Showing posts with label Wade Davis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wade Davis. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Alex Gordon agrees to four-year deal with Kansas City Royals

The defending champion Kansas City Royals moved Wednesday to retain a piece of their title-winning core, signing left fielder Alex Gordon to a four-year deal worth $72 million.

Gordon, 32, has spent his entire career with the Kansas City organization after being drafted No. 2 overall in 2005. Since his breakout campaign in 2011, he's posted a .281/.359/.450 slash line, won four Gold Gloves and been credited with 94 defensive runs saved -- second most among major league outfielders (Jason Heyward) during that time.

The White Sox reportedly were interested in Gordon, but according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal, the South Siders were not willing to give Gordon a fourth year on a contract.

It's unclear at this point whether Gordon was the Sox's "Plan A" in the outfield, or if he was a "Plan B" option. The team has been linked to free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. It remains to be seen whether the Sox would be willing to give Cespedes, who is two years younger than Gordon, a four- or five-year deal.

As for the Royals, this move solidifies their status as favorites to defend their World Series title in 2016. Kansas City had four key free agents going into this offseason -- Gordon, Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist and Ryan Madson. The Royals retained only one of the four, but they kept the most important one in Gordon.

Kansas City has already replaced Madson with the earlier signing of Joakim Soria, and while Cueto and Zobrist are key losses, people have to remember those guys were nothing more than midseason acquisitions in 2015. The Royals were in first place and had the best record in the league long before they traded for Cueto and Zobrist. Those two were never core members of the team. Gordon was and is a key piece to their puzzle.

With Gordon making $18 million a year, it will be harder for the Royals to keep long-term other key players such as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Wade Davis, all four of whom will hit free agency after the 2017 season.

But that's a problem for two years from now. With this move, the Royals are acting to keep their core together for as long as possible, and there is every reason to believe they will continue to be in the championship discussion for the next two years.

That's an issue for the White Sox and the rest of the AL Central.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kansas City Royals unsung hero in Game 4 win: Kris Medlen

Here's something I'll bet you didn't know about the Kansas City Royals: Through the first four games of the American League Championship Series, Kansas City starting pitchers have thrown a grand total of 18 innings.

That's right: Royals starters are averaging less than five innings per outing, yet Kansas City owns a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series after its 14-2 thumping of the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday. That should tell you how much the Royals rely on their bullpen and how good those guys really are.

You're probably wondering why I'm declaring Kansas City pitcher Kris Medlen the unsung hero of Game 4, when he didn't even pitch in the game. But reflect back to Monday's Game 3 -- Kansas City's lone loss of the series -- when Medlen came on to replace the ineffective Johnny Cueto in the third inning. The Royals lost, 11-8, but Medlen ate up five innings and saved the rest of the Kansas City bullpen for critical Game 4. Other than Medlen, Franklin Morales was the only Royals reliever to appear in Game 3.

That kept Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson and Wade Davis rested and fresh for Tuesday. You figured those guys would be needed, with journeyman Chris Young getting the start for the Royals.

As it turns out, Hochevar recorded the most critical out of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Royals were up 5-2 at the time. Young had done a respectable job to that point, but it probably would not have been a good idea for him to face the middle of the Toronto batting order for a third time.

Ben Revere was on first base with two out. The potential league MVP, Josh Donaldson, was at the plate for Toronto. Here was the Blue Jays' chance to get back in the game. A fresh Hochevar came in from the bullpen and induced a weak foul out off the bat of Donaldson. Inning over.

Hochevar, Herrera, Madson and Morales went on to toss 4.1 innings of scoreless relief. Toronto did not get a runner into scoring position against the Kansas City bullpen until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. And by then, the Royals had scored four runs in the seventh, three in the eighth and two in the ninth against a far weaker Toronto bullpen to put the game out of reach.

The Royals bullpen is the best in the game. They are always tough, but they are even tougher when they are all fresh. They had Medlen to thank for having the rest of the relief corps primed and ready for Game 4. Cueto's short outing could have had an impact on the rest of the series had it not been for Medlen, but after Tuesday's result, that is long forgotten by most people.

Just in general, I think many of us forgot how good the Royals are coming into the playoffs. We all were impressed by the Blue Jays and their big bats and their plus-231 run differential. We installed them as a clear favorite. We pointed to the Royals' 11-17 September and figured Kansas City was a tired team, much like the St. Louis Cardinals were in the National League.

Not really. The Royals were probably just bored in September. They were basically unchallenged in the AL Central this summer. They won their division by 12 games. Now that the lights are on, the Royals are turning up their game again, just as they did last October when they won the AL pennant.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Giants take 3-2 lead with win in World Series Game 5

There have been 30 games played in Major League Baseball's postseason so far this year.

That means there have been 60 starts for pitchers, and of those 60, only six times has a pitcher worked seven innings or more and earned a postseason victory. San Francisco Giants' ace Madison Bumgarner has accounted for four of those six this playoff year.

Bumgarner continued to cement his reputation as a clutch performer with yet another brilliant outing Sunday in Game 5 of the 2014 World Series. The San Francisco left-hander fired a complete-game, four-hit shutout as the Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals, 5-0, to take a 3-2 series lead.

Game 6 is Tuesday night in Kansas City.

Bumgarner is now 4-0 with a 0.29 ERA in four career World Series starts. Opponents are hitting just .120 against him in that span.

How dominant was Bumgarner on this night? In nine innings, Kansas City had only two at-bats with runners in scoring position. Those at-bats were taken by light-hitting outfielder Jarrod Dyson and starting pitcher James Shields, so the Royals had little chance to score in this game.

I've been critical of Shields' postseason performance in previous blog entries, but he was solid in Game 5. He allowed just two runs in six innings. That's certainly a credible performance. He just got outpitched, plain and simple.

The Giants finally solved the riddle of the Kansas City bullpen in the eighth inning, too. They scored three runs off the previously unhittable combination of Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis to increase their lead to 5-0, a two-run double by reserve outfielder Juan Perez being the biggest hit.

The question becomes, can the Giants get a closeout victory on the road with somebody other than Bumgarner on the mound? Jake Peavy will get his shot in Game 6 against Kansas City's Yordano Ventura in a rematch from Game 2.

If San Francisco wins this thing, I think we already know Bumgarner is going to be named MVP.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Kansas City Royals must be happy they traded for James Shields, Wade Davis

Wade Davis struggled with Tampa Bay.
Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore made a trade that stunned the baseball world on Dec. 9, 2012.

He sent outfielder Wil Myers -- who at the time was Kansas City's top prospect and perhaps the best prospect in all of baseball -- and pitcher Jake Odorizzi and two minor-leaguers to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for veteran pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis and a player to be named later.

The critics howled. How could the general manager of the perpetually rebuilding Royals part with such a huge piece of the franchise's future? This was a "win-now" kind of trade, and Kansas City was coming off a lousy 72-win season in 2012. Was Moore delusional? Certainly he didn't believe Shields and Davis would vault the Royals into contention. Trading away Myers was a move that would haunt the franchise for the next decade, right?

Wrong.

Nearly two years after the deal, Moore is getting the last laugh. That's because the Royals are headed to the World Series for the first time in 29 years. Kansas City finished off a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night.

Shields and Davis are both centerpieces of this pennant winning team. Shields is the No. 1 starter in the Kansas City rotation. This season, he led the team in wins (14), innings pitched (227) and strikeouts (180), while finishing second on the team in ERA (3.21). Teammate Yordano Ventura's ERA (3.20) was just a touch better.

The Royals converted Davis, a failed starter, to a full-time relief role this year with outstanding results. Working as Kansas City's eighth-inning guy, he fired 72 innings, striking out 109 batters and posting a 1.00 ERA and a 0.847 WHIP.  He's been lights out in the postseason, striking out 10 and allowing just one run over 9.1 innings in eight games.

In Wednesday's pennant clincher, Davis worked with surgical efficiency, retiring the Orioles 1-2-3 in the eighth inning on 10 pitches (9 strikes). It was the kind of outing Royals fans have come to expect from Davis. He's done it all year.

So, on one December night, with one trade, Moore acquired two players who would become the best starting pitcher and the best relief pitcher on an American League championship team. He paid a price for it, sure, but that celebration that's going on in Kansas City tonight would not be happening without this trade.

And Myers?

He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2013, but this year he compiled an ugly slash line of .222/.294/.320 with just six home runs and 35 RBIs in 87 games. Myers is only 23 years old, and there is still plenty of time for him to get his career on track, but I don't think the Royals miss him right now.

Let this be a lesson to some media and some fans who tend to overvalue prospects. No matter how highly regarded a young player may be, sometimes it does pay dividends to trade that prospect for more proven ballplayers.

Kansas City is proof of that.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Royals leave Detroit with a one-game lead in the AL Central

The Kansas City Royals held a slim one-game lead in the AL Central last week when they embarked on a six-game road trip to New York and Detroit. After splitting those six games, the Royals will return to Kansas City for a 10-game homestand with that slim one-game division lead still intact.

That's because Kansas City collected perhaps its most critical win of the season Wednesday night, a 3-0 victory over the second-place Tigers at Comerica Park.

The Royals started their trip by winning two out of three games against the Yankees. That allowed them to take a two-game division lead into the Motor City, which the Tigers promptly erased with wins on Monday afternoon and Tuesday night.

The two clubs were in a virtual tie heading into Wednesday's contest, with the Royals ahead by percentage points because they had one fewer loss than the Tigers. Kansas City had dropped 11 of its first 15 head-to-head meetings against Detroit this year, and the Royals were in danger of being swept out of first place.

But, Kansas City had the right man on the mound: James Shields. The Royals haven't made the playoffs in 29 years. They are a mostly young team, and this is the first time they've been legitimately in the pennant race this late in the season in God knows how long. Shields, however, is a 32-year-old veteran who has played on playoff teams with Tampa Bay in the past, so he wasn't going to be rattled by the importance of the game.

And, oh yeah, Shields is 5-0 in eight lifetime starts at Comerica Park. He was in complete command on Wednesday night, tossing seven innings of two-hit shutout ball. Shields gave up a single to Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler to start the game, then promptly picked him off. The Tigers didn't get another baserunner until the seventh inning. Shields finished with eight strikeouts.

Kelvin Herrera pitched the eighth and Wade Davis worked the ninth for his third save of the season in place of the injured Greg Holland (triceps). With the win, Kansas City improves to 80-64 and now enjoys a two-game lead in the loss column over the Tigers (80-66) with 18 games to play.

The schedule now tilts slightly into the Royals' favor over the next week. Kansas City comes home to play four games against AL East bottom-feeder Boston before the fourth-place White Sox come in for a three-game set. During that same period, Detroit will host three games against third-place Cleveland, which still has faint playoff hopes, then travel to last-place Minnesota for three games.

Both teams will be playing teams below them in the standings in advance of their final meeting of the season, a three-game series beginning Sept. 19 in Kansas City.

Can the underdog Royals hold off the favored Tigers, who have won the division in each of the past three seasons? This might be the most interesting divisional race of them all as we hit the final two and a half weeks of the regular season.

Monday, February 3, 2014

My dream of getting Bruce Chen out of the AL Central has died

Bruce "Cy" Chen
Bruce Chen has been a nemesis for the White Sox over the past three seasons, so much so that many Sox fans resign themselves to defeat each time the South Siders are scheduled to face the mighty Kansas City left-hander.

The loathing of Chen is understandable: The veteran soft-tosser has gone 7-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) against the Sox over the last three seasons. Thinking back, it's a wonder he ever lost two games. He always seems to pitch well against Chicago.

So, when Chen hit free agency this offseason, I was dearly hoping he would sign somewhere in the National League.

No sale.

He's back with a Royals, agreeing to terms Saturday on a one-year deal with worth $4.25 million.

All things considered, Chen isn't a bad option for the Royals or any other team at the back end of the rotation. Over the last three seasons, he's 32-26 overall with 4.18 ERA. Not great, but not terrible either. It just seems like the Sox have more than done their part to make sure the 36-year-old Chen hangs around baseball for another year or two.

If there's one silver lining about Chen being back in Kansas City, there's always the chance he'll lose his spot in the Royals' increasingly crowded rotation. Barring injury, James Shields, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie will take up the top three spots. The remaining two spots in the rotation could be filled any number of guys, including Chen, veterans Wade Davis and Brad Penny and youngsters Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and Kyle Zimmer.

Among that group, Chen is far from the most talented, but I'm sure quite a few Sox fans would rather take their chances against Ventura, Duffy or anybody else.

Unfortunately, Kansas City manager Ned Yost says Chen has a spot in the starting five. I'm afraid the Sox are stuck facing him, at least at the start of the year.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

AL Central might be happy to see more Jason Vargas

The Royals signed left-handed starter Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract last week, no doubt hoping he'll fill the gap in their rotation left by the likely exit of Ervin Santana, who just turned in a terrific season for Kansas City.

While Vargas, with his 4.30 career ERA, including 4.02 last year for the Angels, probably can't match what Santana just did for the Royals (3.24 ERA over 211 innings), he can maybe improve what Kansas City got from guys like Wade Davis (5.32) and Luis Mendoza (5.36) across nearly 40 mostly poor starts.

To do that, Vargas is going to have to prove he's not the creation of his home parks. Toiling mostly for the Angels and Mariners, who both have pitcher-friendly homes, Vargas has a career ERA of 3.46 when he's sleeping in his own bed. When he hits the road, however, he's been reached for a 5.17 ERA.

There's some talk about how Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals play, is a good fit for Vargas. While the K might keep some home run numbers down, overall it isn't a pitcher's haven like the ballparks in Los Angeles or Seattle.

If the Royals think Vargas might have an advantage in some of the AL Central parks, the proof hasn't been in the pudding:

ERAs vs. AL Central Teams
6.31 vs. White Sox
5.40 vs. Indians
5.28 vs. Twins
4.60 vs. Tigers

It looks worse in each of those teams' home parks. Vargas has been slammed by the Twins for a .386/.440/.603 batting line against (9.16 ERA). The Sox have whipped him for a .283/.333/.554 line (6.45 ERA). The Tigers have mauled him at a .311/.354/.556 rate (8.71 ERA). Only the Indians have been held in check at home by Vargas for a .235/.291/.353 line (1.93 ERA).

Granted, you can divide numbers up into portions so small that they're meaningless. Vargas has pitched no more than 22 1/3 innings in any of those ballparks, though the aggregate picture when all of those innings are combined isn't pretty. Nor is the 5.31 ERA Vargas has turned in over 20 1/3 innings as a visitor to Kauffman Stadium.

Still, the Indians, who last year hit left-handed pitching much better than right-handed pitching, are probably looking forward to getting more cracks at Vargas. White Sox DH Adam Dunn, who at times struggles against left-handers, isn't going to be sad to see more of a guy who he has hit .429/.636/1.286 against in his career. (No type-Os there. Dunn has crushed Vargas.)

That's not to say the past keeps on repeating itself. Maybe Vargas will prove to be resilient. Perhaps now that he's reached his 30s he will remain durable, and is becoming crafty as we're sometimes wont to describe left-handers without great stuff.

I'm not seeing enough evidence of that to warrant the largess of this contract. Even understanding that in today's free agent dollars, $8 million per year isn't all that much, and might be within Vargas' reach to be worth that money, I don't know why the Royals had to rush out to make sure the ink dried on this deal before the end of November.

Not when there are so many better options still available, including a few options that might be better and much cheaper.