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Royals Rumblings - News for December 18, 2020

Last real Friday Rumblings of the year

Josh Gibson Homestead Grays 1940
Josh Gibson, he of many home runs

Programming Note: This is my last real rumblings of the year. Next Friday is Christmas and the week after that is New Year’s so they’re going to be some light OT threads and I may or may not have already written them.

Both Lynn Worthy and Jeffrey Flanagan had stories about Mike Matheny’s Zoom call Thursday. won the toss so we’ll start with their story:

The Royals are entering 2021 with a simple mindset: The rebuild is over, and they are ready to compete again for the playoffs... Royals manager Mike Matheny, now in his second year as the skipper, isn’t conceding the American League Central race. The Royals won 12 of their final 18 games in 2020 and believe they have momentum heading into ‘21.

“I just think it’s realistic,” Matheny said in a Zoom call Thursday. “You look at how well we competed and how well we did even against the better teams in our division, and how well our guys could stay in the game. … Maybe we were just missing a little piece here and there.

“And a part of those pieces is how our young guys have improved in their career path. I think the other part is how we made these additions with guys like Mike Minor and Michael Taylor and Carlos Santana and Greg Holland. We were tracking well at the end of the season, and that shows how well they were tracking in their growth, too, even without these new pieces.”

Meanwhile Worthy’s story in The Star also talked about offseason moves and some comments by Dayton Moore:

In light of the free-agent signings of veteran former All-Stars first baseman Carlos Santana and pitcher Mike Minor, Moore stressed the importance of setting a tone “that we expect to win” in comments last week. Moore went on to characterized the front office as having going through “tough negotiations” prior to the non-tender deadline because they needed to “scratch and claw for every penny.” Moore’s implication being that they were motivated to free up the necessary money in order to make crucial roster additions to compete this season.

“You look at the Chicago White Sox and the talent they have on the field, and I guess a lot of people would say, ‘Why are you trying to compete against them?’ Well, it’s because it’s the major leagues, and it’s our job,” Moore said. “It’s our job to go out and try to be better than the Chicago White Sox along with everybody else.”

Moore also was on “The Leadoff Spot” on MLB Network Radio:

At Fangraphs, Tony Wolfe looks at the Royals re-signing of Greg Holland:

Holland doesn’t throw the way he used to. Before he blew out his elbow, his average fastball velocity rested comfortably above 96 mph. That dipped to 94.1 mph when he got hurt and continued to drop each year afterward, reaching a low point of 91.4 in 2019. He managed to add a tick to that fastball last year, but there’s still no confusing him with the pitcher he was in his prime...

If Holland’s velocity doesn’t see another tumble and his breaking stuff keeps its teeth, he should be a worthwhile closer for the Royals, and at the low cost of $3 million. Not that the role will come to him easily; he actually has some decent competition for it. Jesse Hahn and Kyle Zimmer both had excellent seasons, as did Josh Staumont, who happens to own one of baseball’s fastest heaters. The Royals’ bullpen actually finished with baseball’s eight-best ERA last year. If the team aims to outdo expectations in 2021, keeping that group together seems like the right move to make.

A couple of former Royals have signed with a division rival, per Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

At The Royals Reporter, Kevin O’Brien spends more words than I thought possible on Nicky Lopez’s approach at the plate:

However, Lopez seemed to abandon that “oppo” approach in 2020, instead embodying a more selective and power-based hitting style that failed to yield results. Not only did Lopez pull the ball more in 2020 (42.7 percent percent in 2019 to 30.2 pull rate in 2020), but his production dipped, as his average went from .240 to .201, and his exit velocity dipped slightly from 85.1 to 84.9, according to Baseball Savant Statcast data. Sure, Lopez did increase his hard hit rate from 19.5 to 26.7 percent from 2019 to 2020, respectively. But, considering he hit the ball on the ground MORE in 2020 than 2019, those hard hit rates didn’t seem to have much of an effect when it came to improving production.

HOORAY! Fansided doesn’t look like a giant mess on my computer anymore. They must have tweaked some of their formatting (or my ad blocker got better):

More stories are being written concerning Wednesday’s decision from MLB about the status of the Negro Leagues. The first two are from The Athletic (sub required):

NBC Sports Chicago talked to Bob Kendrick about the move:

When Bob Kendrick first heard that MLB was considering designating the Negro Leagues as “major league,” he was wary of the move. “I went into my radical mode,” the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum recounted with a smile. “I knew so many of these Negro League players, and they were so proud. And they knew they were good, and they knew the league that they played in was good. And quite frankly, the Major Leaguers knew that they were good. And so, I’m saying to myself, ‘We don’t need you to validate us.’”

While that remained true, when commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Wednesday that MLB was changing the Negro Leagues’ designation to “major League,” Kendrick celebrated.

“I had to step outside of myself,” Kendrick said Thursday on the Cubs Talk Podcast. “And I needed to look from the outside in, as opposed to the inside out. I’m so close to this. And I had to think about what this meant, for historical sake. And for future baseball fans who are going to be hearing about some of these names for the first time, and they’re going to see them listed with those others who are iconic in Major League Baseball. And then it changed my perspective.”

At Yahoo, Mike Oz takes a peak at changes to the record book:

One stat that won’t change: Hank Aaron’s home run total

One thing that would have caused a tectonic shift in the record books was if Hank Aaron’s 1952 season in the Negro Leagues counted. He hit either eight or nine home runs that season, depending on the source, but Barry Bonds sits atop the all-time home run leaderboard by seven, so either one of those being accepted would have made Hank No. 1 again.

Alas, the 1948 cutoff was chosen because most of the top talent fled the Negro Leagues after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, making the leagues more like the minor leagues than the majors by the time Aaron arrived.

At CBS Sports, Matt Snyder talks about Josh Gibson’s stats:

After all, Gibson has been said, in some corners, to have hit around 900 home runs. That’s obviously higher than Barry Bonds’ MLB record 762. So will Gibson be the new leader in Major League Baseball’s official record books?

Not so fast, says the research. is doing excellent work on searching for and finding official box scores from Negro League games, and though the work continues and they probably can’t find everything, Gibson’s official total at present stands at 238. That might seem low, but it’s the highest total there is, besting second-place Charleston (211) comfortably. Only nine Negro Leagues sluggers are in triple digits.

It’s also a far cry from the near-900 we’ve heard about for so many years. What gives?

We’ve had Rocksmith songs the last two weeks so let’s talk about the game. Everyone remembers the rhythm games Guitar Hero (2005) and Rock Band (2007). But, the fad was short-lived. It peaked in 2009 and, by early 2011, Activision had shut down their Guitar Hero division and Rock Band developer Harmonix had been sold. Live fast, die young carries over to the music video game industry, too, I guess. So 2011 was a less than ideal time to enter the market.

In the middle of the boom, Ubisoft’s NA president Laurent Detoc observed: “I just could not believe the amount of waste that had gone in people spending so much time with plastic guitars”. I love Guitar Hero but he’s right - I wish I had been learning to get better at the guitar as opposed to better at the plastic guitar all that time. But, and I’m not saying he did this, whenever someone pounds their fist on the table and demands realism in their entertainment, I shake my head a little at their ignorance. Video games /have/ to be gamified to be entertaining. No one wants to just play a game that feels like work - they need to be given a reason to keep playing, given a reward for doing things - it needs to be fun. And, from most reviews I’ve seen, Rocksmith is a bit more mixed on this.

I’ve kindof buried the lede here, but the big deal with Rocksmith is that you could plug in “virtually any electric guitar and play along via USB adapter”. It was the natural evolution of plastic guitars with buttons for frets (awesomely gamified) to an actual useful too. Unfortunately, it sounds like it was better in theory than in practice. Many of the reviews talk about how the lag and adaptable difficulty (you don’t pick easy, medium, hard- it adjusts as you play) make for a challenging experience. Even the most negative pundits lauded the idea but the execution was met with very mixed reviews.

Sadly, I think it also just came along too late in the life of rhythm games to make a huge impact on the video game scene. Of course, if Guitar Hero isn’t popular, the Guitar Rising developers don’t come up with their idea, get bought up by Ubi, and create Rocksmith. And it’s not as if the game wasn’t successful - it sold well over 2 million copies. It just didn’t spawn a billion (with a “B”) dollar industry the way Guitar Hero did. It also led to a sequel, Rocksmith 2014, that was more universally praised and has sold about 3 million copies to date.

You know, those reviews are pretty good. And it’s been a few years for rhythm game fatigue to wear off. And considering how much I loved playing Guitar Hero (though getting good at this would be much harder)...

Anyways, we’ll complete our mini tour of Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas music with one of my favorites, A Mad Russian’s Christmas: