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Royal Ups and Downs: First Place Edition (One Week Late)

The series that chronicles the highs and lows of the Royals roster, provided the campground internet doesn't die on me again.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was a either a fun rollercoaster or a crappy hike, depending upon how you look at it. The Royals briefly claimed first place from the slumping Tigers, and then immediately went the other way. Nonetheless, last night's victory over Zack Greinke and the Dodgers leaves the boys in blue at 40-36 and only a couple games out. Hope always seems like a bit of an illusion when it comes to the Kansas City baseball club, but maybe this is the year that the Tigers don't run away with things.

Even if the Royals did give back recent gains, they've still attained their current record after a 27-30 start. Hey, that makes things sound pretty good. They've been in the win column more often than not. But the more important question? How did they do in the Pitching Staff Ups and Downs? Time to start slinging some arrows.

James Shields - Kablooey_medium

The Royals have gone on a pretty good run without their best starter coming up with much in the way of results. Shields is still eating innings, but they haven't been that effective with the exception of his eight strikeout, six scoreless outing against the Yankees. The other starts? Walking four against the hated Cardinals, giving up ten hits to the White Sox, and five runs to the Mariners. Some of that was strand rate normalizing, but he's actually lower than his career rate in that category now.

Jason Vargas - Up_medium

Vargas's innings haven't been super effective either, but they've been "good Vargas" innings and he's thrown 30 of them combined in his last four starts. That's four starts of seven innings or more against St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, and Seattle. He's hovering around 80% for a strand rate, which is not sustainable, but it's worth noting that the result has been four quality efforts in a row (at least in the short term).

Jeremy Guthrie - Up_medium

What the hell's got into Jeremy Guthrie since we last met, dear readers? If you have the answer, please mail it to Tenants Harbor, Maine. Preferably by carrier pigeon. I, for one, sure as heck don't know what strikeout elixir Guthrie drank in order to have two straight nine strikeout performances. According to my calculations, the odds of him doing that are twiddly-two million to one. Also, his other two starts were a serviceable one against the Yankees, and last night's effort against the Dodgers. Just call him Green Arrow Guthrie.

Danny Duffy - Up_medium

Followed up a pretty rough effort against the Yankees with two quality starts against AL Central rivals, including nine whiffs in the White Sox game and a seven-inning effort that helped sink the Tigers into second place. Duffy is cruising a bit off luck given to him by the BABIP Fairy and the LOB% Minotaur, but his underlying numbers still suggest he's a major league starter. The only surprise for me, given his stuff, is that his strikeout rate isn't higher. Nonetheless, early returns have been solid.

Yordano Ventura - Nope_medium

Still fun as heck to watch, of course, just not really blowing hitters away over his last four starts. It's nothing to worry about, in all likelihood, but it's strange when a guy with Yordano's stuff strikes out only 14 hitters in 27 innings. Call it what you will, but it's likely only a blip on the radar screen -- he's still managed to be effective in keeping runs off the board, and it probably just means we're about to see him buzzsaw some team.

Greg Holland - Nope_medium

I was really hoping that Holland, one of my personal faves, would give me cause to use nothing but green arrows for his comments for the rest of the year. Alas, two outings allowing runs in a row sort of put paid to that. He's still pitching pretty darn well overall. 44 Ks in 29 Innings is an accurate representation of how nasty his pitching is.

Tim Collins - Nope_medium

It's going to become a big problem if he doesn't start gaining some separation between his strikeouts and walks. The baffling thing about Collins' struggles this season is that it's hard to pinpoint exactly what's different, but the results have been fairly ugly. Maybe it's the minor uptick in fastballs over breaking pitchers? Hard to say. Relievers are strange creatures, and Tiny Tim is not an exception.

Aaron Crow - Nope_medium

Crow's settling in as a fairly effective, rather generic-peripheral righty reliever at this stage. That's better than getting bombed, but the expectations were obviously higher. For now, he's fine as a part of the World's Greatest Bullpen; a contributor who can eat important innings with some effectiveness, but is far from the main attraction.

Wade Davis - Up_medium

Wade @#$#@#$# #$@#@$24ing Davis has been a little more wild in recent appearances, but he's still missing so many bats that his season's been an unmitigated success to date. 54:14 K:BB in 32.2 innings? Yes please. When used correctly, he does his thing and does it well.

Kelvin Herrera - Kablooey_medium

Since his terrible, no good, very bad outing against the Cardinals where he was charged with three earned runs in less than in an inning, he's had three appearances where he's only been left in for one out. That's pretty weird, even if I don't expect that usage to continue. Herrera's strikeout rate has sunk of late, and it's mildly concerning given how he's been pretty reliant on missing bats in the past. Again, relievers are weird and I couldn't tell you what's up (he hasn't really even changed his pitch selection from last year), just that he's a far cry from the strikeout-rate of the last two seasons.

Michael Mariot - Kablooey_medium

"Mop-up Mariot."

Francisely Bueno - Nope_medium

He's had very few appearances so far, but he hasn't embarrassed himself. One does wonder if, what with Collins struggling, Bueno sees a few more games here and there. I'm sure Ned Yost has a plan.


The Royals were in first place in June, never forget! And they're back in action against the Evil Empire of the West tonight!