Tag Archive | "American League Central"

The Kansas City Royals aren’t ready for the playoffs yet

If there was any hope the Kansas City Royals would make the playoffs, they were damaged by a seven-game losing streak August 17-24. After sweeping the Friday August 16 doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, the Royals went on to lose two games to the Tigers, three games to the Chicago White Sox and two games to the Washington Nationals. The Royals fell back to .500 and hurt their chances to win a Wild Card spot, much less win the American League Central. But just as the Royals appeared to slip into below .500 oblivion, they won their next four games and as of August 28, they’re four game above .500.

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The Royals aren’t a bad team, but they’re not good enough to be a playoff team either. To sum it up, the team is like Luke Hochevar as a starter: They have spurts of brilliance, then they go on a momentum killing losing streak. If you count winning and losing streaks of four or more games, the Royals have three four-game winning streaks, one six-game winning streak and one nine-game winning streak. Conversely, the Royals have three four-game losing streaks, one eight -game losing streak and one seven-game losing streak. The team is 26-27 in winning and losing streaks of four or more games. And it’s a big reason why they’re just a few games above .500.

The Royals are 8.5 games back of Detroit and seven games back in the Wild Card. The only way the Royals will make the playoffs is to keep winning. And they haven’t showed enough consistency to do that. Yes, they just won four games in a row, but they can just as easily lose four games in a row. And there’s too many A.L. teams who are better than the Royals in the Wild Card race, like the Tampa Rays, the Oakland A’s, and the Baltimore Orioles. The Royals have an easy schedule, but time is running out. They can keep winning games, but if the teams ahead of them in the playoff hunt keep winning games, it won’t matter.

It’s frustrating, but the Royals are playing better than they have in years. And they’re playing well enough to finish above .500. But they’re not playing well enough to make the playoffs.

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Kansas City Royals: Rating The First Half

The All Star break is almost upon us.  We have already played through half of the 2013 season.  This provides us with a great opportunity to evaluate the performance of the Royals thus far and see how they measure up to the rest of the league and explore the possibilities for a second half run at the playoffs.  Coming in at just over the eighty-one game halfway mark of the season, the Royals remain six games out of first place in the American League Central Division and two and a half games behind the Cleveland Indians, putting them in 3rd place.

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The Royal’s record is a slightly disappointing 43-45.  It’s not a very pretty number to look at but still, being only two games below .500 means that they have at least been able to keep pace with the league so far.  Compare this with the Twins and the White Sox who sit at the bottom of the division and below .500 by fourteen and eighteen games respectively and things don’t seem that bad at all.

Rating:  Average

The Tigers have a record of 27-17 playing at home in Detroit.  This is a big reason why they sit atop the Central Division.  Kansas City, on the other hand, has a 22-22 record at home, incredibly unspectacular and perfectly even.  The thing about having home field advantage is that it’s supposed to be…well, an advantage.   Unfortunately the Royals have not been able to capitalize on playing in friendly territory.  This is something that will need to change in a big way in the second half.  Playing at home shouldn’t be a break even scenario if you want to lead your division.  Their record on the road is only two losses worse at 21-23.  Once again, not very inspirational but not the end of the world either.

Rating:  Almost Completely Average

The Royals have given up a total of 351 runs this year to opposing teams.  They have scored a total of 354 runs off of opponents pitching.  That’s a run differential of +3 whole runs.  Comparing the Royals again to the first place Tigers, Detroit has a run differential of +88 but has given up 22 more runs than Kansas City.  So what do the Royals need to improve upon, scoring runs or giving them up?  Well, the Royals currently have a team batting average of .256.  The American League as a whole has a combined batting average of, are you ready for this, .256.  Incredible.  In this particular instance, the Royals literally define the term average.  Every team in the American League can accurately gauge their offensive performance in this category by comparing themselves to the Royals.  Batting average aside, the rest of the offensive numbers for Kansas City align very closely to league averages.

 

Statistic

Royals

MLB

OPS

.691

.719

SLG

.379

.402

OBP

.312

.317

Hits

769

786

2B

150

156

3B

19

15

 

Rating:  Astoundingly Average

Pitching has been one of the better improvements for the Royals this year.  Halfway through the season, the Royals have the 3rd best ERA in the American League at 3.73, well ahead of the league average of 4.10.  Combine this with the fact that the Royals pitchers have pitched the fewest amount of innings than any other team in the American League and that their strikeout totals are below average (not that that’s a good thing) and what you get is a pitching staff that’s efficient and getting ground balls and keeping the damage to a minimum.  Giving up the long ball was a big problem early in the year for Royals pitching but they seem to have that under control now as well as they have only given up 96 home runs on the season compared to the American League average of 98.  Overall, pitching remains a positive in Kansas City.

Rating:  Thankfully, Above Average

Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez will soon be heading to New York for the All Star game.  The team they are representing has been consistently keeping pace but not excelling.  There is still a lot of season left to play and there is nothing stopping the Royals from having an excellent second half and to their credit they are still in contention.  However, average teams don’t typically make the playoffs.

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Royals May 17th Weekend Preview

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The Royals wrap up their California road trip this weekend with a three game series with Oakland.  With the Tigers getting their series with the red hot Rangers off to a humiliating start, this could be a great chance for the Royals to close the one game lead in the American League Central.  Here are the matchups by the numbers.

The A’s are coming off of a losing series against the Rangers.  They were out scored in that series by only a single run.  In 42 games, the A’s have scored 199 runs for an average of close to 5 runs a game.  Strangely enough, the number of runs scored against the A’s is an identical 199.  If the Royals can contain Oakland’s offense this weekend they are sure to like where they sit in the rankings come Monday morning.

Friday:

James Shields gets the start for the Royals.  Shields took the loss in his last game against the Yankees and a no decision against the White Sox.  Both were tough losses for the Royals as Shields only allowed 2 runs to New York and none at all to the Sox.  Shields has struck out close to a batter an inning and owns a 0.97 WHIP.  Look for Big Game James to keep the Oakland offense in check on Friday night.

The A’s will send Jarrod Parker to the hill on Friday to face Shields.  Parker has been pretty terrible thus far.  His only wins so far this year have only come when his team has provided great run support behind him such as his 10-6 win against the Angles.  His ERA is approaching 7 and has been allowing close to 2 base runners an inning.  If Parker turns this around on Friday it will be surprising.

Saturday:

Ervin Santana will start for the Royals.  Santana is coming off of a disappointing game against the Yankees giving up 8 hits, 2 of which were home runs.  The long ball can at times be Santana’s biggest weakness and as mentioned before, the A’s can hit.  Fortunately, the Coliseum is a pitcher friendly park and should help Santana keep in on the field.

Santana will face off against Tommy Milone.  Milone has been pretty hit or miss so far this year.  His ERA is a deceiving 3.71.  He has surrendered 13 earned runs in his last 5 starts, however in two of those starts he shut his opponents down completely.  The Royals hope they get the Tommy Milone that gives up an earned run per inning and not the Tommy Milone that gives up none at all.

Sunday:

Luis Mendoza gets the start on Sunday.  Mendoza has had a rough year so far.  Unlike Santana, his troubles extend past giving up home runs.  Mendoza has given up lots of hits as well as the occasional walk and he has yet to pitch past the 6th inning.  The Royals are going to have to provide Mendoza with a lot of run support to keep this game in control.

Run support could be hard to come by though as A.J. Griffin will be starting for the A’s on Sunday.  Griffin posted a 3.06 ERA last year and has looked sharp so far.  His 3.48 ERA this year is somewhat bloated thanks to one horrendous start against the Red Sox where he gave up 7 runs in 4 innings.  The Royals will have to try to get to Griffin early for the finale of the series.

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The Royals “Come To Play,” but will they have “game” this season?

In a few days, the Royals begin their 2013 season in Surprise, Arizona. The pitchers and catchers report early next week and the position players a few days later. While there was optimism last year, the team believes 2013 is the year they will contend in the American League Central.

Come To Play 2013

The Royals focused their offseason on starting pitching, trading for starting pitchers Ervin Santana, James Shields and Wade Davis. Jeremy Guthrie stayed with the team and signed a three-year, $25MM deal. Except for signing a few veteran position players like Miguel Tejada, Xavier Nady and Endy Chavez to Minor League contracts, the position players are pretty much set. Despite these moves, there’s still some questions coming into Spring Training.

How much will the starting rotation improve? Last year, the Royals starting rotation was the weak link with a 5.01 ERA and 890 total innings pitched, which was 13th in the American League. The Royals bullpen had a 3.17 ERA and pitched 561.1 innings, making them the most worked bullpen in the A.L.

General Manager Dayton Moore wants the starting rotation to pitch at least 1,000 innings this year, an 110 inning improvement. Last year, only two teams had their starting rotation pitch at least 1,000 innings, the Seattle Mariners (1002.2) and the New York Yankees (1001.1).

If Shields pitches like an ace, Guthrie pitches like he did the second half of 2012, Davis and Santana find their starting pitching mojo and Luke Hochevar finds some consistency, it’s possible the starting rotation pitches 1,000 innings. But that’s a lot of if’s and if there is long-term or season ending injuries, the Royals season could be in jeopardy.

Will Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer improve in 2013? Moustakas played pretty well the first half of 2012, but ended up with a .242/.296/.412 average. His defense was good, but his offense fell short. Hosmer struggled all season, ending up with a .232/.304/.359 average. During the offseason, Hosmer worked with his brother to help improve his swing, so there’s hope for improvement. The Royals need Moustakas and Hosmer to live up to their potential if they want to contend this season.

Will Jeff Francoeur bounce back from his dismal 2012? Frenchy is the player fans love to hate, but like it or not, he’s the starting right fielder this season. He has good outfield defense, and if he just plays league average offense, he’ll be better than last year. But if his downward spiral continues, we’ll be seeing Jarrod Dyson, David Lough or someone else patrolling right field.

Can the Royals keep their key players from long-term injuries? Every team has to deal with injuries, but long-term injuries are especially painful for teams like the Royals. Part of the disappointing 2012 season were the injuries to catcher Salvador Perez, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and pitchers Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino. Perez and Cain missed the bulk of the 2012 season and Duffy and Paulino won’t return until the middle of the 2013 season. Injuries happen, but the Royals can’t afford to have injuries like they had last year.

Can the Royals stay away from losing streaks? We all know about the 12-game meltdown last April, but the Royals also had a five-game losing streak in July and a six-game losing streak in September. That’s 23 games worth of losing streaks. If the Royals went 11-12 in those games, they would finish with an 83-79 record, which they haven’t done since 2003. Yes, they wouldn’t make the playoffs. But we’d be talking about the improvements the Royals made in 2012 and the moves the Royals made this offseason would be met with more optimism. And if the Royals have another 12-game losing streak in April, Ned Yost and Dayton Moore might be out of a job by May.

The Royals are a better team than last year, but they have to stay away from long-term injuries and multi-game losing streaks. Moustakas and Hosmer have to improve and Francoeur can’t repeat his 2012 performance. There’s more reason to hope than ever, but the Royals are still a young team and they have their work cut out for them this season.

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Wait ’til next year! (We hope)

If there were any doubts the 2012 season was a lost cause for the Kansas City Royals, their 4-9 record and lackluster play after the All-Star break should erase it. The 12 game losing streak in April, injuries to key players, and the ineffectiveness of the starting rotation doomed the Royals 2012 season. The Royals are likely to suffer their ninth consecutive losing season and finish in fourth or fifth place in the American League Central. This is old news to Royals fans, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

 

There’s still 65 games left in the 2012 season. The Royals have little hope making a playoff run, much less finishing around .500. Despite another lost season, there are some things to look forward to towards the trade deadline and the rest of the season.

The starting lineup is pretty much set and is looking good: Except for second base and right field, the rest of the lineup looks pretty good and they’re locked up for the next few years. The offense is showing more power and despite some defensive miscues in yesterday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels, the Royals defense is a bright spot.

The hopeful emergence of Eric Hosmer: His 2012 season so far is a disappointment, and Hosmer would likely be one of the first to agree. To salvage Hosmer’s season, the Royals moved him to eighth in the batting order. Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is working on Hosmer’s approach at the plate, which is paying dividends. On June 23, Hosmer had a .213 average. In the last month, his average is up to .233.

The great play of Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez: What a case of what might have been for Cain and Perez. If the Royals had both players, or at least one of them for the season, the Royals might have a better win-loss record. Or maybe not. But it’s encouraging how Cain and Perez are playing after being out for almost half of the season. Now they need to stay healthy and play well the rest of the year and in 2013.

The Jonathan Sanchez/Jeremy Guthrie trade: I’m surprised the Royals were able to get anything for Sanchez. I figured Sanchez would clear waivers, refuse an assignment to AAA Omaha and become a free agent. But the Royals got Guthrie, who didn’t work out in Colorado. Guthrie’s start last Sunday didn’t inspire much confidence, but there’s a good chance he will pitch better than Sanchez.

The possible trades of Jeff Franceour, Yuni Betancourt, Jonathan Broxton and Jose Mijares: Of the four, Broxton is garnering the most interest. It’s unlikely the Royals will get a top of the rotation starter for any of these players, but they could get some solid prospects or Major League ready players.

A possible trade for a top of the rotation starter before the trade deadline: It could happen, however remote. If it does, the Royals will have to give up top prospects or perhaps one of their young players on the 25-man roster. Would the Royals trade someone like Hosmer for a top of the rotation starter that’s under team control for two to three years? It would be a big risk, given the fragility of pitchers and the superstar potential of Hosmer. But that may be what it takes for the Royals to gain a number one or two starter they desperately need.

The eventual arrival of Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi: If or when Franceour is moved, Myers will join the Royals in right field. And it’s a matter of time before Odorizzi is called up and joins the starting rotation. Using the rest of the 2012 season to give them playing time will prepare them for the 2013 season and boost interest among Royals fans.

Of course there’s no guarantee 2013 will be any better than 2012. Key players could be injured, or the players the Royals get via free agency or a trade could flame out like Jonathan Sanchez. These are the Royals, after all. But the team is in better shape than they were a few years ago. There is always hope, because hope is all Royals fans have.

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Will the Royals be buyers, sellers, or window shoppers?

So far, 2012 is a disappointing season for the Kansas City Royals. Marred by injuries, a mediocre at best starting rotation and the sophomore slump of first baseman Eric Hosmer, the Royals are 37-47 and 9.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox. In an uphill struggle, the Royals are stuck in neutral and rolling back down the hill.

The Royals are getting outfielder Lorenzo Cain and infielder Chris Getz back from the disabled list. But Cain and Getz will not provide the dramatic turnaround the team needs to contend in a weak American League Central. What the Royals need is to get players via trades. But how the Royals play the next couple of weeks will determine if the Royals are buyers, sellers or window shoppers.

Buyers: If the Royals go 2-8 in the next ten games like they did in the previous ten games, they won’t be buyers until the off-season. And unless General Dayton Moore is willing to give up top prospects for starting pitching, the Royals won’t be buyers. Yes, it would be nice to think the Royals would have a chance with a Matt Garza, Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke. But at 9.5 games out and Moore’s aversion to trading prized prospects, this is a pipe dream. And would Moore trade for a front-line starter even if the Royals were in a tight A.L. Central race? I get the feeling he would say “trust the process,” and stand pat.

If the Royals go on a 8-2 run and play well the rest of the month, they might go for a Shaun Marcum, Jeremy Guthrie or Jason Vargas. But it’s likely the Royals will wait until the off-season to get a starting pitcher through free agency or a trade.

Sellers: This is the likely scenario for the Royals, a path the team has traveled too many times. The trade rumors for closer Jonathan Broxton are warming up and the trade rumors of outfielder Jeff Franceour will intensify as the trade deadline approaches.

In Broxton’s case, teams like the New York Mets need bullpen help and he might fit the bill. I wonder if the Mets would trade starter R.A. Dickey straight up Broxton? It’s doubtful, but it would be cool for the Royals to have a Dickey on the team. If the Mets aren’t interested, perhaps another team will show interest in Broxton.

Another player likely to be traded is Franceour, but don’t underestimate the love Moore has for Frenchy. Franceour’s defense is above average, but his offense has slipped from his numbers last year. And if you think we’re getting top tier prospects for Franceour, keep dreaming. But some low to mid-level prospects or a league replacement level player or two would be a fair trade.

Last month, I wrote an argument for keeping Franceour. But Wil Myers is close to Major League ready and if some other general manager gets the love jones Moore has for Franceour and gives up good players, the Royals have to trade him.

Then there’s outside trade candidates like infielder Yuni Betanourt and starter Bruce Chen. Yes, I said Yuni. Offensively, he had a great June and if Betancourt keeps it up, some team desperate for a utility infielder with some pop might be willing to trade. If that’s the case, Yuni needs to go.

As for Chen, he’s a dependable pitcher who can help out a contending team. The Royals shouldn’t give Chen away, but if the team can get some value, he needs to be traded. Chen’s exit would make way for Jake Odorizzi to join the Royals rotation and get a jump on 2013.

Window shoppers: This is an unlikely scenario, but it’s possible. The Royals wouldn’t get anyone in a trade and keep Broxton, Franceour, Chen and Betancourt. The team would shuttle starters like Nathan Adcock and Everett Teaford back and forth between Kansas City and Omaha. They might call up Myers and Odorizzi and whomever they replace will go to the bench, to AAA Omaha or be designated for assignment.

This scenario could happen if the Royals keep playing like they are or if the team doesn’t get the players they want via trades. They would play out the season and wait for 2013.

The reality is the second half of the 2012 season is shaping up like the second half of previous seasons. Middling to mediocre baseball, young players finding or losing their way in the Majors and a few bright spots in an otherwise dull campaign.

Will this ever change? I hope it does. I was heartened by the cheers fans gave Billy Butler during the All-Star Game. And when fans booed Yankees infielder Robinson Cano for not including Butler in the Home Run Derby, it showed fans still care for the Royals and they desperately want the team to win. Let’s hope the enthusiasm the fans had for Butler will carry over to the rest of the team. But the Royals have to play better baseball if they want to salvage the 2012 season.

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If The Royals Become Buyers…

Currently, the Kansas City Royals sit at 29-35 and 5 games out of 1st place in the American League Central. If they can continue streaking, could they actually become buyers at the trade deadline?

Royals fans are all too used to the same story at the trade deadline every year. Let’s see what assets we have that other contending teams might want and see if we can turn those into anything useful for the future. Is it possible, that with the way the Royals have played since ending their 12 game losing streak in April, that they could actually become buyers at the deadline this year? One can only hope. And barring any injuries to position players, the primary need will be Starting Pitching. So as we sit about 6 weeks away from the trade deadline, let’s examine what starting pitchers might be available for the Royals to pursue.

Cole Hamels (Phillies)-The Philadelphia Phillies are currently 9 games out of first place in the National League East. Hamels is a free agent after this season, and all signs point to the Phils not being able to re-sign him. Assuming they don’t agree to an extension before the deadline, and that the Phillies don’t right the ship, you can bet they will be listening to offers.

Zack Greinke (Brewers)-Same situation as above. Milwaukee is 8.5 games out of first place, Greinke is a free agent, and the chances of the Brewers re-signing him are very slim. If they don’t right their own ship, they will be looking to trade him for a similar package of prospects that they traded away to get him from the Royals.

Shaun Marcum (Brewers)-Again, if the Brewers aren’t in contention, they will be looking to move Marcum, who is also a free agent at the end of 2012 and a Kansas City native as well.

Brandon McCarthy (Athletics)-McCarthy is having another very solid season, and will be a free agent after this season. And the Oakland Athletics are going nowhere in 2012, so it would be shocking to see him finish the season in an A’s uniform.

Francisco Liriano (Twins)-While it is not likely the Minnesota Twins would be willing to trade Liriano to a division rival like the Royals, he is also the guy on this list that would command the least in return. There is no denying his ability, so he would be worth a gamble for the Royals or another team in need of starting pitching for the stretch run.

Wandy Rodriguez (Astros)-The Astros are trying to rebuild, and though Rodriguez is signed through 2013, they don’t figure to be contending until after that. So he will likely be made available at this year’s deadline. The left-hander would be a solid addition to the Royals staff not only this year, but next year as well if they could land him.

Ryan Dempster (Cubs)-Dempster has pitched very well this season, but the Chicago Cubs are the worst team in baseball and Dempster will be a free agent after the 2012 season. It is highly unlikely the rebuilding Cubs would be willing to invest in a multi-year deal with the 35 year-old Dempster, so he is bound to be made available.

Matt Garza (Cubs)-Garza will be arbitration-eligible after this season, and a free agent after the 2013 season. Like the Astros, the Cubs don’t figure to be competitive until long after 2013, so they might as well move him while he has value.

So as you can see, there should be no shortage of capable starting pitchers available at the deadline. And the Royals have no shortage of desirable prospects to deal away. It would sure be nice to have the shoe on the other foot for a change.

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Injuries Make It Difficult To Judge These Royals

If you had been asleep since March and woke up and looked at the Major League Baseball standings, you would see that the Kansas City Royals are currently sitting in 4th place with a record of 24-34, 1/2 game out of last place in the American League Central, with only the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres having fewer wins in all of Major League Baseball. And if this was all you saw, your reaction would be “same old Royals”. However, it isn’t quite that simple.

In 2011, the Royals as a team stayed remarkably healthy. No everyday position player spent any considerable amount of time on the Disabled List. Danny Duffy got shut down early, but otherwise the starting rotation stayed relatively healthy.

2012 has been an entirely different story. 2 key position players that were penciled into the starting lineup for the entire season, Catcher Salvador Perez and CF Lorenzo Cain, have been out all and most of the season respectively. Starting 2nd baseman Chris Getz has been on the DL for about a month. Closer Joakim Soria was diagnosed with a torn elbow ligament in Spring Training and is out for the season with Tommy John surgery. SP Danny Duffy was diagnosed with the same a month ago and is finished for the year. SP Felipe Paulino, sandwiched around a very impressive month in the rotation, has 2 stints on the DL, the 2nd of which he is currently serving. And even though he wasn’t very good before the injury, SP Jonathan Sanchez is also serving time on the DL.

Even in their worst of nightmares, Dayton Moore and Ned Yost couldn’t have planned for this sort of contingency. 4 out of every 5 nights (Bruce Chen‘s outings being the lone exception), the Royals are bringing a knife to a gun fight with the starting pitchers they are sending out there. Of the 5 pitchers in the Royals current starting rotation (Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Vin Mazzaro, Nate Adcock, and Luis Mendoza), only Chen figures at this point to be a sure thing in next year’s rotation, and none of the 5 would figure to be in the rotation beyond next year unless something goes terribly wrong. So what are we supposed to be watching? This is basically a competition between a bunch of guys who would all figure to be 5th starters at best, to determine who is worth keeping around at AAA for an emergency spot start in 2013.

So Royals fans, it is time to quit paying attention to the standings. Things to pay attention to going forward would include:

-Eric Hosmer‘s ability to continue to break out of his extended early season slump
-Alex Gordon as he continues to recover from his slow start to the year
-Mike Moustakas as he emerges as one of the best offensive and defensive 3rd basemen in the game much earlier than anyone anticipated
-Salvador Perez as he returns from the Disabled List this week
-Alcides Escobar as he continues to establish himself as the premier defensive SS in the game
-The development of SP Jake Odorizzi as he continues to excel at AAA Omaha
-And of course, the inevitable call-up of the later “golden boy” of the organization, Wil Myers.

There are plenty of things to be excited about the rest of this Royals season. Unfortunately, contending for the playoffs is no longer one of them. Perhaps 2013 will be “Our Time”

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The Royals are playing better, but they still need to improve

Despite a 7-16 record and a recent 12 game losing streak, the Kansas City Royals went 4-3 on their last road trip and are only five games out of first place in the American League Central. And in six of their 16 losses, they only lost by one run. If the Royals went 6-6 instead of 0-12 during their losing streak, they would be 13-10 and leading the A.L. Central. Fans would be talking about how awesome the Royals are instead of how much they stink. The 2012 season has its share of disappointments, but at least the Royals are playing better baseball.

There’s still room for improvement and winning some games at home would be nice. If the 2012 Royals don’t want to turn into the Royals of years gone by, they need to address these issues.

The Royals get a lot of hits, but they don’t score a lot of runs: The Royals as a team are 6th in the American League with 191 hits, 2nd in the A.L. with 49 doubles and 5th in the league with four triples. That’s good. But the Royals are 10th in the league with 20 home runs and 12th in the league with 83 runs. Yes, hits are good, but if you’re not driving in runs, hits only improve a player’s batting average. And speaking of team batting average, the Royals are 5th in the league with a .263 average. Not bad, but hits doesn’t win games, scoring runs win games. But I’m sure the Royals already know that. I think.

Eric Hosmer has a .183 batting average: It’s frustrating when your potential superstar player plays every game and makes Mario Mendoza‘s batting average look good. Hosmer has 17 hits, which is the least among everyday players. Along with Billy Butler, Hosmer does lead the team with five home runs and he’s 2nd on the team with 14 RBI, so at least he’s got the scoring runs thing down. Does his recent struggles mean Hosmer can’t hit? No way. Hosmer is making solid contact when he does hit the ball. The problem is he usually hits it to an opposing player. When Hosmer figures out how to hit ‘em where they ain’t, his and the Royals fortunes will improve.

Stolen bases are cool, but being caught stealing is not cool: The Royals are 4th in the A.L. with 14 stolen bases, but they’ve been caught stealing eight times, which is the most in the A.L. At least the Royals lead the league in something. I’m not sure if the batteries in first base coach Doug Sisson’s stopwatch need to be replaced, but if the Royals can’t run any better on the base paths, they need to stay put. There’s nothing wrong with making things happen, but making outs isn’t one of them.

Luke Hochevar and giving up a big inning: Here’s an interesting statistic. If you take away Hochevar’s seven run first inning against the Cleveland Indians and the five run first inning against the Detroit Tigers, Hochevar would have a 3.49 ERA instead of the 7.36 ERA he has now. Fans would be talking about Hochevar finally figuring it out. Instead, fans see the same old Hochevar: He has a tendency to give up a lot of runs in an inning and then pitches lights out in the other innings. It’s Hochevar’s inconsistency that’s frustrated Royals fans since he’s been with the team. The good news is Hochevar hasn’t given up any home runs, but there’s always his next start.

Key players are hurt and aren’t returning soon: Center fielder Lorenzo Cain was supposed to join the Royals last week, but a strained hip flexor during his rehab assignment has set his return back a few weeks. Meanwhile, the Royals called up Jarrod Dyson from AAA Omaha and he’s the starting center fielder.

Catcher Salvador Perez is tentatively set to return around the All-Star break and his recovery is going well, according to the Royals. Brayan Pena and Humberto Quintero are doing a serviceable job, but fans have to wonder where the team would be if Perez wasn’t injured.

With the bullpen’s inconsistent performance, the season ending loss of Joakim Soria is being felt. The Royals have shuffled several relievers between Kansas City and Omaha, trying to improve the bullpen. Fun fact: since the Royals called up reliever and Kansas City native Tommy Hottovy, the Royals have gone 4-3. Maybe if the Royals broke camp with Hottovy, they wouldn’t be 7-16. Probably not, but who knows.

The good news is starter Felipe Paulino is back with the Royals and is expected to start this Saturday’s game against the New York Yankees. And next week, reliever Greg Holland is expected to go on a minor-league rehab assignment with AA Northwest Arkansas after recovering from a left rib stress reaction. Both players need to return to their 2011 form if the Royals hope to improve.

The team is playing better and they’re not out of it yet. But the Royals have a challenging stretch of games ahead of them, including a seven game home stand against the always tough Yankees and the resurgent Boston Red Sox. And it doesn’t get any better, with games against the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, teams who are playing well. If the Royals want to get out of the hole they dug themselves into, they need to address these issues and get their key players back.

 

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Royals fall flat on their face at home

Well, the Kansas City Royals aren’t making it easy to be a fan, are they? With a 3-8 record through Tuesday and losing to the Detroit Tigers 4-3 while I’m writing this Wednesday night, the Royals are digging themselves into the American League Central cellar. Again.

In 2004, the Royals and former manager Tony Pena came up with the slogan, “Together We Can,” after a surprising 83-79 2003 season. It showed the optimism of a promising 2004 season. However, by mid season “Together We Can” became a punchline and the Royals ended up with a 58-104 record.

This year, the slogan is “Our Time.” But after a six game losing streak, it appears it’s “our time” for the Royals to be the same old Royals. Let’s look at the good (it’s Our Time) and the bad (same old Royals) of the 2012 season.

It’s Our Time: Danny Duffy is pretty good. In two starts, the Royals fifth starter is pitching like a, well, at least a number two or three starter. In two starts, Duffy has a 2.13 ERA with a team leading 15 strikeouts and 12.2 innings pitched. Sure, he gave up two home runs in a loss to the Detroit Tigers and he’s issued five walks. Besides Bruce Chen, he’s doing something the other starters are not: pitching effectively every start.

Same old Royals: Uh, what’s up with Greg Holland? In six games, Holland pitched 6.1 innings, giving up five runs and 10 hits. In 2011, Holland pitched 60 innings and gave up just 13 runs and 37 hits. And he’s giving up these runs when the Royals can’t afford to give up runs. The bright side is he has 10 strikeouts, two walks and hasn’t give up any home runs yet. But so far he’s not the Greg Holland of 2011.

It’s Our Time: Billy is being Billy. As of Tuesday, Butler has a .356/.370/.622 line, leading the team with 16 hits, eight of them for extra bases. He also leads the team with nine RBI. Sure, Butler is a slow runner and he needs to hit more home runs, but he’s a bright spot in a lineup that’s looking a little dim.

Same old Royals: Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer are under the Mario Mendoza line. As of Tuesday, Gordon is hitting .140/.245/.233 and Hosmer is at .182/.280/.364. They’re also striking out a lot, with Gordon at 16 and Hosmer at eight. They are leading the team in taking walks, each with six free passes. But they need to start hitting, especially with runners on base.

It’s Our Time: Alex Gordon is doing well in left field. Where Gordon is struggling at the plate, he’s making it up for his play in left field. He’s made some spectacular catches, including one where he bounced his face on the turf, holding on to the ball. He also leads the outfielders with 23 putouts.

Same old Royals: The Royals sure miss Lorenzo Cain‘s defense. When Cain was playing, he wasn’t hitting well, with only a .133/.176/.133 line. But his play in center was good, getting balls Melky Cabrera probably wouldn’t get. And there was the great catch in Oakland that resulted in a double play and a stint on the DL with a groin injury.

The Royals called up Jarrod Dyson from AAA Omaha and with his speed the Royals started him in center. Well, he was fast, but speed doesn’t matter when you misjudge fly balls and they sail over your head. After two games, the Royals sent Dyson back to Omaha. Now Mitch Maier is starting in center field, who should have been starting there in the first place.

It’s Our Time: It’s early in the season. They have time to figure it out. Over a 162 game season, the Royals have played about ten percent of their games. And if a few things had gone differently in their losses, they might have a chance to win those games, except last Sunday’s game against the Indians. When the Royals pitching is good, the offense struggles. If the offense is good, the pitching struggles. If the Royals get the pitching and offense working together, they will win more games.

Same old Royals: The Royals have no problem losing several games in a row, and they usually play bad in April. Since 2007, the Royals are 55-70 in April. However, except in 2007 (8-18) and 2010 (9-14), the Royals have been around .500 in the other years. Of course the team does have a knack of losing several games in a row and maybe win a few games in a row here and there. When the losing happens early in the season, it magnifies the Royals struggles and gets fans thinking about the Chiefs upcoming season.

The Royals aren’t doing themselves any favors losing six games in a row, with five of them against A.L. Central opponents. If the Royals want to make 2012 their time and not be the same old Royals, they need to get their offense going, stay away from big innings and get Lorenzo Cain back in center field.

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