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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Close & quick

Another good start by a Royals starter not named Jose Lima today was wasted by an offense that continues to flail away like a blind boxer. The Royals finally got a close game today and came up short.

Zack Greinke was working on an 85ish pitch count and made it through the sixth without allowing a run. Of the four hits Greinke allowed, only an excuse-me double down the left field line by Randy Winn in the fifth inning went for extra bases. As per usual, Greinke did not walk a batter and he struck out two.

It occured to me that Greinke's location wasn't quite as sharp as it is at times. (There was much scoffing when I suggested this). The only tangible evidence of this was the somewhat elevated pitch count. Nevertheless, he was changing speeds and mixing pitch selection with expertise. He finished off his appearance by making Richie Sexson look foolish on a pair of slow, low-60's curveballs.

Greinke's precision was contrasted by the Nook LaLoosh revival brought to life in the form of Mike MacDougal. The first run of the game scored on a wild pitch and MacDougal threw just 11 strikes in 24 pitches.

The rest of the bullpen did a passable job. Jeremy Affeldt pitched a perfect ninth but continues to lack the dominance that he has displayed in the past. Check out the R's pitching abstract (click on the link in the left sidebar). After today's performance, Affeldt has thrown 61 pitches this season. Opponents have swung and missed just once. That's ONE swing and miss on the season. Perhaps S&Ms aren't everything - this is the first time I've collected this data and really have no idea what it will reveal. But it seems to me that if you're a power pitcher AND you can't miss a bat every once in a while, there is something wrong.

Calvin Pickering drove in the Royals' lone run with a sacrifice fly. The wind really picked up during the course of the game and was playing havoc with anything hit into the air. On a different day, the ball Pickering hit would have been out.

There really is only one main story line in regards to the Royals' on-field performance so far. It's the the excellent string of starts by the rotation (except for Lima) undermined by a failing offense and a leaky bullpen. Here is a breakdown of the Royals rotation to date:

Categorynon-Lima Lima
Innings35.26.2
Hits2914
HR23
R912
ER98
BB62
K23

4


That's a 2.27 for the non-Lima crew and 10.80 for Jose. It's early. Just some fun numbers to chew on.

As for the offense, lack of plate discipline, which we knew would be an issue this season, is killing the Royals. Mike Sweeney and Angel Berroa have both played every game and walked one time each. With a wild Eddie Guardardo on the mound in the ninth, Sweeney went after the first pitch and was lucky to avoid a double play. Berroa actually worked a 3-0 count later in the inning but ended up striking out to end the game. For the second game in a row, a mediocre Mariner pitcher was able to work deep into a game with a low pitch count. John Buck is also flailing and is zero for his last 18 to show for it.

Matt Stairs chalks the impatience up to trying to please the home crowd.

"It's the home crowd," Stairs said. "You get back in front of the home crowd and try to do too much."

Let's hope that's all it is because the Royals are wasting some pretty good pitching performances. Hey - at least the games have been quick.

I'm outta here for some early dinner.

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