It almost feels as if the Baseball Gods are speaking to Ned Yost.
Move one of the most productive leadoff hitters in the game out of the top spot in the lineup, and you will feel the wrath. In this case, it's in the form of a broken thumb suffered by one of the new members of the leadoff rotation in Chris Getz. The injury will end his season.
The irony that this fracture was suffered during a bunt attempt is lost on no one.
So Getz was in the leadoff spot on Friday. Horribly misguided managing by Yosty. We've hashed and rehashed this. The horse has died a thousand deaths.
In the bottom of the fifth, he strode to the plate with no outs and Tony Abreu on first. With the Royals down one run, this naturally called for a sacrifice. As Getz squared, he took the pitch off his hand. Fracture.
I mocked his "power stroke" the Royals touted in spring training. (Remembering Billy Butler and Ned Yost talking up his ability to steal 10 bases from the previous spring made me skeptical - sue me.) However, there may have been something to that. This year, Getz had a line drive rate just north of 29 percent. He normally had a batting average on balls in play around .290, but the elevated rate on liners undoubtedly helped to a .302 BABIP. That, in turn, boosted his OBP to .317, his best mark with the Royals. Then, there was his .366 slugging percentage... a career high. Ten doubles in under 200 at bats. That's a helluva accomplishment for Getz.
I don't mind Getz as a player. It's true he doesn't waste plate appearances - generally. And when you need something from him like a grounder to the right side to advance a runner to third or a fly ball, it seems like Getz delivers. Here's a little stat that can convey the value he does bring to a team. Ten times this season Getz came to the plate with a runner on third and less than two outs. He brought home eight of those runners. Another stat: Fourteen times Getz came up with a runner on second and no outs. He advanced the runner twelve of those times. We tend to dismiss those who talk about a ball player doing "the little things" like moving the runners. A lot of time that's code for, "This guy isn't very good, but the manager sure loves him." Except in the case of Getz - this season at least - it was the truth. There wasn't anyone better on the Royals at moving runners.
On the baserunning side of the ledger, let's say Getz was around the break even point when it came to swiping a base. He was successful nine times in twelve attempts - a 75 percent success rate. Yet on a team stocked with players noted for running the bases with their heads firmly planted in their posterior, Getz was an exception. He ran into only one out on the bases this season. And according to Baseball Reference, Getz took an extra base (defined as being on base for a teammate's plate appearance and advancing more than one base on a single or more than two bases on a double) 63 percent of the time. That is the best rate on the team.
As a card carrying member of the Pop Tart Brigade, I'm not supposed to laud players for The Little Things. I'm not even supposed to acknowledge their existence. Yet Getz has earned a smidgen of my admiration for doing The Little Things. Would I like someone else at second base? Sure, but Robinson Cano isn't walking through that door. The way the Royals have chosen to built their roster, he's been their best option at the position for most of the season. He shouldn't be a leadoff hitter in any way, shape or form, but he can be trusted to prop up the bottom part of the lineup... Keep fanning the flames of a rally so the batting order can roll over for the big hitters. That sort of stuff. There's value there. Yes, I said it... Chris Getz when used properly has some value.
Defensively, Getz has been worth minus one run according to the Fielding Bible. He's converted only 90 percent of balls he's fielded into an out. That's about two percentage points below league average. Let's be clear on Getz's defense. Compared to Betancourt, he's Frank White and Bill Mazeroski combined. Compared to the rest of the league he's slightly below average. He's not a horrible defender, but he's not as rangy as you would like a middle infielder. He would have so much more value if he had some versatility. That's probably his biggest crime. We could live with Getz as a bit player, but for him to be a bit player in this age of limited roster spots for hitters, he has to be able to play multiple positions.
Looking back, I've taken my share of knocks at Getz, but it's been misguided on my part. The blame isn't on Getz. The dude gets the most out of his talents. That's exceptional. It's not his fault his manager touted his "power." Or that Dayton Moore lovingly referred to him as "Mistake Free." My problem has always been the same: This team is supposed to be built on youth and you have a solid prospect in Triple-A with nothing left to prove at that level, yet he can't get any attention from management. The anger should be (and is) directed at Ned Yost for filling out a poor lineup card and at Dayton Moore for keeping Johnny Giavotella in the minors for so long.
Getz is the kind of player you can carry on a stacked offensive team. Sadly, the Royals are far from stacked. They're more representative of Jenga sticks after your two year old decides to play human bulldozer.
Now the pressure falls squarely on the shoulders of Giavotella. The Royals gave it their best shot to keep him on the farm all year, blocking him not just with Getz but with that disaster Yuniesky Betancourt. With Betancourt properly disposed of and Getz on the DL, there are no more obstacles. Gio got a taste last summer and didn't do so well. Nor did he perform well while being jerked around by Yosty earlier this year (which is totally understandable.) But this is the Royals and who knows what they're thinking. This could be Gio's final shot at the bigs with this team. He has to show improved range at second and has to bring some of that Triple-A power with him to KC. Fair or not, he has six weeks to show what he can do in the majors. To me, this brings a bit of excitement back to the team which has gone stagnant for me this year. That's a good thing.
Meanwhile, I'm raising a glass of Boulevard to Chris Getz. May you heal quickly and bunt often.