If nothing else, the Royals have refused to fade totally out of the postseason picture. Given, nothing really was done to improve the team at the deadline, the closeness of this part of the race is really only due to a Toronto losing streak, and counting the 2nd Wild Card Games Back is sort of a sucker's game. Still, Kansas City has moved to 1.5 games out of the final "playoff spot," even if they'd have to leapfrog the hilariously overpaid New York Yankees roster and the Blue Jays.
So 57-53, more up than down right now. Meaningful baseball (or whatever your favorite euphemism is) at the beginning of August. Is it because of our wonderful Pitching Staff? Let's check those Ups and Downs for the past couple weeks.
The difference between Shields of recent years and Shields of this year has been well-documented on this blog. To throw my own (considerably smaller) hat into the ring, you can sort of see the loss of 10% of his stuff this year just by looking at the DIPS numbers. Strikeout rate inching downward, home run rate rising slightly, walk rate down from last year. It's as if Shields is pounding the zone a little more often because he knows he's not getting as many hitters to chase.
Shields last three starts, in keeping with his performance after about, say, May, have been a mix of legitimately great outings (7 IP, 7 K vs. the White Sox), ones where a better hitting team would've pounded him (10 baserunners allowed in six innings to the Twins, only one RA), and voodoo mastery (8 IP, 2 K vs Oakland). He's actually dropped below his strand rate for his career after sailing above it for most of the year, so he was due a bit of luck. Keep 'em off the board for a little while longer, James, and it's hard for us to be unhappy with you.
Only had one start since returning from an appendectomy. Was pounded for seven runs in it. His ability to regain form is one of the keys at the Royals making a run down the stretch.
Recovered to worse-than-average MLB starter in his last couple starts after looking like the disaster artist in the previous stretch. Guthrie sometimes has starts that make you think that he'll retain his value (what's left of it) well next year (six scoreless vs Oak), and then there's the starts like the one versus Cleveland where it's difficult to remember a time where he could get anyone out.
Duffy's Jekyll and Hyde routine continues, to the point where it's no sort of expect. Every-so-often a guy like him will take a step forward in command/control and become something legitimately special. And sometimes, with Duffy, you can see that guy. He's turning 25 soon, though, and his career walk rate is 4.24 per 9. I've really enjoyed watching him in the rotation this year, and sometimes he looks awesome (he shut down Cleveland on two hits and two walks over seven), and then other times he walks six Minnesota Twins and I just want some vodka.
Ventura burst through that wall we were talking about last time, striking out 14 hitters over 13.1 innings against Cleveland and Minnesota. It's not setting the world on fire, but seeing him miss bats with regularity after such an extended dry spell was pretty fun. It does bear mentioning that, at 120+ innings this season, it will be interesting to see how he's handled down the stretch.
It's getting to the point where whenever Holland actually allows a run, I seriously think about giving him a down arrow.
I would say the same thing about Wade Davis, but he never allows runs anymore.
One bad spot start and one good mop-up appearance sounds like what we can expect from Chen going forward. I hope the Royals at least tried to flip him at the deadline, though I think I know how a phone conversation that starts out "Bruce Chen is available" ends.
Well, he's still here and still pitching well. I'm sorry I advocated trading you, Kelvin, but I don't want to hear any "no one could've predicted this" if you decline next season, mmkay?
"Decline?" said Aaron Crow. "Decline is my middle name!"
3 IP in 5 appearances so far. Nothing really to write home about, but effective in his limited role. The perfect Royals trade acquisition!
Still wins the award for "Royal I'm most likely to forget" when I list off the members of their bullpen to friends who want to know who's in the Royals bullpen. Yes, I have weird friends.
Starting to think the baseball gods are playing a cosmic joke on me by making me write a couple words about the performance of Scott Downs every week.
The Royals are back in action in Arizona tonight, looking to catch the Yanks and Blue Jays. Happy Tuesday!