It might be easy to think we’ve seen a couple weeks of baseball after the Royals and Rangers played a four hour and 26 minute game that didn’t even feature a bottom of the ninth, but it really was just one game. It was my first time back at the ballpark in 550 days, and it definitely didn’t disappoint other than the fact that it could have been maybe 10-15 degrees warmer. But I wasn’t about to complain about getting to see baseball in person. And hey, the Royals pulled out the victory in a game where we had a chance to see both Wade Davis and Greg Holland pitch. I’ll get back to them in a minute. But first, how good does it feel to have baseball back and with fans in the stands? The atmosphere was mostly fine, but I’m looking forward to the day that it’s safe to allow 100 percent capacity. I’ve been told they’re hoping for June on that, but it might have to dip into July. I guess we’ll see on that.
Let’s start with everything old being new again and the Royals closing out the game with Greg Holland followed by Wade Davis. Holland’s struggles in the ninth after coming in the game in the eighth made for a save opportunity for Davis in his first game back with the Royals. And boy did he ever notch it by striking out both batters he faced with runners on base and a four-run lead. What’s noteworthy about that is I had some serious concerns about Davis and his lack of strikeouts this spring when he had just two against three walks.
So what did he do? Of course, he struck out two. How he did it, though, is actually fascinating to me. He threw eight pitches - five four-seam fastballs, two knuckle curves and a cutter to end it. The fastballs were 93.5 MPH, 94.9, 94.9, 94.1 and 95 even. Why is that noteworthy? He averaged 91.4 MPH on his fastball last season. He averaged 93.2 on it in 2019 and 93.8 in 2018. Yes, it’s just one game and he may have been a little extra amped up due to the situation, but if he’s got velocity back, look out for this bullpen. I thought Holland’s command just escaped him that led to the trouble, so I’m not too worried there as he was still averaging 93.6 MPH on his fastball. I’m intrigued.
The Rangers pitching staff isn’t what you’d call good, but the Royals offense showed what can make them dangerous this season with their versatility. They walked eight times, including three from new addition Carlos Santana (hey, if you want to read all about the new additions, click here). They hit three home runs. They ran the bases well. They scored a bunch of runs (oh hey, subscribe to Inside the Crown too...everyone subscribed by the end of the day Sunday will be entered into a drawing for a free subscription and I’m giving away as many subs as runs the Royals score this weekend, so we’re already up to 14 at least).
They saw 200 pitches in 51 plate appearances, which is an average of 3.92 per plate appearance. That’s actually only a hair above where they were last year, but I think there was a fair amount of appropriate early count swinging. Maybe the results are skewing my thoughts here, but it felt like they were much more selective and have a chance to be a very difficult matchup for a lot of pitchers this season. This can happen in any one game, but the fact that the bottom third of the order went 8-for-14 with a home run, six runs batted in and three runs scored is very good for a team that’s had a lot of trouble with length in the lineup.
There’s rightfully been a lot of talk about the issues with Bally Sports. Since I was at the game, I didn’t have much of a chance to see the actual production, but from watching highlights and seeing some comments, it sure felt rough. The bigger issue is the number of people who were simply unable to watch, which is just ridiculous. But one thing that I don’t think is completely fair is the vitriol directed toward the Royals in this. It could be that I’m talking out of turn here, but I kind of feel like they’re stuck in a bad position they never wanted to be in with this deal. Think back to the timing. They signed it during a pandemic when there was so much uncertainty. I believe they already knew that Sinclair was going to be the rights holder at some point over the next year or so, but they couldn’t have known what was going to happen with Sinclair being unwilling to work with the cord-cutting services.
Okay, they probably could have had a good idea, but I just have a hard time bashing the organization for too much regarding that because of the position they were put in. As I put it yesterday, I think they just simply have some absolutely brutal timing when it comes to television deals. The last time they signed a new deal was right before the explosion of deals. Now they sign one right after the explosion is over and when there is so much uncertainty that they’re probably best off staying where they are. I think the complaints are absolutely worthwhile. I’m just not sure they should be directed at the Royals. Rather, Sinclair and Bally Sports need to be the ones hearing it.
The Opening Day roster, while really just a snapshot in time that we remember, wasn’t too surprising outside of one move for me and the way they handled the others. I had Ervin Santana on my final roster projection after how good he was during spring. He was just so good in his final few outings that I thought he’d nab that last bullpen spot. Instead, Carlos Hernandez took it, and he was really good after struggling in his first inning and he picked up his first big league win. My guess is that Santana chose not to opt out because the Royals told him he was in their plans. We’ll see if that’s true, but he had a good enough spring and pitching is always at a premium, so I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have had interest around the league.
What really surprised me, and maybe this is just because they’re going to bring Santana in quickly, is that they designated two players for assignment in order to add Jake Brentz and Kyle Isbel. It’s just very unlike the Royals to DFA two players (Scott Blewett and Meibrys Viloria by the way) when they had another move available. They still haven’t moved Daniel Tillo to the 60-day injured list. Like I said, maybe that’s coming soon and they thought DFA’d guys were more likely to clear and stay in the organization if they made the moves today. I don’t know, but it just seemed unlike them to dismiss inventory when they had other options.