Royals Offense Far Too Grounded in Another Loss

They blew their lead a lot earlier than normal at least.

The idea that lifting the ball is a good idea isn’t a new concept. You can go back to the start of the sport and guys were trying to lift the ball to get over the wall. The idea that this is some new concept is misguided. And this season, the Royals actually have been around middle of the pack in their ground ball rate, coming into the game at 43.7 percent, which is 14th in all of baseball.

Why do I bring this up? It’s because they spent the first five innings against Martin Perez, a pitcher with a 42.3 percent ground ball rate this year and 38.5 percent ground ball rate last year pounding the ball into the ground. In those first five innings, they hit 10 of 16 batted balls on the ground. It’s not that they didn’t get some hits off it. In the fourth, Jorge Soler and Salvador Perez both went the other way on the ground for base hits. Then in the fifth, Edward Olivares picked up an infield single, obviously on the ground.

In the first, they had back to back outs in the air and then the last batter of the fifth, Hanser Alberto almost had a big hit through the air while Whit Merrifield did double on a fly ball to deep right-center. That was followed by Soler’s second hit, this one a line drive to left. So they were starting to do what they needed to do against a guy who doesn’t get that many grounders at this point of his career.

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That is, until Carlos Santana became a true Royal and refused to walk. With runners on first and third and nobody out and the Royals best home run hitter, Perez, on deck, Santana worked the count to 3-2 and then just couldn’t see to it to take pitches seven or eight.

On the eighth pitch, he hit a weak grounder to shortstop that did drive in a run, but put the Royals in a situation that they didn’t need to be in.

Santana’s value is more than plate discipline, but that’s a good chunk of his value and maybe he was feeling the weight of the team’s struggles, but he didn’t do what he did best. That was it for Martin Perez who ended up with a ground ball rate of 57.9 percent for the game, which he only topped three times this year, including his last start against the Royals in Kansas City.

With a runner on second and one out, the Red Sox called on Brandon Workman, who gets some ground balls but isn’t a ground ball guy. His rate coming into the game was 46 percent after putting up a 47.7 percent rate last year. He immediately got a grounder from Perez, who got a single off it, but then Hunter Dozier continued his absolutely abysmal season with the Royals third double play of the night.

On a night when the Red Sox had multiple batted balls that they thought were lazy fly balls that carried to the wall, the Royals spent the first part of the game beating the ball into the ground and consistently ruining innings with it. With double plays hit into in three consecutive innings, they had multiple hits in all three of those innings before the long rain delay.

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Everything on this team is out of whack right now. We’ve focused a lot on the pitching because it’s been atrocious lately, but the offense isn’t doing anyone any favors. I wrote the other day how they scored five through two and then didn’t get a runner to second, but even on Tuesday night, they scored six off Nick Pivetta and then were shut down entirely against the Red Sox bullpen. Admittedly, it’s an excellent bullpen, but like the pitching, there just doesn’t seem to be a plan at the plate very often.

And once again, after the rain delay, the Royals lineup couldn’t get anything going against the Red Sox bullpen. This isn’t something that’s been a season-long issue or anything as they entered the game with essentially the same numbers against starters and relievers, but whatever it is has been insanely frustrating to watch the last three games.

I’ll get to the spin rates in a minute, but I wanted to touch on Mike Minor real quick because I’m wondering if he is being impacted in a big way by losing the sticky stuff. He didn’t lose spin on his fastball in his last outing in Texas, but he only had two swings and misses on it. Last night, he lost 79 rpm on it, which might have been due to the rain to make the ball even slicker, but he only had four whiffs on the fastball. It was the same 14 percent whiff rate in both games.

Maybe this is just some of his inconsistency at this stage of his career. His fastball getting whiffs is what keeps him effective, for the most part. And he’s been so up and down this season. Last night was actually his fourth straight start with a whiff rate below 15 percent on the fastball. Here’s every start before last night:

So it’s really tough to tell if it does have anything to do with the sticky stuff not being there. Like I said, it might just be some inconsistency. Still, though, it’s worth watching to see how he does without it, which is sort of the way we’re looking at everyone right now, I guess.

Crown Jewels

Spin Zone, Week Two, Night Three

Mike Minor
Anthony Swarzak

I didn’t include Richard Lovelady, who looked really good before taking a ball off his stomach, because there isn’t data from before the edict from MLB on him from this season. But the numbers for Minor aren’t good. Again, it was rainy last night and if you can’t even combine sunscreen and rosin when you add rain into the picture, it gets even worse. So this is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Martin Perez
Brandon Workman
Darwinzon Hernandez
Josh Taylor
Matt Barnes

These Red Sox numbers continue to amaze me.

Looking on the Bright Side

It’s so easy to get caught up in the losses, and there are now eight in a row and 20 out of the last 24, that it’s probably good for mental health to look at the positives a little bit, so I’m going to start doing that here when there isn’t much from the game.

  • Jorge Soler went 2 for 4 and absolutely smoked the ball in the three times he made contact with exit velocities of 104.8, 103.7 and 107.7. He’s still not hitting for the power the Royals want, but after a really, really bad night, it was good to see a bounceback. He now has 10 multi-hit games this year (yikes) and two of them are in the last three days.

  • Salvador Perez was 2 for 25 following getting hit in the mask by that foul ball in New York. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe it was something more, but he was in the middle of his biggest slide of the year. And then he broke out in a big way with a home run in the second inning and then three more hits throughout the game. He had three more hard hit balls. It was good to see him get going again.

  • Richard Lovelady’s return to the big leagues was successful. I tweeted that last night was his fourth career 1-2-3 inning, but I was actually off on that. It was actually his seventh with two of them coming in Boston. That has to be some sort of quirk. He was slider heavy and his spin rate on it was much higher than we’d seen from him in the past, which is something I like to see. He topped out at 94.5 MPH on his sinker, but he looked more in command than what we’ve seen from him in the past. It’s just the one outing, but it was a good first outing back. Now we have to hope he’s okay after getting hit by the J.D. Martinez comebacker.