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Royals Rumblings - September 15, 2015

Who's Johnny?

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Royals Rumblings - September 15, 2015

David Golebiewski at Gammons Daily takes a stab at diagnosing Johnny Cueto's struggles.

Maybe the recent downturn in whiffs is a blip on the radar, or maybe AL hitters haven been studying Cueto’s ever-changing, Luis Tiant-esque contortions on the mound. Either way, Cueto’s cutter and slider have turned into BP offerings since late July (opponents are slugging .712 off those pitches since Cueto became a Royal, compared to .397 while he was a Red). Cueto hasn’t been near as bad as his ERA would suggest, but his typically deep pitch arsenal is missing a couple of key weapons. Until he re-discovers his cutter and slider, he won’t cut it as the Royals’ ace.

Lee Judge writes the Royals should try to fix Johnny Cueto, not give up on him.

Ballplayers will tell you they can get back on track with one swing. They take hack after hack and then take the right one and think: "There it is!" That one swing will get them back on track. I’ve never pitched, but pitchers I’ve talked to say something similar; they’ll deliver a pitch and suddenly feel it again — they’ve stumbled back into the right pitching motion and after that, it’s easier to lock back in on that motion.

Sunday night, Cueto threw some good pitches and too many bad ones. But this is a guy who has put up a lifetime ERA of 3.30; he knows how to pitch. The Royals just need him to remember how he did it before the playoffs start. And if the playoffs started tomorrow, that would be one thing; but the Royals and Cueto have a few weeks left to figure things out. Giving up on Cueto at this point is not the answer.

Colin Anderle at Sports Illustrated writes about how a dominant bullpen helped the Royals overachieve and how relievers may be the new market inefficiency.

Great bullpens make their entire team better. Of the top 11 bullpens in baseball, eight belong to likely playoff teams. Is this to suggest that an elite relief pitcher is more valuable than, say, an elite shortstop? Hardly. But it’s become increasingly clear that, given the game’s financial-statistical landscape, late-inning pitchers are getting the short end of the stick. Particularly in light of the bottom of the table, where it becomes apparent that ...

Bad bullpens and tragic collapse go hand in hand. Three of the five teams bringing up the rear for bullpen performance are among 2015's cautionary tales. The Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox were both preseason favorites to win their divisions. The Tigers were slight underdogs to Cleveland, but still touted better than one-in-three odds. These three teams are now among the worst in the American League.

The Sporting News ranks Omar Infante's season as one of the worst of the 21st century. You'll also enjoy who is at number one.

Will Leitch predicts when each team will crack the bubbly for clinching a post-season berth.

Friday, Sept. 25: Kansas City wins American League Central. As mentioned, the Royals have the same magic number as the Mets, but they have a tougher road ahead, if only because the team "chasing" them, Minnesota, is chasing a Wild Card, unlike Washington, which is only chasing despair and sadness. The Royals have seven more games left on their road trip (Cleveland and Detroit) before returning home for three with Seattle and three with Cleveland. Let's say they go 4-3 on the road, with the Twins, starting a nice homestand against Detroit, Anaheim and Cleveland, and go 5-2 at Kauffman Stadium. I'm giving the Royals a sweep against Seattle at home, which sets up nicely for a Friday night home game against Cleveland to be the clincher. Get out there, Royals fans, and celebrate your first division title since … wow, 1985.

The Royals are happy with the power of minor league first baseman Ryan O'Hearn, who smacked 27 home runs this year. (h/t Shaun Newkirk)

"He’s got legitimate raw power," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. "Our scouts knew that from observing him through the fall of his draft year. It’s hard to explain why it didn’t show up in college but I do know that he typically hit second in their lineup. That may have something to do with it.

"When we signed him, we did ask him to swing the bat aggressively and to let his natural ability come out. We see him as someone who can hit in the middle of the lineup and suspect that his overall numbers will improve over time. He has the ability to drive the ball to all fields and is getting more and more comfortable with each day.

Four Royals minor leaguers get assigned to their Dominican Winter League teams.

Alex Gordon was nominated for the 2015 Roberto Clemente Award for his charity, and fans can help vote for the winner.

Lorenzo Cain is in elite company for a #3 hitter.

Alec Dopp at Gammons Daily thinks former Royals pitcher John Lamb may be a future ace for the Reds.

The Royals aren't the only team slumping in Missouri. Could the Cardinals blow their division lead?

The Pirates and Marlins will play some regular season games in Puerto Rico next year.

You can soon literally invest in Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney.

How can we analyze the strike zone in three-dimensional volume?

Here's a review of HBO's "Ferrell Takes the Field" about Will Ferrell's stunt to play for ten different teams in one day in spring training.

Here's your Chase for the Sprint Cup NASCAR preview.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter may have undersold the TV rights to the World Cup.

The "first-hand personal account" has become the trendy story model in online journalism.

Arnold Schwarzenegger will replace Donald Trump as the new host of "The Apprentice."

Looking back at the failed movies of the reality show "Project Greenlight."

There will be 400 scripted television shows this year. Is scripted television a bubble about to burst?

Your song of the day is El DeBarge with "Who's Johnny?"