By Doug Stewart
The Chiefs do a 180 from the season opener last year. After falling flat at home a year ago, the Chiefs go to Houston and get a 27-20 win. The game wasn’t that close most of the way and you wonder if the Chiefs took the foot off the gas a bit.
The biggest story of the game was turnovers and the Chiefs ability to cash them for touchdowns. Two extremely short fields helped the conservative Chiefs offense put 14 on the board in an otherwise defensive game. Second to that was the continued emergence of Travis Kelce. It wasn’t just the 87 on the jersey that made him look like Gronkowski against the Texans. His size and speed make him a threat in and out of the red zone.
The local college teams went a combined 2-1 over the weekend. That’s not bad in its own as a record but look further. Kansas lost yet another chance to get what could be an elusive 1 win on the season. K State looked the best of the three using stout defense to win at Texas San Antonio. Mizzou struggled throughout at Arkansas State but the defense shut down the RedWolves in the 2nd half allowing them to escape with a win on the road. 2-1…yes…but not an overall impressive week for the local 3.
Johnny Cueto. This is going from concerning to panic. His last 5 starts…0-5, 26 innings, 48 hits….48. He has struck out 20 against just 4 walks but he has been too hittable. That leads to 28 earned runs and a 9.57 ERA. The questions is shifting from should he start game one of the playoffs to should he start ANY game in the playoffs. He has 3 starts left in the regular season to see if he can turn the bus around.
3 Up, 3 Down
Fans and All Stars
You’ve done it Royals fans. Omar Infante…who people want benched…is now an AL starter if the All Star Game were today. That makes 8 of 9. The Angels Mike Trout is in there as the “one of these things is not like the other” guy.
Greg Holland seems to be back to dominant and with that you can put a nice tidy bow on the bull pen. Kelvin Herrera hasn’t been super dominant of late, but looking at their season numbers the Bog 3 are back again. The supporting cast also continues to do what is asked of them except maybe for Luke Hochevar who doesn’t look especially sharp returning from Tommy John a year ago.
About 10 days ago news broke that Salvador Perez might want to make a little more money. Heck, we all do. However, most of us aren’t as underpaid by industry standards as he is. The Royals owe him nothing more…it’s the nature of guaranteed baseball contracts…by the end one end is getting screwed. Unfortunately for Salvy he is getting screwed earlier in his career at most.
He has to play for the contract, so the biggest concern would be how would this news affect his play. Will he pout? Will he be distracted? So far so sign of that. Since the news broke he is batting .333 with a .355 OBP and a .767 slugging percentage for a Bondsian 1.122 OPS. He has hit 4 home runs in those 8 games but unfortunately has only driven in 4 as the rest of the lineup continues to struggle.
Might as well finish that thought. The offense is horrible right now. Besides Salvy no one can hit. The heart of the order…Cain and Hosmer has struggled for a month. Escobar isn’t getting on base enough. Moreales, Moose and Gordon have just been ok. That leaves Infante and Rios and no one wants me to mention them.
This escalated quickly. Danny Duffy is on the DL, but could be working his way back. Jason Vargas is on the DL with Tommy John symptoms. Yordano Ventura left his last start early with numb fingers…another sign of Tommy John. That leaves solid in the rotation Edinson Volquez, Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Young. Other candidates include Joe Blanton and John Lamb. Yikes.
It was another wash out in St. Louis Sunday. While that may not have been the worst thing in the world coming off 2 losses to the Cards and injuries to the starters, it does become problematic in the future. The Royals are starting to run out of off days late in the year. They now have 3 games that will be made up after the All Star Break (and don’t forget none of the Royals are getting an All Star Break this year). The normal dog days will be amplified this year for the Royals as they try to squeeze in a few make up games.
There has been much hand wringing over the last few weeks about the Royals starting pitching and if it’s good enough to get the Royals back into the playoffs. There is little arguing that the starting pitching is struggled. But as the Royals get set to being a big series against the Indians we ask if that the biggest problem on the team right now.
Let begin with the struggles of the starters. They are clear. The starters to this point of the season are 19-16 with a 4.44 ERA. That’s far from what you would want from a playoff bound unit…especially when you consider the one who has helped those numbers the most is Chris Young. Jason Vargas has already missed time, Danny Duffy is on the DL now and Jeremy Guthrie is coming off one of the worst starts in history. Plenty of reason to worry.
There are reasons to be optimistic though. The off-season signing of Edinson Volquez has paid off as he has carried the rotation through some ups and dowsn to start the season. After several issues on and off the mound early in the year, Yordano Ventura is coming around. In his last 3 starts he is 1-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 19 K’s with only 3 walks. The ace stuff is starting to resurface. Jason Vargas is also back and seemed to be ok after his time on the DL. Chris Young continues to amaze. That leaves one rotations spot to be filled by a better Guthrie, a healthy Duffy or in a few months other candidates including Kris Medlen or someone acquired by trade.
The thing that has lead to the recent slide (the Royals have lost 5 of 6) has been the decline of the offense. That decline actually started a few weeks ago but has really showed up lately as the Royals have only scored 14 runs in those 6 games…8 of those in one game with the wind blowing out at Wrigley. The heart of the order is starting to struggle a bit.
After a hot start, Lorenzo Cain in his last 17 games his is batting .222 with an OBP of .275 and is slugging .270. He has 0 home runs, 3 doubles and 7 RBI in those games. He has struck out 17 times in those 17 games and walked only 5 times.
Hitting behind him is Eric Hosmer. In his last 13 games he is batting .205 with a .300 BP and is slugging .273. Yes, in the last 2 weeks the Royals 3-4 hitters are slugging less than their OBP. Hard to do. Hosmer is still walking a bit…6 of them against 11 K’s.
Also on the slide is All Star Vote leader Salvador Perez. In his last 21 games he is hitting just .224 with a .234 OBP. His slugging is better than Hosmer and Cain…at .395. He has 3 home runs in that time but has struck out 14 times against 1 walk.
We wondered watching the starting pitching struggle and watching the offense soar which would come back to the mean quicker. If it was the pitching, the Royals could build a huge lead. If it was the offense a slide was in order. For a week now, the offense has been struggling and the starters haven’t been able to take up the slack. For the Royals to get back into first place moving forward the starters are going to have to make up for the offense’s return to the mean…or the offense is going to have to return to a shocking pace compared to years past.
The Value of Andy Reid
NFL hirings are happening fast and furious and we watch as teams decide who they will trust to move their team forward…or backwards for the next few years. Yes, the next few years because few NFL Head Coaching jobs are long term these days. That’s why if you have a good one you are way ahead of the game.
The Chiefs have that in Andy Reid. Sure he hasn’t won a Super Bowl, but he has been to one and played in the conference championship game 5 times. 5 times! He has been one win away from the Super Bowl 5 times. That’s a lot of success in a league where few coaches get to see 5 opening days.
When you have one of these coaches you have to hold on to them. We’ve seen the merry go round that happens to teams (like the Chiefs just a few years ago) that can’t find the right coach. They look everywhere…promoting from within, getting someone out of retirement, trying to hot coordinator and grabbing someone from the college ranks. It’s rare that this turns a team around…..rather it usually leads to spinning wheels and being right back to a coaching search in quick fashion.
The four teams playing in the championship games this weekend have gotten there in varying ways when it comes to their coaches. Bill Belichick is in his 2nd job after a bad first go around. Pete Carroll is in his 3rd NFL job with a stop at USC in between. Mike McCarthy is in his first job…one he has been at for a while and Chuck Pagano is a relatively new coach. So what do you take from this…you take that there is no formula. It’s hard to know what you’re going to get with a first time coach or a retread. Since there is no guarantee that your next hire will be good you better hold on to a good coach if you have one. I think the Chiefs have one.
Sure Andy Reid has his faults and his record does not compare with the best of all time. But consistent winning has a lot of value. Ask the Browns, or the Rams, or the Raiders, or the Jags, or a host of other teams picking in the top 5 and looking for a new head coach every other year. They would all love to have someone that is a no brainer to keep around.
|K State Record||7-5||7-5||9-3||9-3|
|Raiders @ Chiefs (-10)||Chiefs||Chiefs||Raiders||Raiders|
|Cardinals at Rams (-4.5)||Rams||Rams||Rams||Rams|
|Bengals at Browns (-1)||Browns||Browns||Bengals||Bengals|
|Broncos (-4) @ Chargers||Chargers||Chargers||Broncos||Broncos|
|Cowboys @ Eagles (-3.5)||Cowboys||Cowboys||Eagles||Cowboys|
|Arkansas @ Mizzou||Ark||Mizzou||Mizzou||Mizzou|
|Kansas @ K State (-28.5)||K state||K State||K State||KU|
|K State Record||7-4||6-5||8-3||8-3|
|Broncos (-1.5) @ Chiefs||Chiefs||Broncos||Broncos||Broncos|
|Patriots at Packers (-3)||Packers||Packers||Packers||Pats|
|Eagles at Cowboys (-3)||Cowboys||Cowboys||Eagles||Eagles|
There are no games scheduled for today.