Coming off of an opening weekend trip at an even .500, the Kansas City Royals have not played up to par in the first homestand of the year. It seems that the two biggest parts of baseball, hitting and pitching, have not been able to be in sync at Kauffman Stadium. When they have scored runs the pitchers have given up more, and when the pitchers have given the team a great chance to win the hitters have not produced enough runs. A cliche in this day in age of sports is that when the team is winning it is the players and when they are losing everyone wants to blame the coach. While this is a falacy in many cases it is started to look like it is ocming to fruition in Kansas City. Yes, some of the players are to be blamed with the lack of production but even when the Royals seem to be in a game that they could win, a decision or two have been made that shape the rest of the game towards the negative side of the box score.
While I do believe Royals manager, Ned Yost, is great for a young team and is good at getting the team to like him, as he has been known as a players manager, he seems to have trouble with the in-game management that is needed to be successful in the Major Leagues. In the first six games at Kauffman Stadium he has made some decisions with both the bullpen and pinch hitting/running late in games that have seemed to turn the tide of the game in the visitors favor.
To start off the homestand Yost changed up the lineup a lot by taking Alex Gordon out of the leadoff spot, a position that led him to a career year last season, putting Jeff Franceour in the two hole, a position that was baffling to most fans and maybe even Franchy himself, and leading off Jarrod Dyson whom had just been called up from AAA Omaha after the Royals placed Lorenzo Cain on the 15-Day Disable List. Now, lets disect this decision first. One why would you mess with a guy who has seemed to have success at the leadoff position while he has had that role. Gordon did and has started the year off on a slow note but why mess with the guys head even more. If he is having struggles with the bat why move him around to a position in the order that he is not familiar with nor has been in for over a year and a half. After that, why would you have Franceour in the two hole. The two spot in the lineup is supposed to be the guy who has some speed and can handle the bat well to move the leadoff hitter over. Francouer has shown throughout his career that he is a free swinging righty who may not be able to place a hit to the opposite field to move runners over. Now to move runners over they have to be on base and Jarrod Dyson is still yet to prove that he can hit at this level so neither him leading off, and not getting on, nor batting Franceour right behind him, to move someone over that is not there. This little experiment did not pay off for Yost and the Royals as he came to his senses and re-ordered the lineup for Sunday’s ballgame against the Cleveland Indians. I believe that Yost is looking to far into the righty vs. righty an lefty vs. lefty matchups. Some hitters may have more success at the plate while facing an arm opposite of their side of the plate but by the time guys get to the Majors they have faced their share of both left and right handed pitching and should be able to swing the bat against an array of pitching arms.
The next thing that Yost has seemed to have trouble with is managing his bullpen. Now I do not know if this is Yost making all of the decisions or if pitching coach, Dave Eiland, is making the calls but the way that the bullpen, that was supposed to be the strenght of this ball club, has been run. In last Saturday’s game against the Indians, the Royals found themselves in a seven run hole that they eventually dug their way out of tying the game on an eighth inning homerun by Yuniesky Betancourt. But it is not the way that the Royals came back that is suspect it is the way the pitching was handled. After Jonathan Sanchez threw his stellar two plus innings, Tim Collins came in and was allowed to give up four more runs. Now if your starter gives up five runs and then you bring in a pitcher and you see him give up four runs where does the line end. Collins should never have been allowed to stay in as long as he did. But that is still not the issue I have with Saturday’s game. Kevlin Herrera pitched a scoreless sixth inning while only throwing 11 pitches. Then he gets pulled for Jose Mijares who yes pitched a scoreless inning as well but Herrera had great stuff but was pulled because the left handed match ups that Mijares would have in the seventh were more favored. In both the eighth and ninth innings of the game, Aaron Crow and Jonathan Broxton pitched scoreless innings while only throwing ten pitches each. My problem with the fact that three of the Royals hardest throwing arms were only allowed to throw ten pitches a piece is because in the post game press conference Yost said that he wanted to save the arms for tomorrow. One, this team needs to worry about winning the game at hand and not about tomorrow’s game, and two, the only reliever from Saturday to pitch on Sunday was Jose Mijares. Now, none of the three, Herrera, Crow, or Broxton, needed to be saved for Sunday obviously because they did not pitch on Sunday. Yet, they had so many arms saved in the bullpen from Saturday’s game that they needed back up outfielder Mitch Maier to pitch on Sunday. That is just not smart baseball and it is not owning up to things that have been said.
All fans have heard over the course of Spring Training and the early part of the season is how this team is going to take it one game at a time and try to win every ball game, but when you have decisions like the examples being mentions made winning will become scarce for the 2012 Kansas City Royals. Right now it seems to not being their time but it may be “Our Time” to start looking for a new skipper on the top step of the first base dugout.