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Royals Rumblings - News for October 9, 2015

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So this is what it feels like to lose an ALDS game.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Rumblings - News for October 9, 2015

No one seems to be able to explain why the Royals win with Alcides Escobar leading off.

Before each series, a Royals baseball operations assistant delivers a new stack of reports to Yost’s office. There are advance reports on opposing hitters, and suggested lineups based on opposing pitchers, and enough numbers to keep the Royals manager occupied for hours, if he so desired.

"I get all of our analytical stuff," Yost said, placing the binder on the desk.

For all the preconceived notions of Yost as old-school, for every enduring image of a inflexible troglodyte, he remains relatively open to new analytics and their value in helping his team find a competitive edge.

"I like to look at the numbers," Yost insists, "I like to think about the numbers."

And yet, as the Royals begin the defense of their American League pennant — opening an AL Division Series against the Houston Astros at 6:37 p.m. Thursday — there remains one lingering question that can’t be answered using that thick white binder; one mystery that can’t be explained using any sort of rational baseball thought. In the last two seasons, shortstop Alcides Escobar appears to have grown into some kind of magical leadoff talisman, and not one soul inside the Royals clubhouse can figure out why.

Vahe Gregorian says Yordano Ventura has become the ace the Royals need.

Yost will tell you now that he believes Cueto, another Dominican countryman, has helped Ventura learn to find that equilibrium between being passionate but professional. Eiland sees something else at play.

"A lot of people are saying, ‘Well, Johnny kind of made Yordano relax,’ " he said. "I feel very strongly about that (Ventura) took it personally (when Cueto was acquired). " ‘Oh, really, we needed to get a No. 1? I’ll show you who the No. 1 is.’ That’s the way he approached it. Not that he has anything against Johnny. They’re close, and they encourage and support one another.

"But Yordano was kind of, like, ‘Really?’ … I think it’s just made Yordano elevate his game even more so on top of the other things he’s learned."

Elizabeth Merrill at ESPN writes about Yordano's maturation.

That's where Victor Baez comes in. Baez, the field coordinator for the Royals' academy in the Domincan Republic, is like a father to Ventura. He was there seven years ago when a scout brought Ventura to the academy, when Ventura was so scrawny Baez thought he was a little boy, not a 17-year-old with a 91-mph fastball. Baez insists Ventura is not a punk. He's just misunderstood. In Ventura's mind, he is still that 5-foot-6, 120-pound teenager alone on a baseball field, trying to get noticed.

Back in the D.R., he was always doing things that tested Baez's patience, things to compensate for his size. He wanted to throw 100 mph in batting practice. He was passed over so many times that even now that he's made it, he's still constantly trying to prove himself.

That's why he stared down the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Trout, an impressive physical specimen who could've destroyed Ventura (now 5-11, 180) like one of his Subway sandwiches. Ventura, Baez says, has the money and the job now, but somewhere in that head beneath the slightly tilted ballcap, he believes he still doesn't have the respect.

Eno Sarris at Fangraphs writes about Yordano Ventura's second half secret.

Let’s instead look at his curveball, which got 63 whiffs after August 1, almost twice the total of any other pitch. The whiff rate on that curveball actually went down, from 21% to 18%, and he lost some drop on the pitch with the arm slot change (about an inch) as the velocity increased (one tick), but something else changed about the curve: he started throwing it more. Before August, Ventura used his curve 19% of the time. After August 1, he went to it 29% of the time. It’s his best pitch for whiffs, and he started throwing it more. And his strikeout rate went up.

In fact, that curve is Ventura’s best pitch for his career, if you compare it to league averages in a few important categories. Given the fact that other players stand in awe of Ventura’s "easy cheese" on the fastball, this might be surprising to some.

Sam Mellinger writes about why it always looks like Lorenzo Cain walks around in pain.

Cain knows the scouting report. He laughs when it’s brought up. We all have our favorite sayings, things we’re known for, and Cain’s is I’m tired, my feet hurt. Alex Gordon laughs. Says it’s for show, Cain’s way to either make his teammates smile or his opponents underestimate him.

"I’ve been getting it since I was 18 years old," he says. "Walking the same way, looking like I hurt all the time. Sometimes, my feet really do hurt. But, yeah. I take it over the top sometimes."

Ryan Madson recounts the phone call that brought him back to baseball.

A lifeline arrived one day last summer in the form of a call from Jim Fregosi Jr., the Royals executive who signed Madson with the Phillies in 1998. The call sparked a chain that rekindled Madson’s passion for the sport and stabilized the Royals’ bullpen heading into the American League Division Series. Fregosi had a simple request. He wanted Madson to tutor a high school prospect in their town named Johnny Morell. The two began to play catch, first a few times a week, and then every day. Reticent at first, Madson felt inspired to climb atop a mound for the first time in months. Watching Morell, who is now preparing for his senior season, reminded Madson not to ignore the chances in front of him.

During the winter, Madson reached out to Fregosi. He was willing to try out one more time.

Paulo Orlando is a role player that could have an impact in the series.

Lee Judge gives his three keys to victory over the Astros.

Jeffrey Flanagan also has three keys to victory.

Ben Lindbergh of Grantland previews the Astros/Royals ALDS

Will Leitch of Sports on Earth previews the Astros/Royals ALDS..

Here is a photo gallery of the "Revive '85" pep rally at the Power and Light District on Wednesday with Frank White and Willie Wilson.

Royals wives talk about their lives and their charity work.

Yordano Ventura does the intro for this rap song, and even does some rapping himself.

Meet kcsuperfan, one of the loudest Royals fans at the K.

The Red Sox discuss Brian Bannister's new role as Director of Pitching Analysis and Development.

A lot has happened since the Blue Jays last made the playoffs.

Inside the life of an MLS journeyman.

Seven NHL storylines to overreact to.

How agriculture controls nutritional guidelines.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson explains how Batman can defeat Superman.

Fargo: Season 2 is taking the show to a new level.

The best sports-themed TV shows.

Your song of the day is Paramore with "Tell Me its Okay."