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Royals Rumblings - News for February 26, 2021

Royals Review in best shape of its life

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MLB: Kansas City Royals-Media Day
Sorry, Matt - last year’s photo day
Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports


At The Star, Pete Grathoff had a story about uniform number changes for the Royals this year.

Duffy didn’t hesitate to give up the number when Santana joined the Royals. While some professional players will pay a new teammate for a number, Duffy said he didn’t ask for anything for himself in return.

But he did hope Santana would have a huge year with the Royals. “Oh man, just give me 30 bombs and a huge on base percentage and play his position, be a good teammate, and I know he’s a good dude,” Duffy said.

Anne Rogers had a story about Hunter Dozier in yesterday’s Rumblings. Today, it’s Lynn Worthy’s turn:

First, he contracted COVID-19 just before the Royals started their 60-game slate. The effects of the virus lingered even when he returned to the field. Second, Dozier admittedly pressed at the plate after getting a late start to an already shortened season.

“Honestly, yeah I definitely felt a difference after COVID,” Dozier said. “I hate saying it because it’s not an excuse, but it definitely took a toll. It kind of kicked my butt for a little bit. It took me a little while to get my lungs back, get my energy back.”

Speaking of the new Royals beat writer at, Rogers has a story about Carlos Santana today. See how all 3 top stories have now come full circle?

“There have been a number of times where we have been in a situation, and I’m pushing a pitcher to almost his limit,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said Wednesday from Royals camp in Surprise, Ariz. “And I look over, and Santana’s on deck. I’m scared to death, because this could very easily, even if we get him out, it could very easily and probably turn into a 10-pitch at-bat. That’s a big deal.”

Alec Lewis at The Athletic with a profile about Jakob Junis and his brother:

Matt, it’s coming soon. Mike Swanson and the Royals Twitter account both had photos from Photo Day Wednesday.

Old friend Terrance Gore has signed a minor league contract with the Braves.

With as much good content is coming out of Royals blogs these days, they’re getting their own section today.

Craig Brown writes about “The dog days of Spring” at Into the Fountains.

It doesn’t take long, does it? After a long winter, the crack of the bat and the snap of the ball hitting the padded catcher’s mitt give you that boost of baseball adrenaline. Baseball is back. Real action is going to take place on that diamond. And soon.

But it’s just a tease. A nice tease, but a tease just the same. Over a week after pitchers and catchers report and a handful of days after the rest of the squad joins them in camp, certain tedium (or is it routine?) settles over the proceedings. You can watch only so many bullpen sessions or fungos hit to charging outfielders. It’s game action you crave. But the exhibition slate is still a few days away.

David Lesky looks at Salvador Perez’s nice season at Inside the Crown:

Is the whole thing sustainable? Well no, probably not. A sample of 156 plate appearances isn’t really enough to think that he’s suddenly back to being the hitter for average he was early in his career with the power he’s picked up later. We may have seen some of the correction starting before the season even ended (though it was also just three tough games, so maybe not). But I do think that the quality of contact coupled with the ability to pick out pitches to drive that might come from his stance allowing him better sight is something that can continue.

At Royals Reports, Kevin O’Brien surveys the Royals outfielders:

The outlook of the Royals outfield looks pretty encouraging, which is something Royals fans haven’t really been able to say since Lorenzo Cain left in free agency after the 2017 season. Whit and Benintendi are two players who legitimately could be All Stars, and Jorge Soler could put himself in the discussion, though as a designated hitter candidate, not an outfielder.

There are not 1, but 2, stories at Royals Farm Report.

Drake Downing lists some of his “Prep Stars to Watch”:

I feel like I should preface this by mentioning that this class doesn’t have anyone that’s seen as an advanced, generational type of talent. It’s a class that’s deeper and more talented than the 2020 group, but there doesn’t appear to be an Alex Rodriguez or Bryce Harper. That being said, there are players in this class with insane raw tools. These are a few of the names I’m watching very closely.

Meanwhile, Cam Adams profiles the Columbia Fireflies, the Royals new Low-A team

Before the move to Columbia, the club was known as the Savannah Sand Gnats from 1996-2015 after the team was named the Savannah Cardinals in its initial years. During their time in the Peach State, the Sand Gnats saw decent success with two division titles and four SAL titles.

Finally, Fansided sites are churning out articles now that baseball is back:

There wasn’t a lot of news around baseball yesterday as all the top stories on the MLB pages were the ones Max had yesterday (Abreu positive for COVID, Vlad Jr losing weight, Shin-Soo Choo to Korea, the Mariners service time situation, etc).

Shohei Ohtani hit 97 on the gun yesterday. I really hope he plays. I still love the idea of a good 2-way player in this age of crazy specialization.

The Royals made a listicle. How about I put this here to bulk up the MLB section?

Q: Best under-the-radar move

Katherine Acquavella: Carlos Santana signing with the Royals. I guess this isn’t quite “under-the-radar,” but I’m going with it. Looking at this as more of a sneaky-good move for Kansas City, a team that has surprisingly been active this offseason. Santana is coming off a down year, but he still posted a solid .349 on-base percentage (which would have ranked second on the Royals last season) and a league-leading 47 walks so he should be ready to return to his 2019 numbers which earned him an All-Star nomination and 16th-place AL MVP finish. I think ultimately what’s Cleveland’s loss (they declined his $17.5 million club option) will be Kansas City’s gain.

Finally, Dan Szymborski (Szymborski! Szymborski!) with a fascinating article at Fangraphs about the best playoff formats and rewarding the best teams. And it’s definitely not interesting just because I made a similar argument last year and even cited the same article he did (Never mind that it’s a lot longer, more detailed, better thought out, and contains fewer spelling errors than my post):

We’re far more likely to get more teams in the playoffs than fewer going forward, but I think these numbers demonstrate some of the risks involved of simply shoving more teams into October. Having more teams make the playoffs doesn’t have to destroy the regular season or eviscerate the value of adding a Mookie Betts or a Yu Darvish. But it will have to involve the league designing a postseason that not only gives more teams hope but also makes teams actually care whether they win 90 games instead of 88, or 98 instead of 96. This is absolutely necessary because of how even teams are, relatively speaking. The NBA postseason works with 16 teams because low seeds mainly get destroyed by the top seeds. No MLB team can be the Jordan-era Bulls or peak Warriors.

Three professors, Michael J. Lopez, Gregory J. Matthews, and Benjamin S. Baumer, looked at this specific issue a few years ago and estimated that to match the NBA’s playoff history of the team with the better record 80% of the time, baseball would need to have best-of-75 series. I don’t think I need to go into why that is impractical.

I think that for a larger playoff field to be a good idea requires MLB to continue to re-think what kind of advantages can be given to the better teams. The bye was a clever idea, but there are limitations of how many byes you can give top teams before you’re almost penalizing them by making them cool their jets for weeks. That likely makes a straight-up application of the KBO’s gauntlet also a non-starter. What it might take is for MLB to explore lopsided playoff series. If you’re going to give a chance for a 78-84 team to knock off a 105-win team, you need to think of a bigger hurdle than winning two of three games. Why not require a four-game sweep?

We’re going to go off-topic here for a bit. We’re not quite into the season and there was a lot of discussion last week about the energy situation in Texas. As most of you know, I live in the Houston area and a number of you saw some posts I made last week about the situation. I’m just going to do a little Q&A and you know how this works with me - I’ll be citing my sources along the way. Going to keep this one PG, too, unlike my original post. I’m going to blame that on being the middle of a stretch where we were without power for 30 consecutive hours (all of which had below freezing air temperatures) and without municipal water for 5 days.

Q: So what’s the basics?

I’m going to let wiki handle this one: “The February 13–17, 2021 North American winter storm, unofficially referred to as Winter Storm Uri, was a major winter and ice storm that had widespread impacts across the United States, Northern Mexico, and parts of Canada from February 13 to 17. The storm started out in the Pacific Northwest and quickly moved into the Southern United States, before moving on to the Midwestern and Northeastern United States a couple of days later. The storm resulted in over 170 million Americans being placed under various winter weather alerts being issued by the National Weather Service in the United States across the country and caused blackouts for over 9.7 million people in the U.S. and Mexico, most notably the 2021 Texas power crisis. The blackouts were the largest in the U.S. since the Northeast blackout of 2003. The storm also brought severe destructive weather to Southeastern United States, including several tornadoes. On February 16, there were at least 20 direct fatalities and 13 indirect fatalities attributed to the storm; by February 19, the death toll had risen to at least 70, including 58 people in the United States and 12 people in Mexico. The damages from the blackouts are expected to reach $19 billion (2021 USD)”

Q: How cold was it?

The official low for Houston was 12 early Tuesday morning. That’s definitely cold for here, the coldest since 1989. However, it’s quite a bit above the record low of 5. Houston had rain much of Sunday night that transitioned over to some mix of freezing rain, sleet, and snow sometime between sundown on Sunday and sun up on Monday as the freeze line went from NW to SE towards the coast. The freezing duration was pretty bad, too, as all but right near the coast was below freezing from Sunday night until well into Tuesday.

Eagle eyed readers will notice that second article was from Saturday and predicted a low of 10 for Tuesday morning. This wasn’t wholly unexpected. And lest you think I’m cherry picking some random weather blog, this is the de facto weather gospel for many Houstonians. If you’ve seen me link to something about weather in Houston, it’s very likely from Space City Weather. Notice their tagline at the top: “Hype-free forecasts”. They have a very good reputation for not doing the local news thing of trying to scaring you into reading more. Eric Berger, the main contributor on the blog used to be the science and weather columnist in the Houston Chronicle and writes for ars technica.

Speaking of Eric, he had a good 30,000 foot view post of the power situation that he made “wearing a winter jacket” while his own power was out.

Q: Even if I had no idea about anything else, I know that if you have your own wiki page with a title like “2021 Texas power crisis”, that’s bad. So what happened to the power grid?

Again, I’m going to let wiki do its thing here: “The 2021 Texas power crisis is an ongoing crisis in the state of Texas in the United States involving mass utilities failure, such as power outages, water and food shortages, and dangerous weather conditions. The crisis was the result of two severe winter storms sweeping across the United States on February 10–11 and 13–17. More than 4.3 million homes and businesses in Texas were left without power, some for several days. The cause of the power outages was initially blamed on frozen wind turbines by some Republican government officials, including Texas governor Greg Abbott, but frozen natural gas lines and instruments were the main cause. The crisis caused many experts to call into question the state’s preparedness for such a storm, especially in light of its deregulated energy market.”

There’s a lot to go over there: bad politics, Texas’s independent power grid, and our dregulated energy market. But the long and short is that the Electric* Reliability** Council of Texas (ERCOT) started rolling blackouts. Only, these weren’t like what Kansas and Missouri saw with 30-60 minute rolling blackouts. They would take down sections of the grid and not turn them back for more like 30-60 /hours/, all in the middle of some of the coldest weather in decades. And no one was really happy about the cold while downtown Houston and Dallas were lit up in the middle of the night like there was no power issue at all.

Apparently, Texas was minutes away from a complete blackout that would have taken months to repair. If you check out that Twitter thread, power in Texas was at a dangerously low frequency for about 4 and a half minutes. At the 9 minute mark, even more generators would have dropped offline.

In short, this was not your usual ice storm where you play transformer roulette and you pray that your neighborhood is not the one where the transformer blows out and you’re stuck waiting for the ice to melt so the utility trucks can come by. CenterPoint made it quite clear by midday Tuesday that “our transmission system did not sustain damage” and they would restore power as soon as it was released from ERCOT. These were deliberate, long term blackouts across the state to prevent the grid from failing.

*Somewhat misleading, particularly in light of recent events

**Very misleading, particularly in light of recent events

Q: I saw Texas Governor Greg Abbott talking about how frozen wind turbines failed the state. We should be pumping the brakes on renewables, right?

He had to walk that back. A Princeton University professor and systems engineer who wrote (the Twitter thread referenced above and) a New York Times article last week entitled “A Plan to Future-Proof the Texas Power Gridtweeted this on Monday during the storm: “Confidential info from a market participant in ERCOT: As of ~10 AM Eastern time, the system has ~30 GW of capacity offline, ~26 GW of thermal — mostly natural gas which cant get fuel deliveries which are being priorities for heating loads — and ~4 GW of wind due to icing.” If you continue looking through that thread, you’ll notice that more than /half/ of the natural gas capacity was offline when it was needed most.

There was a lot of talk of losing that wind/solar power generation, closing coal plants, or loss of capacity due to winter maintenance. But all of that put together is less than how much natural gas went offline. Also, there are wind turbines that function in places much colder than it got in Texas (also, “the loss of power to the grid caused by shutdowns of thermal power plants, primarily those relying on natural gas, dwarfed the dent caused by frozen wind turbines, by a factor of five or six”), coal plants have been replaced by natural gas production, and there should be some excess capacity to make up for routine maintenance so these are mostly disingenuous arguments. A significant fraction of that could have been made up for by minor rolling blackouts (or, simply, having more capacity to begin with).

Q: How did other politicians deal with this crisis?

Famously, Ted Cruz left the state. Then he blamed it on his daughters. At the same time he lied that he was just going to drop them off and come back. And international travel was against his daughters’ private school pandemic policies. And his neighbors leaked his family texts to the New York Times. I’m not creative enough to make this up: he left his dog named “Snowflake” behind. Cruz is also known for anti-regulation stances. Speaking of which...

Former governor and, man who was put in charge of the department he forgot he wanted to eliminate, Rick Perry said “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” Just a reminder: there are currently 32 Texas deaths attributed to this storm.

Of course, neither Cruz nor Perry were in much of a position to help the situation. It’s just awful optics.

Q: But what about politicians who could actually do something about it?

Attorney General Ken Paxton also left the state. Fortunately there was no price gouging for his office to investigat— oops.

I think many people saw the stories about Griddy and customers receiving four and five figure energy bills. Griddy is a company that allows customers to buy their electricity at wholesale prices. There are other variable rate plans out there as well (yes, seriously - we’ll talk about that later). However, the price for electricity skyrocketed ahead of the winter storm and customers were on the hook for $9 per kWh. In fact, some companies were actively giving money back to get customers to leave.

But to explain how all that works, we’re going to have to back up and talk about Texas’s independent energy grid and energy deregulation first.

Q: Texas has an independent energy grid? How does that work?

The United States and Canada have two major grids: the Western Interconnection and the Eastern Interconnection. But there are also three “minor interconnections” (read: grids): the Quebec Interconnection, the Alaska Interconnection, and yes, the Texas Interconnection.

The title of this article probably tells you all you need to know: “The parts of Texas not on its ERCOT power grid appear to have weathered the freeze with few outages”. The far western parts of the state like El Paso are on the Western Interconnection while a little bit of the east like Beaumont are on the Eastern Interconnection.

After the 2011 winter freeze, El Paso Electric, on the Western Interconnect grid, spent heavily to “winterize our equipment and facilities so they could stand minus-10 degree weather for a sustained period of time,” Eddie Gutierrez, an El Paso Electric spokesman, told KHOU. So this year, “we had about three thousand people that were out during this period, a thousand of them had outages that were less than five minutes.”

On the other side of Texas, near the Louisiana border, the city of Beaumont also appears to have weather the storm without massive outages. Entergy, which powers Beaumont on the Eastern Interconnect grid, told KHOU it also winterized its infrastructure after the 2011 storm. Weatherizing power generation and extraction equipment is voluntary in Texas, though the state legislature will probably revisit that strategy when it dissects ERCOT this year.

Q: Wait, what? Did that say “weatherizing power generation and extraction equipment is voluntary in Texas”?

Unfortunately, yes. Per ERCOT: “Those are more best practices that are voluntary” (insert “[they’re] more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules” PotC gif). From another story: “ ‘There aren’t regulatory penalties at the current time’ for not complying with the weatherization guidelines”. So there’s no monetary incentive to do so.

Part of why Texas fought so hard to get an independent and intrastate grid was to keep it from falling under the purview of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. As noted above, the parts of Texas connected to the rest of the US grids and, thus, regulated by FERC, were prepared. The rest of Texas was not.

Back in 2011 (see previous question), there was a cold snap that, stop me if you’ve heard this before, left 4 million people without power in Texas. Texas had to resort to rolling blackouts and import power from Mexico. FERC did an investigation and what did they find? Many plants that failed in a 1989 cold stretch were the same that failed in 2011. I would hazard a guess that they would find a lot of similar problems still around in 2021. And, unless there are penalties put in place, they’ll fail next time, too.

Remember all that natural gas that went offline? It was because Texas doesn’t store most of its natural gas reserves, it just pumps gas of the ground as needed. Of course, this doesn’t work if your lines aren’t winterized or your plants aren’t winterized.

Q: What about this deregulated electricity industry?

I’m going to post what I wrote previously: There’s this whole... pretend “market” for choosing an energy provider. Every three years (or sooner if you want a “cheaper” contract), you have to go “shopping” for an energy company. Only they’re not who actually provides you the energy – they’re basically like middlemen and billing companies. All of the power in Houston is provided by Centerpoint and then you pay these glorified billing companies as your “power provider”. But they are all competing with cute little billing gimmicks to separate you from your money while competing with each other but it’s more like picking stocks to pay your electric bill. It’s a ridiculous farce parading around as the “free market”.

Dylan Baddour at the Houston Chronicle had a nice primer about the history of energy deregulation in Texas.

It happened in two phases, addressing wholesale power in 1995 and everything else in 1999 with SB 7. The old utilities, then monopolies on energy, were each “unbundled” and broken into three companies: generation (power plants), transmission (power lines) and retail (customer service and billing). HL&P split into Reliant Energy, CenterPoint Energy and Texas Genco, now owned by NRG Energy... So a complex marketplace emerged, with private power generators offering their product for sale to retailers across the state. Only the transmitters remained regulated, because cities can’t have multiple private companies stringing power lines wherever they want. That marketplace did away with the old system, in which local plants produced power for local consumption. A power retailer in Houston would have to buy electricity wholesale from a power generator somewhere in Texas, and if the best deal the found came from San Angelo, then so it was.

Adding insult to injury, the Wall Street Journal found “Texas Electric Bills Were $28 Billion Higher Under Deregulation”. So it’s not as if we’re even saving money. Someone’s making money off of this but it’s not the customers. Again, it feels like there are cute little marketing gimmicks like free nights or a free month in exchage for higher rates across the board, despite Texas being one of the largest energy producers in the world.

Q: Now what?

After the above, I think it’s pretty easy to connect the dots between a deliberately independent grid leading to poorly weatherized plants and poorly regulated power production leading to massive outages and consumer unfriendly electric bills.

Five out-of-state members of the ERCOT board of directors have resigned. Governor Abbott has declared “ERCOT Reform” an “emergency item this legislative session”. However, he has also “collected more than $26 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry” so it remains to be seen if any substantial changes will be made or if it’s just lip service to battle a political liability. It’s not expected to drop below 50 in the next 10 days. Winter is likely over but hopefully changes will be made to avoid yet another event like this from happening.

Last week during the aforementioned power outage, I played some Just Shapes and Beats with my son on the Switch in the dark and cold. Looking back, I was happy I hadn’t used this song yet back when we talked about the game a couple of years ago, only mentioning it:

The story is simple but a great example of visual storytelling: there are no words, just shapes and music. It’s such a simple premise: there’s a bad shape guy corrupting the world for the peaceful little good guy shapes and you have to help save it. If you play through the game up to “Close to Me” and it doesn’t get you, just a little, I’m not sure you have a heart. It’s a pretty cool accomplishment for cute little shapes that look like they belong on my toddler’s toys.

I’m not sure how it looks out of context. But, while doing a full playthrough, this level is the emotional core of the game. I can guarantee you that, at about 2:50 in the video below, at least once every player has tried to rescue the cube only to be denied.

I was looking around at the Sabrepulse video on Youtube and it has more than 6M views and 99% of the comments were about JS&B. Perhaps the most accurate of them: if you’ve heard this song before, you’ve heard it more than once. It’s one of the hardest levels in the game and it’s extremely gratifying when you finally win. Enjoy some Rainbow Road at the end.