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Royals Rumblings - News for March 31, 2023

Royals on pace for 0-162. I prefer to think the Royals still have a shot at 161-1

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals
Chin up: 161-1 is still in play!
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

If you missed the sad news, the Royals lost 2-0 yesterday to open the new season.

Pulse check: do the Royals ever see .500 again this season?

You can always read the RR recap linked above. Or, how about an “official” one from The Star. Has Pete Grathoff taken over as full time Royals beat writer?

On Thursday, the Royals squandered a bases-loaded opportunity with one out and finished the game 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. The Royals had just two hits but drew five walks, leaving a sellout crowd of 38,351 feeling flat.

“It’s a process-oriented game,” Royals first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino said, “but the results have got to show and they didn’t today. We’ll get back after it Saturday.”

I though I heard Sam McDowell in the postgame press conference, too. He had a story about Zack.

The story of how he did it — how he’s still doing it — predates the weekday afternoon inside Kauffman Stadium. About three years ago, Greinke explained, he noticed that hitters were beginning to “catch up a little bit to some of my stuff.” It’s since been a constant work in progress to find the right mix, and so this offseason, he added to the mix.

A wrinkle to the slider. And a two-seam fastball. He’d thrown the latter early in his career, but mostly ditched it in favor of the four-seamer for the past decade or so. He already had five effective pitches, and that offers a pitcher more than enough to work on. Besides, it’s tough to incorporate six or seven in a game. Well, he’s got seven now, but the idea isn’t to use all of them into a game. (He did use them all in spring training.)

“Most of my pitches were working pretty good, so I was able to do a lot of stuff,” Greinke said. “Today I used my two-seam a lot more than my four-seam because my four-seam wasn’t as good as my two-seam. That’s one thing I kind of switched today.” On the fly.

Vahe Gregorian also had a longer story reminding us that today “also was one of just 162”:

Before the game, Quatraro called that approach natural but smiled as he referred to “the symbolism of the duck” churning beneath the surface even as it appears to glide.

There are certainly times, he added, “where I’m not calm on the inside. But so far in my career and my life, … I don’t see any benefit (to) letting that out and showing panic to everybody else, you know?”

Speaking of official outlets without a Royals beat writer, is The Athletic going to just leave the spot empty? Rustin Dodd has written a couple of stories but nothing regularly. Most of what is on their Royals page is listicle-like stuff from “The Athletic MLB Staff” or Jim Bowden.

Fortunately, has Anne Rogers. She got to report on the cool story about Salvy becoming just the fourth captain in club history.

But many were left in awe after Sweeney, Brett and Frank White handed the newest Royals captain his “C.” Salvador Perez was named the fourth captain in Royals history on Thursday, joining Sweeney (2003-07), Brett (1989-93) and White (1989-90) as the only players to wear a “C” on their chest in the Royals’ 55-year history.

“The day George handed me that jersey was one of the most emotional, joyous days of my career,” Sweeney said. “Now, it’s exciting to collectively pass the torch to the next generation in front of his peers. To see Salvy, who’s become the face and heart of our team over the last 13 years, have tears in his eyes as he accepted it, just affirms the title.”

There aren’t any pictures in SBNation’s queue for the event, but the Royals Twitter has you covered

Speaking of White, guess who got to throw out the first pitch today!

I know, I know. Lots of Tweets today. But lots of cool stuff on Opening Day, even if it didn’t end the way we wanted it to.

We’ve got a couple of stories from “official” but non-standard news outlets as others like to get in on the action ahead of Opening Day.

Caroline Hogan from KSHB 41 talked to Bob Stamps, an usher who has been with the team for 51 (of its 54) years!

Stamps, originally from Edwards, Mississippi, came to Kansas City with his wife. He became a school teacher in Kansas City, Kansas, and started ushering part-time for the Chiefs. But when he was offered a spot with the Royals, he never looked back. Working his way up the ladder, Stamps started as an usher and now works as an usher supervisor.

“Bo [Jackson] was a good friend … Lorenzo Cain, Frank White, Dennis Leonard,” Stamps recalled. “Whenever they see me, they speak to me. All the old-timers come back, they speak to me.”

Kansas City NPR station KCUR had a guide for how to watch the Royals this year. It has a lot of the same information as Matthew’s article from earlier in the week.

Onto the blogs, Craig Brown is trying to write a lot about the games this year:

One of the things I’d like to do this season is to write an insta-analysis of the just-completed game. Recaps the next day are fun and all, and I’m sure if something monumental happened in a game, I’ll be writing about it, but I think it may be beneficial to fire off a postgame dispatch. It won’t be every game. But I’m hopeful it will be often enough that it’s worthwhile.

I’m taking my cue from the late Grant Wahl who, on his soccer Substack, would offer a quick writeup of a game he covered. Wahl, if you’re not familiar, was a Kansas City native who wrote for Sports Illustrated covering college basketball and soccer. It was soccer that was his passion and his Substack was brilliant. He passed away in Qatar, covering the World Cup last December. While Wahl passed far too young, his was a life well lived.

David Lesky delivers his baseball preview on Opening Day and has the Royals coming in with 73 wins:

AL Central - I like what the Twins have done and think this is the year they get over the hump. I also think that if they don’t, Rocco Baldelli is in trouble. The Guardians are still good, but I think they got a magical season in 2022 from Andres Gimenez that they’re obviously banking on again with his contract extension but he’ll fall off some and the loss of Triston McKenzie will hurt them quite a bit. Of course the Royals don’t to enjoy his absence as they don’t play Cleveland for the first time until late June. I think the White Sox continue to struggle in a lot of the same ways they did last year, only this year they don’t have Jose Abreu or Liam Hendriks, so I think they struggle again and fall off a bit. And the Tigers are led by smart people, but their rebuild is on the struggle bus. I’m guessing they turn it around, but not this year.

Royals blog roundup:

I was going to continue with the NPB and KBO previews. However, they have been moved to April 7th and 14th, respectively.

Just to give you a taste, the NPB started last night. The story was supposed to be the grand opening of the new Es Con Field Hokkaido ballpark, home of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (just a reminder from the Trey Hillman days: they do not fight ham, they are the Fighters sponsored by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham company) opened their new stadium. However, in his NPB debut, former Royal Maikel Franco stole the show with 3 hits including a home run, leading the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to a 3-1 win.

The KBO starts at noon Royals time today, which will be April 1st on the other side of the world. Here’s the schedule for that league.

Instead, we’re going to take a look at all the other Opening Days around the league. I think it’s fun to check in on every team on one of the biggest days of the year. Or at least the ones that didn’t start too late.

Before we start, Joe Posnanski penned a fun article called “How to Talk Baseball Statistics Like an Expert” for Esquire.

For the last couple of years, numerous brilliant readers have asked if I would do a little primer on advanced stats. I don’t think I have the math chops to go all the way on this—if you really want to go in-depth, please check out my friend Anthony Castrovince’s book, A Fan’s Guide to Baseball Analytics—but I did think of a way that might be fun and useful. I’ll tell you about a few of my favorite advanced stats and why I like them.

There will not be much math involved here. I know that a lot of people really enjoy the math involved in advanced stats—I like tinkering around with it myself—but I also think that sometimes the math gets in the way of enjoying a really cool statistic. For instance, as you will see, I love looking at how many “barrels” a player hits. There’s a lot of math when it comes to barrels—launch angle numbers, exit velocity numbers. But you really don’t need to know any of that stuff to get something out of the stat.

So, let’s look at a few of my go-to advanced metrics. I will tell you right up front that I will probably get quite a bit wrong in my explanations; there’s a good chance that you will know more about this stuff than I do. But let’s give it a shot.

ATL @ WAS - The Braves and Nats started the day so let’s start in Washington. Patrick Corbin has led the league in losses the last two seasons with 16 and 19, respectively. He took the L on Opening Day, giving up 4 runs, 2 earned, and 7 hits in 3.0 IP. However, the bigger loss was the Braves ace Max Fried injured his hamstring and we’ll see how long he’s out. Travis d’Arnaud went 4 for 5 as DH, which still feels weird to see in an NL game, as was having your DH batting 8th.

SFG @ NYY - Fine. The Yankees game was next so we’ll talk about them. Fresh off his MVP season, Aaron Judge hit the first HR of 2023. Gerrit Cole threw 6 shutout innings and K’d 11, en route to a 5-0 win. The Giants, um... uh, trying to find something here - tried to sign Judge in the offseason? McCovey Chronicles has some fun with the game from the Giants perspective because you won’t find anything else about them in any national outlet while the Yankees provide the opposition. They’re too busy covering that the Yankees made a request to MLB to not let their manager or coaches have numbers because they’re retired too many numbers. Seriously, that’s a story from yesterday.

MIL @ CHC - A cold game at Wrigley was next. Marcus Stroman got the win for the Cubs and will now be the trivia answer to “Who was the first pitcher to break the new pitch clock rules and be penalized an automatic ball?” The game lasted a near-Maddux-ian 2:21. I noted in the game thread that Eric Hosmer ended up in Chicago. I did not know that prior to yesterday. Unfortunately, like the last game, I don’t have any real nuggets for the losing team. Lorenzo Cain is no longer with the Brewers and set to retire in KC this summer.

DET @ TBR - Wow, another shutout by the home team. Apparently the Twins and Royals didn’t get the memo that the visitors were supposed to get the goose egg. Shane McClanahan, last year’s All-Star starter, picked up where he left off with 6 shutout innings. Speaking of Rays aces, former Royal James Shields threw out the first pitch. Future 1st ballot HOF Miguel Cabrera went 1 for 4 in the first game of his 21st and final season.

BAL @ BOS - This one might take a while. Let’s start with the pitch clock. In the 5th, Baltimore’s Austin Hays got the first pitch clock strike for taking too long. In the 8th, Boston’s Rafael Devers was the first pitch clock strikeout, taking too long with a 1-2 count. Give home plate umpire Lance Barksdale credit for not giving star treatment to the tardy Red Sox slugger. Of course, that wouldn’t matter right? It was 10-4 in the bottom of the 8th at that time. On his first Opening Day, Adley Rutschman went 5-5 with a home run and a walk, meaning he reached base all six times. The O’s were all smiles as they try to make the postseason for the first time since 2016. Back to Devers, after his strikeout to start the 8th, the Red Sox rallied for 3 in the 8th and 2 in the 9th. However, with the tying run at 2nd and a lot of empty seats in Fenway, Adam Duvall struck out to end the game.

NYM @ MIA - The Mets got bad news even before the game started with Justin Verlander going to the IL, joining Jose Quintana and Edwin Diaz. In more pitch clock fun, Jeff McNeil was assessed a strike because Pete Alonso didn’t get back to first fast enough after a foul ball. A couple of pitches later, he singled home the Mets third run. However, Scherzer tired in the 6th and the Marlins tied the game on a pair of doubles and a Garrett Cooper home run. Sadly, the gaudy home run statue (its name is Homer) is now outside the ballpark so we are not treated to the statue’s awesomeness. Boo, Derek Jeter. The Mets rally for 2 in the 7th and the bullpen shuts down the Marlins for a 5-3 win. Did you know that the Mets have the best winning percentage in Opening Day games at 41-21? I did not until now.

PHI @ TEX - One of three interleague games today, the Phillies, fresh off the NL Pennant, took a 5-0 lead and chased Jacob deGrom in the 4th. Giving a 5/$185M contract to a 35yo pitcher looking a little shaky. With ace Aaron Nola on the mound, the Phils would cruise... for only a couple more minutes. In the bottom half of the inning, the Rangers went single, out, single, walk, double, and Robbie Grossman game-tying home run. Then it was out, pitching change, walk, single, steal, walk, bases loaded squibber in front of the plate that no one could get to, pitching change, passed ball, and two-run single with inning-ending TOOTBLAN. If you didn’t keep track of all of that, it was a 9-spot for Texas. After that, the Rangers would hold on to win 11-7. Also, I forgot that Bruce Bochy came out of retirement and is managing them now.

PIT @ CIN - The national outlets want to highlight Oneil Cruz facing Hunter Greene in the 3rd and that’s a good place to start. Greene, the flame throwing sophomore for the Reds, fired a fastball at 101.3. However, Cruz, who received votes in NL ROY voting last year, launched the ball back at 111 mph for a 425 foot home run. The seesaw game saw the Reds get 1 and the Pirates tie it on Cruz’s homer. The Pirates took the lead on a pair of bases loaded walks by Bryan Reynolds and Andrew McCutchen. Yes, he’s back with the Pirates, which is awesome, and he got 3 walks and a hit today. If he stays healthy, Cutch should reach career hit #2000, double #400, and home run #300 this season. A wild pitch to the next batter, Carlos Santana, scored another run. The Reds got 1 in the 4th (Spencer Steer HR), and 2 in the 5th to tie the game back up. Denny would have noted how Ji Hwan Bae worked a late-inning leadoff walk to score the game-winning run. He stole second, was sacrificed to 3rd, and scored on a sacrifice fly. I was kindof bummed that this game wasn’t the first game of the day - I miss Cincy being the first game of the season and that city celebrates it right.

TOR @ STL - We’ll combine the last two games: this one was both high scoring and back-and-forth. Check out this win probability roller coaster. For the Blue Jays, George Springer went 5 for 6 and Bo Bichette went 4 for 6. For the Cardinals, Tyler O’Neill homered in his 4th straight Opening Day. Wait, what? He had one fluky 34 home run season but his career high otherwise is 14. That’s such Cardinal luck. What wasn’t? Cardinal catcher Wilson Contreras took a 103 mph fastball from teammate Jordan Hicks off of his knee and had to leave the game. Both starting pitcher ERAs stand at 13.05 and some bullpen ones are even worse. The Jays ran out to leads of 3-0, 4-1, and 5-3 before the Cards tied it. The Cards then led 6-5 and 7-6. Top 8: Vlad Guerrero’s 2-run single made it 8-7 Jays. Bottom 8: Nolan Arenado’s ground-rule double double made it 9-8 Cards. Top 9: Jays take the lead back with a Springer RBI single (tying run Whit Merrifield) and Vlad sac fly. Bottom 9: Jordan Romano does what no Cards reliever could: throw a scoreless inning. And the Jays take this one.

CWS @ HOU - Did not realize this: the Astros haven’t lost on Opening Day since 2012. Ten straight Opening Day wins ties the 1887-96 Boston Beaneaters for the longest streak in MLB history. Speaking of ten, Pedro Grifol, who spent the last decade in the Royals org, won his debut at White Sox manager. The game was scoreless through 6 but the Astros took the lead in the 7th. However, Yasmani Grandal hit a game tying HR in the 7th and Andrew Vaughn hit a 2-run double in the 9th to give the White Sox the win.

Sadly, these games were too late for Rumblings so you’ll just have to read up on them in tomorrow’s paper:

  • CLE @ SEA
  • COL @ SDP
  • LAA @ OAK
  • ARZ @ LAD

I’m a day late, I don’t care. Also, Craig Calcaterra is wrong and Joe Posnanski is right - Field of Dreams is a great baseball movie, even the season’s longest off day when the home nine are 0-1.