Thursday, May 28, 2015

Losses upon losses

With yesterday’s loss and subsequent sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees, the Royals became tied with the Minnesota Twins for first place in the AL Central. Barf. This marks the Royals first losing streak of 2015, and I thought I would take a look at other notable losing streaks in baseball history, including some of the Royals own, in order to help us all feel better about the team. Or maybe it will make us feel worse. I don’t know.

The Major League record for consecutive losses is 23 set by the Phillies in 2001. What is most notable about that terrible team (who finished the season with a record of 86-76 which was second in the NL East) is that two players who would later become Royals played for them: Paul Byrd and Bruce Chen. Guess losing just followed them around…

The American League record for most consecutive losses is 21 by the 1988 Baltimore Orioles. THANK GOD THE ROYALS DO NOT OWN THAT RECORD. Whew. The 1988 Orioles were terrible, finishing tied for dead last in all of baseball with the Atlanta Braves, with both teams winning only 54 games. That team included Cal Ripken Jr, Eddie Murray, and Mike Boddicker. Pretty good waste of talent, idiots! The team also included Don Aase, whose name elicited many a laugh from my brother and I as children. 
The Royals’ longest losing streak in club history was 19 games, set in 2005. That team was managed by Tony Pena, Bob Schaefer and Buddy Bell and all 3 were terrible. They finished last place in all of baseball, winning only 56 games which was at least 11 games worse than every other team. Zack Greinke led the league with 17 losses that year, and he sported a 5.80 ERA. Angel Berroa played 159 games for them at short stop (YUCK!). Interestingly, that team had two players who are still in the league: David DeJesus and Jeremy Affeldt.  

In 2014, the Royals’ longest losing streak was 5 games, which also occurred in May. This year’s team can end their current 4-game losing streak tomorrow night in Chicago at Wrigley Field.

The Royal’s longest postseason losing streak is 10 games, set between 1980-81 and 1984-85. Then they won the World Series so no big deal. Their current postseason losing streak is 1, which needs to end this October. NO ONE IN KC LIKES YOU MADISON BUMGARNER, YOU HORSE-FACED NILLY. And I don't really know what a horse-faced nilly is but it certainly seems fitting for Bumgarner, right?
To end on a happy note, the Royals longest winning streak is 16 games, set in 1977, and the Tigers’ longest winning streak is only 14 BECAUSE THEY SUCK. Let's go Royals and end that losing streak tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My first favorite baseball players:

I have been a baseball fan my entire life. Something about the beauty of the game, the crack of a bat, the smell of bratwurst and beer have conspired to fill me with joy whenever I watch the game, whether it be my hometown Royals or some random minor league team. 

Some of my earliest memories are watching the Royals at The K, catching a glimpse of the Cubs and their ivy-covered outfield on WGN and seeing Dale Murphy bat for the Braves on TBS. After accidentally crashing my mom’s car into a shed at the end of our driveway when I was 6 or 7, I ran inside and immediately turned on a Cubs game in hopes that she would think I had been busy watching the game. I lost some interest in the game during high school when girls became more important, but I have rekindled my interest in recent years and wanted to share who my favorite players were growing up because that would be more fun than discussing the Royals terrible loss yesterday.

My first favorite player was Ryne Sandberg, the greatest second basement to ever play. He played 16 years, winning 9 Gold Gloves and making the All Star game 10 times. He is a huge reason I am a Cubs fan today, even though they will never win the World Series. To this day, I model the way I play after “Ryno,” focusing on playing stellar defense on my recreational softball teams.
My second favorite player was Dale Murphy. He played 18 years in the MLB, mostly for the Braves. He won 5 Gold Gloves and 2 MVP awards. He wore #3 on his uniform, which became my preferred number whenever I played baseball (my high school baseball # was 3). 
My third favorite player was Jim Abbott, who defied all odds by pitching in the MLB with only one hand. He was a first round draft pick in 1988 and was sensational to watch. He had been born without a right hand, and thus was a left-handed pitcher. Upon throwing a pitch (where he would cradle his glove over his right arm), he would shift the glove to his left hand in case he needed to field a ball. He could deftly swap the ball back into his left hand to throw a runner out, and he even threw a no-hitter in 1993. His life is such an encouraging and inspiring story, and it is too bad that he played for the Yankees. 
After these guys, I became way more interested in the Royals, such as Mark Gubicza, Jeff Montgomery, Brian McRae, and Tom Gordon. This year’s Royals team has more stars than they have ever had on one team, so go vote for them to be All-Stars:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Moose and Ace lead the way

Last night the Royals shut out the Cincinnati Reds for their second consecutive game without allowing a run. It was one of the Royals’ best games of the season, and can be summed by the heroic efforts of a few players:

First, Mike Moustakas led the team with 3 hits, including 2 doubles and 2 RBI’s. Moose continues to impress and now leads the team in batting average (.331) and is second with 48 total hits. Even better, Moose was facing Johnny Cueto, the Reds’ best starting pitcher. Overall, the Royals’ smacked 9 hits against Cueto, matching the most he has allowed this season. 
Second, Yordano Ventura pitched an amazing game. He lasted 7 innings, striking out 6 and giving up 0 bases on balls and only 4 hits. It was Ace’s third quality start of the season (at least 6 innings pitched and 3 or fewer earned runs allowed), giving the bullpen some additional rest. 
In addition, I do not wish to sound like a broken record, but IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO STOP SINGING THE PRAISES OF WADE DAVIS AND LORENZO CAIN. Wade was again dominant in the 9th inning, getting his 7th save in 7 chances. He has not yet allowed a run in 18 innings this season, and has struck out 18 batters. And for the second consecutive game, Lorenzo Cain made a tremendous catch for the final out. Cain leads the AL with 1.6 defensive WAR, and if you think about it, center field is basically a no-hit zone when Cain is playing. I bet opposing teams look at the outfield and see this:
I also wanted to take a look at how the Royals are being so successful as compared to the other top teams in the MLB. The Cardinals and Astros have slightly better records than KC, and the Dodgers are right behind them. Below is a table of a few statistics, with each team's MLB ranking in parentheses.

It seems that the Cardinals rely most on solid pitching and timely hitting, Astros rely on home runs and steals, Royals rely on defense and RBI’s, and Dodgers rely on home runs and RBI’s. The Astros and Dodgers have more emphasis on power but KC and St. Louis have more emphasis on putting the ball in play. Interesting stuff. Also, the Astros are undefeated when scoring at least 4 runs, proving to be this year's version of the 2014 Royals. Things will get interesting when the Royals take on the Cardinals this weekend.

Hopefully the Royals keep their 18-inning shutout streak alive tonight. Go Roys!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Fury of Eddie

Yesterday, the Royals put a nice little stomping on the New York Yankees, sending them out of Kansas City to the tune of a 6-0 shutout victory. The Royals took the series by outscoring the Yankees 19-6. There were two remarkable things from Sunday’s victory:

First, Edinson Volquez was lights out. He pitched the best game I have seen in his short time with the Royals. Eddie went for 7 innings, striking out 5 and giving up only 3 hits. His WHIP (walks and hit per inning pitched) is now 1.05, which is the 20th best in all of baseball. Watching him get the best of the Yankees was quite something. For example, when Alex Rodriquez smacked a 2-out double and then Mark Teixera was hit with a pitch, Eddie calmly struck out Brian McCann, never seeming concerned that the tying run was on second base. He has quickly become a leader and veteran of the pitching staff, being the most dependable hurler on the team. 
Second, the Royals bullpen provided some comedy and drama in the final two innings. Wade Davis relieved Volquez in the 8th inning, and after striking out Stephen Drew, he walked the next two batters. A groundout advanced both runners, leaving 2 runners in scoring position with only one out. A single could easily score 2 runs, and with Alex Rodriguez batting, this was a dangerous situation to be in. However, Davis seems to love pressure, and he got Rodriguez to strike out, then Garrett Jones had a weak groundout to first, preserving Wade’s sparkling 0.00 ERA. 

Following that inning, Jason Frasor came in to close the game out. After watching that inning, I am pretty sure that the Royals’ relievers have some sort of ongoing bet to see who can allow the most runners on base without letting them score. Frasor got a leadoff groundout, then gave up a double to Carlos Beltran. Chase Headley followed that with a single, putting runners on first and third with only one out. A single, deep fly ball, or hard hit grounder could easily score Beltran in this situation. However, Frasor got Stephen Drew to pop up a weak fly ball to Jarrod Dyson in left field, keeping Beltran at third. Headley stole second putting two runners in scoring position. At this point, I did not think the Royals would keep their shutout. 

Frasor got Didi Gregorious to bloop a short fly ball to center field, which under normal circumstances would be a base hit. However, I forgot that Lorenzo Cain was playing center field, which means that to get a base hit, one must smack a line drive off the outfield wall. Cain worked his magic to grab the ball just inches from the ground and preserve the shutout as all of the fans stood and cheered. WOW. THIS IS WHY WE LOVE THE ROYALS. 

By the way, the Yankees’ players must all be competing to see who can grow the creepiest mustache. Every single one of them had some weird fuzz on their upper lip. Hopefully, it is for charity or something. If not, they would make excellent choices for a Fully Monty sequel: