Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Royals Game Recap: 5/14/14

*I am going to try my hand at a different type of writing with this post. In an effort to provide more content, I would like to write about things that are perhaps a little bit less research-intensive. Game recaps fit that mold nicely.

                The Royals are officially on a winning streak (3 games!) after Wednesday’s 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies. With the win, the Royals climb ever so slightly back above the .500 mark for the season to 20-19 and maintain their 2nd place position in the AL Central.

                Jason Vargas, making his 9th start of the year, seemed to carve through the Rockies’ lineup until the 7th inning, in which he gave up a two run dinger to Drew Stubbs. Vargas struck out 8 hitters in his 6 and 2/3 innings of work, which is surprising for two reasons. First, Vargas is not a strikeout pitcher; his career rate of 5.85 strikeouts-per-nine-innings (K/9) and 2014 season rate of 5.40 K/9 are quite low. In this particular game, his K/9 was 10.8. Second, the Rockies don’t make a habit of striking out a lot, with their NL-leading 17.4% strikeout rate. Vargas is a pitch-to-contact kind of guy, and the Rockies are a contact-oriented team. Strange things can happen in one game.

                In addition, Vargas, normally a fly ball pitcher, had a 60% ground ball rate in this game. His career ground ball rate is 37.2%. Very good things will happen when you generate a lot of ground balls and strikeouts. Vargas lived on the edges of the strike zone and changed speeds often. His changeup was firing on all cylinders, generating 9 whiffs on 15 swings. This is about as good as Vargas can be, and that’s perfectly fine with me. Vargas’ season ERA moves to 3.00 after his performance today.

                The Royals’ offense was rather weak, but due to Vargas’ strong showing, the offense didn’t have to score much to win. Yesterday, Dayton Moore and Ned Yost gave a strong, unified front of support for the struggling Mike Moustakas, whose .161 batting average and .226 on base percentage don’t inspire much confidence. After today’s game, one quote from yesterday’s interviews stands out, and I’m paraphrasing here: “Mike Moustakas is a guy who can change a game with one swing”. He’s a guy who has hurt the team with more than one swing, but today he came through with a bases loaded double to plate all three runners in the bottom of the 2nd inning. The Royals didn’t reach that arbitrary magical four run plateau, but luckily, it was enough for the win. Coleman, Herrera, and Holland locked down the later innings to hold on for the win.

                This game was basically a microcosm of the season. There was a weak offense supported by strong pitching. Without offensive improvement, the Royals are likely to hover around .500 for the rest of the season, and small variations in performance by the pitching or defense could cause a collapse. We have to hope that Moose’s game changing swings happen more often than once per month.

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