I have an app on my phone--they're not paying me, so I'm not telling you which one--that notifies me when the score of a sporting contest involving one of my favorite
corporations teams changes. I'm currently trying to figure out if there's a way to have it just let me know if, for some weird reason, the Royals are actually losing a game. It doesn't happen often these days; the Royals are 77-48, which is good for the second-best record in MLB. As has been the case for awhile now, they're sandwiched in-between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates (on a related note, how pissed would you be if you're a Pirates fan and Pittsburgh has to play a WC game and loses again?). Anyway, I'd just like less phone notifications and, of course, you needed to know.
This August, as baseball drags into the stages where the regular season seems to get tired of itself, it's death, taxes, and the Royals winning. I'm not complaining, mind you, it's just pretty crazy that it's now more news to me when Kansas City isn't winning. It's even more startling how little of it has to do with the rotation, but we'll get into that. I could write more about this, and probably will at some point, but there's no better indication to me that baseball could drop back to 140 regular season games or so, and I'd be happier. I don't know if my attention span has gotten worse, or the run-environment blues are bugging me, but I'm almost bored of the Royals winning.
I suppose that's neither here nor there, for now. The Royals are going to keep playing well because they're a good team, and it'll be a lot of fun if they happen to revisit a certain "November Classic" this season. Who's actually helping and who's more of a hindrance on the pitching side? Read on for your Pitching Staff Ups and Downs for the month of August.
SP - Johnny Cueto -
I'm not sure what it is about the Royals that makes them struggle with handling the Red Sox--before the 9th inning, mind you--but Cueto's start versus Boston has been the only blip on the radar. It's been interesting to watch Cueto, who is a legit very gosh darn good major league starter, and the way he goes about things. With all the buzz about him leading up to the trade, you'd think he was more of a buzzsaw. In reality, Cueto's always had a very good strikeout rate that's something short of great, but limited his walks and hits (this obviously fluctuates, but he's lowered his career OBA significantly in the years after 2011) allowed. The overall package is still a great one, but I feel as if he was slightly inaccurately advertised.
That's not a knock on him at all. The way Cueto got things down in August--2.70 ERA dragged up by his one bad start--was to issue only two free passes in 30 innings. He also threw a shutout. He's hella good.
SP - Edinson Volquez -
Volquez hasn't fallen off a cliff or anything, but August wasn't particularly kind to him. He posted a pedestrian 4:13 ERA and was rung up for six runs allowed in two different starts. In the other three, decent starts, his K:BB was only really good against Detroit. Overall, Volquez has still exceeded expectations, but this was the month where he came back to earth a bit.
SP - Yordano Ventura -
One man's down arrow is another man's up. Ventura hasn't been spectacular in August, but his bar has been set lower for much of the year. Ventura's been a bit of an enigma wrapped in a burrito this year, as one of MLB's top "how does this guy not get more people out?!" starters. After two bad starts at Toronto and Detroit, he bounced back to allow only three runs over the next 19 IP. We all wish Ventura had been more consistently good this season, but if he's heating up now I'll certainly take it.
SP - Danny Duffy -
Since the beginning of July, Duffy's looked like an MLB starter! Even a possibly effective one! Frankly, the less said about this the better, as I'm sure I've already jinxed him for September by praising him for half a second. If I was being mean, I'd say "emphasis on 'looked like,'" but I wish the best for Duffy going forward (and I still don't know what to make of him, as he's kinda a lefty Yordano with admittedly lesser stuff).
SP - Kris Medlen -
He started a game, and the world didn't end so that sure was silly that KC waited to--*shadow of Cthulu falls across the wall across the street*
Nevermind. It's been nice knowing you all.
SP - Jeremy Guthrie -
I don't hate Jeremy Guthrie, but it's absolutely baffling that he remained in the rotation as long as he did. His two good years with the Royals were in the vein of League Average Innings Muncher, and he clearly had even less stuff going for him this season. Do you all understand how hard it is to post a RA near 6 in this run environment and pitching in front of the Kansas City defense? Personally, it boggles my mind. Guts is in the 'pen, finally, and I'd hope the Royals recognize that he's a sunk cost going forward.
SP/RP - Chris Young -
Descended into vague adequateness from his early season heights as a pre-regression staff-savior. Ah well, we'll always have those months where he simply didn't let anyone score on him.
RP - Franklin Morales -
Morales still doesn't miss enough bats where I feel good about him coming in out of the 'pen, but he's also only been charged with 5 ER in his last 30 appearances. So after a bit of a rocky start, it's *probably* safe to say that he's doing something right.
RP - Ryan Madson -
Seems to have navigated past his rough patch where he had three appearances where he seemed incapable of missing bats. It's weird to think of Madson, who is a pitcher I've always thought looks young in the face, as one of the elder statesmen of the Royals' staff. But here we are. And he's been effective too, which is neat.
RP - Greg Holland -
Holland was my favorite Royals (non-Gordon, non-Butler, non-Dyson edition...okay maybe just my favorite Royals pitcher) for awhile, so it hurts a bit to see him at something less than his peak. He's still whiffing well over a batter per inning and saving most of his opportunities, but the 3.55 ERA and the more-often-than-usual meltdowns have been not what we're used to seeing from the Dutchman. To put it in full perspective, while he's still an effective pitcher...he's already walked more hitters in 38 innings than he did all of last year, and surrendered only six less hits.
RP - Wade Davis -
I love watching Wade Davis, and I'm absolutely not worried about him. Here's the reason for that down arrow, though. Davis' monthly ERAs:
- April -- 0.00
- May -- 0.00
- June -- 0.82 (debatable)
- July -- 0.84
And then there's August, at 4.00. Goddammit Wade, I was hoping to get through an entire season without giving you a down arrow.
RP - Luke Hochevar -
If you'd told me six years ago that Luke Hochevar would be still on the Royals and pitching with moderate effectiveness, I would have told you to shut the hell up because I would not have cared even slightly about such a small victory in the face of the 2009 Royals being on their way to 65-97 and employing Mike Jacobs at 1B.
RP - Kelvin Herrera -
This is the first-and-only time (one would assume) that I'll give down arrows to all three members of HDH, but it's warranted. Herrera was effective in August, generally speaking, but ineffectively wild in a couple appearances. The 3+ ERA is well below his usual standard of awesomeness.
In case you didn't get this already, this should have been "Role Reversal" edition or something, because the bullpen was actually kinda mediocre and the rotation improved.
The Royals are playing the Orioles again tonight, with Cueto on the bump. Since it's a game against a team they played in the 2014 postseason (and not the Giants), I'm assuming they'll win again. Well, actually I'm just assuming that in general.