KC Royals Start Winning With Whit Merrifield


White Merrifield has made his mark on the KC Royals early in his MLB career. Let’s look at the rookie utility man and take a trek around the game.

Sometimes opportunity comes knocking in strange ways. For KC Royals’ rookie Whit Merrifield the circumstances really didn’t matter, he just wanted to prove himself enough to stay in the big leagues.

After hitting safely in 9-of-11 games this month since being summoned from Triple-A, the 27 year-old super-utility man has found a permanent spot on Ned Yost’s lineup card and he’s not looking back. Merrifield spent parts of 6 seasons toiling in the minors before getting his shot with the Royals. All it took was a collision between Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon along with some below average hitting from Kansas City’s middle infield for Merrifield to grab a bus ride from Omaha to Kauffman Stadium.

More from Call to the Pen

His approach to the game has been inspiring to the entire Kansas City clubhouse – the Royals have reeled off 5 wins in a row and have moved into a tie for first in the A.L. Central with the Indians. Last week he bumped Alcides Escobar out of the leadoff spot in the batting order and this week – hit his first major league home run. No big deal. In fact, the Royals have grown comfortable enough with the idea that Merrifield is an everyday contributor they slapped incumbent second baseman Omar Infante with a DFA.

Merrifield received  a pretty handsome endorsement earlier in the week regarding his chances of success the rest of the way  “This kid’s not a flash in the pan,” manager Ned Yost said. “His swing works up here. It’s very compact, very short, he covers the plate really, really well.”

The rookie, who happens to be older than Eric Hosmer, has been in the big leagues for just 30 days and he’s acquitted himself just fine, hitting .330 with 2 HR, 8 RBI and 3 steals. According to Baseball Reference, Merrifield ranks fourth on the Royals in Wins Above Replacement, behind only Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer. Like Yost said earlier in the week, this is no fluke. Merrifield is swinging it well as he’s amassed an .845 OPS vs righties and an equally impressive .846 OPS against left-handers. The power seems to be coming along as well, he’s launched 7 home runs in 244 at-bats between Triple-A Omaha and Kansas City and he’s raised his Isolated Power to .170 this season from a miniscule .099 last year in Triple-A.

There’s no telling where this feel good story will lead to, or if it will even continue into the later stages of the season. Right now, playoff baseball is distant memory and there’s certainly no guarantee that the 2016 season will play on into October. What we do know is this: Whit Merrifield is the real deal and the Royals, along with their fans, have plenty to be excited about.

Around The League

  • There’s much to be excited about when discussing the improvement Javier Baez has made since last season. He’s having a torrid June, hitting .344 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI and he’s mashing left-handed pitching to the tune of a .343/.395/.543 triple slash. Just be aware that a bit of regression might be around the corner. Baez has a lousy contact rate (77%) and he’s proven to be quite impatient at the plate as his 2.1 % walk rate suggests. He’ll need to improve on both of those numbers dramatically if he hopes to see regular playing time once Jorge Soler returns.
  • After a sterling effort against the A’s Thursday afternoon, Colby Lewis pushed his record to 6-0 with a 2.81 ERA. Efficiency has been his calling card in 2016, throwing more strikes than ever (70%) and inducing contact at a 83% clip. In Thursday’s win over Oakland, Lewis allowed just one run on two hits – mystifying the A’s bats with his 87 MPH fastball. Lewis was able to touch 92 MPH once – during the 7th inning – something he hasn’t done since April of 2015. In fact, since 2010, Lewis has thrown just 15 pitches that have reached 92 MPH.
  • Zach Davies has posted wins in four straight starts and owns a 2.35 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 36:6 K:BB in 38 innings.
  • Over his last 6 starts, Michael Fulmer has allowed just 5 ER over 38 2/3 innings, while pitching to a 1.16 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. He’s yet to give up a run over his last 28 innings and he’s the first pitcher to post four consecutive starts with six or more shutout innings and three or fewer hits allowed since the mound was moved out to sixty feet six inches in 1893 .
  • Let’s take a look at a couple of James Shields fun facts that are pretty incredible. And by incredible I mean awful to look at: Shields is the first pitcher since C.C. Sabathia in 2013 to allow at least 7 runs and 8 hits in three straight starts — Until the 5th inning of his start vs the White Sox (6/13) last week, Shields had allowed at least one run in 10 straight innings dating back to May 25th.
  • John Lackey has notched a quality start in each of his last nine outings, while racking up more strikeouts than innings pitched in four of his last five starts. If he’s able to maintain this pace, he’ll post his first season of a K/9 of 9.0 or better in his 14 year career major league career.

Lost in the commotion of whether

Ichiro Suzuki

belongs in the same conversation as

Pete Rose

is just how fantastic of a year he’s having at age 42. In just 140 plate appearances, Ichiro is batting .349 (44-126) with an .807 OPS and 6 of his 44 hits have went for extra bases. He’s certainly not the same player he was when he debuted with the Mariners at age 27, but what he’s done since places him in  rarefied air. He’s logged 2,979 hits since age 27 – ranking second to only….You guessed it, Pete Rose.                                                                        Here are the all-time MLB leaders in hits from age 27 on:

  • 3,357 – Pete Rose
  • 2,979 – Ichiro Suzuki
  • 2,925 – Sam Rice
  • 2,766 – Honus Wagner
  • 2,727 – Cap Anson
  • 2,635 – Stan Musial
  • 2,589 – Ty Cobb

Next: Cubs to promote Willson Contreras

  • Although we’re only 68 games deep into the season, A.J. Ramos has saved 20 games this year without recording a win. He’s well on his way to 30 saves, obviously, and what, you may ask does this have to do with an article in mid-June? Well, since you’re wondering – There have been 26 relief pitchers that have saved at least 30 games in a season without earning a win. Here’s a look at the list. Hopefully you find it as interesting as I did:
  • RkPlayerSVWYearTm
    1Craig Kimbrel4702014ATL
    2Trevor Hoffman4602006SDP
    3Bob Wickman4502005CLE
    4John Smoltz4502003ATL
    5Kazuhiro Sasaki4502001SEA
    6Francisco Cordero4402007MIL
    7John Smoltz4402004ATL
    8Chris Perez3902012CLE
    9Danny Kolb3902004MIL
    10John Franco3801998NYM
    11Lee Smith3701995CAL
    12Aroldis Chapman3602014CIN
    13Jorge Julio3602003BAL
    14Troy Percival3601996CAL
    15Rod Beck3501996SFG
    16Tom Henke3401987TOR
    17Jason Grilli3302013PIT
    18Troy Percival3302003ANA
    19Kevin Gregg3202007FLA
    20Tom Henke3201991TOR
    21David Aardsma3102010SEA
    22Brad Lidge3102009PHI
    23Billy Koch3101999TOR
    24Mike Henneman3101996TEX
    25Brad Ziegler3002015ARI
    26Dennis Eckersley3001996STL