Last week I wrote that I felt the Cleveland Indians series could be the turning point in the Kansas City Royals 2012 season, and a week later I’d have to say so far, so good. The club split a pair of rain-shortened series with the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers and currently holds a 2-1 series lead over the New York Yankees. Since snapping their self-inflicted 12-game losing streak the Royals are 6-4 and regardless of what happens today will have gone 4 straight series without losing a series. They’re still 5.5 games out of first, which is still phenomenal considering how bad they were at home in April. However, their recent steadying of the ship isn’t the most encouraging sign, it’s not even close:
Mike Moustakas has been en fuego. Over the last week Moose has his .318/.375/.682 and has been every bit as good with the glove. His bare hand play to save game one of the Yankees series was iconic. He’s only 23 so I’m sure there are a few slumps on the way, but this kid looks like the Royals best bet to make the All Star Game at this point.
They are who we thought they were. Those famous words from Dennis Green can now be spoken about our red hot bullpen. Even without Joakim Soria and Greg Holland, the bullpen is turning into the strength we’d hoped it’d be. Through 10 games, Jonathan Broxton has a 1.86 ERA and has converted 5 out of 6 save opportunities. Tim Collins has a 2.30 ERA and has struck out 12 while walking only 3 in 15 2/3 innings. Tommy Hottovy, Nate Adcock, Jose Mijares, and Kelvin Herrera all have ERAs below 3.50.
The return of Felipe Paulino. I struggled to understand in Spring Training why Paulino seemed to be the most questioned starter coming back for the Royals. From the time he joined the club in 2011 he was arguably the Royals best starter. Replacing Luis Mendoza with Paulino is a huge upgrade in the rotation. Essentially you’ve taken long reliever out of the rotation and replaced him with a true #4 that has the potential to be a #3. Paulino’s debut against the Yankees (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K) did nothing to discourage me from thinking he makes this club a lot better. Basically, bad Paulino is like good Mendoza, and good Paulino is the best pitcher on this staff.
Future All-Star Danny Duffy looks to be fine. After skipping a start with elbow soreness, Duffy returned to light up the radar gun and pick up a win. Duffy has a lot of work to do in terms of limiting his pitch count, but even after 1 terrible start and 1 skipped start his 2012 line projects out to 12-13 wins, a sub 4 ERA and 160+ strikeouts.
While this does explain the Royals improved play, what does it say for the future? More importantly, is there any chance the Royals can dig out of this hole? Jeff Francoeur famously told us to check back at the end of May, but that’s far too soon to expect the Royals to get back to .500, at least in my mind. The club can legitimately hope to have Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain back in July which I think should make this club even better than they’ve been the last two weeks.
With that in mind, I think July 31 is legitimately when you could expect to see them back at .500, and essentially back in the Central Division race. To do that they only need to play 3 games over .500 in each of the next months. From that point they play 35 games against division opponents and will have every opportunity to win their way into the playoffs with (hopefully) a full deck of cards for the first time all season.