The first week of the baseball season is over. Fan bases across the country are analyzing their teams’ starts; comparing them to last year’s team, other teams in their division, and wondering if it means anything. Royals fans are no different. Because the season is so young every game gets dissected a little more than it should.
On Opening Day we were greeted with exactly the same team we left in 2010. Bad starting pitching and defense, plus runners left in scoring position equals Royals fans screaming about 110 losses and another lost season. 72 hours later things were looking up as the Royals had won their next three in their last at bat. I heard more zealous Royals fans utter the phrase….”magic number”. Maybe that was in jest, but in order to jest there must be some amount of hope or truth.
Like all things in life, not just in baseball. The answer is somewhere in between. If you look back at Royals starts since 2002 you will find their start after 6 games doesn’t mean much. In 2004 the Royals started 4-2 at home before losing all but one game on an eight game road trip. That team finished with, at that time, the worst record in franchise history, 58-104. The worst record was in 2005, 56-106. In 2000 the Royals started with a similar home stand that included three walk-off wins. They then left on a nine game, three-city road trip, and lost every game. In 2009 the Royals got off to a spectacular start. On May 7th they had a record of 18-11 and had a 3 game lead in the division. Eventually the league adjusted to Mike Jacobs and he never adjusted back. Coco Crisp got injured. By Memorial Day the Royals were 23-27 and back in 4th place. They finished 65-97.
I think the Royals will be better than the national and local media has been giving them credit. Alcides Escobar’s defense is something we haven’t seen in a while. Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, and Jeremy Jeffress has been so impressive out of the bullpen I almost welcome the starters getting the hook. Jeff Francis has looked good through two starts despite not having a win. Chris Getz, and Alex Gordon seem to have improved, and Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Francoeur are hitting like they did earlier in their careers. And the most shocking…As of this writing the Royals lead the American League in walks!…by 7!
There are some concerns. Any starter not named Francis has been terrible. I’m beginning to wonder if Luke Hochaver will ever turn into the pitcher who thought he was good enough he held out before he signed a huge signing bonus. If the starters remain this bad, you cannot expect the bullpen to keep up their dominance. What happened during the final White Sox game is a good example. With 162 games, the major league level is a game of adjustments. Will the league adjust to the Royals new found offense? Will the league adjust to the bullpen once scouting reports begin circulating? All these questions, and they haven’t even played a road game.
Am I being a buzzkill? You could call me that. Royals fans have endured so much losing that even the slightest glimmer of hope has us acting like a bunch of 8-year-old fanboys ready to give the team a parade. The last week has been exciting. Last Saturday while attending the Angels and Futures Game I screamed my head off till my vocal cords hurt. I’ve done my share of coming off the couch when watching at home. However, one week does not make a season.
I’m pretty sure the Royals will not contend this year, but there are reasons to pay attention. If you don’t want to watch a shortstop throw a runner out at first from shallow left you need to find another sport to watch. Watching Tim Collins pitch is a wonder of mechanics and physics. Coming into the season most rational fans were looking for pieces from an improved farm system. The early indications are positive. Watching a good baseball team is always entertaining. The Royals are entertaining, but do not confuse entertaining with good.