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Royals Rumblings - News for December 17, 2021

MLB Owners Lockout: Day 16

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals
Definitely not trying to get shameless clicks. Hey, wait a second - why hasn’t Royals owner Patrick Mahomes ended the lockout yet? What was he doing last night?
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

This is the last real Friday Rumblings for the year. Next Friday is Christmas Eve and the Friday after is New Years Eve so those are going to be more OT threads.

We’ve reached the doldrums of the lockout. At least the last couple of weeks, we had the lockout or little odd things around it to talk about like the minor league Rule 5 draft. This week, well, I guess I’m glad the Chiefs played on Thursday night because at least there will be comments here. That said, putting together Rumblings last night was a bit difficult as I was trying to find non-existent stories on Kansas City sports feeds filled with Chiefs Tweets. Royals, Royals blogs, and MLB will all be smushed into one section.

R.J. Anderson at CBS Sports listed his top 20 prospects for 2022:

2. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals (Age: 21)

Witt was selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft, making this the second time he’s finished a step behind Rutschman. That’s no knock on him, however, as he’s a high-grade prospect in his own right. He proved as much by hitting .290/.361/.575 with 33 home runs and 35 doubles across Double- and Triple-A in his first full professional season. There used to be fear that Witt would swing-and-miss too frequently to maximize his loud offensive tools; those concerns haven’t materialized, and he struck out in just 22.5 percent of his Triple-A plate appearances. Factor in an above-average glove, and Witt should accomplish something his father never did over the course of his 16-year big-league career as a pitcher: make an All-Star Game.

MLB Pipeline mocked the top 10 picks of the 2022 draft:

9. Royals: Peyton Pallette, RHP, Arkansas

Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore will attend a lot of Arkansas games this spring — his son Robert is a likely first-rounder — and his club could come away with another Razorback. The best college pitching prospect available, Pallette elicits Walker Buehler comparisons, can reach 99 mph with his fastball and owns one of the Draft’s nastiest curveballs.

At Inside the Crown, David Lesky looks at potential trade partners in the AL:

Outside of a surprise announcement that the lockout has ended that won’t be coming, these general managers now have just about all the time in the world to truly pick through organizations and maybe even involve a handful of others. That’s why I think things could get creative. And after the Royals were so quiet to start the free agency period, it makes me wonder if they’re going to be a bit more active in a trade market that wasn’t very active while all those deals were being signed.

Royals Reporter Kevin O’Brien posits: “Kyle Isbel could be the Royals’ Akil Baddoo (if given the chance)

What is interesting though about Baddoo is if Royals fans compare his metrics to Isbel’s, it’s pretty remarkable how similar their 2021 seasons were. Let’s take a look at how their advanced metrics fared last season, via Fangraphs: [check out Royals Reporter for the graphic]

As Royals fans can see, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between Isbel and Baddoo, based on advanced metrics. Baddoo was better on a BB/K end, and did hit for more power than Isbel last year (Baddoo’s ISO was 19 points highter), but Isbel hit for higher average, and did outproduce Baddoo on a wRC+ end by 1 point.

Mike Gillespie at KOK asks: “What happened to pitcher Jake Newberry?

In the end, the inconsistency that nagged him in the past and he needed to shed in 2021 caught up with Newberry. His first two years in the KC system were excellent, he allowed too many runs the next two seasons, then became stingy for three minor league campaigns and pitched decently as a major league rookie in 2018 and again in 2019 and 2020.

Mike Swanson will be entering the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame next year:

Capping off an award-winning and legendary career, Royals vice president of communications and broadcasting Mike Swanson will be among the 21 sports figures and teams inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in February 2022. He joins president of baseball operations Dayton Moore, who was inducted last January.

Not exactly Royals-related but Kansas City sports journalism-related: Blair Kerkhoff writes about his recent cancer diagnosis:

My white blood count was so low I was placed in a special room with neutropenic precautions. Nobody could enter without a mask or gloves. I was that vulnerable to any kind of infection. Asked why I couldn’t go home after a couple of days, a doctor said, “because you’ll die.”

MLB had ground to a standstill. The top three stories on ESPN’s MLB site: Arizona added a bunch of front office people, the Pirates named a new hitting coach, and Freddy Galvis signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the NPB. What a great segue...

In the last two weeks, we’ve talked about the CPBL and KBO. This week we’re finishing off our look at 2021 Asian baseball with the NPB. Our rooting interest, the Yakult Swallows, fared slightly better than our last place Hanwha Eagles (KBO) and third place (CPBL) Rakuten Monkeys.

Here’s a reminder of where the Swallows were in September:

When last we left our rooting interest in early July, the Yakult Swallows, they were hanging around .500 and in the middle of the standings. But they’ve caught fire of late, going 9-0-4 in their last 13 games and have rode this unbeaten streak to the top of the Central standings. Nori Aoki’s numbers have crept up a little to .261/.337/.383 but he’s mostly what he’s been all season long. The real thunder in that lineup has come from 21yo(!) Munetaka Murakami: .284/.409/.607 with 38 HR.

Aoki ended his age 39 season at .258/.335/.383, often as the #2 hitter in the lineup. Munetaka won the Central League MVP. I’ll let wiki fill you in on how the regular season ended:

On October 26, for the second time in their history, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows clinched the CL pennant after finishing in last place the previous season. The championship was their first league title since 2015 and eighth overall. For several games in August and September, Yakult was forced to play their home games in Tokyo Dome instead of their home stadium of Meiji Jingu Stadium due to Jingu’s proximity to the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympic games. Dramatic improvement to the Swallows pitching played a large part in the team’s turnaround

The Swallows went worst to first and clinched first place in the Central League (think AL/NL with the other league being the Pacific League). Three teams from each league make the playoffs. The first place team gets a bye while the other two teams face each other in the first stage. So far, so good, right?

This is where the rules in the NPB diverge from the US, with significant rewards for finishing with a better record in the regular season (that I think MLB should take a look at). For instance, in the Climax Series (think LCS), the 1st place team with the bye automatically gets a 1-0 series lead in the best of 7 series. Also, there are ties. Yes, ties.* How can you tie in the playoffs? Well, the tie goes to the higher seed. There was also a wrinkle this year due to COVID. The NPB played no extra inning games. Normally, playoff games can go 12 innings before they are declared a tie.

This happened in the Pacific League best-of-three first stage. The 2nd seeded Chiba Lotte Marines won a dramatic first game with a 5-4 comeback over the 3rd seed Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Lotte came back to tie game 2 and so it was 4-4 after 9. Again, per wiki: “By tying Game 2 after winning the first game, Lotte ensured that the Eagles could do no better than tie the three-game series. A tied series results in the higher-seeded team advancing, therefore a Game 3 was not necessary since Lotte would advance no matter the outcome.”

It happened again in /both/ Climax Series. In the Pacific League, the Orix Buffaloes won the first two games 1-0 and 2-0 against the Marines. In game 3, down 3-2 in the 9th, the Buffaloes pushed across a run to draw the game and win the series. Again, per wiki: “ It was the first walk-off tie in Climax Series history.”

In Central League Climax Series, Yakult faced the Yomiuri Giants who had dispatched the Hanshin Tigers in the first stage. The Swallows won the first two games 4-0 and 5-0. In the third game, the Giants held a 1-0 lead until Aoki hit a 2-run single in the 7th. Yomiuri scored 1 in the 8th, but could not score another so Yakult also advanced with a 3-0-1 series victory (including the 1-0 automatic lead) by virtue of being the higher seed.

The Japan Series featured the two last place teams from 2020 with both Orix and Yakult going worst-to-first. Unlike the other rounds, the Japan Series did allow for extra innings, though the rules could be complicated (read here if you want to know them) - hmm... I might have mentioned this for a reason. The games were all close and this would have been one heck of a series to watch.

Game 1 was a tight affair, scoreless through 5. Yakult got 1 in the top of the 6th while Orix tied it in the bottom of the 7th. The aforementioned Munetaka Murakami hit a 2-run home run in the 8th. But Orix played 3 in the 9th to walk off game 1. Game 2 was another pitcher’s duel. Orix’s Hiroya Miyagi was perfect through 5 but Nori drove in the game’s first run in the 8th. Yakult’s Keiji Takahashi threw a 133-pitch complete game shutout in the 2-0 win that evened the series.

In game 3, the series shifted to the Tokyo Dome, temporary home of the Swallows, due to a scheduling issue. It was another back-and-forth affair with the teams exchanging the lead until the 7th. Aoki got a leadoff single and would prove to be the tying run, scoring on Domingo Santana’s home run. Yakult wins 5-4. They would win again in game 4, 2-1, and be one win away from the Japan Series victory.

Orix was not done. In game 5, Yakult took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 but Orix answered. In the 8th, the Buffaloes went up 5-2 but Tetsuo Yamada tied the game in the bottom of the inning with a 3-run homer. But, in the 9th, Orix pinch hitter Adam Jones (yes, the former Oriole) hit a solo shot to give his team the win and keep them alive.

Game 6 of the 2021 Japan Series would be the first on the season to go extra innings. Through regulation, each team only scored one run in the 5th. Orix’s Yoshinobu Yamamota went 9 innings, throwing 141 pitchers, and striking out 11. Meanwhile, the Swallows had to rely more on their bullpen. In the 12th, Yakult’s Yasutaka Shiomi got a 2-out single, went to second on a passed ball, and scored on a pinch-hit single by Shingo Kawabata. Scott McGough closed the door on the Buffaloes in the 12th and Yakult won their first Japan Series since 2001.

Lastly, how about some former Royals comings and goings? Ryan McBroom signed with the Hiroshima Carp in the offseason. Glenn Sparkman was on the Orix Buffaloes late in the season but threw 17 innings with a 6.88 ERA and was released. He signed with the Lotte Giants of the KBO a couple of days ago.

It’s the last Rumblings of the year and I haven’t revisited one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. Kingdom Hearts II closes out 2021: