Now that the baseball season is over, I figure it’s a good time to revisit some of the highlights and lowlights of the season.
The good, the bad and the ugly
The 2023 Royals played August and September like a team that didn’t want their season to end, and I applaud them for their effort.
Despite eclipsing 100 losses for the seventh time in club history (and third time in the past six seasons) and tying the club record for most losses in a season, this team had some bright spots.
JJ Piccolo and his staff did their job at the trade deadline and picked up some good players. I’m excited to see what Nelson Velázquez, Cole Ragans and James McArthur can do over a full season. Ragans and McArthur were dynamite on the mound and Velazquez showed some serious power chops. Late callup Nick Loftin played and hit well enough to warrant a spot on the 2024 opening day roster. Same with Freddy Fermin, who was a nice surprise with his .281/.321/.461 slash over 235 plate appearances. Maikel Garcia made a seamless move from AAA to Kansas City and has been steady with the bat and excellent with the glove. And Bobby Witt Jr. rose to stardom, recording the first 30/30 season in Royals history, a fact that still blows my mind.
After the break, the offense showed signs of life and started to put up some runs. The games became entertaining. At mid-season, I thought this team might challenge the 1962 New York Mets record for ineptitude, but to their credit, they pulled together and never quit. After 81 games, they were 23-58 and with the trade deadline looming, it was easy to see things getting worse. Over the last 81 games, they went 33-48. The offense looked competitive. Pitching killed them. More on that in a bit.
Zach Greinke turned back the clock over his last ten starts and that was awesome to see. And Salvy was Salvy. Everyone loves Salvy.
It was also cool to see guys like Logan Porter and Tyler Cropley get their first major league action.
On the bad side, the team battled injuries, losing Kris Bubic and Josh Staumont early and Vinnie Pasquantino after 61 games. Austin Cox went down with a nasty knee injury after appearing in 24 games and having some flashes.
The ugly. Where to start. 106 losses? That’s uglier than Mark Davis’s haircut. Sherman’s bungled plans to move downtown? As my dad would say, someone shaved that dog’s butt and made him walk backwards. How about that pitching staff, especially the bullpen? There are not enough words to properly describe it. Repugnant? Hateful? Loathsome? Foul? No lead was safe with that bullpen.
Brady Singer had a disappointing season. Jordan Lyles did Jordan Lyles things. Carlos Hernández was pitching fairly well until home plate umpire Nick Mahrley missed a third strike call on Boston’s Luis Urias on August 7. Had Mahrley not blown the call, the game would have gone into extra innings. Instead, the next batter, Pablo Reyes hit a walk off grand slam. Hernandez was not the same pitcher after that. Will he rebound in 2024?
Before the start of every season, the staff of Royals Review takes a wild swing at how they think the baseball season will play out. I like to recap my predictions at the end of the season, which always proves the point that “nobody knows nothing”.
Some of my predictions were way off. You can return me to my home port anytime. Among my swings and misses, I had the Yankees and Cardinals winning their respective divisions. While it warms my cockles to see those two teams miss the playoffs, the result reminds me not to bet on sports.
I only picked six of the twelve playoff teams, getting the Twins, Rays, Astros, Phillies, Dodgers and Braves right. Did anyone see the Orioles coming? How about the Diamondbacks? Baseball is always full of surprises.
I picked Trea Turner to win the National League MVP and Dylan Cease and Sandy Alcantara to win their respective Cy Youngs. Oh, and I had the Royals winning 79 games! Woof!
Like any blind sow, I did find a few acorns. I had Bobby leading the Royals in WAR. I picked Shohei Ohtani to win the AL MVP, Gunnar Henderson to win the AL Rookie of the Year and Corbin Carroll winning the NL Rookie of the Year. All three of those players had fantastic seasons and have a chance to win some hardware.
My next big prediction centers on how long it will take Taylor Swift to ruin Travis Kelce’s football career. Is anyone else tired of the camera cutting away to her every time the Chiefs make a first down? At my office, we started a “Swift/Kelce breakup” pool. Five dollars to get in, pick the date she dumps him, and winner takes all. I’m sure Ms. Swift is a delightful person, and her millions of pre-pubescent fans attest to her popularity, but I’m already tired of seeing her pretty face every five minutes. Excuse me while I go yell at some clouds.
Vene Vidi Vici
Back in 2021, I watched Anthony Veneziano pitch for Quad City. After the game I wrote, “If the Royals have three or four better pitching prospects than this guy, then they’re loaded on the mound. He’s 6’6 and throws with an easy, fluid motion. His fastball has some serious pop, and he kept the Kernels off-balance all night.”
I predicted that Veneziano would be in Kansas City in 2023 and that was a correct assessment. Do they have three or four better pitching prospects? Probably not, but time will tell. Veneziano had a good first outing against Detroit on September 26, only marred by a costly two-run error by normally sure handed Michael Massey.
I’m hoping the Royals give him a long look in spring training as a starter. He’s got the size plus he’s already 26. Give the kid 175 innings and let’s see what he can do.
When I wrote about Luis Arraez and his chances of hitting .400 this season back on July 19, he was sitting at .376.
Showing just how difficult it will be for someone to hit .400, Arraez ended the season at .354, still a great number, and became the first player to win back-to-back batting championships in both leagues.
His last day at or above .400 was June 24th. Over the final 75 games of the season, he “slumped” to .310/.333/.443, still excellent numbers. Considering that Arraez is the best contact hitter in the game, it shows one how tough it’s going to be for someone to hit .400 in today’s game.
Arraez still had a fantastic season. He surpassed 200 hits for the first time in his career, a number that I believe still carries some weight. He posted career highs in home runs, RBI’s, batting average, total bases and OPS+. And Miami made the playoffs. Hitting .400 is off the table for another season, but Arraez has still had a great, and somewhat overlooked, season.
Now we’re onto the playoffs. I picked the Astros winning the World Series over the Phillies. I can see the Astros getting there, but Philadelphia has to get through Los Angeles and Atlanta, not an easy chore. Does Taylor Swift like baseball?