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Royals Rumblings - News for September 24, 2021

Two straight days without baseball?!?

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Indians - Game 1
Royals Review is #1!

Two straight days without baseball, even in this playing-out-the-string time of the season, has kindof sucked. Sadly, we only have a week and change left before there’s no more Royals baseball.

With the time off, the Star rolled out 3 stories on the Royals!

Lynn Worthy profiles Hunter Dozier’s second half changes.

Dozier had struggled to minimize extra movement in his swing, particularly head movement, and it led to a high volume of swing and miss as he struggled to identify pitches. Royals manager Mike Matheny said he’s seen significant strides in Dozier’s pitch recognition, his ability to adjust his swing path which has led to his recent results.

“I think the walks were the first thing we were noticing,” Matheny said. “Then you start seeing him use the whole field. He drives the ball to the right side (Monday), gets into a situation for a sac fly and he hits it to right field, driving the ball the other way. Those are all great indicators of him moving in the right direction and getting some confidence.”

Pete Grathoff tells the story about Gabe Speier driving up from Omaha and pitching for the Royals all in the same night.

Speier was needed in Kansas City. It was 6:15 p.m., and Speier was thrilled to know he would be joining the Royals for the first time this season. Then Poldberg delivered the other part of the message from the Royals. They needed Speier that night.

The Royals game against Oakland at Kauffman Stadium was set to start in less than an hour. It’s about a three-hour drive from Omaha to Kansas City. Hours later, Speier stepped onto the mound in the seventh inning of what would be a 12-10 loss to the Athletics. In the stands were his wife, Megan, and the couple’s dog.

There’s also a Sam Mellinger piece on Salvy but it’s behind the paywall

In a clever segue from the “official” to “blog” sites (or at least it was clever until I pointed it out)... Alec Lewis doesn’t have a new story for The Athletic today but he’s promoting one of my favorite sites, Royals Farm Report:

Thank you, Alex Duvall! Royals Farm Report drops their MiLB Player of the Year Awards on a Thursday so I get to bring them to you in my Rumblings. This has been a great year for the system so there are a lot of awards to go around. Go, Read. We’ll be back here, I promise.

I had more fun covering the Royals farm system this year than any of the previous three seasons I’ve covered here at Royals Farm Report. Maybe it was the absence of a 2020 season that made my heart grow fonder of the strange and wonderful land that is Minor League Baseball. Maybe it was the emergence of Michael Massey and Vinnie Pasquantino as legitimate prospects with big time bats in this system. Maybe it was the reemergence of MJ Melendez, the 2021 MiLB HR King, and Nick Pratto as legitimate top-100 prospects that we all thought they could be back in 2018. Maybe it was the crowning of Bobby Witt Jr. as legitimately one of the best two prospects of all of MiLB. Whatever it was, I had so much fun this year and hope you guys had as much fun following the site and Twitter account (@royalsfarm) as we did covering the system with you.

Craig Brown takes a day off so he doesn’t have to listen to my bad jokes about how he and David Lesky write similarly great articles about the same topic.

Over at Inside the Crown, David Lesky predicts the 2022 Opening Day roster, position players edition:

One of the hallmarks of being a fan of a losing team is thinking about next year because next year is always going to be better. Okay, sure, not everyone has that mindset, but especially when you follow a team that has recently been ranked in the top five of all the farm systems in baseball and most of the best talent is close, it’s actually pretty easy to dream a little. You mix in a second half where the Royals are over .500 and getting there by playing some generally pretty good teams up until now and you can start to feel like maybe they’re turning the corner just a little bit.

The Royals Reporter, Kevin O’Brien, looks at whether Jakob Junis has a place on the 2022 Royals.

This hasn’t exactly been an easy year for Junis on the mound. Junis had a solid April in which he posted a 3.47 ERA in 23.1 IP over four starts and six appearances total, according to Fangraphs. During the first month of the 2021 season, Junis also posted 28.7 percent K rate, a 3.86 K/BB ratio, and limited his HR/9 rate to 0.39. Thus, it was not a surprise that Junis not only posted a 2.31 FIP during the first month of play, but also wowed the Royals and Royals fans with his impressive stuff and repertoire, which included a newly-added cutter... Unfortunately, once May started, things tailed off fast for Junis.

Darin Watson at U.L.’s Toothpick adds another entry to his The Year of the Card series that profiles a former Royal while showcasing one baseball card. This one looks at Jim Rooker and his 1970 Topps.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that I grew up watching American League baseball, but I much prefer the DH to watching pitchers hit. Sure, it’s fun when someone like Bartolo Colon hits a home run, but plate appearances that consist of strikeouts and mostly-predictable bunts are not my idea of entertainment. However, if pitchers could hit like Jim Rooker, that might be different.

Finally, here’s a roundup of some of the other Royals blogs out there:

Lots of news around the league with only a week and a half to go in the regular season.

Let’s start with the NL pennant race.

In NL West extra inning games, the Dodgers rallied to beat Colorado while the Giants lost to the Padres so Los Angeles is only 1 game back from San Francisco for the division lead.

The freaking Cardinals have all but clinched the 2nd NL Wild Card, having won 12 straight. Geez? With that team, they’re going to back into the playoffs and probably go win another title. Sigh. The Brewers still have a 7.5 game lead on the Cardinals so that race is probably over, but who knows, maybe the Cards will win out and somehow steal the division.

So those are 4 of the 5 teams: Brewers win Central, Cards will be a Wild Card, and they’ll face whichever team of the Giants or Dodgers doesn’t win the NL West.

The NL East is still up for grabs. The Phillies were down 6-0 to the Pirates but roared back to win 12-6 and are now 2 games back after the Braves gave up 5(!) in the 7th to the 104-loss Diamondbacks, losing 6-4. Arizona extended manager Torey Lovullo through 2022 yesterday. Oh, and the Braves and Phillies start a series next Tuesday in Atlanta.

The AL is a bit more complicated.

The White Sox won the AL Central for the first time since 2008.

The Astros likely will win AL West as they have a 7.5 game lead on the Mariners (their game with the Angels is going to end after this draft is put to be so it’s going to be 7 or 8 when you read this). However, the Mariners are charging back into the playoff picture, 2 games back in the Wild Card, after completing a four-game sweep of the A’s in Oakland (who are now 4 games back).

The Rays have a 6 game lead in the AL East so they should probably win the division. Which means the two Wild Cards will come from a pool of the Red Sox (2 games ahead for the 1st Wild Card after winning 7 straight), Yankees (2nd WC), Blue Jays (1 GB), Mariners (2 GB), and A’s (4 GB). The Yankees and Red Sox start a series Friday (lemme guess what Sunday Night Baseball is going to be this week), the Blue Jays go the Minnesota, the Mariners visit the Angels, and the A’s host the Astros. Next week? Yankees at Blue Jays and A’s at Mariners should help sort some of this out.

Two other notes around the league:

MLB is going to try it’s new, official pre-tacked ball in a few AAA games this week.

“Pre-tacked” means a substance that improves the pitchers’ grip has already been applied by the time they touch it in-game — in turn, pitchers should no longer feel the need (or have the excuse) to apply their own in order to improve their control and allow for a safer game.

Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league uses pre-tacked balls. Several MLB and minor-league pitchers were exposed to them earlier this summer when they partook in the Tokyo Olympics.

Dan Szymborski (Szymborski! Szymborski!) writes that, after Miguel Cabrera gets to 3000 hits early next season, it’s going to be a long time until a new member joins the club.

In this table (which is sortable), we have everyone with a 1% projected shot at 2,500 hits or better. After Cabrera accomplishes the goal next year, ZiPS only projects 1-2 currently active players to finish their career with 3,000 hits (1.6 to be exact). Over the next 12-15 years or so, only three players are currently on what I’d call a reasonable approach pattern. Freddie Freeman’s going strong, but needs to age well; Jose Altuve has wiped out the memories of his miserable 2020 season, though without a batting average like those he posted in his prime years. Canó’s a bit of a wild card, but a player who needs fewer than 400 hits and played solid baseball the last time we saw him is inevitably going to have at least some chance of attaining the milestone, though the caveats I mentioned above still apply.

But beyond that, the ranks are thin. Even Mike Trout has largely fallen away. He’s already a Hall of Famer based on what he’s done in his 20s, but he hasn’t had a 150-hit season since 2016 and he basically needs 10 of those and then some to get to 3,000 hits. In all-time hits, Trout was 15th through his age-22 and 22nd through his age-25 seasons. Assuming he’s done for the year, he now ranks 113th all-time in hits through a player’s age-29 season, behind such names as Juan Pierre, Justin Upton, and Ruben Sierra. After Altuve, Freeman, and Canó, it’s basically a wait to see what happens with the three Juniors and Juan Soto.

Last week, we talked about the KBO. This week, we’ll take a look at the CPBL.

When last we looked at Taiwanese baseball, they had suspended their season due to the COVID pandemic. Remember, this was basically the first live sport back and then first live sport back with fans last year after their exceptional handling of the pandemic. Unfortunately, a slow rollout of the vaccine, mostly due to geopolitical reasons, and the Delta variant causes bad outbreaks this Spring, far worse than anything they had experienced in the first 12 months of the pandemic.

Qualifying for baseball in the Olympics is complicated to explain during a normal year, much less one where COVID caused qualifying to be spread out across 4 tournaments from 2019 through 2021.

Taiwan, I mean, ahem “Chinese Tapei” - you know what, let’s take a minute to take a look at that Chinese Taipei Olympic name “compromise”. Remember last year when I first wrote about the CPBL and people were confused about whether it was China? Yeah, that’s intentional. How about this from wiki: “The Taiwanese people voted during a referendum in November 2018 to reject a proposal to change their official Olympic-designated name from Chinese Taipei to Taiwan. The main argument for opposing the name change was worrying that Taiwan may lose its Olympic membership under Chinese pressure, which would result in athletes unable to compete in the Olympics.” Lest you think it’s an empty threat: “The IOC had warned that Taiwan could be barred from the Games altogether if it changed its delegation’s name.” And, of course, China got up in arms about the official Japanese broadcast on NHK calling them Taiwan instead of Chinese Taipei and when the Taiwanese team beat the Chinese team at doubles badminton and one of the winners posted on Facebook: “dedicated to my country, Taiwan”.

Anyhoo, so it’s complicated here. Suffice to say, the Taiwanese team is a regional power with an Olympic silver (1992) and bronze (1984) medal and hoped to qualify for the Olympics. The Final Qualifying tournament for the Olympics was supposed to take place in April 2020 in Taiwan. However, it was postponed due to the pandemic. In 2021, it was moved to Mexico after the rough COVID spring in Taiwan. Sadly, the team had to pull out of the tournament and so their medal hopes were dashed.

As for the CPBL, games were suspended from May 18th through July 12. And, as of mid-August, games were back to 25% capacity. However, masking is required, food is not permitted, and musical instruments are not allowed.

Unfortunately, it’s gotten a bit more difficult to follow the CPBL as they’ve redone their website but taken down the English portion. Last year’s runner-up, the CTBC Brothers, won the first half title so they will be in the playoffs. The second half race is tight with the Uni-Lions holding a 1 game lead over our rooting interest, the Rakuten Monkeys. Regular season games are scheduled all the way into late November, so it looks like they’re trying to make up some of the games lost to the pandemic.

Want some headlines from the past month from CPBL Stats? Of course you do!

Sorry, guys - I hate to keep trotting out the reruns, especially after an eventful Nintendo Direct last night. But we’re already pushing 2500 words. We’ll have more stuff here in a couple of weeks once we hit the offseason doldrums. I’ve got a list of games to write about, some movie reviews queued up, and other random stuff to talk about.

Heck, let’s go with one of the videos from last night. I don’t quite get it, but somehow Bayonetta has found a home on Nintendo’s consoles. The gun-toting, crazy haired, time slowing witch will return with another hack-and-slash installment sometime in 2022: