The Royals were supposed to be the whipping children of the American League. The team, the fans, and every expert around the country stressed that this would be a team to watch in 2012 and 2013. The farm system was the most exciting thing about the entire franchise and it would be the youth movement in the next few years that would lead the Royals back to glory.
Then the season started and the rag-tag bunch of players showed they were fit to play now. They got production from players that the rest of the league laughed at when the Royals announced them as acquisitions. Pitchers threw far beyond their expectations. And the team won.
Jeff Francoeur has emerged as a leader of this team. Most thought that Frenchy was brought in as a stop gap veteran to help the young guys adjust. Francoeur stepped up in April and showed that he was brought in to help a team win. He leads the team with five home runs and twenty runs batted in and his .314 average has shown that he is ready to be the veteran leader that this team needs.
Alex Gordon had dominated. Gordon himself said that this would be the year he dominated. Fans everywhere rolled their eyes at a young player that was overstepping his bounds without anything to base the claim off of. Then the calendar flipped to opening day and Alex Gordon started playing baseball. When April came to a close, Gordon would lead the team with a .339 batting average and would start to realize his gap power potential as he leads the team with twelve doubles. He finds himself among the league leaders in runs scored (3rd, 20), hits (3rd, 27), doubles (2nd) and batting average (5th).
Before the season we looked at what the team needed to do in each month to ensure a solid season. Let’s take a look at what we said they needed to do and what they accomplished.
Total Games: 27 (14 – 13 record)
Home: 16 (11 – 5)
Road: 11 (3 – 8)
Vs teams with winning records in 2010: 15 (10 – 5)
Vs teams with losing records in 2010: 12 (4 – 8)
Vs teams in the AL Central: 16 (8 – 8)
March 31-April 3 vs Los Angeles –
What we said going in: The Angels are being picked by many experts to win the AL West this year and will provide an immediate test for the Royals this season. That being said, the subtext that everyone in Kansas City is talking about revolves around the “Double Header” being billed on April 2nd. That night, following the game with the Angels, the Royals top two farm teams will do battle at Kauffman Stadium, allowing the fans in Kansas City to get a glimpse of the future that lays ahead of the franchise.
The Result: After dropping the home opener, the Royals ripped off three straight wins and showed the league very early on that they planned on being competitive. The futures game on April 2nd was all it was billed to be, but was overshadowed by a major league club that was fighting to be seen as the main attraction.
April 14-21 vs Seattle and Cleveland –
What we said going in: This may be the key week to the early season for the Royals. Some people are wondering if the Royals are not as bad as many are predicting them. If the Royals are to put together a successful season in the win-loss column, it will have to be solidified with wins over teams that are honestly worse than they are. This week projects as a battle between three teams that many pick to be the worst in the American League and will give the Royals an opportunity to prove that they are more than just going through the motions in 2011.
The Result: If the Royals are one of the surprise teams in April, Cleveland is the top of that heap. We said the team needed to win against teams that were worse than them, but we had no idea just how good Cleveland would be to open the season. A split with the Indians in a four game set and taking three of four from the Mariners was just what we thought the team needed.
Key To a Hot Start:
What we said: The Royals do not need a hot start. The team needs to be patient and develop their young players. If they are to separate themselves from the lower half of the American League, they need to take advantage of games against Cleveland, Seattle, and Detroit. They will be tested early by the likes of Minnesota and Chicago and coming away with a .500 record against those teams will go a long way in to convincing fans that the team has improved.
The Result: This team finished the month above .500 but finished at 7-7 against the teams we said they needed to provide winning records against.
At the end of April:
What we said: If the Royals have 14+ wins… they have stepped up and shown that they are not to be considered with the worst teams. Fourteen wins is not out of reach in April, looking at the schedule. If they win each series with Cleveland, Seattle, and Detroit they will have won ten games. A single win against the Angels, White Sox, Twins, and Rangers will get them to fourteen wins and a record that is above .500.
What we’re saying now: Looks like a step in the right direction for the rebuilding Royals. A focus on patience with the farm system will go a long way into turning April 2011 into a successful 2012.
The Royals have surprised everyone and now will be judged on whether or not they can keep up. The team put a target on themselves by winning long before anyone expected them to. They finished the month on a down turn, but still are well within striking distance of making this a solid season.
Only time will tell.