During MLB’s Sunday Night Baseball showcase, Royals manager Ned Yost put his inability to simply sit still on full display, until finally his hands were tied.
Every one of those thoughts should have been suppressed, because they all lead to justifications for the wrong answer. Either Mondesi is a professional baseball player, or he’s not. If his true talent level is that of a sub-Mendoza Line hitter, then the Royals are guilty of terrible lineup construction for a crucial game, and that falls on the manager as well (and perhaps the front office). Further, the primary reason it’s proper to sacrifice pitchers isn’t because they have poor batting averages or because they strike out a lot, it’s because they are a huge threat to ground into a double play. That’s the downside of swinging away with runners on first and second and nobody out. Mondesi has blazing speed. In 101 career plate appearances, he’s grounded into one double play. (A deep dive into the invaluable Baseball-Reference.com reveals that Mondesi has batted with a runner on first and fewer than two outs 22 times. His double play rate of 4.6 percent in that situation is way below the 2016 league average of 11.1 percent.)
Why they’ll flourish: A year after becoming the first team ever to score 12 million runs in a season (give or take), the Blue Jays’ offense is still pretty darned good (4.9 runs per game, second in the American League). But it’s their surprising starters that have been the difference-maker this season. Led by Cy Young contender J.A. Happ, Toronto’s starting five six boasts a 3.76 ERA, the best in the American League by a bunch. In fact, no other rotation has an ERA below four.
Why they’ll flounder: The Jays and Red Sox are practically twins. Both feature stacked offenses and solid rotations. Both have bullpen issues. Both have square-jawed 54-year-old skippers named John. So it could come down to the little things — such as schedules. Aside from 13 games against the Yanks and Rays (Boston and Baltimore have that too), Toronto gets a seven-game West Coast swing featuring the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels, two teams that they’re a combined 2-4 against this season. The Red Sox head West too but get the gift that is the Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres, while the O’s host the Arizona Diamondbacks and visit the Detroit Tigers. Disadvantage, Blue Jays.
X factor: Jose Bautista has been banged up. Michael Saunders has cooled off. And since being acquired in a deadline deal, the artist formerly known as B.J. Upton has been, well, the artist formerly known as B.J. Upton. In other words, the outfield situation is less solid than dried ice. If Joey Bats can stay healthy and get back to doing Joey Bats things, it’ll go a long way toward helping the Jays become the first AL East team to make back-to-back postseasons since the Yankees in 2011 and 2012.