Rustin Dodd talks with Whit Merrifield about his dongage:
Coming in a 6-2 victory, the blast was one of four homers hit by the Royals in the seventh and eighth innings. Yet when the debris had cleared, it represented one of the more intriguing developments in this 2017 season. One season after clubbing two homers in 81 games during a solid rookie campaign, Merrifield, a 6-foot, 195-pound second baseman, has cranked five homers in his first 29 games since returning from Class AAA Omaha.
Merrifield, 28, has never hit more than 10 home runs in any professional season. He’s recorded 46 homers in 725 career minor-league games. But as the Royals prepared for the final two games here in New York, Merrifield remained on pace for one of the most power-laden seasons by a second baseman in club history. With five homers through the Royals’ first 45 games, he was on pace for 18 homers, which would be the most by a Kansas City second baseman since Frank White hit 22 in 1986. If you account for his late start, Merrifield would be tracking for close to 20. Not that Merrifield is surprised by the output.
“If I can put together a good stretch of taking advantage of mistakes, I don’t think there’s any doubt I could hit 15 to 20 homers,” Merrifield said.
Jeff Sullivan looks at Salvador Perez’s modified approach at the plate:
Perez used to step into the plate. Now he’s basically just stepping forward, which makes it all the easier for him to wrap around. When a hitter steps toward the plate when swinging, it’s hard to make the most of that full hip rotation. Balls will often go up the middle or toward the opposite gap. Now Perez can clear his hips and try to get in front of the ball more often. I’m not explaining this well, because I’m neither a hitter nor a hitting coach, but hopefully you see what I’m getting at. Perez now has an easier time of opening up. Perez now has an easier time of turning on the ball, which is helping him thrive.
This is our 16th season of having some batted-ball data. The highest pull rate for a qualified hitter has been 63.5%, by 2003 Tony Batista. If Perez were to keep this up, he’d be fourth on the list. That seems extreme, and it’s likely to regress. It’s more a matter of by how much, given Perez’s obvious intent. On the one hand, because Perez is now opening up more, that could leave him more vulnerable against soft stuff away. That would explain why pitchers have thrown him fewer fastballs than ever. Yet Perez is good at getting the bat on the ball, and because he’s standing so close, he can reach a lot of those soft pitches. The solution could be mixing in more inside heat to back Perez off, but that would come with its own risks.
As things stand, Salvador Perez is one of few Royals actually hitting. His power potential has been obvious for years, and now he’s showing what he can do to the left side of the field. He’s never been known for having a disciplined approach, so maybe pitchers will identify a new way to shut him down. But it’s Perez who presently has a leg up, turning on more pitches than ever. There was always the chance that Perez would tap into more of that strength. It could be happening, at the age of 27. Don’t say that the Royals don’t have any bright spots.
Dayton Moore is doubling down on his assertion that the Royals are a postseason-caliber club:
Royals general manger Dayton Moore prefers to hold off until at least 40 games are played before making any proclamations during a season.
And with the Royals just past that marker and off to a sluggish start at 19-26 entering Wednesday night's game against the Yankees, Moore is even more adamant that this season's team is a postseason contender.
"My thought process hasn't changed," Moore told MLB.com. "I thought this was a playoff-caliber team coming out of Spring Training and I still think that way."
Miguel Almonte will make his first Major League start tomorrow here at Yankee Stadium. #Royals— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) May 24, 2017
Don’t call him Eduardo Villacis.
Maybe Dave Eiland’s tutelage helped fix Jason Hammel last night:
Eiland persuaded Hammel to abandon his closed-shoulder stance in his setup and encouraged Hammel to use a more squared-up approach.
The difference in Hammel's pitches was noticeable on Wednesday. He went six-plus innings and gave up six hits and three runs. Hammel didn't strike out a batter in his previous outing over six innings. But this time, Hammel struck out seven.
[. . .]
"The extra side sessions I got in really helped. I made the adjustment to get more square with my shoulders. Last year, I made the adjustment to close up my shoulders because normally I fly open so much. So I was basically trying to give myself more time, but it made it too long to catch up with my back side. I started getting too comfortable with it and I was missing too much arm side. So we opened it back up.
"Everything I threw tonight was breaking downward. My fastball ... I didn't miss up much."
BP KC’s David Lesky tries to suss out what’s going on with Alex Gordon:
The simple answer is that he isn’t doing anything with fastballs. From the beginning of his career through the 2015 season, Gordon hit .305/.394/.528 against four-seamers and two-seamers. Last season, he wasn’t nearly as good, but he was okay, hitting .268/.358/.490 against them. But then this year, it’s been a disaster. He’s hit .234/.372/.281 against them.
The one shining light is the on base percentage as he has managed to work a handful of walks and get hit by the hard stuff. But everything else is just abysmal. That’s not even the real problem with Gordon so far this season. Against all other pitches (mostly off speed and breaking balls), he’s hit .123/.220/.151.
But you don’t need me to tell you the numbers are terrible. What’s scary about these numbers is that scouts seem to be confounded by the lack of production. They don’t see a real difference in Gordon’s setup, his swing or anything in between. That right there is a pretty decent indication that age and maybe injuries have caught up with him earlier than expected.
BA’s Kyle Glaser looks at the mid-breakout Michael Conforto.
How was Mike Leake leading the NL in ERA?
Aaron Gleeman takes a gander at Mike Trout’s first 50 WARP.
2080 Baseball has some draft prospect video, including DL Hall, the prep pitcher to whom the Royals have been recently linked in mock drafts.
Drinking coffee may help prevent liver cancer. Does this mean I only need to worry about cirrhosis now?
Jon Stewart and HBO are having to scrap their original plan to do daily animated news shorts because the news is coming at them too fast.
Vicky Cornell wrote a heartbreaking letter to her late husband, Chris.
Dubai has a real-life RoboCop.
Alan Sepinwall talked with Dan Goor about the just-concluded (and arguably best) season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
The song of the day is “May I Have This Dance?” by Francis and the Lights, featuring Chance the Rapper: