Tag Archive | "Majors"

The Top Seven Cardinal Coming Attractions

Youth has been served this season for the Cardinals, as the prophecy of their top ranked minor league system was fulfilled. From near perfect games and no-hitters to home runs and shutdown bullpen efforts, the fortune of the club has been decided in large part by its least experienced components.

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While some comings are more heralded than others, many aren’t that difficult to see coming. The depth of the Cardinal system has left even more talents that have a chance to make a breakthrough impact next season. The rules for determining these players is simple: it is not a look at the “top” prospects for the team currently exclusively, but rather players that will be rookie-eligible in 2014, that are within reasonable reach to push through to the Majors next spring.

 

1. Oscar Taveras: The most obvious choice is perhaps baseball’s best talent to not see the Majors yet. While injuries kept his season from making his debut this season, the 21-year-old outfielder still put forward an exciting .306 mark at the plate. While the roster is packed with both veterans and youngsters alike, Taveras will receive a chance to give the club every reason possible to keep him with the team in some capacity. His talent is such that it has put the status of Carlos Beltran’s future with the team in doubt, who has been an All-Star in both of his St. Louis seasons thus far. While the popular idea is that he can contribute in center field, he is a right fielder all the way in skill set, but has the type of bat that plays wherever room can be made for it…and his glove can be tolerated.

2. Carlos Martinez: Maybe the greatest enigma in the Cardinal pitching picture is Martinez, but not for any questions about his readiness. Rather, it is about where to fit him in the roster as soon as possible. With a starting rotation that could have no less than three completely open spots, and the likes of Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, John Gast, Jaime Garcia, Seth Maness, Trevor Rosenthal, Tyler Lyons and Kevin Siegrist vying for it, Martinez still could be the best option of that entire group, and that is saying something. Yet, with his plus fastball and developing arsenal, he could easily bring to back of the pen yet another presence like what Rosenthal has done this year.

3. Kolten Wong: Wong hasn’t torn the cover off of the ball in his initial appearance with the Cardinals this year, but then again, neither did Matt Carpenter. But what he has made clear is that he can bring the team speed like it has from no other, as well as an instant improvement defensively. While his exact place is yet to be seen, due to the presence of Carpenter and Freese, Wong should be considered a favorite to not see minors again when camp breaks next spring, one way or another.

4. Greg Garcia: Wong’s college and both Triple and Double A teammate up the middle in Garcia could be the next option in the ongoing auditions at shortstop. After hitting .271 and showing improved range, he could get a chance to figure into the big picture for no other reason than playing the right place at the right time.

5. Stephen Piscotty: Versatility could be his friend, but hitting .295 over his first two professional seasons while playing three different positions is encouraging as well. The 22-year-old was drafted as a third baseman out of Stanford in the first round of 2012 as a compensation pick, but has built up a .362 on-base percentage and learned the ropes as a corner outfielder in a hurry. With the likely move to Memphis coming in 2014, he could be a candidate to be a nice utility option in the model of a 2010 Allen Craig or 2012 Matt Carpenter going ahead.

6. Boone Whiting: One of the most consistent arms in the Cardinal system since joining in 2010 as a 18th round pick, Whiting could be on the verge of seeing his chance to breakthrough. In 21 starts this summer, he posted a 4.09 ERA and struck out 99 in 105 innings. He could emerge as a dark horse candidate to fill into the long-reliever role that plagued the team at times this year, as well as be the Tyler Lyons spot start type.

7. Marco Gonzales: The team’s first round pick this year was on a short leash after a college season that saw him throw over 120 innings, as well as play in the field as well, but next summer could see him fully unleashed. The lefty got better as he moved up this year, posting a 1.62 ERA across four starts after moving up to Palm Beach, striking out 23 in 23 innings. It would be a stretch, but if he rapidly succeeds as expected once put into a rotation next year, the string of fast-rising former college hurlers (Wacha, Maness) could continue for the organization.

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Carpenter, Beltran and the Cardinal’s Pandora’s Box

The big question regarding the Cardinals going ahead is how will all of the assets they have fit into one roster. While there is no clear solution to that question yet, one thing that is for certain is that the biggest variable is the team’s most versatile player, Matt Carpenter.

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Whenever the 2013 season comes to a close, the season’s steadiest question will quickly become its loudest: what is going to happen with Carlos Beltran? The club’s most high profile free agent-to-be has made no secret of his desire to return with the team next spring, but while admitting that it is on the club’s radar of decisions to be made, John Mozeliak has not public committed to what extent the team would be willing to go to in order to pursue a continued relationship between player and team.

The reasons for this are simple; despite an unquestionably strong tenure in the Cardinal uniform, including two All-Star Games and 55 home runs, neither age (he will turn 37 next year) nor positional alignment fit easily into the picture going ahead. Reasons for this have included most prominently the presence of Oscar Taveras at Memphis, but perhaps more quietly the price tag of a potential part-time presence in the outfield. Add in the urge to find more at-bats for Matt Adams, while not sacrificing Allen Craig’s presence in the lineup as well, and there are a plethora of optimal situations that make a Beltran return a tough situation to imagine.

But on the other side of the equation, there is the question of if the team can afford to let him go as well. He has been a dependable power threat in a season where they have been few and far between for the team. And the issue of if Taveras both returns healthy from the nagging ankle issue that ended his 2012 early, as well as how he transitions to the Majors, loom as well. If either of those issues looms, an absence of Beltran could create quite a hole for the team, which could have been avoided.

However, the presence of Carpenter could alleviate any and all of these issues. While he has risen to his call as a second baseman in a resounding fashion, he is only a year removed from being the team’s ultimate utility man. In the upcoming years, the everyday lineup of the Cardinals has the potential to fluctuate on nearly a matchup-to-matchup basis, due to the meeting of the veterans and emerging farm system at the MLB level.

A regular feature of this mix will be Carpenter, who Mozeliak made it abundantly clear the team will be pursuing a long-term pact with soon. However, his position going ahead could best be considered being deployed again as an everyday utility weapon, in the style of how Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist has been used over the years.  The best starting spot for this could prove to be right field, where alternating Carpenter in a few times a week gets a chance to use himself, David Freese and Kolten Wong together, in addition to allowing Allen Craig or Matt Adams to stay in a first base. A move back to second or third gets the uber, “Coming Atractions” duo of Wong and Taveras on the field together as well.

While the possibilities of the Cardinal lineup are very diverse in the next few years, there is a chance that the full potential is oddly not reached by keeping one of its current All-Stars in the mix, while maximizing the abilities of another showcases more of the team’s full potential can currently being imagined.

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Moustakas and Hosmer giving hope to Kansas City Royals’ nation

Mike Moustakas blasted a walk-off homer in the 13th inning to give the Kansas City Royals a 7-6 win over the Mariners on Thursday. In the same game, Eric Hosmer had two hits, bringing his season average up to .300. The standout performance by the duo was more of the same in a post All-Star break campaign that has been marked by a vast improvement for the sluggers.

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While a playoff spot this season is improbable for the Royals, a strong second half by Moustakas and Hosmer should have Royals fans feeling good about the future.

The start of the season was rough for the two young cornerstones for Kansas City. In 80 games before the All-Star break, Moustakas floundered to a slash line of .215/.271/.327, with six home runs and an embarrassing 17 RBI.

In just 36 second half games, the talented third-baseman is hitting .287/.333/.465 and the power has come around to the tune of five home runs and 19 RBI.

Hosmer didn’t even hit a home run until May 9 and in 344 first half at-bats only notched nine long-balls.

In just 193 at-bats after the All-Star break, Hosmer has six home runs and 30 RBI. His slash line is extremely impressive at .326/.391/.477.

These corner infielders should be fixtures in the Kansas City lineup for years to come. It was widely assumed that this would be a breakout year for the duo, but the slow start had Royals’ fans concerned about where these two would lead the team in the future. After trading Wil Myers to Tampa Bay, the Royals’ offense is counting on Moustakas and Hosmer to deliver in a big way.

The strong second half by Moustakas and Hosmer has been mirrored by the team as a whole. In the first half, the Royals were 24th in the MLB in runs and 14th in batting average. In the second half, the team is up to 6th in the majors in scoring and in batting average.

The Kansas City offense is often viewed as a weak point of the team. The rotation, led by James Shields and Ervin Santana, has been great the whole year. Greg Holland has been lights out as the closer and the bullpen as a whole has been dominant.

If Moustakas and Hosmer can lead a turnaround of the offense, the Royals should finish this year strong and have a lot to look forward to next season.

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Now is the time for Kansas City Royals’ Duffy

After missing much of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery, it appears that Danny Duffy is ready to claim a spot in the Kansas City Royals’ rotation for the rest of this season and possibly next season as well.

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Duffy, who has replaced the struggling Wade Davis in the starting rotation, shut down the Twins in his latest start. He pitched 6.2 innings, allowing just five hits and no runs, while striking out seven. Perhaps the most important stat from that start, however, was that Duffy did not allow a walk. It was the first start in his career that he didn’t issue a free pass.

The knock on Duffy has always been his lack of control. And pitchers that come back from Tommy John surgery tend to struggle finding a feel for the strike zone initially. In his only other two starts this season, Duffy walked two batters in 3.2 innings and three batters in 6 innings.

In Duffy’s three years pitching in the majors, he has a walk rate of 4.5/9. While the walks tend to pile up for the talented southpaw, he has always shown strike out potential, with a strike out rate of 8.0/9 for his career.

Duffy was drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft and coming into the 2011 season, he was ranked as the 68th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. So the potential has always been there.

The 6-foot-3 lefty spent six years in the minor leagues, earning 30-16 record, with an impressive 2.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. His minor league K/9 is 10.6 and his BB/9 is 3.0, considerably less than his 4.5 mark in the majors.

Duffy debuted in 2011, starting 20 games and finishing with a 4-8 record and a 5.64 ERA. He showed improvement in 2012 before his injury. He started six games and recorded a 3.90 ERA.

While the Tommy John injury delayed his development, Duffy appears to be back on track. He has a chance to show that he is a big part of the Royals’ future. If he can finish this season strong and continue to improve with his control, he should lock up a spot in next year’s starting five and perhaps beyond.

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Here Comes Duffy

The Kansas City Royals were poised to make it “Our Time” in 2012 before star pitcher Danny Duffy found his way to Tommy John surgery.  The 2013 Royals, who are now four games back of both the division and the wild card, have suddenly taken on a successful feel.  Danny Duffy is set to return.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

May 13, 2012 would be the most recent time that Danny Duffy, once believed to be the future ace of the ballclub, would take the mound as a Kansas City Royal.  Not long after that, it was determined that Duffy would require “Tommy John” surgery and his season plus most of the next one, would be lost.

Duffy would begin the long process of recovery.  Physical therapy would lead to soft tossing a ball.  Eventually, playing catch on level ground and long toss would assist the young lefty in building up the strength that he needed to get back on the mound.  On May 26, 2013, just over a year since his last pitch, he would throw his first one in a AA rehab assignment with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.  The initial outings were short but productive, seeing Duffy rack up 15 strikeouts in his first three appearances, spanning just 10 innings, while only walking four.  He would allow 12 hits but would limit his early opponents to five earned-runs.  He was on his way to AAA Omaha to continue his work with the Stormchasers.

Success was moderate but noticeable as he continued his walk back to the majors.  His second appearance in Omaha on June 10 would be his worst yet, yielding seven runs on seven hits and two walks without striking out a batter.  He would only last two-and-one-third of an inning and many started to wonder if he was rushing back.  His next start would only last three innings, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks, though he would strike out five this time around.  Concerns began to mount.

Concerns were laid to rest shortly thereafter as Duffy proved that those two outings would be the shortest of his season, never failing to reach five innings again through his next eight starts.  He would never walk more than three batters the rest of the season, strike out fewer than four hitters only one time, and never yield more than four runs, which he only did twice.  His season reached a pinnacle as he made one more rehab start at AA on July 17.  That day, Duffy would last five-and-one-third of an inning, striking out a season best 13 batters and walking only one.

Duffy would return to AAA to make two more starts, both impressive, and seemingly rounded out his minor league stint for 2013.

Duffy’s season thus far has given seen him surrender seven home runs, walk 27, strikeout 77, surrender 59 hits and allow opposing batters to hit .250 against him over 64 innings pitched.

Tomorrow, August 7, 2013 is opening day for Danny Duffy.  He will return to the mound at Kauffman Stadium for the first time in almost 15 months.  He will take the ball as the starter for the Royals in the middle of a playoff run and look to solidify the rotation.

Duffy is back.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can talk baseball with him on Twitter or read more of his St. Louis Cardinals analysis on Yahoo!.

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What to do with Wade Davis?

When the Royals made a splash this off-season by acquiring James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays, they figured they were getting two above average Major League pitchers that would solidify their rotation right away.

Shields and Davis

Shields has been as advertised, but Davis has quite frankly been terrible.

Davis’ ERA is approaching 6.00 (5.92) and his record has dropped to 4-8. In 97.1 innings pitched, Wade sports a 1.80 WHIP.

It’s not that Davis isn’t talented enough to be an effective starter. He posted respectable numbers in two seasons as a starter with the Rays. In 2010, he started 29 games and went 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA. In 2011, Davis also started 29 games, with a 4.45 ERA and an 11-10 record.

When you compare the numbers from those two seasons as a starter, there are a few alarming trends. Most notably, Davis’ hits per nine and walks per nine are way up. This season, Davis is allowing a whopping 12.2 hits per nine and 4.1 walks per nine.

Davis spent all of 2012 as a reliever for the Rays, and was great. In 54 appearances, Davis was 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA and a career-high 11.1 K/9.

So the question for the Royals becomes, do you leave Davis in the rotation and hope for the best, or do you make a switch and move him into a bullpen that is already very deep?

It’s not an easy question to answer. He has proven that he can be an effective reliever and with the Royals needing to make a move in the standings, they may not be able to stomach many more of his bad starts.

The Royals have two good candidates to take Davis’ spot in the rotation in rehabbing starters Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino. Duffy is further along in his rehab than Paulino, but whenever they are ready they could challenge for Davis’ starting gig.

Both Duffy and Paulino still have hurdles they need to climb before returning to the majors, but once they return it would make sense to move Davis back into the bullpen.

Until they return though, Davis has an opportunity to turn around his season and make a case that he still belongs in the rotation.

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Dyson stealing his way into fans’ hearts

Speed kills and Jarrod Dyson has speed to burn.

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In the third inning of Tuesday’s game against the Braves, this was on full display. Dyson bunted down the third base line for a single to lead off the inning. He wasted no time stealing second base. He ended up being stranded on third base, but he showed how dangerous his speed can be for opposing teams. Without hitting the ball out of the infield, he had himself in scoring position.

This is what Dyson brings to the table for the Royals. His elite speed gives the team an added weapon that they were missing while Dyson was on the DL (he missed over a month with a high ankle sprain).

The Royals are currently fourth in the majors with 60 steals and Dyson’s return from the DL should only help add to that number. In his first three games back, Dyson had three steals. In 102 games last season, Dyson swiped 30 bases and he stole over 30 bases in four different minor league seasons.

Dyson isn’t the only threat on the bases for the Royals. Alcides Escobar and Elliot Johnson have 11 steals each and Lorenzo Cain has nine. Even first baseman Eric Hosmer has seven steals.

The Royals now have a log jam in the outfield with five players more than capable of manning the position. Alex Gordon should stick in left field. Dyson, Cain, and David Lough can all play center field and Jeff Francoeur is still around to play right field. On Wednesday, Cain played in center with Francouer in right against left-hander Mike Minor. In the previous two games, Dyson played in center with Lough in right, while Cain and Francoeur sat.

With Dyson in the lineup, the Royals are one of the fastest teams in the majors, especially if Dyson, Cain, Escobar and Johnson are all on the field at the same time.

Dyson currently sports a slash line of .292/.320/.604. If he continues to hit and get on base, he should force his way into the lineup, especially against right-handed pitchers.

Because the outfield is so crowded, Dyson may not see everyday at-bats. But even in limited plate appearances, Dyson could threaten the 30 steals mark on the season, which will only help the speedy Royals push the envelope on the base paths.

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Promising Careers

Another month has gone, the calendar has flipped to June, and Major League Baseball is already seeing its share of injuries. Injuries are never good for any team, but it does give an opportunity to promising minor leaguers who are itching for a chance to prove their worth on a big league club.

Top Rookies Baseball

Jurickson Profar – Texas Rangers
I am not sure what it is about Profar, but I have a feeling that he is going to be a huge asset once he has been in the majors for a while. I drafted him for my fantasy team this year and he sat on my bench for months until he was finally called up to play for the Rangers. Obviously his minor league stats did nothing for me, but I knew he would get the call soon so I did not want to let him go. Now, since Ian Kinsler has been injured, Profar will get his chance to prove he can play ball with the big boys. According to ESPN, he will be splitting time at second base with Leury Garcia while Kinsler’s ribs heal. The 20 year old has been in 10 games so far with 6 RBIs and a .324 average. He has been on the major league radar since a young age when he pitched for the Dominican Republic in the Little League World Series. Most teams wanted him as a pitcher, but he signed with the Rangers because they gave him the freedom to play where he wanted.

Kevin Gausman – Baltimore Orioles
Some calls ups are good and some do not turn out quite as planned. The Baltimore Orioles called up starting pitcher Kevin Gausman recently and his debut did not go well. Not that Gausman will have a bad career, but his first opportunity to play in a big league club rattled him pretty severely. On the road with the Orioles, he pitched 9 innings and allowed 11 earned runs. That was 11. Earned. Sometimes even the most talented prospects cannot handle the intensity and skill of big league hitters. Once the team was on home turf, Gausman was able to relax and get more into a grove. During his last start, he allowed only 1 earned run over 6 innings which brought his ERA down to 7.20 with a 0-2 win-loss record. He still has a lot to learn, but hopefully it will not be at the expense of the Orioles.

Michael Wacha – St Louis Cardinals
When the St Louis Cardinals called up starting pitcher Michael Wacha he pitched 7 innings with only one earned run. After pitching a gem for his major league debut he ended up with a no-decision as the Cardinals bullpen could not keep it together. They lost after a 4 1/2 hour rain delay toward the end of the game, but Wacha certainly proved his ability to take on big league hitters. At least for now.

Fans everywhere get nervous and excited when suddenly a new player is added to their team’s active roster. Maybe the fans have no idea who these new players are, or maybe they have heard all about their bright futures, but either way every one watches closely to see how much they will either damage or help their club.

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Cardinals/Rockies: Three things to walk with

The last thing that you’d think would rule a weekend between the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies would be pitching. But not only was that the case, it was a historical level of pitching effectiveness. Between Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright and Jorge De La Rosa, 21 complete hitless innings were tossed, and in the two of the starts, no-hitters were far from speculative; they were within grasp of being real.

Miller-Wainwright

The Cardinals took home the first two games of the series behind the masterful performances of their ace in the making and current rotation captain, before not being able to mount any offense until a very overdue Rockies lineup took control of game three. Yet, the Cardinals still won their third out of their last four series, and continue to keep a share of the best record in baseball at 23-13. Here’s three points to how they made that possible.

 

1.  Once in a Century Shelby: Shelby Miller, a veteran of a mere eight career starts, is beginning to make everyone take notice that the hype was well worth it. On Friday night he authored one of the greatest starts in not only Cardinal, but baseball history. After surrendering a base hit to lead the game off, he shut the door for the rest of the evening and retired the next 27 Rockies to hold down a 3-0 win. And while he didn’t join the ranks of the no-hit or Perfect Game club, but he did dominate in a way that no pitcher has since at least 1900. His nine-inning, one hit effort, with no walks and at least 13 strikeouts was a one of a kind feat that no other pitcher has done. His record improved to 5-2, and his ERA on the season now sits at 1.58, the third best mark in the Majors.

2. Weekend Warrior: Adam Wainwright is usually not one to be outdone, and he nearly wasn’t. A day after Miller’s masterpiece, Waino continued the Rockies woes by keeping them off-base until a fifth inning Todd Helton walk, a streak of 50 consecutive batters. Nolan Arenado broke up the no-hit bid in the eighth inning, which ended a remarkable shutdown streak by the two Cardinal hurlers. The 49 consecutive hitless at-bats was the longest streak in 29 years. For Wainwright, his impressive weekend work at home continued: he now has two complete game shutouts, surrendering only six hits and one walk against 19 strikeouts.

3. Against the odds: Jaime Garcia’s home dominance is well known; his 2.41 ERA entering Sunday was the best in the history at Busch Stadium III. Yet for his career against the Rockies, he has sported his worst performance against any team, with an 0-3 record and an ERA of 10.53 to drive it home. Sunday’s performance wasn’t his worst, but he caught a mixture of the law of averages coming back around (Colorado is the NL’s best hitting team on the season), as well as a couple of bad situations. Troy Tulowitzki is one of the worst batters possible catch in the middle of the perfect storm of both issues the team was facing before hitting his third inning, three run homer (0 for the series, five strikeouts). Add in the fact that Jorge De La Rosa turned in a matching performance to the two Cardinal starters the day before nearly, and it wasn’t in the cards for Garcia in finishing up the sweep.

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Home Runs Plague Kansas City Royals During Early Success

Fourteen games in, the Royals are 8-6 and only a half a game out of first in the A.L. Central. Overall, the team is playing well, but so far they’ve given up 18 home runs, which is fourth in the A.L. and 6th in the Majors. Meanwhile, they’ve hit just five home runs, which is last in the A.L. and 29th in the Majors, just ahead of the woeful Miami Marlins with only three team home runs.

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Of the 18 home runs given up, the starting rotation gave up 13, with Jeremy Guthrie (5 HR) and Ervin Santana (4 HR) being the top offenders. The bullpen gave up five homers, with Kelvin Herrera giving up three of them, all in one inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves.

Of the 18 homers given up, 15 are solo shots, two are two-run homers and one is a three-run homer. In the games the Royals didn’t give up a home run, they’re 4-2. In games where they only gave up solo shots, they’re 3-2. In multi-run homer games, they’re 1-2. What’s interesting are the games where the opposing team hit multiple solo home runs in a game. In those games, the Royals are 2-1.

So why is the Royals pitching staff giving up so many home runs? For Guthrie, it appears he throws a bad pitch once in a while and hitters take advantage of it. So far, he’s 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA with 17 strikeouts and three walks, giving him a 5.67 SO/BB ratio.

Over his career, Santana has a tendency to give up homers and he’s keeping true to form. But he’s got a 2.45 ERA and he’s struck out 19 batters while walking five, giving him a 3.80 SO/BB ratio.

As for Kelvin Herrera’s three homers he gave up, the Royals think he tipped his pitches when he gave up his three home runs against Atlanta. Herrera is a fireball pitcher and they tend to give up home runs.

While the Royals are giving up a lot of home runs this season, how does it compare to last season? In the first 14 games of 2012, the Royals gave up 14 home runs, seven of which were solo shots, six were two-run homers and one was a three-run homer. When they didn’t give up any home runs, they went 2-5. When they only gave up solo homers in a game, they were 1-1. When they gave up a multi-run homer, they were 0-5. Meanwhile, the Royals hit 12 home runs, seven more than this year. But after 14 games, they were 3-11 and in the middle of their 12-game losing streak. Compared to this year, the 2012 Royals gave up more multi-run homers, their team ERA was 4.66, they struck out 105 batters and walked 51, which gave them a 2.06 SO/BB ratio.

The 2013 Royals team ERA is 3.30, which is third in the A.L and fifth in the Majors. They have 122 strikeouts, which is third in the A.L. and fourth in the Majors. The Royals gave up 33 walks, which is second best in the A.L. and fourth best in the Majors. This gives the Royals an impressive team 3.70 SO/BB ratio. Yes, the Royals pitching staff gives up home runs, but otherwise they’re pitching well.

But how long can the Royals pitching staff keep up their low ERA and SO/BB ratio? So far, the Royals are lucky, mainly giving up solo home runs. But they can’t run on luck all season. If they start walking more batters and throwing less strikeouts, more runners will get on base, which increases the chance of multi-run homers. Pitching coach Dave Eiland needs to work with the pitching staff and cut down on the home runs. Meanwhile, hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David need to get the offense hitting more home runs. If this doesn’t happen, the 2013 season could end up being like the 2012 season.

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