Well, another fun weekend of Royals baseball has run its course. And yeah, we can probably skip the whole "it's early, and the Royals might not be terrible" routine today, given that they dropped today's series finale to the powerhouse Minnesota Twins. This dropped the Royals to 4-7 thus far, and the loss came in rather embarrassing fashion, culminating on a play where Wade Davis threw low and wide of Salvador Perez on an attempted force play, handing the Twins two runs in an inning where they failed to record a hit.
Still, the team isn't as bad as it's looked so far, and the pitching hasn't looked half bad, with some notable exceptions. So, in an effort to maintain my status as a
critical spirit eternal optimist, I've chosen to look at the Pitching Staff for this week's Ups and Downs. How've your favorite hurlers made out since opening day? Read on!
The only start, out of three for Big Game James, that didn't qualify as a quality one was his loss to the Twins, in which he only surrendered one earned run. That's not to say he's pitched brilliantly, but he also turned in a pretty good effort versus Detroit (6 IP, 3 ER) and vefuddled the White Sox for seven innings, so Shields looks like himself. Unfortunately, in what's a common theme thus far, the Royals haven't given him much support -- five runs in the three games he's started? Yeah, that's good for 0-3 when the Royals have their ace going.
Still, there's not really anything more Shields can do except strike out some more guys; he's pitched fine, the Royals have just stunk.
In the interim, you can't argue with results. Vargas has pitched about the same as he always has if you look at his peripherals, but nonetheless the bottom line's been great in every start. He's the new guy in town, and he's getting used to being given zippo offense to work with, so I'll give him the thumbs up here. Still, worth noting his xFIP is right around where you might expect, and that he stranded every runner he allowed in his first two starts. At least the Royals have managed to win a game with him on the mound!
I might have to start controlling for the White Sox starting line-up. This might be starting to sound familiar, but Chen had a nice start versus the ChiSox, then proceeded to be ground into a Chenny pulp by the Twinkies. This is sort of what you get with him -- stretches where he manages to fool opposing teams with a bunch of middling pitches--he fanned seven White Sox in six innings -- interspersed with teams that catch onto his act early and often. Chen always sort of walks a tight rope, and while he's not the worst pitcher out there, I do still find myself wondering why the Royals emphasized bringing him back.
Then again, there was that shiny ERA in 120 inning last season, coupled with a career high strand rate (ten starts or more), which tends to come down, and a career low HR/FB%. Nevermind, I guess I figured it out. Sigh.
Even if this season were to continue on its current trajectory, and the Royals were to actually suck again, (rather than teasing us with second wild card aspirations), at least it would still be a blast to watch Yordano Ventura pitch. Yes, it's annoying that he's only got one start. And yes, I'm mildly terrified for his future given the Royals recent track record of prospect development, but...102 MPH? Holy crap. 6 IP, 6 Ks. The kid's got a live arm, and his start was probably the most fun I've had in my baseball viewing during this young season.
Guthrie pitched an awful game in his first outing, lucky to escape it only chared with four runs in 5.2, as he gave up 7 hits and 4 walks, fanning only 3. That was against the White Sox, who I've poked fun at above for not being able to hit Bruce Chen. He bounced back to the good version of Guts, shutting down Tampa Bay over seven innings. In typical Jeremy Guthrie Good Mode (or #embracetheluck or what have you) fashion, he struck out four, but only allowed one walk. Here's hoping his horseshoe is primed for another season of dodging in and out of trouble!
Looked darn good in his relief appearance against the Twins two days ago, fanning three batters and retiring all seven who he faced. Duffy might very well slot into one of the rotation spots currently held down by a junkballing veteran as the season goes on. For now, he's back up due to injuries, and has worked out of the bullpen. Duffy certainly has the stuff to miss bats, the question is still whether or not he can reliably do so without handing out too many free passes.
Gave up two runs on two walks and two hits in his only appearance so far. Mariot pitched reasonably well (over a K per inning in sixty innings, in fact) as a reliever in AAA last year, but he's already 25 so it's hard to say if that'll translate to success in the bigs. It seems likely he could be the one sent down if Bueno or Collins is ready to go anytime soon.
Hey, remember when Louis Coleman got left behind in the minors last year? Wasn't that fun? Just kidding, it was silly -- Coleman's a MLB-caliber reliever, and I'm still not sure how that happened exactly, other than his ROOGYness. Though, he does have a 6.75 ERA in 1.1 IP this year, so maybe that decision was justified. These reliever sample sizes are generally ridiculously small so far, so take my mean arrows with a grain of salt, and think on how silly seven RPs on a roster generally is (not picking on the Royals here, a lot of teams do it).
After last season's struggles, at the beginning of the year in particular, it would've been nice to see Herrera blowing people away to start 2014. He's not, really, but at least he's missed bats, K'ing five in his five appearances. The performances have been a bit uneven, which is not exactly new with him, but I'm expecting a better season from Herrera as long as his HR/FB%, a whopping 18% last year, comes down. He was at 6.9% in 2012, and splitting the difference would probably leave him in a good place.
Dammit Wade. I was getting ready to consider giving you a green arrow, and then you threw that ball. At least it seems like the Royals will use Davis out of the bullpen this year, where he's actually been effective in the past, but I can't bring myself to be nice here -- he hasn't been that great overall so far, and throwing away a game to the Twinkies just makes me mad. Boo. I'm sure he'll be fine, long term.
Holland wasn't exactly stellar in the past couple weeks, mainly thanks to two run-allowing appearances against Tampa, followed by a lack of games to close since since then. Still, it's a far cry from his rough start last year and, while much has been mentioned about how we can't expect his 2014 to be as dominant as his 2013, we know enough about Greg Holland at this point that it seems like just a matter of time before he's looking unhittable. I mean, he already struck out six batters in four innings, and I'm giving him a sideways thingy because my expectations are high.
(Cough) Yes, he did save my fantasy team last year. No, I'm not biased at all.
njured - Francisely Bueno (RP), Tim Collins (RP), Luke Hochevar (RP)
Bueno and Collins both pitched badly to open the year and landed on the 15-day DL, Bueno for a "pinkie sprain," Collins for a left elbow flexor injury. Hochevar, as I'm sure almost everyone knows here, is out 'til 2015 for Tommy John Surgery.
The Royals are off today, followed by a battle of three-game-under-.500-teams with the mighty Houston Astros on Tuesday, ostensibly a Yordano Ventura start. Ups and Downs will return the same time next week, mostly to lament about how this team could hit water if they were collectively pushed off a diving board. Happy reading/commenting!