Tag Archive | "Patience"

George Kottaras is Much Better Than You May Think

GeorgeKottaras

 

I’m going to say something which may ruffle some feathers. Salvador Perez is a little overrated. But I’m going to follow that up with something that hopefully will win everyone back, George Kottaras is very, very underrated. He’s also the best back-up catcher in baseball and is as much the reason The Royals are on this hot streak as anyone else on the team.

The praise for him online has been around for a while, long before he was on The Royals. Here is a Fangraphs article from last year, criticizing The A’s for using Derek Norris over Kottaras at catcher.

Meanwhile, Kottaras, in his incredibly limited amount of time, has outproduced Norris offensively.  Norris may have the edge defensively, but it’s really not by that wide of a margin.  Not wide enough to play an offensively inept guy in lieu of, that is.  And while the offensive difference between the two hasn’t been that significant in August, the overall numbers for the season show that Kottaras is better suited to play during this home-stretch playoff run.

Kottaras is an incredibly modest guy who admits he tries to puts team first. He claims getting on base and trusting the guy behind you is the best philosophy to play with. Being quoted in this article:

“The whole ‘Trust the guy behind you’ really made sense finally,” he says. “It’s about patience and doing the little things. You don’t always get a pitch to bring in the guy from third with less than two outs. So if it’s not there, let it go. Take the walk and let the next guy have a shot at it.”

Originally I wanted this article to be a comparison between The Cardinals and The Royals and how they were doing (or did, now that Perez is back)without their starting catchers. Essentially comparing Kottaras to Cruz. But two paragraphs in I realized it was no contest, Kottaras was much better. So the comparison I want to make now is Kottaras versus Perez.

If you look at standard statistics, Perez is much better. Kottaras is hitting .176, 5 hrs, 12 rbis. Those stats place him statistically in line with other back-up catchers, and would indicate he is possibly one of the worst. Perez on the other hand is hitting .278, 4 hrs, 43 rbis. Perez is clearly better right? Not so fast.

When you evaluate their slash lines, it tells a different story. Kottaras: .176/.384/.432 verses Perez: .278/.309/.382. Kottaras is a walking machine. I realize his sample size is much smaller than everyday starters, but if Kottaras was able to maintain that as a starter, he would be 12th in all of baseball with on base pct. He’d also lead The Royals, just over Billy Butler. But what’s more impressive is his slugging pct. Kottaras slugging is about 50 points higher than Perez. Kottaras only has 13 hits this year, but 5 of them are homeruns and 4 of them are doubles. Kottaras’ objective at the plate seems to be to take a walk. But when he does decide to swing for a hit, he really makes it count. In his career, he has 143 hits. 40 have been for doubles and 29 for homeruns. His 2013 ISO is .257. And not to be accused of small sample size, his career ISO is .200. His career slash is .215/.328/.414. He has never posted an on base pct under .300 and has only finished twice with an on base under .310. But even with an impressive career .328 on base pct, it’s been even higher the last 2 years as a result of him coming to terms with what he does best. From the same article as above:

“Just keep the line moving,” Brett says(about Kottaras). “Each guy just keeps it all moving. Don’t be that guy that tries to win it all yourself. You have guys behind you.”

Still, Kottaras, 30, wasn’t able to connect that philosophy to his game right away. In his one full season in Boston and his next two in Milwaukee, his on-base percentages were a modest .308, .305 and .311.

“It took me a couple of years to totally understand that because when you’re in the minors or when you just get up to the big leagues,” he says, “you’re always searching and finding what you do right.”

Also, for the last 3 years, his slugging has been well over .400.

Since the All Star break, Kottaras has an OPS of .853. He is as hot as anyone else on the team, yet the general consensus in the media is The Royals were dying to get Perez back. When Kottaras was starting at catcher with Perez out, The Royals were 5-2. I’m not saying that Kottaras is necessarily better than Perez. In fact, he probably isn’t. But I do think he is much more in the conversation than people think.

Losing Perez for a while should have been a bigger blow. But Kottaras was there to really soften that blow. And unfortunately, to a much larger degree than he gets credit for.

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Patience pays off for Jon Jay, David Freese

Although short-sighted analysis would have suggested otherwise, St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Jon Jay and third baseman David Freese weren’t going to struggle at the plate forever.

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Cardinals fans quickly became anxious about both players in April as Jay struggled to a .213 batting average, and Freese was even worse at .163 as he returned from an oblique injury he suffered in spring training.

But Jay is now hitting .273, including four homeruns while playing very solid defense, and Freese has bumped his average up to .211 heading into play Saturday, including a grand slam for his first homerun of the season in the first inning Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Plus, each is likely to improve from here.

Jay is a career .298 hitter, and Freese has a career average of .289 and averages 16 homeruns per season.

Sometimes players simply get off to bad starts. That’s no reason to wish for centerfield prospect Oscar Taveras to take Jay’s job or for the Cardinals to trade Freese.

Sure, neither Jay nor Freese are likely going to be All-Stars this season and neither figures to have the much potential to be a Most Valuable Player candidate in their careers, but they are vital pieces of the Cardinals’ team.

For example, the Cardinals had a 15-11 record in April while Jay and Freese struggled. That’s good, and bullpen problems played a large role in at least four of those losses, but the Cardinals also got minimal production from their centerfield and third base positions, which are traditionally two of the most important offensive positions on the team.

Once the calendar turned to May, the Cardinals went on an 11-3 surge as Jay and Freese started to hit the ball better.

Jay’s improvement came from adjustments in his swing. He has always been a singles hitter, but his approach at the plate included a lot of movement in his hands. That allows ample opportunity for his timing to get messed up and creates a lot of unnecessary movement.

But Jay made the required adjustments. He now holds the bat up straighter in his stance and has a more direct approach to the ball. And now he looks like a hitter who could bat .300, which is the type of batter Cardinals fans remember from Jay’s first three seasons with the team.

Freese’s development has been a little slower. He did have a five-game hitting streak last week but had only one hit in each of those games. However, he’s been recovering from the oblique injury, and those types of injuries tend to linger, not to mention the twisting motion required to hit puts stress directly on the injury part of his body.

In any case, the signs of progress from both players are welcome for the Cardinals, and they could help power the team through an extended stretch of winning baseball.

The Cardinals entered play Saturday with a 27-14 record, the best in Major League Baseball, and that could get even better because of the team’s upcoming schedule.

The Cardinals beat up on non-divisional opponents in the current home stand by winning five of seven games against the Colorado Rockies and New York Mets. Now they’ll head to the West Coast to play the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, who had a combined record of 35-46 heading into play Saturday and were the bottom two teams in the National League West Division.

The Cardinals already had a strong team with consistently great performances by their starting rotation and sections of their lineup hitting well, but they could continue to contend for the best team in baseball title throughout the summer if players such as Jay and Freese join the run-production party as the weather warms up.

All it took was smart, steady work, and a little bit of patience.

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Royals Weekly Rundown

After a strong start to 2013, the Kansas City Royals ended last week losing a three in a row to the injury plagued New York Yankees.  The Royals finished the week losing six of seven and find themselves two games behind the first place Indians with a record of 18-16.

In the first edition of Royals Weekend Rundown, let’s recap the week that was shall we?

Spring Training 2009 vs texas

Best of the Week:  Alex Gordon

Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer deserve some credit for getting the monkey off their backs and belting their first home runs of the season (Moustakas hit three this week).  This still doesn’t top Gordon’s monstrous week in which he slugged three homers, scored five runs, drove in eight, and hit .393.

Ned Yost made perhaps his best move as Royals skipper by moving Gordon to the three-hole to generate more run production.  Right now he’s hitting .400 with a 1.108 OPS in that spot.

While the production is over a small sample size, its a testament to Gordon’s growth as a ballplayer and the Royal’s patience the last few years.  Look at the numbers from the two halves of his career to date:

2007-2010:  .244 Avg. / 45 HR / 161 RBI / .320 OBP / .404 SLG

2011-2013:  .301 Avg. / 43 HR / 187 RBI / .365 OBP / .482 SLG

Gordon has gone from the brink of receiving the dreaded “bust” and demotion to making a name for himself as a cornerstone player for the club.  If he keeps this up for another two months, I would be shocked if he isn’t selected to his first All Star team.

Worst of the Week:  Billy Butler and Alcides Escobar

One could argue that this should go to the entire Royals offense except for the aforementioned Alex Gordon.  The team hit an abysmal .233 this week averaging around four runs per game.

While Escobar and Butler don’t deserve all the blame, they stand out because they hit first and fourth in the order respectively and hit a combined .105 (6-for-57) this week.  No need to worry, I expect both will bounce back soon in the next couple weeks against weaker pitching.

The Road Ahead:  Go West Young Men…

Monday night marks the first of a 10-game road West Coast road trip starting in Anaheim against the soul-searching Angels.  The Halos begin the series with a record of 14-23 and have at least found some rhythm on offense.  However, their pitching staff is still a mess.  Kansas City will face Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas, and Barry Enright who are a combined 1-10 and could help the Royals heat up.  After the three game stint in Anaheim, the Royals head to Oakland for a three game set with the A’s.

Probable Pitchers vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Monday at 9:05 CT:  Luis Mendoza (0-2, 6.38 ERA) vs. Joe Blanton (0-6, 5.66 ERA)

Tuesday at 9:05 CT:  Jeremy Guthrie (5-0, 2.28 ERA) vs. Jason Vargas (1-3, 4.26 ERA)

Wednesday at 9:05 CT:  Wade Davis (2-3, 5.86 ERA) vs. Barry Enright (0-1, 11.37 ERA)

Follow Adam Rozwadowski on Twitter @adam_roz

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Patience is the only option for Cardinal pen

Entering the season, one of the easy strengths for the Cardinals was the bullpen. It was a group that had a phenomenal second half and postseason a year ago, and was getting a boost from a few of the promising prospects in the organization finally reaching St. Louis as well. However, what’s gold doesn’t always glitter, and the bullpen has been remarkably dull in the early season, and already has the team search for new answers on a daily basis.

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Coming into Tuesday, the parallels between the Cardinal staff were huge. While the team’s overall ERA is third in the National League at 3.24, the bullpen’s effort still drug the total down. It has been responsible for three Cardinals losses and had the worst overall ERA in the National League at 5.92. With five of the seven bullpen arms with ERAs over 4.00, it’s been a group effort to drag down every level of the bullpen’s effectiveness.

The current standing of the organization’s roster has created this idea of infinite options to solve every problem the team faces, but in reality facing the situation in the bullpen is the toughest issue for the organization to solve. The quick fix of plugging in a new (fill in the blank uber-prospect) truly denies the complexities of constructing a well-rounded roster, and especially bullpen. The Cardinals early struggles have been because it is a mixture of arms that are searching for new identities on the run. The loss of closer Jason Motte late in spring training is quickly showing to be the worst possible loss for the pitching staff, as there is no easy successor to his role. Even replacing Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse has gone much smoother than finding an answer for the one-inning door closer. Motte was responsible for the most important inning of them all, and has truly shown why not just anybody can be a closer.

But the scramble to find out how to account for the loss of the one absolute part of the pen from a year ago has been rough. Mitchell Boggs, while only truly blowing one save, has not inspired late game confidence. He is sporting an ERA over 9.00 in seven games, and managed to strikeout only one more batter than he’s walked. For whatever reason, he has not shown the same calm execution that he did an inning earlier a year ago, when he set the club record for holds with 34.

Yet he still is the clearest choice of the crowd in the pen for the job. The most frequent name that is clamored for is Trevor Rosenthal, who has in effect become the bridge to Boggs thus far. And while he’s got all the tools of a stereotypical closer (chiefly, the 100 mph fastball), he is absolutely not the answer right now. He’s still working out his arsenal so that he’s not all fastball, and it’s taking some time. In seven games this year, he’s surrendered runs in five of his appearances, and has struggled some with pitch count and location with runners on. These are the same issues Boggs is facing, yet they just aren’t magnified by the spotlight of the ninth inning yet, and are also cushioned by the optimism his promise brings. Although he is a member of the big league squad now, his development is still taking place and that is much better off not being burdened by the ninth inning quite yet.

So what else is there currently? Not much really. Edward Mujica has struggled mightily in his career the later on he has pitched (4.79 and 3.69 8th and 9th inning ERAs). Mark Rzepczynski and Randy Choate aren’t the type, and have an essential to keeping the situational management that eluded the team a year ago. That leaves the undesirable idea of moving a middle reliever to the back end of the bullpen in an ultimate trial run, promoting a new arm to the mix that isn’t ready for the pressure, or the absolute worst option, making a trade. Teams would hang the Cardinals out to dry for prospects and developing Major Leaguers to accommodate such a request, so it seems unlikely that route is taken, especially with the uncertain return date (and recent multi-year contract extension) of Motte still in the picture.

So where does this leave it all at? Boggs may very well not be closer material; he’s labored through nearly every outing thus far. Ultimately, a decision will have to be made, even if it means truly not making one. Is it a committee, based on who is the most capable at the moment, a la 2011? Maybe it’s Rosenthal ascending the role early. Or perhaps it’s Mujica by process of elimination (Matheny had him ready to enter on Monday if the game would have pulled within three). Or maybe it remains Boggs, simply by pulling himself together. Regardless, there’s no other choice that makes clear sense now, and really, “thus far” isn’t that far at all. All of this could be for naught, but for better or worse in the time being, this is what there is to roll with. So affairs will have to straighten themselves out, because there’s no other choice but for them to do so.

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Shortstop News Does Not Require Panic

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that shortstop Rafael Furcal would require Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it starts.

Rafael_Furcal

During the announcement, General Manager John Mozeliak seemed to throw his support behind young Pete Kozma as the immediate solution.  Fans took to Twitter to beg the team to make a trade and acquire someone immediately to fill the void.

Calm down, Cards fans.

Keep in mind that in the grand scheme of things, the Cardinals were not relying on Furcal as much as many fans felt they were.  They signed Ronny Cedeno to be the back up at that position due to the fear that he would not be able to patrol the field.  As Matt Whitener pointed out on last night’s UCB Radio, Cedeno was most likely signed as a back up no matter what.  Furcal’s news does not thrust him into the starting role, it simply means that he will be the backup to someone else.

That someone else, at least for now, is Pete Kozma.  Honestly, doesn’t he deserve the chance?

We all know the Kozma story: first round pick that couldn’t figure out how to hit in the minors, given multiple chances at different levels but never seemed to “click”, then suddenly figured something out on the biggest stage down the stretch in St. Louis last season.

Small sample size aside, those 72 at bats at the major league level last year should, at the very least, earn Kozma the opportunity to prove that it was a fluke.  His defense was suspect last year, but barely below league average, and his offense was suddenly solid with a ..333/.383/.569 slash line.  His strikeouts were high while his walks were low but that is a trend we see with many young players.  Patience comes with experience and experience comes with opportunity.

So far this spring, again small sample size, Kozma has proven that he can hit well, play decent defense, and he is showing an increased level of patience at the plate.  He looks like the first round pick that the Cardinals had so much faith invested in 2007.

Ultimately, we’re talking about the number eight hitter in the Cardinals lineup.  A position that will not be relied on for strong offensive numbers and be looked at to simply handle the position on the field.  The production in this lineup will come from left field, right field, catcher, first base, and third base.

Kozma is showing patience at the plate and the Cardinals are showing that patience with his development might just pay off.  Gaining experience requires an opportunity to present itself.

The opportunity is here.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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Early Patience Is Encouraging For Hosmer

The Kansas City Royals are poised to turn a corner in 2013.  Eric Hosmer and his return to form would be a big part of that.

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars - copyright i70baseball

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars – copyright i70baseball

In a dismal sophomore year for Eric Hosmer, there was an encouraging statistic that jumps out.  His power numbers took a big dip but he started to show patience at the plate and was able to increase his walks dramatically.  During his rookie campaign, Hosmer drew 34 walks and increased that number to 56 during the 2012 season.  Early on in Spring Training, he is showing good pitch selection once again.

It is hard to make much of Spring stats.  It is even harder to try to find something substantial about the stats this early.  The one thing that jumped out of the recent box scores to me was Hosmer drawing two walks and then drilling an RBI triple on Tuesday.

The two walks brings his Spring total to three, in eleven plate appearances.  His average is still low and, other than the triple, there are no extra base hits on his early record.  Still, he is driving in runs early, striking out less, and driving a higher on base percentage.  If he can translate that into his game come time for the regular season, the Royals and their fans will be very happy.

Hosmer’s power numbers will increase as his plate selection gets better.  Many fans are frustrated with the under performance from Hosmer last season and rightfully so.  The team is poised with a strong pitching staff to alter their makeup and show a willingness to win this season.  To get there, Hosmer will need to be a big part of it.

Patience will be the key to his season.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Dayton + Frenchy 4 ever

As I listened to Dayton Moore’s interview with Soren Petro of 810 WHB last week I found many things hard to stomach. For one thing Petro’s questioning was so timid that it started a #ToughQuestionsForDayton hashtag on twitter that sarcastically made fun of him. If we can’t askMoorethe hard questions at this point, when will we? Second, I hated hearingMooremove the goal line once again by suggesting that 2014 will be the year the Kansas City Royals start competing for the playoffs. I thinkDaytonthinks as long as he keeps saying we’re at least two years away there will never be any consequences. Unfortunately, as long as he continues to line David Glass’s pockets, he’s probably right.

As angry as that made me, nothing irked me as much as when the conversation turned to Wil Myers, and of course Jeff Francoeur. It became pretty clear at that point the Frenchy is going to be the starting right fielder for the Royals on Opening Day 2013 and there’s probably not anything Wil Myers can do about that. We should have long known that Myers has no control over his own destiny. After all, he’s hit 33 home runs in 106 games between AA and AAA this season andMoorestill acts as if he has much to prove. He’s not just shown power, but patience as well, walking more times already this season (51) than Frenchy’s career high for one season (42). Now, everyone already knows thatDaytonloves Frenchy, but my question today is, why?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Frenchy too. He’s such a nice guy, he has a cannon for an arm, and he’s apparently a great leader in the clubhouse. All wonderful qualities, but can that really be the reason? IsDaytonthis attached to someone he drafted a little over ten years ago? Did he fall for his tools and remains too blinded by that love to see the facts? If so I’d like to lay them out for him:

-         Frenchy has had two seasons in his eight year career in which he played more than 70 games and had an OPS+ of 100 or better. For a right fielder, that is disgusting.

-         This great leader has made two postseason appearances ( .171 average/268 slugging %) and his arrival inAtlantacoincided almost exactly with the demise of the Braves dynasty.

-         His incredible arm has been far outweighed this season by the fact that he’s developed Jose Guillen range in right field.

-         He is currently having his worst season as a pro, his incredible -2.8 WAR may not even do justice to how terrible he’s been.

-         If the Royals are really two years away from beginning to compete in the worst division in baseball, they have no reason to let Jeff Francoeur stand in the way of their best offensive prospect.

I’m just beating a dead horse now, and we’re stuck with this dead horse for at least another year. Don’t worry though Royals fans, he won’t stand in the way of winning. We are now, and will always be, two years away from competing.

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The future is still brighter

I have written a lot of positive things about a baseball team that sits 9 games under .500 less than 20% of the way through the season. Sure, I see positives…but until those positives start to show up a little more often in the win column, I thought it might be a good idea to change directions. During the Kansas City Royals 12 game losing streak many fans seemed to lose a little patience with “The Process”. I heard people mocking the same “best farm system in baseball” tag that we as fans so often quoted last season. Even within the graduation of a number of stars, the system is still stocked, so I thought I would take a look at the 4 best signs from down on the farm so far in 2012:

  1. Will Myers (AA) is absolutely raking. The 21 year-old outfielder is hitting .339 with an 1.127 OPS. He’s hit 11 home runs and driven in 25 runs in just 31 games.

Kool Aid Drinker’s Take: I for one think it is about time to give Myers the Hosmer treatment. Eric Hosmer ended the 2012 season by hitting 13 home runs and driving in 35 runs in 50 games at Northwest Arkansas. In 2011 the Royals made Hosmer prove it for just 26 games at Omaha before bringing him to Kansas City. Get Myers to Omaha now, and if he dominates like Hoz did, get him to Kansas City. This kid has the ability to be every bit as special at the plate as Hosmer was last season and could help fill in the void in the lineup that has been Jeff Francoeur.

  1. Jake Odorizzi (AA) is striking everyone out. Odorizzi sports a 3.32 ERA with 47 Ks and 10 BBs in 38 innings.

Kool Aid Drinker’s take: I would give Odorizzi until July and if his numbers are anywhere close to the same level it’s time to move him up to Omaha. I think he could turn into a steadier Zack Greinke for the Royals by 2013-2014. His best probably isn’t as good as Greinke’s but it is good enough to battle Danny Duffy for the ace role over the next few seasons.

  1. Jorge Bonifacio (A) is emerging. Bonifacio has slumped lately, but still owns a .390 on base percentage at the age of 18 years old.

Kool Aid Drinker’s take: The kid turns 19 on June 4, meaning he has a lot of development to do before he’s anywhere close to Kansas City. Still, having young talent produce early in the process can only be good for the Royals. If he can keep this up, I think he becomes a prime candidate to be included in any type of trade the Royals might make for a legitimate starter.

  1. Local kid Jason Adam (A) is dominating in Wilmington. Despite his 1-4 record, Adam has been outstanding so far this season with a 2.08 ERA and nearly a 3:1 K-BB ratio.

Kool Aid Drinker’s Take: I’m not sure Adam has much more potential than back of the rotation, but there would be nothing better than seeing another KC kid in uniform 2-3 years down the road.

I have made it clear that I’m not writing off 2012, but it’s nice to know that even as we expect better results this year, the future still looks brighter than the present.

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Moose tacos all around

Patience is truly a virtue.  For Kansas City Royals third basemen, Mike Moustakas, there is no statement more true.  Known as a notoriously slow starter, Moustakas seems to finally becoming the Major League baseball player that he looked to become while he was in the Minor League system. It just takes some getting used to before success comes around for Moustakas.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

He struggled at the beginning of every level in his career including his start in his rookie year in 2011.  But just like the Moustakas of the past it seems that after getting used to playing at the level that is needed for success with the big club, he is beginning to come into his own.  All everyone had heard about was this Moose-something kid that was hitting the cover off of the ball at every level that he had been at but that he was not the greatest defensive third basemen in the world.  Well that, so far in 2012, has yet to be seen.  Moustakas continues to dazzle us all with his plays that he makes at third base.  Not only does he make the plays at third base but it also helps to have as sure-handed of a first basemen as the Royals do in Eric Hosmer.  Hosmer, whom Moustakas continues to give credit to after every question that is asked about his defense, is like a vacuum when it comes to making plays at first base.

Last season, Moustakas began to show that his bat would have a little bit of life in the big leagues.  After a horrible start to his career he had about as good of a month and a half as a rookie could have at the plate, but the speculation was still there.  Not anymore, Moustakas is currently hitting a very respectable .318 with 4 home runs and 15 RBIs, 3 of which came in Thursday night’s win against the New York Yankees.  In that game not only did Moustakas seem to put the team on his back at the plate but made a game winning play at the third base on a short ground ball of the bat of Alex Rodriguez.  The play was tremendous but it was a play earlier in that game that showed that Moustakas is becoming a Major League baseball player.  On a ground ball similar to that that resulted in the final out of the game, Moustakas charged at instead of making the play with his bare hand as he should have he went for it with his glove and could not get the ball into his mitt. Now of course for the last out of the game he would have a play that he could not make earlier in the game but he recognized that is was identical and adjusted his route to the ball making a bare handed play and strong throw to end the Royals home losing streak at 10.

Playing in the Major Leagues is all about the results.  But beyond that it is about not only the long term adjustments that have to be made but also the in game adjustments that may go unnoticed that matter.  The fact that he is a slow starter is not what people will begin to see, but the fact that he has made the adjustments necessary to lead a young Royals ball club to the success that everyone wants is what people will notice.  And again, patience is a virtue, and no one in Major League baseball knows that more right now than Mike Moustakas.  The “Moooooose” battle cry could be ringing through Kauffman Stadium for a long time coming.  A cheer that fans will never get tired of.

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The Hot Corner: Life Without Albert

This edition of The Hot Corner calls for some patience from fans with Albert on the shelf.

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