Three Quick Thoughts as the Royals Return Home to Kansas City

The Royals lost another heart breaker in Chicago, as the White Sox came back in the ninth inning to beat the Royals 4-3. The game was mired in controversy, as the Sox won on Jose Abreu coming home on a Wade Davis wild pitch. However, replay seemed to (allegedly) show catch Cam Gallagher tagging Abreu before he touched home plate which should have ended the game and sent it to extra innings. Unfortunately, the umpire crew, which initially called him safe, upheld their original call, and instead, the White Sox were able to split the four-game series at Guaranteed Rate field.

Royals manager Mike Matheny had some choice words for the umpire’s decision on the replay, which was surprising to hear, as Matheny tends to be mild-mannered when it comes to controversial issues.

The Royals are now 18-22 and are currently 6.5 games behind the division-leading White Sox, which doesn’t bode well for their playoff chances. After being in the 20 percent range at the end of April, the Royals now have seen their playoff odds plummet to 5.9 percent, according to Fangraphs. There still is a lot of the baseball season left, but as the Royals reach the end of May, it seems hard to think that the Royals will be able to recover from such a rough month and make the postseason, which seemed more plausible back in April.

The Royals have a five-game home stand this week, with a two-game Interleague series against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a weekend three-game slate against the Detroit Tigers, which is their first home series against the Tigers in 2021. While it seems a bit crazy to say that this is a “make or break” series for the Royals considering it’s May, the Royals will need to have a strong showing over the next five games if they want to rally and re-insert themselves in the division race with the White Sox and Indians this Summer.

Here are three quick thoughts about the most recent road trip, and this upcoming home stand at Kauffman Stadium.

Time may be ticking for Wade Davis in Kansas City

There’s no question that the umpires blew a lot of calls over the weekend on the South Side of Chicago (Kelvin Gutierrez’s out call was also bogus on Saturday). However, Matheny probably would have liked to have another reliever in that save situation in the ninth other than Davis, who has absolutely struggled in his return to Kansas City.

In 14 appearances and 14.1 IP, Davis is posting a 7.53 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. On a positive note, Davis is striking out a decent amount of hitters, as he is posting a K rate of 23.7 percent, his best mark since 2018 in Colorado. On the flip side, he is giving up an average batted ball exit velocity of 91.8 MPH and hard hit rate of 51.3 percent, which are both career-worst marks. Additionally, Davis’ percentiles, according to Baseball Savant, show that he is far from the dominant reliever that he once was back in 2014 and 2015 in Kansas City.

Right now, the Royals bullpen has struggled immensely, as they currently rank 23rd in relief ERA and 24th in relief WHIP, according to Fangraphs. With Kyle Zimmer and Jesse Hahn currently on rehab assignments in Omaha right now, the Royals will need to make some tough decisions when it comes to clearing space on the active roster to make room for Zimmer and Hahn’s return. Right now, it’s hard to imagine that Davis is better than either of those two options, and it’s even harder to imagine another reliever currently on the depth chart who is worse right now than Davis. Maybe the Royals could demote Jake Newberry again, but after him? Well…Davis seems like the most likely roster casualty, which would result him in being designated for assignment.

And if that happens? Well, Davis may be done as a Royal, and perhaps done in the Majors as well.

Davis has certainly done a lot for this Royals organization in the past, and it’s easy to get nostalgic with him on the mound and think about those great Royals moments he had an impact on, especially from 2014 and 2015. But right now, Davis is doing the Royals more harm than good when he pitches, and it would be best for him and the Royals to part ways now before it gets worse for the club, as well as Davis.

A tale of two starts for Brady Singer over the road trip

This recent road trip for Singer was an interesting one, as he followed up a rough start at Comerica Park in Detroit on May 11th with a solid showing at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday afternoon. In his start against the Tigers, Singer only went 3.1 IP and allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks. While he struck out four batters, he struggled with his command, especially on the slider.

Let’s take a look at his player breakdown from his May 11th start:

Notice him throwing his sinker 78 percent of the time. While he generated a decent CSW rate on the pitch (32 percent), it’s going to be difficult for Singer to be consistently successful as a Major League starting pitcher when he’s throwing a primary pitch nearly eight times out of 10.

Now, let’s take a look at his player breakdown from his start today against the White Sox:

As one can see, there is much better pitch balance from Singer in his most recent start. He threw his slider 15 percent more, and saw a six percent increase in whiff rate and a four percent increase in CSW rate. That kind of command on his slider is what makes Singer such a dangerous pitcher. His slider complements his sinker well, especially when both pitches are on, as they were today (though he did hang a slider to Adam Eaton which was belted for a home run).

Here’s an overlay of Singer utilizing his pitches effectively in a strikeout of Yoan Moncada:

Singer has seen his barrel rate decrease from 4.1 in 2020 to 2.2 percent this year, and has also seen a 7.8 percent decrease in hard hit rate from 2020 as well, according to Baseball Savant. Thus it’s not surprising that Singer’s 3.53 xERA is much lower than his 4.17 ERA for the year, and could mean that Singer is due for a strong Summer, as long as he can maintain that slider command.

Singer most likely will start again in the weekend series against the Tigers, barring anything dramatic happening roster-wise. Hopefully, he’ll be able to build on this recent White Sox start and have a much better outing at Kauffman than the one he had in Detroit on May 11th.

The “offensive case” for Jorge Soler to move back to DH

The Royals have mostly played Jorge Soler in right field since the demotion of Kyle Isbel. Honestly, it’s understandable because the Royals do not have a lot of outfield options, and for a while, Ryan O’Hearn was producing at the plate at the DH spot. However, O’Hearn has cooled off lately, as he is currently posting a .591 OPS in 48 plate appearances, and is whiffing nearly 40 percent of the time, according to Baseball Savant. Furthermore, David Lesky of Inside the Crown pointed out that Soler has produced better at the plate when he’s a DH than when he’s playing right field. Here is what Lesky tweeted out last night:

Soler has already displayed that he doesn’t offer much defensively in right field, as he rates four outs BELOW average on an OAA basis, according to Baseball Savant. That mark places him in the bottom 2 percent of the league, and is not a good sign for a Royals club that has struggled immensely defensively this year. However, now there is evidence that Soler struggles offensively when he plays in right field.

Maybe his defense and his hitting when playing right field are not related. That being said, both those factors should inspire Matheny to NOT play Soler anymore in right and let him be the regular designated hitter again, like he was expected to be in Spring Training.

Hopefully a move is looming on the off-day or this week. Edward Olivares continues to tear it up, as he is hitting .354 and posting a 1.071 OPS with three home runs in 48 at-bats with the Storm Chasers so far this year. Olivares also hit another home run today against the Columbus Clippers, the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate:

Maybe the Royals will wait to call up Olivares when Adalberto Mondesi is done with his rehab assignment, which seems to be on track for sometime between May 18th and May 21st. Nonetheless, the Royals need to find someone in right field so Soler can return back to the DH spot. Not only will it help the Royals defensively, but apparently, the move would help the Royals, and Soler himself, offensively as well.

And for Soler…a return to form at the plate is much needed, for both him and the Royals, after a rough start to the 2021 season.

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

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