Edit: Changed the title of this series from “Random Royals Thoughts” to “Random Royals Reflections” because…well…three R’s? I’m a sucker for alliteration.
Tampa Bay has struck back, as they tied up the series 1-1 with a 6-4 victory of Los Angeles. And much like Game 1, I developed some thoughts about the Royals that related to this World Series matchup between the Rays and Dodgers.
So here are my “Random Royals Reflections” from Game 2.
Snell, Anderson…and Hahn?
Blake Snell and the Rays bullpen kept the Dodgers lineup in check with the exception of a couple of Dodgers home runs from Chris Taylor, Will Smith, and Corey Seager. In fact, the Rays’ pitching has been the strength of this team in 2020, especially in the postseason. While Tyler Glasnow struggled in his World Series debut, he, Snell, and Charlie Morton provide a gaudy postseason rotation, and the bullpen is incredibly deep, with multiple guys capable of handling critical moments in the late innings.
However, there is one former Rays pick who may have boosted this bullpen even more, and that is Jesse Hahn, who had a career year in 2020, his first full season since recovering from Tommy John. A former starter with the Padres and Athletics, Hahn was pretty much unstoppable out of the bullpen for the Royals in 2020, as he posted a 0.52 ERA, 2.56 FIP, and 0.5 WAR in 17.1 IP. A sinker ball heavy pitcher, Hahn made things difficult on opposing hitters during the month of September, especially with strikeout pitches like the one shown below:
With Greg Holland’s status uncertain for 2021, it is possible that Hahn could compete for the closer’s job in 2021, as it will be between him, Josh Staumont, and Scott Barlow, if Holland doesn’t return. Even though Hahn’s 2020 was pretty historic, he was pretty lucky, as he posted a BABIP of .108 and strand rate (LOB%) of 92.3 percent. There is no way he will be able to transition that over a full 162 game campaign in 2021. However, Hahn has a wicked repertoire, decent command (he posted a 2.38 K/BB ratio, his highest ratio since 2015 with the A’s), and he can induce groundballs at a decent rate (45.9 percent). These are promising signs at least that Hahn could continue to be effective in the future, even when his BABIP and LOB rates regress back to normal.
While I’m sure the Rays would love to have the former 6th round pick still in Tampa Bay, Royals fans are happy that Hahn found his way to Kansas City, and should feel encouraged about the outlook for the 31-year-old in 2021, even though he will be entering arbitration this off-season (that being said, it seems likely that Moore will bring him back, as he only made $600K last season).
“Korean Connection”: Ji-Man Choi of the Rays; and Woo-Young Jin of the Royals
During the game, the Rays tweeted this out about their Korean-born first baseman:
In addition to making history, Choi and his story is super interesting because it is pretty atypical to most Asian-born players. Unlike other Korean-born players in Major League Baseball, Choi did not play professional baseball in the KBO, which is Korea’s man professional league. Instead after graduating from Dong San High School in Incheon, South Korea, Choi signed with the Seattle Mariners, and has played his entire baseball career here in the United States. While he has certainly bounced around (he has played in the Mariners, Orioles, Angels, Yankees, and Brewers organizations prior), he has found a home and a fan following in Tampa Bay. While he rarely sees the lineup against left-handed pitchers, Choi is still carving out a good MLB future, as evidenced by a career .257/.359/.461 and .820 OPS in 218 games with the Rays.
Acquiring Asian-born players out of high school is a unique strategy for many MLB teams, especially small-market ones. When many Asian players decide to come stateside, they often have established successful careers in the professional leagues of their home countries first, whether it is the KBO, NPB (Nippon Baseball League of Japan) or CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League of Chinese Taipei). This drives their value up, and oftentimes, it is the bigger clubs with the bigger payrolls who often win out (as evidenced recently by the Angels getting two-way star Shohei Ohtani).
However, if the player is coming out of high school rather than the professional leagues, they are often less high profile, and thus can go under-the-radar by clubs with bigger budgets. And thus, it’s not surprising that the Royals have already started to invest in this strategy, with the most recent example being South Korean Woo-Young Jin, who played in 2019 in the Arizona Rookie League.
Jin is a 19-year-old who will be 20 in 2021, but he offers a solid arsenal, highlighted by a plus splitter. Fangraphs rated him as the Royals’ 43rd best prospect going into 2020, and if he does somehow make the Royals roster in the future, he would be the Royals’ first-ever Korean-born player. When looking at the video below, it is not out of the realm of possibility to think that Jin could, at the very least, find a role in the Royals bullpen in two-to-four years, depending on how fast he moves in the Royals’ farm system.
Stories like Choi’s are interesting, and it will be intriguing to see how other stories like his will develop in the next year or so. This much is certain though: the better Choi does this World Series, the more hope that may give Royals fans in regard to Jin’s outlook in the Royals organization.
How similar is the Dodgers’ hat and uniform scheme to the Royals’?
Both the Dodgers and Royals sports the colors of royal blue and white. As someone who grew up in a household where the “Dodgers” were a “hated” name (black and orange was the way to go), I have always felt weird cheering for a MLB team that sports a blue and white color scheme (i.e. the Royals). However, as I watched the game tonight, I began to think: how similar is the Royals’ color scheme to the Dodgers? And what are the differences, if there are any?
And thus, I decided to take a deeper dive into the hat and uniform differences between the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The big difference between the two hats that stands out right off the bat is that the Royals’ hat is of a lighter shade of royal blue, while the Dodgers’ blue is much darker. The Dodgers hat may not be considered navy officially (the Yankees are considered “Navy Blue” in comparison), but it’s definitely a darker royal blue in comparison to the Royals’ hat color. As for the text, they both do the interconnected letters, but the Dodgers have a more block, serif font, while the Royals have a more cursive one with the inter-locking K and C (though it is serif as well like Los Angeles).
At the surface level, both the Royals and Dodgers’ home and away uniforms look the same albeit with minute differences. They do both have the nickname and city name written across the chest of the jersey, with the swoosh underneath the text. However, the Dodgers have a red number underneath the name on the left side of the jersey (left side from the perspective of the player wearing it), while the Royals have a blue number. Furthermore, in addition to the Royals hat being a lighter shade of blue than the Dodgers, the Royals’ away uniforms is also a lighter shade of gray than the Dodgers ones. Lastly, the text on the Royals away jersey has a white outline, while the Dodgers text has no outline (or it is blue as well).
(Also, I feel like we see their away alternate, which says “Dodgers” across the chest instead of “Los Angeles” a lot more as well. The Royals do not have a gray away alternate that says “Royals” across the chest. Their away alternate is a blue one with a KC logo on the left side of the jersey.)