Salvy is back!
The Royals showed a little bit of fight, led by the return to form of Salvador Perez, but the talent gap was too great in the weekend series against the Astros.
I’m not about a full recap of a weekend series, but enough happened in the three game tilt with the Astros to warrant some discussion. It wasn’t a pivotal series by any means—the Royals still own the major’s worst record—but Houston is again a very good team, so it’s interesting to see how the two clubs measure up against each other. If only to see how far the Royals have to climb before they can get back to the respectability of contention.
The Brady Singer Renaissance was derailed a bit on Friday in a 10-3 loss to the Houston Astros. In retrospect, maybe I should’ve seen this one coming.
In Friday’s edition of the newsletter, I pointed out how Singer’s changeup was mimicking his sinker as far as spin rate and release point. Both pitches feature below average movement, so he will need those to pitches to play off each other in order to maintain the deception. What Singer is not doing, is throwing the changeup to right-handed batters. And wouldn’t you know it…the Astros rolled out their usual lineup on Friday with six right-handed hitters.
So even though the change is something that he needs and is something that has been effective in his previous three starts before Friday, he’s still the same two-pitch pitcher to right-handed hitters. As you can see from the chart above, he was catching far too much of the dish with the sinker (and the slider); the sinker was getting crushed. On the night, Singer gave up seven batted balls with an exit velocity above 100 MPH. Six of them came on the sinker. Three of them exited the playing field.
Singer offered just seven changeups against Houston. Not a lot, but he wasn’t around long, so he threw enough that the change made up 10 percent of his arsenal. Again, as you can see from the chart above, all of them were delivered to the three lefties in the Astros lineup.
It’s not impossible to survive a start where you surrender three bombs, but it certainly makes it difficult. The fact that six of the seven runs Houston plated against Singer came on dingers made it especially so.
Now, while I did say Singer didn’t have a lot of opportunity to offer the change on Friday, it is worth noting that it was the second start in a row where he threw less than ten. That’s after throwing 16 changeups in each of his first two starts of 2022.
It was a rough outing for Ronald Bolaños in relief of Singer. He found himself in trouble straight away, surrendering a leadoff double and then hitting a batter. A single loaded the bases and Bolaños promptly walked Jose Altuve to bring home a run. A single plated another and yet another bases loaded walk spelled the end of his night.
It actually spelled the end of his latest stint in Kansas City, as he was optioned to Omaha after the game to make room for Saturday’s starter Kris Bubic. I had high hopes for Bolaños when he arrived in the Tim Hill trade from San Diego, but he’s never put together any kind of consistent run in his time in the majors. He pitched well for Omaha in three starts this year, but just fought his control in almost every outing with the big club.
I’m sure we’ll see him again this year (the Royals will need the arms), but I think I’m set to move on thinking that he could be an impact reliever.
And now a word about Jose Cuas
Bobby Witt Jr. puts one…into the fountains
That’s an auto-gif from this newsletter. I believe it’s the first one Witt Jr. has hit that has gotten wet.
At a healthy 443 feet, it’s definitely the furthest he’s hit a ball in his brief major league career. A center-cut, first-pitch 93 MPH fastball is begging to get demolished anyway. Witt Jr. did exactly what he was supposed to do with that pitch in that situation.
He’s crawled out of the offensive hole he dug for himself the first couple weeks of the season. Entering Sunday’s game, he rolled with a 100 wRC+ and 101 OPS+.
And he’s only going to get better.
Shut up, Salvy is doing fine
So, I was a bit Tweety about Salvador Perez and how his sprained thumb seemed to still be bugging him at the plate. On Friday, he was originally slated to catch, but was moved to DH because it was troublesome. Mike Matheny said it was possible Perez wouldn’t catch at all in the three-game series. After going 0-4 on Friday with three strikeouts and looking extremely uncomfortable with his bottom hand on the swing, there Perez was, not only back in the lineup but behind the dish. He was 1-23 with nine strikeouts since his return from the IL for the thumb injury. What was this insanity?
You’d think I would’ve learned by now that Perez is superhuman.
Once again, he carried this team across the victory line. His two-run dinger in the sixth opened the scoring on Saturday in the Royals 6-0 win. A typical Perez blash, crushing on a high fastball.
Look how he keeps his hands inside the baseball to stay on it.
Yeah, that thumb seems OK. Turns out he was just getting warmed up. On Sunday he went 2-3 with a double and another home run, driving in three of the four Royals’ runs.
Perez just continues to boggle the baseball mind. He looked so adrift on Friday night. It certainly felt like we were seeing the typical Royals treatment of an injured player where they’ve (rightfully) decided that Perez is too valuable to the lineup to keep him sidelined beyond the minimum—both in days and in health. For me, the fear was he would continue to struggle for damn near the rest of the season, or until he was able to get an extended break for a full recovery.
Looks like he’s doing just fine. Carry on.
Bubic was not impressive
Lefty Kris Bubic didn’t figure in the decision but did throw five innings of scoreless baseball against pretty much the same lineup that lit Singer up the night before. Still, it was a bit of a rough outing for Bubic.
For starters, take a look at his first pitch chart.
He hit the zone with three (or four) of his first-pitch deliveries to 23 batters. That’s simply not good enough. He did find a bit of generosity from Ed Hickox behind home plate who had a wide zone. The Astros also helped him out by chasing a couple out of the zone for first-pitch outs. And the three (or four) in the zone? Two went for hits.
Then, Bubic continued the Royals’ frustrating trend of not missing bats. He recorded only five swinging strikes on 98 pitches. He finished with a 20 percent CSW% (called strike plus swinging rate), which is really kind of low for a starter who throws close to 100 pitches.
Bubic pitched around traffic all game but was able to dodge any kind of damage. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. If the rotation holds, his next start will come on Thursday against Baltimore.
After requiring just two games in Omaha on a rehabilitation assignment, Michael A. Taylor made his return to the active roster this weekend. He started on Saturday and Sunday, supplanting Kyle Isbel in the lineup. Overall, he went 2-7 with a walk and a pair of strikeouts. He also turned in a handful of smooth defensive plays in center.
If I’m going to praise Bobby Witt Jr. for scratching back to league-aveage offensive production, I have to be consistent and do the same for Taylor. As I’ve previously noted in this space, his slugging percentage is down, but he’s getting on base at a career-high rate (.336 OBP).
Still, this is a question I’ve returned to all season as the team has sunk to the basement of the AL Central: Is this a player who will be around whenever the Royals are set to contend? Given that he’s signed through 2023, I’d say the answer is “no.” So Taylor really shouldn’t be a regular in this lineup and he definitely shouldn’t be taking plate appearances from Kyle Isbel. Isbel, like Taylor, missed time at the end of the month and after going 0-4 in Friday’s game is now hitting .308/.317/.385 over his last 41 plate appearances.
Isbel isn’t the defender Taylor is in center, but he should really be in the lineup ahead of Taylor.
Meanwhile, the Royals most valuable trade chip ahead of the August 2nd deadline, Andrew Benintendi, exited Sunday’s game after fouling a ball off his calf. I’m sure it’s not serious—it tightened up on him as the game progressed—it’s probably just incredibly sore. Even if he could take a day or two, you know the Royals will just let it roll. If he can walk, he can play.
Still, Benintendi leaving the game at that moment only underscored the delicate dance the Royals are attempting at the moment. Benintendi is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and while there was some idle extension talk around him last winter, it’s highly unlikely that it will get done. With a 1.3 fWAR and 133 wRC+, he’s off to a fantastic start and contenders will have definitely taken notice. The Royals have to deal him sometime in the next couple of months, but they have to realize the longer they hold on to him, the more risk they’re courting. However, the trade market has yet to take shape, teams are still assessing their needs and if they’re actually in the hunt for a postseason spot.
If they’re truly looking to become more “transactional,” the Royals really can’t afford to screw this up.
The Toronto Blue Jays arrive in Kansas City on Monday for a three game series. Ahhh, yes…the rematch of the 2015 ALCS. Good times all around.
Here are the scheduled pitching matchups:
June 6 — RHP Ross Stripling (1-1, 4.22) vs. LHP Daniel Lynch (2-4, 4.81) @ 7:10 CDT
June 7 — RHP Alek Manoah (6-1, 1.98) vs. RHP Brad Keller (1-6, 4.15) @ 7:10 CDT
June 8 vs. TOR — LHP Yusei Kikuchi (2-2, 3.91) vs. RHP Brady Singer (2-1, 4.15) @ 1:10 CDT
Toronto had an eight-game winning streak snap on Friday and proceeded to drop two of three to the Twins. They’re currently in second place in the AL East, but have the third-best record in the AL (behind Houston and the Yankees).