Content with AL's worst OBP, Royals bypass Ka'aihue

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The Royals do talk a good game when it comes to on-base percentage. Manager Trey Hillman has cited its importance in numerous interviews since taking over the team prior to 2008, only to put his statements to the lie with every on-field action since.
Of course, GM Dayton Moore hasn’t helped. His acquisitions of Mike Jacobs, Jose Guillen, Yuniesky Betancourt and others demonstrated a blatant disregard for the stat. Moore thinks his eyes tell him everything he needs to know about the ballplayer. But judging by the Royals’ record, he’s either hopelessly wrong or he needs a new pair of contacts.
On Tuesday, with Triple-A Omaha’s season now over, the Royals made what seemingly were their final two callups of the month, barring additional injuries. Added were Alex Gordon and left-hander Lenny DiNardo. Not added was Kila Ka’aihue.
If you haven’t been following along, Ka’aihue was viewed as a pretty generic first-base prospect until breaking through as one of the top performers in the minors in 2008. He hit .314/.456/.628 with 37 homers and a 67/104 K/BB ratio in 401 at-bats between Double- and Triple-A. The Royals did call him up in September, but they barely played him with Ryan Shealy on the way to the month of his life. He hit .286 with one homer and a 2/3 K/BB ratio in 21 at-bats.
Rather than give Ka’aihue and Shealy a chance to battle for a job in 2009, the Royals instead sent Leo Nunez to Florida to bring in Jacobs, a 28-year-old with a dreadful OBP and a worse glove who was coming off a 32-homer season. The move worked out even worse than should have been expected, as Jacobs has hit just .233/.300/.417 in 369 at-bats. He lost his starting job at first base and fell into a platoon DH role, but the Royals have refused to simply release him, even though he’d hardly seem to be in their 2010 plans.
Ka’aihue, meanwhile, did turn in a disappointing season while being stuck in Triple-A. His average slipped to .252 and he delivered a modest 17 homers in 441 at-bats. Still, he did walk 102 times, giving him an outstanding .392 OBP.
To put that in perspective, the Royals’ leader in walks is David DeJesus, with 46 in 511 at-bats. The team leader in OBP is Billy Butler at .354. None of their eight players with at least 300 plate appearances is walking in one-tenth of his PAs, considered the standard for a player with quality plate disclipline. Coco Crisp was before he went down, but he still had just a .336 OBP.
So, Ka’aihue didn’t have a great season. An 825 OPS for a 25-year-old first baseman in the PCL is far from exceptional. If the Royals actually had strong players blocking him, declining to call him up would be understandable. But all they’re going to do is keep running Jacobs and Miguel Olivo out there. It’s one of the most ridiculous decisions yet from a ridiculous team. I’m not at all sure that Ka’aihue is going to be a useful major leaguer, but he’s paid his dues and earned the opportunity. Certainly it makes more sense to give it to him than to continue to waste at-bats on the horrible cast of veterans that have produced the American League’s worst record.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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Adam Hagy/Getty Images
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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).