Tag Archive | "Kansas City"

Examining the Royals’ rest of season schedule

The end of the season is drawing closer and closer and the playoff race is heating up in the American League. The Kansas City Royals, despite dropping two of three games in Detroit, still have hopes of catching one of the two wild card spots.

JamesShields

Kansas City currently sits 3.5 games behind the Rays and the Rangers who are both 81-67 and would be the two wild card teams if the season ended today.

The problem for the Royals is they would have to pass four teams in order to make the postseason. The Indians are just 0.5 games out of the wild card, while the Orioles are 2.5 and the Yankees are 3.0. The Royals have 13 games remaining and need to get hot quickly. Let’s take a look at the Royals’ remaining schedule:

3-game home set with the Indians starting Monday
This is a big opportunity for the Royals to make up games in the standings. Kansas City is 7-9 on the season against the Indians, but they took two of three at the Tribe a week ago. The Royals will have ace James Shields on the mound to open the three-game set, going up against lefty Scott Kazmir of the Indians. Shields beat Kazmir back on September 11 in Cleveland.

3-game home set with Rangers starting 9/20
This is another chance for the Royals to make up ground in the wild card race. Texas has struggled in September after leading the AL west for a large portion of the year. The Royals are just 1-2 against Texas this year, after losing a series back in early June.

3-game set at the Mariners starting 9/23
The Royals are 3-1 this year against Seattle after taking three of four in a home series with the Mariners back in the first week of September. All four games in that series were deciding by two runs or less, so this should be a challenging series for the Royals in a time where they need to pick up victories.

4-game set at the White Sox starting 9/26
The Royals close the season in Chicago facing the last-place White Sox. This could be a dangerous series as the White Sox have little to play for except for spoiling the Royals’ season. Chicago actually leads this season series 8-7, but the two teams haven’t met since the end of July.

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The Kansas City Royals Did Not Lose The Trade

The Kansas City Royals trounced the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. We got to watch Wil Myers play. Which brings up the one thing that will always be associated with Myers to baseball fans and especially KC baseball fans. The trade.

JamesShields

The common wisdom about the James Shields for Wil Myers trade was that The Royals were making a huge mistake. Without any of the players yet to have played for their new teams, it was deemed a failure for Kansas City. It was also immediately speculated that the only reason Dayton Moore even made the trade was to save his job by throwing away the future to squeak out a .500 season.

Here is a Yahoo Sports article that came out immediately after the trade that heralded it as a failure for The Royals. Now I also cringed when the trade was made. More for what Myers could be plus I had to watch Jeff Francoeur start another season (without realizing at the time the blessing of his release was in the future). I remember before the trade saying that if they were to do it, Matt Moore better be in the package. But as we all know now he wasn’t. It was James Shields with Wade Davis thrown in.

So now as we’re over three-fourths of the way through the season, with only a little over a month  left, I wanted to look at what has transpired and what is possible for the rest of the season. While looking over the evidence it occurred to me, so far this trade hasn’t been that bad for the Royals. I want to use the doom and gloom of the Yahoo article to compare to what has happened and to come to this conclusion:

It may turn out to be a good trade for the Royals for these reasons:

Wil Myers is not Mike Trout (yet)

Myers hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 homers with 140 strikeouts in 591 plate appearances at Class AA and AAA. He’s a blue chip prospect who turns 22 on Monday. Myers might turn into Ryan Braun. He also might turn into Josh Willingham, which would be OK for the Rays. Or he possibly could flame out like Joe Charboneau. If he’s like Braun, Royals fans will rue his loss for 20 years. And then into eternity after he retires.  – Yahoo

And yes that is all true. All of those different random things could happen, but none of it has happened yet. Including this year, Myers first full year in baseball. Can you imagine the pain we would have felt if he did what Trout or even Harper did last year? Of course rookie years mean nothing, as even Ken Griffey Jr had a rough rookie year. But at least he has not torn the league apart yet like those guys have. This year he is hitting .302/.356/.472 with 9 homeruns. Many players on The Royals are trumping that.

Not only is he not better than Trout or Harper, he’s barely better than Lough

Francoeur was the obvious replacement player for Myers. But since baseball is a beautiful game, David Lough has stepped up and surprised everyone in right field. With Myers’ aforementioned slash, he has a WAR of 2.o. Lough, comparably, has a WAR of 1.8 regardless of his weaker slash of .287/.307/.408. How is he doing it? With phenomenal defense. Those paying closer attention to the stats will see that with a strong final month of the season, Lough could steal the Rookie of the Year award away from Myers. How good will that feel to KC?

Plus, with Lough being a rookie, who’s to say he can’t continue to improve and put up a career comparable to Myers?

The Underrated James Shields

Shields has pitched 14 complete games, has six shutouts and has 448 strikeouts over the past two seasons. That’s all great, but his career 3.89 ERA is barely above-average in quality, and he’s logged 1,454 2/3 innings, which is a little concerning. He’s not as good as David Price, and he probably won’t be as good as Matt Moore going forward. The Royals are getting the Rays’ third-best pitcher.  –Yahoo

I don’t care his record is 8-8. I don’t care his ERA is a respectable 3.22. I don’t care his WHIP is a respectable 1.27. What I care about is he is an innings machine and has done this over 181 innings. Which is why his WAR is 2.9. I don’t get why this is hard for people like the author of the Yahoo article to understand. It’s like when you do cardio at the gym. You can get your heart rate up to 160 for 10 minutes. That’s good and all, but if you can sustain a lesser 140 heart rate for 40 minutes, you are getting a better workout. His WAR in 2012 was 3.9. 2011 was 4.5.

Shields is the 140 heart rate for 40 minutes pitcher. And yes, he is an ace.

Shields May Re-Sign

Though he is due $9 million in 2013 and a $12 million team option in ’14 — very reasonable — Shields will be a free agent after that and the Royals are a small-market team, if you hadn’t heard. If they are to make use of his skills and what he represents, they’ll have to make the playoffs in the next two seasons. They have not done so since 1985. Kansas City has finished with one winning record this millennium, in 2003.  –Yahoo

The Yahoo article contradicts itself. It warns to be careful of decline from Shields because of the amount of innings under his belt, but claims he is entitled to a large contract in spite of his innings count. Regardless, I consider Shields to be about the same level as Gil Meche when he signed with KC. Shields seems to be happy in KC and has made comments about resigning.

So on the surface, The Royals get him for 2 years. But this can be like McGwire trade for The Cards. Where it was for a few months, but turned into the rest of his career. Don’t take the Shields-for-two-years talk as gospel. He could easily be a Royal in 2015. Especially if they keep winning.

The Royals need a .500 season

Everything about that sentence kills me. It’s not the way I look at the game. You either win or you don’t. You either make the playoffs or not. But since The Royals haven’t been .500 in ten years and haven’t made the playoffs since 1985, this may be the exception to the rule (along with The Pirates).

The Royals are a black hole of signing players. It’s been widely reported that they are one of the teams players just don’t want to go to. A big reason is their history of losing. A .500 season, as this year may bring, would be good for both the fans and the future. And may be worth bringing Shields in alone.

Davis is not as bad as everyone says.  Odorizzi, on the other hand…

But funnily enough, you just hear people complain about Davis. Yes Davis is just okay. 6-10 with a 5.67 era. But the amount of innings he’s thrown is impressive. His FIP is much lower though. Opponents BABIP is ridiculously high against him to the point where it should be taken with a grain of salt as an outlier. And his WAR is still 1.5.

Odorizzi however, for The Rays, has an era of 6.00, a WHIP of 1.44 and has generally been crushed. Yet the media just talks about Davis.

The Royals Need To Win Games, Not The Trade

Even if Myers takes off, Lough regresses and Shields leave The Royals, it doesn’t matter if the The Royals can end over .500 and do something next year. Kansas City needs a shot at the playoffs. The Royals need a World Series. Myers could be the next Ted Williams. The Royals could have let the next Williams go. But keep in mind, Ted Williams never won a World Series. But with Shields and the talent shown in the second half by The Royals, it could all be worth it next year.

Because prospects come and go, but flags fly forever. And the trade being a failure for The Royals is still just wild speculation.

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Chen making the most of move back to rotation

The Kansas City Royals continued their winning ways on Thursday night, getting a great performance from Bruce Chen. Chen shut down the best offense in baseball, the Red Sox, in 7.2 innings of dominant pitching.

BruceChen

Chen didn’t allow a run against first-place Boston. He only recorded two strikeouts, but he continually changed speeds and forced weak contact from Red Sox hitters.

Chen, a 15-year MLB veteran, has been a revelation for the Royals this year since moving back into the starting rotation. He replaced Luis Mendoza in the Kansas City rotation, with his first start coming July 12 against the Indians. Chen earned a no-decision, despite not allowing a run, and the Royals lost 3-0.

After that loss, Chen reeled off four great starts, culminating with the win over Boston. Through five starts with the Royals this year, Chen is 2-0, and the Royals are 4-1 in those games.

Chen also excelled in his role as the long-man in the bullpen earlier in the year. But he is more valuable in the rotation especially when he pitches as well as he has over the past five games.

This season, Chen is 5-0 overall, with a sparkling 1.79 ERA through 65.1 innings.

The Panamanian-born lefty does have experience as a starting pitcher in his career. He has 208 career starts, including 34 for Kansas City last year. He was 11-14 with a 5.07 ERA in 191.2 innings in 2012.

Chen has three seasons with the Royals of more than 10 wins. His best season was in 2011, when he was 12-7 with a 3.77 ERA. He also won 12 games in 2010.

The Royals are Chen’ s 10th Major League team, and his stint of five years with Kansas City is the longest stretch with one team in his career.

The Royals clearly value what Chen provides. He is a quality pitcher, whether used in the bullpen or as a starter. He is in the midst of the best season of his career and should give the Royals’ rotation a shot in the arm as they continue their quest for the postseason.

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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.

SPerez

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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First Place Royals

It’s late June and the Royals are in first place.  No, they aren’t at the top of their division nor are they leading the wild card race.  They are, however leading teams in a way they haven’t in some time.  The Royals have very quietly acquired the best earned run average in the American League.  The season is long but this is still a huge accomplishment considering their performance on the mound in years past.

JamesShields3

Saying that Royals pitching has been bad would be charitable.  Saying that Royals pitching has been the worst would be closer to accurate.  For well over a decade, Kansas City has put up some of the worst pitching numbers in all of baseball.

Since 2000, the Royals have been one of the three worst teams in combined ERA nine times.  In that time, their best pitching performance was in 2007 when they ranked 7th in the American League.  To add a bit more perspective, in 2009, when Zack Greinke won the Cy Young award he posted an ERA of 2.16 for the season.  That same year the Royals had a collective ERA of 4.83 coming in at 12th as a team in the league.

That’s what makes the jump to number one, even at this early point in the season something worth mentioning.  Even as they sit five games out of first place, Royals pitching has given up fewer runs than the division leading Tigers, who sit at number two as a team in earned runs.  And as the Kansas City bats slowly awaken from their royal slumber (pun entirely intended), they find that they are able to win the close games that they were losing earlier in the year.  They are currently 12-6 in the month of June in part by holding opponents to an average of about two and a half runs a game.

But as mentioned before, in the 2009 season, team ERA can be somewhat deceiving.  Ervin Santana has been lights out thus far with the American League’s 3rd best ERA of 2.64.  James Shields is right behind him at 2.72, putting him at 6th best in the league and one one-hundredth of a point behind Seattle’s Felix Hernandez.  Even Jeremy Guthrie comes in below league average in ERA at 3.72, good enough to get him in the top twenty in American League pitching.  However, the combined efforts of these three cover up the chink in the armor at the back end of the Royals’ rotation.

Luis Mendoza is 2-4 with an ERA of 4.30.  He hasn’t been terrible, but he has been unpredictable.  Wade Davis has been worse averaging over five earned runs per start.  The stunning performance of Santana and Shields, who were acquired this offseason, have covered up what could be the biggest weakness for these Kansas City Royals.

Santana and Shields routinely pitch deep into games.  This has been a god send for the Royals bullpen, who have now pitched the fewest amount of innings in baseball (175.3).  With the bullpen rested and the bats coming alive it’s this first place Royals pitching rotation that could use some shoring up.  There do exist options, none that the Royals hope they have to use though.

Dan Duffy, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery, has been making minor league rehab starts since the end of May.  Duffy has been sharp in the past averaging over nine strikeouts an inning in 2012 but since coming off of surgery he’s been getting ruffed up in AAA.  Also pitching right now in AAA Omaha is Yordano Ventura, the Royals young ace in waiting.  “Ace” Ventura as he is already being called, has had mixed success in Omaha but dominated in double A ball.  Ventura owns a fastball that can touch 100 mph.  His K/9 rate over four starts is 8 and 11.5 in AAA and AA respectively.  Ventura has talent to be sure but the Royals probably don’t want to prematurely promote their young prospect and limit his training and experience (not to mention bring his arbitration date closer) simply because Wade Davis has had a few bad starts.

And of course there is always the trade option, but most people suspect an underwhelming trade deadline from the Royals this year considering the amount of players they surrendered before the season started.  And of course Davis and Mendoza may pick up the pace down the stretch.  Davis has yielded only four runs combined in his last three starts.

Still, having the best pitching in the American League is a great problem to have.  The Royals took a chance this off season to acquire pitching and they got what they wanted.  And now that the offense is starting to show up they are starting to look like the contender that fans had hoped for.

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New lineup has Royals streaking

The Royals are suddenly red hot, winners of seven of their last eight games.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals rounds first as he celebrates his game-winning single in the 10th inning during a game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium on June 12, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 3-2. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Eric Hosmer

Kansas City just completed a six-game winning streak and a change in the lineup may have been a catalyst for the recent surge.

Frustrated by a lack of success on offense and in the standings, manager Ned Yost reportedly sought help from the Royals front office in putting together an optimal lineup. After crunching the numbers, it turned out that Salvador Perez, an excellent contact hitter, was the choice for the three-spot.

“We sit down every day and talk about it,” Yost said. “I get a lineup from the stat guys every day. I have never used it in its entirety but I use some of it. I consult with the coaches and we look at matchups and a few other things to construct our lineup.”

Yost tried out the new lineup, which also included moving Eric Hosmer into the second spot, and the Royals achieved immediate success.

After a June 4th loss to the Twins, in which Perez hit seventh, Yost decided it was time to make the switch.

Alex Gordon would lead off, followed by Hosmer and Perez. Alcides Escobar, who spent much of the season at the top of the lineup would be slotted in the ninth spot, providing the bottom of the order with more speed.

The Royals proceeded to win their next six. In his first game in the three-hole, Perez went 2-3 with two runs and an RBI, leading the Royals to a 4-1 win over Minnesota.

After eight games in the three-spot, Perez is hitting .367 with 11 hits, 1 HR and 7 RBI in 30 at-bats. He has at least one hit in each of those eight games.

Hosmer, meanwhile, has four multi-hit games over the past eight, with two hits on Wednesday including the game-winning single in the bottom of the tenth to beat the Tigers.

On May 25, Perez, dealing with the passing of his grandmother, was placed on the bereavement list. The talented catcher missed nine games and the Royals dropped seven of those nine.

Upon his return, Perez and the new-look lineup helped produce the longest win streak of the season for the Royals.

The offense, however, is not without its faults. There is still a glaring lack of power, ranking dead last in baseball in home runs.

While Perez and Hosmer may not be an answer in the power department (only 3 combined HR on the year), they both have been hitting for average and are clearly thriving in the reshuffled batting order.

How long Yost will stick with his new lineup may depend on whether the Royals stay hot but, so far, the results have been too good to mess with.

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Early returns on the Shields trade

This off-season, the Royals wanted to shake things up and they were willing to ship off their top prospect to do so.

JamesShields3

Desperate for proven Major League pitching, Kansas City swung a deal for two quality big league arms. On December 9 of last year, the Royals and the Tampa Bay Rays agreed on a deal that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City in exchange for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard.

Shields and Davis immediately earned a spot in this year’s Royals starting rotation–Shields as the ace and Davis as the third/fourth starter.

Meanwhile, all four players acquired by Tampa Bay would start the 2013 season in the minors.

For Kansas City, this was a win-now move. They believed they had the talent to compete in the AL Central this year and some reliable starting pitching could put them over the top. The Rays, on the other hand, had enough starting pitching and talent on the big league team that they could let the four players acquired in the deal develop in the minors.

It is never too early to examine a big trade like this so let’s dig in and examine how the trade has worked out so far for both teams.

The Royals Righties

Shields has pitched like an ace, though he doesn’t have the record to show for it. After 11 starts, the big right-hander is 2-6 with a sparkling 2.96 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. The Royals haven’t scored many runs for Shields, giving him only 3.39 runs per start and the team is just 3-8 overall in his starts.

On Monday, against a good Cardinals lineup, Shields gave up six runs over six innings, the first time all season he allowed more than four runs.

His numbers this season are consistent with those he compiled in Tampa Bay and his H/9, K/9, HR/9, ERA and WHIP are all better this year than the seven he spent with the Rays.

The only glaring difference is the win-loss record. In seven years with the Rays, Shields pitched to an 87-73 record. The Rays were a much more competitive team than the Royals are this year. As a means of comparison, the Rays gave Shields 4.57 runs of support per game in 2012.

Wade Davis has struggled so far this year, with a 5.71 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP. His record is 3-4 and the Royals are 6-4 in his starts. His numbers are considerably worse than Shields’, yet he has one more win, largely because he is backed by 5.22 runs per game from the offense.

Davis’ numbers are cause for concern for Royals’ fans. As compared to his four years with the Rays, his hits/9 innings has jumped from 8.6 to 12.6. His HR/9 and BB/9 have also increased considerably and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is significantly lower.

Struggling with his control, Davis has walked at least two batters in his last seven starts.

The Rays’ Haul

Wil Myers, the #4 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, is starting to heat up at Triple-A Durham.

Myers started off the season relatively slowly, but in his past six games he is sporting a .393 average with 5 homeruns, 15 RBI, and a crazy 1.034 slugging percentage.

On Tuesday, Myers blasted two two-run homers, to help the Durham Bulls to a come-from behind win.

Overall, the highly-touted outfielder has a .266 average with 9 HR, 40 RBI and a .346 OBP and .473 slugging percentage.

Given his recent power surge, he may get a call-up from the Rays as soon as the Super Two deadline passes in mid-June.

Jake Odorizzi was recently promoted to the MLB club by the Rays. He started two games and ended up with two no-decisions.

On May 20 against Toronto, Odorizzi pitched five innings, allowing three runs and recording six strikeouts. On Monday against Miami he had a rougher outing, lasting only four innings, giving up six runs while striking out two.

The Rays sent Odorizzi back down to the minors on Wednesday. At Triple-A Durham, Odorizzi, Baseball America’s #92 prospect, has a 4-0 record with an ERA of 3.83 in eight starts. He has 47 strikeouts in 44.2 innings.

Mike Montgomery, a first-round pick by the Royals in the 2008 draft, has battled injuries early this season and, as a result, has made only three starts for Durham. The talented southpaw is 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA in 13.2 innings.
Patrick Leonard currently plays for the Bowling Green Hot Rods of the Midwest League. The infielder is batting .174 with just one homerun and 15 RBI in 43 games.

The Aftermath

There is no question that the Royals gave up an incredible amount of talent in this deal. Myers is one of the top hitting prospects in baseball. Odorizzi and Montgomery have considerable upside, which has left the Rays stacked with young pitching.

The Royals on the other hand are really struggling. The thinking was that the infusion of starting pitching would turn around a middling franchise. They expected the overhauled pitching staff to produce results immediately. They felt the AL Central or one of the two Wild Card spots was there for the taking. However, that optimism has quickly taken a turn for the worse. Kansas City is now 21-29 and has lost eight straight games.

It is still early in the season and things can quickly change for better or worse. The real effects of this trade may not sort out until a couple of years down the line. But the Royals believed this trade would bring instant results and, at this point, that just hasn’t been the case.

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Royals Weekly Rundown: A-ced in Oakland, Butler’s Back

Well so much for the offensive revival.  After the Royals out-slugged the Angels to take two of three, they finish the week at 2-4 after getting swept by the A’s.  Nonetheless, there’s a silver lining in all of this.  The club still sits at .500 and a few Royals hitters are mashing up the month of May.

Best of the Week:  Billy Butler

What a difference a week makes.  Big Old Country Breakfast bounced back from last week’s worst to this weeks best including a celebratory 5-for-5, 5 RBI night against the Angels.  Butler hit safely in five of six games this week and .480 overall (12-for-25) with a homer and 10 RBI.  As a result, Butler’s average has risen 45 points from .228 to .273.

He joins Alex Gordon, who deserves honorable mention this week, as the Royals two hottest hitters.  Gordon also hit .480 this week (12-for-25) and now has hit safely in 14 of 16 games in the month of May.  Gordon’s current .343 average ties him with Boston’s Dustin Pedroia for third in the American League.

Worst of the Week:  A-ced in Oakland

What hurts isn’t so much that they were swept by a struggling team, it’s how they lost.  The Royals led late in all three games, but ultimately dropped three straight one-run games.  The Royals bullpen, arguably the club’s biggest strength, blew two of those leads in the eighth including Sunday night’s thanks to a 403 foot blast by Yoenis Cespedes.

Kansas City’s bullpen still ranks third in the AL with a 3.07 ERA, so I believe this weekend’s sweep highlights the issue of their struggling offense rather than their pitching.  On paper, the Royals lineup is as deep as any in the AL including three players hitting over .300 in Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Salvador Perez.

However, the Royals still rank 13th out of 15 in runs scored (only the Mariners and White Sox have scored less).  A lot of the struggles derive from the lack of production from the heart of the order.

Butler appears to have turned things around, but Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are in the midst of a serious slump.  They hit a combined 5-for-49 last week, a frightening .102.

The Road Ahead:  Eastbound and Down

Kansas City begins a three-game series with Houston on Monday night to wrap up the road trip.  Make no mistake, these are games the Royals have to take advantage of if they want to keep pace with Cleveland and Detroit.

They finished off the week with a four-game home series against the Angels.

Probable Pitchers at Houston Astros:

Monday at 7:10 CT:  Jeremy Guthrie (5-1, 2.82 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 4.82 ERA)

Tuesday at 7:10 CT:  Wade Davis (3-3, 5.98 ERA) vs. Bud Norris (4-4, 4.32 ERA)

Wednesday at 7:10 CT:  James Shields (2-4, 2.45 ERA) vs. Jordan Lyles (1-1, 6.63 ERA)

Probable Pitchers vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Thursday at 7:10 CT:  Ervin Santana (3-3, 2.77 ERA) vs. Joe Blanton (0-7, 6.62 ERA)

Friday at 7:10 CT:  Luis Mendoza (1-2, 5.50 ERA) vs. Jason Vargas (3-3, 3.55 ERA)

Saturday at 1:10 CT:  Jeremy Guthrie (5-1, 2.82 ERA) vs.  TBA

Sunday at 1:10 CT:  Wade Davis (3-3, 5.98 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (3-3, 3.72 ERA)

Follow Adam Rozwadowski on Twitter @adam_roz

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The Royals And Latin America

As we all know, Kansas City has carried a dismal baseball franchise since 1985. But as spring training rolls around, we have to again acknowledge how well the Royals have done in the Latin American talent market.

LatinAmericanBaseball

Everyone who pays very much attention to the Royals will directly turn there heads up to the sky and wink at their mental image of Salvador Perez, the Royals’ up and coming catcher. The Royals, though, have made some fantastic signings from Latin America. There are also some tremendous advantages to scouting in Latin America. Some of those will follow.

When you are hunting the streets of some small town in the midwest looking for the high school stadium to try to find the next Hank Aaron, you have to wait until he is 18. When you go to Latin America to try to find the future face of your franchise, the face can be younger. You can sign a 16 year old to a major league contract. So your Latin Mike Trout is more likely to begin his career just as Mike Trout did, under the age of 20.

If there is a tremendous amount of talent in some random high school in America, you probably wouldn’t be the only one to see it. Chances are, if he really is the next Ted Williams, there will be you and 29 other major league scouts sitting in the stands. The more scouts, the more money. No matter how humble a high school kid is, he will go to the highest bidder, which is generally a lot of money. In Latin America, roughly 28% of the people are in poverty. More will go for smaller amounts of money. This allows small market teams, like the Royals, to upgrade their minor league talent.

It isn’t just the Royals that do this though. On Opening Day 2012, 27.3 percent of players on Major League rosters were Latino. Teams are rightly buying into this gigantic talent base, and the Royals are very good at identifying talent in Latin America. This is why we get to have that mental image of Salvador Perez winking at us. The Major Leagues, and the Royals, have been, and will be, greatly enhanced by this pool of talent staring at us in the face. We would be idiots to ignore it.

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A powerful breakfast

As a guy who has lacked in home run power over the beginning of his career in Kansas City, Billy Butler, has taken the bull by the horns this season setting a new career high in home runs only 111 games into the 2012 season.  Butler is on pace to become the first Royal to hit 30 home runs in a season since Jermaine Dye did it in 2000. A 12 year drought could be broken by a player who for most of his young career has been criticized for not having enough power for not only his stature but also his position being designated hitter.

The power has changed from double to home runs this season mainly because instead of relying on his upper body to do all the work at the plate Butler has worked hard to get his legs stronger over the last 9 months and using them at the plate has equated into more lift on balls that are now carrying over the fence instead of bouncing off of the warning track.  One stat that has not been given enough credit was his ability to hit the double.  Trailing only New York Yankee second basemen in doubles since the beginning of the 2009 season, Butler has 158 two baggers, according to Baseball-Reference.  That is an astounding number that seems to have been pushed away because they are not turning into home runs. Everyone believes that if you have to power to hit that many doubles then you have the power to hit home runs. It does not work that way because it is not about the power or strength but the swing that the hitter has.  Over the first parts of his career Butler seemed to not lift the ball when it was needed and would use a more level swing that resulted in line drives in the gaps instead of towering fly balls into the stands.  But until the last two season Butler simply was not supposed to be the guy who hit the ball over the wall and gave the team the offensive lift they need. He has been asked to be a hitter and a hitter he has been.  But now he needs to continue to show the power he has shown so far in 2012.

On pace for 34 home runs this season two shy of the club record of 36 set in 1985 by the powerful Steve Balboni. The amount of home runs is not what stands out the most in the case of Butler.  The fact that he recognized that as the hitting leader of this team the best way to do that is lead by example.  In the off season he saw that he needed to work on his weakness of strength in his lower body which would help get more lift on the baseball and turn doubles in the gaps into home runs into the seats.

The philosophy that both Butler and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer have taken in the 2012 sea on seems to be working not only in the power department but a continued success to all fields for Butler. His doubles have gone down but that is what happens when the ball that were hitting the fence are now traveling over the fence.  To ask a guy to hit 30 home runs for the first time in his career and continue a pace of 47 doubles per year for the last three seasons would be outrageous.  The statistic that continues to slipped the minds of critics of Butler is the fact that the man is only 26 years old.  By comparison to other designated hitters of past that people would like to see Bulter become Edgar Martinez did not hit 30 home runs in a season until he was 37 years old.  he did flirt with 30 home runs in 1995 which still was when he was 33 years old.

Comparing the two a bit more in Martinez’s first 6 seasons in the major leagues he hit 91 home runs, 204 doubles, with 381 RBI while having a batting average of .290.  Now Butler in his first six seasons, which as of right now is 13 at bats less than Martinez had at this point in his career, has hit 97 home runs, 203 doubles, with 445 RBI and a batting average of .298, according to Baseball-Reference. If Butler continues to improve on an already good beginning to his career and progresses faster than Martinez did in Seattle than the Royals could have a once in a lifetime statistic wonder on their hands.

Everyone knew that Butler was going to be a hitter but hitters do not alway produce.  Having a guy that is going to consistently flirt with a three hundred average which never seems to dip under .290 nor exceed .315 is something that can be found anywhere but having that same guy perform with the production that Butler has shown in just six years is priceless.  He started out as two eggs over easy with a side of toast and now has turned into a full country breakfast.  But over the season to come all we can do is wait and see if Butler can become the Thanksgiving dinner to lead the Royals to success in September and beyond.

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