Weekend in Review: Dayton Speaks Again, Royals Lose Again and the Week Ahead
The president questioned a story that was less than flattering while his team continued their spiral.
I think I’ve said this before, but when a team is careening toward another season with 95+ losses as the Royals are, the results of the games become irrelevant. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t rooting for wins because winning is more fun than losing, but it means that the process matters more than the results. As much as that absolutely stinks to have another season where the wins and losses don’t matter, reality is what reality is and that’s where everything is. So what does that mean for you as a fan? Truthfully, it means whatever you want it to mean. If you want to bemoan every loss and celebrate every victory like it’s a season that matters, go for it. If you want to ignore this team entirely, sure, go for it. There’s no right or wrong way to be a fan. Okay, there’s probably a wrong way, but I’m not getting into that right now.
But what am I watching for these last two and a half weeks other than counting down the days to the sweet release of this nightmare season? I’m looking for the process. I’ll get to the games, but I’m going to be excited about young pitchers giving up two hits in 6.2 shutout innings in Fenway Park. I’m going to really enjoy a young hitter seeing four pitches per plate appearance. I’m going to love young hitters fouling off pitches until they can find a pitch they can drive. Because the truth is that while there has been some concern over the young bats, I can’t bring myself to be there with them doing things good hitters do. I want to see good processes the rest of the year. I’m sick and tired of process mattering more than results, but, again, the record is what the record is, so that’s what I’m watching over these final 15 games.
Of course, another reason why I’m so excited for the end of the season is that I still believe changes are coming. And that leads me to my big point this week.
Dayton Moore Gets Defensive Again
I’m not going to rehash the entire season. You’re still reading this on September 19 while the team is 31 games below .500. You know what’s happened. But I will say that on May 31, I wrote a message that was five words to John Sherman (because you know he’s a daily reader). My message was to get his house in order. And I’ll say this up front about Sherman because I walked that back a little bit in the days and weeks after that.
I think you can make a strong argument as to why moves haven’t been made since the start of Sherman’s regime. But starting on October 6, he has, in my opinion, two weeks to show us what kind of an owner he is. What this team is doing and has done doesn’t work, hasn’t worked and doesn’t appear especially close to working. Sherman needs to get his house in order soon or else he’s going to be the owner who only cares about a downtown stadium. And the comments of Dayton Moore yesterday on the pregame show in response to a Ryan Lefebvre question were just the latest reason why Mr. President needs to be working on other endeavors.
I’ll be honest, I don’t listen to the pregame show. It’s state-sponsored propaganda media. Lefebvre isn’t a reporter, he’s a Royals mouthpiece, which I guess is fine. So maybe there’s more to this, but I don’t think so. If I had to guess, I’d say that Moore asked him to bring this up during their weekly chat so he could say exactly what he said above. And what he said above was one of the more cowardly responses I’ve seen from someone who continuously works to undermine the work of others while failing to evaluate himself and his organization properly, at least publicly. What struck me was the characterization that this article in question in The Athletic was not factual. In my opinion, that statement questioned the credibility of the three writers, Rustin Dodd, Andy McCullough and Alec Lewis, all former Royals beat writers.
That very much rubbed me the wrong way. He criticizes people coming forward anonymously, saying that he believes it is “disrespectful” and “lacks integrity.” He brought back his “critical spirit” phrase that became popular in his vernacular a decade ago. But the implication that the article wasn’t factual is something that I just can’t get over. It was disrespectful and lacked integrity because he threw out a claim and said nothing more to back it up.
What I want to know, and I doubt we’ll ever find out, is what about this article wasn’t factual. The actual results that we’ve seen from the young pitchers can’t be questioned. Numbers are numbers. You can argue that they can be interpreted differently, I suppose, and that could be potentially fair, but I don’t think you can argue that the results have been largely subpar. I wonder a little bit if Moore is referring to this passage as something he’d disagree with.
Where the Royals can differ, according to one former minor-league pitcher, is how visible and central the data is. When the pitcher joined another organization, he found they included numbers from TrackMan — a radar system that captures spin rate, movement, velocity and other data — on the video from each bullpen he threw. The Royals, he said, had all the same tech, but “we would have to go out of our way to find out what (the numbers) were.”
I don’t want to give away too much of an article that is behind a paywall, but that to me was the part that grabbed my attention personally and the reason is that I’ve heard from people who are very in tune with what is going on in the minors with this organization that the Royals do a poor job of communication to provide the data and the information to the player to help him improve. It’s one of the main reasons why Terry Bradshaw was ultimately let go in May and it seems to be one of the things holding this organization back.
I don’t know if that’s what Moore was talking about with his comment about the lack of factual reporting, but I personally think it’s disrespectful to question someone’s reporting and lacks some very real integrity without addressing what it is that wasn’t factual. There’s far too much bluster in the world without anything to back it up. What Dodd, McCullough and Lewis reported was, I have no doubts, based on thorough and detailed reporting. And, look, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some context missed throughout that article, but I also can’t imagine the article was written with any malice or without proper fact-checking.
My disappointment with Moore in this comment has very little to do with the content of his thoughts or the content of the article. The largest issue I have is questioning the credibility of the authors, but I think it’s also worth mentioning that this is yet another example of his comments seeming to be from an alternate reality. This all started back in May when Bradshaw was fired and Moore was asked if the pitching was going to undergo the same scrutiny. He preached about accountability and then proceeded to make no changes to a staff that was (and still is) one of the worst in baseball. Since then, at various points throughout the season, there have been numerous examples of gaslighting the fan base regarding this or that and this is just the latest one of those. It insults the intelligence of the fans.
What I’m about to say is 100 percent my opinion based on conversations with people much smarter than me and much more connected than me, so I could be wrong here. But if one of the 827 gambling sites inundating your Twitter feed had odds on Dayton Moore being back in 2023, I’d take the under on yes (meaning he’s done). I don’t believe Sherman will fire him out of respect (that you can argue whether or not he deserves), but rather he will “step away” to work on his See You in the Major Leagues initiative or the Urban Youth Academy or whatever it is he wants to do. But I think he, along with Mike Matheny and Cal Eldred among others, will be gone within the next few weeks.
But again, if changes are not made, that gives us a big answer on Sherman as an owner. For the sake of you, me and all Royals fans everywhere, I hope he’s the type of owner I think he is. But we’ll find out soon.
Friday - Red Sox 2, Royals 1
There was a lot of good in this game, but it was almost entirely out of Jonathan Heasley, who had one of his best starts as a big leaguer. I’ve used game score before this season and the 72 he put up in this one is his second-best he’s ever put up, behind that seven-inning performance against the Orioles where he allowed no runs on one hit with seven strikeouts and one walk. Fenway is not an easy place to pitch, but to give up no runs on two hits in 6.2 innings against an actually good offense is impressive.
I thought it was interesting that his velocity was down for a second straight start, but after the start, Matheny mentioned that the velocity might have been by design. He was able to command his pitches better with lower velocity, supposedly anyway. I guess I don’t mind so much if it’s something they discussed with an eye on better command now with the idea that they’re going to work with Heasley moving forward to add velocity back with the new, better command, but I have to say I’m not counting on that.
Still, it is true that it was one of his better fastballs of the season. He threw 29 of them with eight swung at (three whiffs) and eight taken for called strikes. I would say it’s not a coincidence that he had one of his best performing fastballs in a game when he threw it less than he ever has before. It was just the fourth time in his career he’s thrown it less than 40 percent of the time.
If Heasley is going to commit to throwing his fastball less, I think it both lessens the importance of his having the velocity on him that he’s had in the past and it allows him the opportunity to potentially being a consistent starting pitcher. He only has three starts left this season, so there isn’t a ton of time for him to show that this is more than a blip, but games against the Twins, Tigers and Guardians give him an opportunity against three very different types of lineups.
The unfortunate thing is that the story of this game wasn’t Heasley pitching so well but rather the bullpen completely imploding in the eighth inning. It started with Dylan Coleman, who had thrown 22 pitches on Thursday in a close game but was basically required to pitch in a close game because of the lack of options in the bullpen at this time. Coleman faced three hitters and walked two of them. He threw 14 pitches and five of them were strikes. He was squeezed in one plate appearance against Abraham Almonte that could have changed everything, but he was also not good.
He yielded to Scott Barlow, who hadn’t pitched in five days. Barlow faced five batters, walked two, including one that walked in a run and gave up what ended up the game-winning hit. He threw 20 pitches and eight strikes. None of this is good. And it was their fourth consecutive loss.
Saturday - Royals 9, Red Sox 0
The difference between this Royals team and others that were careening toward 100 losses is pretty simply that they have a starting pitcher who can stop losing streaks. So with four losses in a row, the Royals turned to Brady Singer, who was the last starting pitcher during a Royals win. And he was great once again. Singer didn’t have an especially good slider, but rode his typical outstanding sinker to six shutout innings with five strikeouts and just one walk.
You could tell he didn’t exactly have it going on when you see that he only had three swings and misses. But because of the movement he gets on the sinker, he had a ridiculous 19 called strikes on that sinker. That’s tied for the fourth-most he’s had in a game in his career and tied with himself for the sixth-most in a game this season in all of baseball. He also has two games this season tied for the second-most called strikes on a sinker in baseball.
It started early for him, getting a called strike three on the first batter he faced.
But his best might have been in the third inning. Singer allowed two singles and a walk to the seven, eight and nine hitters (that’s a theme!) to load the bases with nobody out right after the Royals had just scored two runs. With one out, he had a 1-2 count on Rafael Devers and threw an absolutely devasting sinker.
He didn’t really find himself in any real trouble the rest of the way. It was another in a line of fantastic starts from him and now as a starter this year, here are his numbers:
Again, that’s not an “ace” but it’s a legitimate number one/two starter. As I tweeted on Saturday, it’s been an ugly season, but finding that Singer could be this guy is massive for this organization.
And, for a rare time this month, the offense did their thing. The first four hitters were a combined 10 for 20 with five runs scored and eight runs batted in. They got two hits from a returning Edward Olivares and two more hits from Nate Eaton. They scored in four separate innings, which matched the number of innings they’d scored in during the previous four games on the road trip. That’s a bit sad, but also nice to see since the offense has struggled so much as the season winds down.
Sunday - Red Sox 13, Royals 3
That was ugly. Kris Bubic came out and struggled to keep runners off base, working out of trouble in the first and second but still allowing single runs. The ugly inning for him was the third, which he couldn’t escape. I don’t think it’s entirely fair to characterize that inning as not his fault, but it’s interesting to think about what could have been had Drew Waters let Olivares take over on a fly ball that Waters ended up losing in the sun but Olivares had a better angle.
Instead, the ball dropped, two runs ended up scoring that wouldn’t have and even after he had two outs with the bases empty, he walked consecutive hitters before he allowed an RBI single to Reese McGuire that ended up knocking him out of the game. So his defense let him down, but then he didn’t pick them up enough to be able to make it even out of the third inning. There isn’t much else to say. Collin Snider had bad sixth that he almost escaped while Luke Weaver gave up two in the eighth to make the final score look ugly.
There were a couple of highlights for the offense. A leadoff walk from MJ Melendez started the game out right and then he was scored with a double from Vinnie Pasquantino, who had struggled a bit since coming off the IL but came alive in the last two games in Boston. Then in the second an Eaton walk and a Waters double gave the Royals their second run. And in the fifth, Salvador Perez punished a baseball for looking at him wrong.
That was the only home run in a series. In Fenway Park. Very weird.
But in the top of the sixth, there is something I want to touch on. Kaleb Ort came in the game and walked Eaton to lead off the inning and Kyle Isbel with one out. Melendez struck out, which brought up Bobby Witt Jr. with two on and two outs and the Royals down by four. Here was the first pitch:
As you can see, it was called a strike. As you can also see, it was not a strike. And it completely changed the at bat for Witt. When an at bat starts at 0-1 for Witt, he’s a .210/.241/.324 hitter. When it starts at 1-0, he’s a .265/.335/.487 hitter. The call that Lance Barrett made was one that subtracted 257 points of OPS from Witt’s line. It's unreal the impact these umpires have on games. Would it have made a difference? Who knows? Maybe Witt gets a hit, Salvador Perez hits another home run and it’s a tie game. Maybe the result is the same. Or maybe they do tie the game and Snider follows that up with four runs allowed regardless, but man am I sick of umpires having such an impact.
The Week Ahead
The Royals return home this week and they get the Minnesota Twins for the final time this year. As of right now, the Twins are six games out in the AL Central with 16 to play. They play the Guardians today, so they’ll be either five or seven games out with 15 to play. Losing the first three games of that series has put their playoff chances to the brink. If they lose today, the Royals might be facing a team that is both worn down from their previous series and defeated from the results. If they win, maybe they get a team playing with more of a purpose than ever before With that in mind, it’s kind of tough to determine what kind of a series it will be, but the good news is that the Royals will miss Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray at least.
Then the Mariners come to town. They’re another team that could be playing for a lot and could be playing for not so much. They’re currently sitting in the final playoff spot in the American League, four games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles with 17 to play. They’re also just a couple games behind the Blue Jays for the fourth spot, but you could argue that a team would rather be the six-seed than four or five. Why? Well the Guardians are the three-seed right now, and you can make a pretty good argument that both Toronto and Tampa Bay are better. Also, the winner of the 3/6 series plays the Yankees, not the Astros. Either way, this is a team trying to break a 21-year playoff drought, so they’ll be bringing their A-game too. It’ll be a tough final homestand for a team sputtering to the finish.