Small ball and a change
It seems the Royals are all about finding interesting ways to score runs in 2022. With Daniel Lynch finding his comfort zone and the bullpen locking down the win, it's a tasty recipe for success.
One night removed from a game where the Royals hit three solo home runs, they looked within and decided to rediscover the joys of small ball and productive outs.
Baseball can be incredible.
Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium against the Twins, the Royals offense managed six hits total. They scored a run in the first inning (their second all year!) on a double play grounder and another run in the fifth on a bunt single.
The pitching (especially the bullpen) and defense made certain those two runs would be enough. A 2-0 victory in under two and a half hours.
That’s baseball? Nonsense. That’s Royals baseball.
Stop bunting! Unless you’re going to bunt like that
Friends, I abhor the bunt. You know this. Maybe you dislike the bunt just as much as I do. Perhaps this is the reason you subscribe to this newsletter. Together, we can bemoan the bunt.
Did you see this?
This is Adalberto Mondesi squaring on a 1-0 pitch with runners on the corners. It wasn’t a squeeze play. It was bunting for a hit and to drive in the run. It is probably the best bunt I’ve ever seen. (I have GIF’d a bunch of dingers and a ton of swings and misses for this newsletter. This has to be my first GIF of a bunt.)
This is not hyperbole. This is not some sort of reverse jinx or whatever in trying to get the Royals to bunt less. I am as serious as Rusty Kuntz on a bicycle…This was the perfect bunt.
This is basically all Mondesi does anymore. It seems like he bunts, or attempts to, at least once a game. The broadcast seems to think he’s good at it. Like really good. I’m skeptical because he seems to lack a certain amount of game awareness as to when to actually utilize the bunt and then, as we saw twice on Monday, tends to overcommit to the point where he is not going to pull back if the pitch isn’t a good one to get the bunt down.
I’m not sure why Chris Paddack threw Mondesi the curve there. He swung through a fastball on the first pitch in the at bat. Maybe the Twins are one of those teams not using advanced scouts or something. If the curve hangs in the zone, as it did, Mondesi is going to have an excellent chance of doing something with that pitch.
That’s what happened here. He let the ball meet the bat, just like they teach you when you first learn to bunt. He was able to direct it and push it, right between the mound and first base. Hell, if there hadn’t been any runners on base, it still would’ve been the perfect bunt.
Sometimes, perfection comes in mysterious forms. I cannot question. Only celebrate.
Lynch controls the game
How about Daniel Lynch? On Wednesday, he utilized almost the exact same mix of pitches as he showed in St. Louis in his 2022 debut: Four-seamers and sliders with a handful of changeups and an occasional knuckle curve to keep hitters honest. He got fewer swings and misses on his fastball and slider than in his first start of the season, Lynch generally avoided the middle of the zone against the Twins, and when he did get a little too close to a batter’s happy spot, they couldn’t do anything with the pitch.
Watch a couple of pitches in this sequence to the ever-dangerous Carlos Correa in the third inning with runners on first and second. After missing on his first pitch, a fastball up and out of the zone, Lynch comes back with a nasty slider.
Having success there, Lynch goes back for more. Same pitch, almost the same location, but it starts on the inner half and runs further inside. Correa takes for ball two.
Behind in the count, Lynch delivers this beauty.
Put yourself in Correa’s shoes for a moment. You’ve seen the fastball and slider from Lynch. He’s working inside on the slider and keeping the fastball up. This pitch comes in as the same location as the slider, but without the spin. It’s not going to break, but it’s not moving at the rate as the typical four-seamer. What is this pitch???
It’s the perfect changeup. And it absolutely flummoxed Correa.
With the count even at 2-2, Lynch makes a mistake.
Cam Gallagher wants the pitch up and in. Lynch delivers it middle-middle. But because Lynch has moved around with the slider and the change, and only showed fastball in his first pitch of the at bat, Correa can only chop it foul. He missed his pitch.
Look at Lynch’s reaction. He knew.
From there, Lynch went back inside with consecutive sliders. Correa fouled off both. To this point, Lynch had thrown seven pitches to Correa. The fastballs were centered, but the sliders and the lone change were inside.
This was the final pitch…
I didn’t GIF every pitch of the at bat, so here’s how Lynch attacked Correa as illustrated by Baseball Savant.
Every pitcher makes mistakes in nearly every appearance. Sometimes they go unpunished and when that happens, it’s almost always because of how the pitches immediately preceding that one are sequenced. Lynch wasn’t what I would call dominant on Wednesday, nor was he necessarily overpowering. Yet he was smart and sharp. When people ask me why I believe in Daniel Lynch as a major league starter in the future, I’ll point to this at bat.
The Bobby Witt Jr. question
Here goes…If the Royals bump Bobby Witt Jr. down in the order, does that signal panic? I don’t think it does. If anything, it shows smarts and recognition that the kid can use a little help. He’s scuffling at the moment.
I’m not going to go full revisionist history here and put the Royals on blast for batting him second to start his major league career. I thought it was a fine idea. Everything we saw from the kid indicated he was ready and could handle that spot in the order. While I still believe that to be true, it’s time for the Royals to have a rethink, get him out of the top third of the order and position the rookie for some kind of success.
Yes, the case can be made that Witt is “making things happen.” He was the guy up in the first inning with Whit Merrifield on third and Nicky Lopez at first. He watched a Paddack curve tail way out of the zone for the first pitch. He offered at the next pitch, another curve.
It’s a pitch that was always going to be a ground ball—if Witt swings. Which he did. This is difficult. It often seems as though Witt is taking some good-looking pitches for strikes and falling behind in the count. Kind of like he did in his next at bat when he watched a fastball down the chute for strike one. He’s simply pressing and you can’t blame him. Expectations are massive and it’s just not happening for him at the moment. It will. It requires patience and a little flexibility.
Rather than giving him a day or two off, drop him in the order for a few games. Get him to relax and understand that good things will eventually happen. But right now his chase rate is an untenable 42 percent and his hard-hit rate is a subpar 37 percent. He has yet to barrel a baseball, per Statcast. He’s going to be fine. As we’ve heard so often, the jump in talent and how the game is played from Triple-A to the majors is massive. Not everyone sets the league on fire from their first day.
A move 10 games into his major league career isn’t about panic. At least it doesn’t need to be if handled correctly. It’s about snapping a kid out of a funk so he can thrive sooner rather than later.
This is the lockdown bullpen you wanted
So this Royals bullpen is decent, isn’t it? Just another dominant night for the relief corps: four innings, one hit, one walk and four strikeouts. The Minnesota offense looks dreadful at the moment, but this bullpen is bringing it.
We should do some sort of reliever roll call.
Collin Snyder - He’s inherited six runners and has yet to allow one to score. Came in after Lynch allowed a leadoff single to Carlos Correa and promptly erased him on a double play. The fireman.
Jake Brentz - Pitched his first clean inning of 2022. The rising four-seamer was overpowering.
Josh Staumont - He didn’t hit triple-digits on the heater, but overall his velocity was up a tick from his previous outings this year. After showing the four-seamer up in the zone for the second strike, he destroyed Correa on this pitch.
Josh Barlow - Last year’s team leader in saves, locked down his first of the year, closing the game out on another double play.
After using those four in back-to-back games, I suspect we’ll see Amir Garrett, Dylan Coleman, Taylor Clarke and Joel Payamps if Wednesday’s matinee is another close one.
White Sox 1, Guardians 11
White Sox 1, Guardians 2
There’s more than one way to beat the White Sox, if you can hold them to just one run. Jose Ramírez bashed a grand slam as Cleveland obliterated Dallas Keuchel (1 IP, 10 runs allowed) in game one of their doubleheader. In game two, Ramírez doubled home the first run and Oscar Mercado doubled home the second.
Yankees 5, Tigers 3
Miguel Cabrera went 3-4 and is now one hit away from 3,000 in his career. Isiah Kiner-Falefa broke a 3-3 tie with a single in the seventh off Drew Hutchison and Luis Severino pitched five innings of one-run ball.
With a couple of large blowout victories to their credit already, Cleveland is at a +11 run differential. They’re the only team in the Central
The Royals close out their homestand looking to sweep the Twins with a day game. Zack Greinke makes the start against Joe Ryan with first pitch scheduled for 1:10 pm.
Here’s how the pitching matchups look for the upcoming series in Seattle.
Friday - Brad Keller vs Chris Flexen at 8:40 CDT
Saturday - Kris Bubic vs Matt Brash at 8:10 CDT
Sunday - Carlos Hernández vs Robbie Ray at 3:10 CDT
Change from Lynch in t5. Jeffers