore. It was veteran Greinke. He used everything at his disposal to pitch five innings to turn over a scoreless game to the bullpen. At this point, I’ll take whatever he can give. It’s worth it.
How about Nick Pratto’s night:
2nd inning - walk
4th inning - HBP
6th inning - walk
7th inning - walk
This is a fun pitch chart.
The swinging strike was on a 3-0 fastball in Pratto’s first PA. The called strike next to it was on the following pitch. You also can’t help but notice the expanded zone/blown call on the one pitch outside. That was on a 3-1 gift in the sixth.
It’s just a blast to watch these young hitters with their exquisite strike zone recognition.
Speaking of the young hitters, Vinnie Pasquantino smoked one off the right field wall that barely missed going for a round tripper. It had a 103 exit velocity. Coming into Monday’s game, 25 of Vincenzo’s 66 batted balls in play were smoked at greater than 100 MPH. That’s a rate of 38 percent. That’s astounding.
It was a bit of an upset that he only crushed one over triple digits on Monday.
Then there was MJ Melendez who went opposite field (and against the wind) for his 10th dinger of the year.
Maybe you’re not impressed. You should be. There have been 28 home runs hit at Kauffman Stadium by left-handed hitters so far this year. That’s not a lot because, as you are undoubtedly aware, The K is a difficult venue to hit one over the wall. It’s especially difficult for a lefty to go opposite field.
These are the homers hit at Kauffman this year by left-handed hitters:
Melendez is, like the other youngsters, a fantastic hitting talent. Watch how he loads his hands and times it perfectly with his stride to generate maximum power.
It’s such a compact swing with zero wasted movement. He was actually a little behind on the ball (which is why it went to left-center) but still had the force with the swing to muscle it through the wind and over the fence.
As I watched Monday’s game, I found myself wondering: Do the Angels do anything well?
I consider myself something of an expert on bad baseball. What we saw on Monday from the Angels was just a brutal display of baseball across the board. They can’t control the running game—the Royals swiped three bases and honestly, could’ve run more. Poor Max Stasi behind the plate was a human piñata all night. They can’t play defense—they spent the seventh inning kicking the ball around like it was the World Cup. Jo Adell was flopping around like he was trying to draw a yellow card. And they can’t hit—as witnessed by their collective five hits and zero runs.
Yeah, Mike Trout is on the IL but this was a team with October aspirations. That they are in the process of squandering the prime years of Trout and Ohtani is simply incredible. Those two generational talents can’t rescue this team from the trash heap of the AL West.
The Angels are a wretched ballclub.
I don’t want to throw a jinx on the Royals, but it sure seems like they’re in decent shape to finally chase down that elusive fourth consecutive win. They’ll send Angel Zerpa to the mound on Tuesday against José Suarez with the goal of doing just that. A roster move will need to be made to get Zerpa back on the active roster. First pitch is 7:10.