Start from the Beginning – Episode 1: The History of the First Base War
Previous Episode: Can’t Get Fooled Again
Winning is hard, but apparently losing is even harder. Pat Burrell and the Royals had set out to accomplish something far more difficult than sealing the deal on a solid division: blowing it in dramatic fashion. In the past, the Kansas City Royals had made losing games look simple, but in 2014 they were a team of destiny. Not only did they have the general momentum of the 2014-prime timeline on their side, but the improvements made by Pat Burrell and Strike-O-Matic gave them an extra push that was hard to undo. Trading the closer and wrecking the up-the-middle defense by giving starting jobs to Brad Miller, Miguel Sano, and Jesus Montero should have been enough… But was it?
The problem with relying on a poor defense to sink the Royals should have been clear: the team’s three best pitchers were strikeout specialists. Strike-O-Matic, Carlos Martinez, and Kyle Zimmer all had K/9 rates over 8.00, which limited the amount of damage the terrible up-the-middle combination could do to them. Even Jesus Montero was capable of catching a fastball, and Sano/Miller simply didn’t get enough chances to let fieldable balls get away. On the offensive side, they were even barely a step down from the players they were replacing. Miller played about as well as Escobar had, and while Sal Perez was a much better hitter than Jesus Montero, his 2014 numbers simply hadn’t borne that out. And as for Miguel Sano, who should have been completely overmatched in MLB? Well…