Tag Archive | "Mike Moustakas"

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.

MooseAndHos

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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Royals Add Infield Insurance

The Kansas City Royals recent play has them a contender in both the AL Central and the race for a wild card spot. Now playing meaningful games in August and September for the first time in years, the Royals have made several moves recently to add depth to their team as they try to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985.

Emilio Bonifacio

Kansas City recently placed Miguel Tejada on the 60-day DL. The absence of Tejada coupled with Mike Moustakas nursing a sore left calf led the Royals to make two moves to bolster their infield depth.

First they acquired 12-year MLB veteran Jamey Carroll from the Twins and then they added super-utility player Emilio Bonifacio from the Blue Jays. Both players cost the Royals cash and/or a player to be named later.

Carroll is a light-hitting infielder who started 46 games for the Twins this year and did not hit a home run, while driving in nine runs. Offense is not Carroll’s game, but he does provide veteran leadership and he can fill in at multiple positions on the infield. He is a good defender, even at this time in his career.

Carroll started Tuesday’s game against the Marlins at third base and was 0-4 with one strike out. He also pinch hit in Monday’s game and was 0-2.

Bonifacio is also expected to have a utility role. Like Carroll, Bonifacio can fill in all over the infield. Unlike Carroll, Bonifacio has also logged time in the outfield and can play a corner spot or in center field. Bonifacio doesn’t hit for average (hit .218 with the Jays this year), but he does offer speed. He can steal bases when he gets regular at-bats and can also come into the game as a pinch runner, providing a threat on the bases in late-game situations.

These moves have gone under the radar in baseball circles. However, Royals’ GM Dayton Moore identified a need and got two players without giving up much in return. As the Royals enter the dog days of the season, these acquisitions could loom large. The young Royals have never been in contention and they can learn from veterans Carroll and Bonifacio who have experience on winning teams.

 

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Which Royals team will show up against Detroit?

It was a matter of time before the Kansas City Royals would lose a series after the All-Star break. And I’m not surprised it was against the lowly Miami Marlins. That’s the way baseball works. But even a team like the Marlins win games if their opponents can’t score runs, commit costly errors or give up key hits.

JamesShields3

Losing the series to the Marlins hasn’t finished the Royals season, but it was a lost opportunity for the team to close on Detroit and the Wild Card race. They’re 7.5 games back of Detroit and 4.5 games back in the Wild Card race after going 4-3 the last seven games. And losing Miguel Tejada for the season and a possible DL stint for Mike Moustakas makes it tougher to gain ground.

But it’s not all bad. After going on a 12-game winning streak, the Tigers went 2-4 their last six games. And the Royals did take two out of three against the Tigers right after the All-Star break. So far this season, the Royals are 5-3 against the Tigers. It won’t be easy, but they can beat them.

But the Tigers have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, led by Justin Verlander. Miguel Cabrera may be hurt, but he’s still an offensive threat. Tigers manager Jim Leyland will make sure the team doesn’t take the Royals for granted. And the games will be in Detroit, so the Royals will be in hostile territory against a motivated team.

How the Royals fare  against Detroit depends on which team shows up. If it’s the post All-Star break team with a lively offense, error-free defense, great starting pitching and a solid bullpen, they could win the series and gain ground on the Tigers. But if it’s the team that played the Marlins with their tepid defense, costly errors and some wobbly bullpen performances (I’m looking at you, Kelvin Herrera), the Tigers can solidify their lead in the A.L Central and the Royals playoff hopes will fade.

The players know this series against the Tigers is crucial. They know if they want to play meaningful games in September and make the playoffs, they have to beat the Tigers and keep winning series. Losing the series against the Tigers won’t end the Royals playoff hopes, but it will hurt their chances.

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The Royals are in the A.L. playoff hunt

Things are going well for the Kansas City Royals. In the last 10 games, they’re 8-2 and have a 58-53 record. Mike Moustakas is finally hitting. Closer Greg Holland won Major League Baseball’s Delivery Man of the Month for July. The Royals team ERA is 3.57, tied for first in the American League. The team is playing well lately and for the first time in a long time, the Royals are in the playoff hunt after being left for dead before the All-Star Break.

Royals Walk Off Win

But the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers are playing well and winning too. When the Royals win, they win. If the Royals lose, the Indians lose (and lately the Tigers keep winning) and the Royals don’t gain on the Tigers and Indians.

As of Wednesday night, the Royals are fifth in the Wild Card race, five games back. Of the four teams ahead of them (Tampa Bay, Texas, Baltimore and Cleveland), the Royals only face the Indians for six games and Texas for three games. And the four teams ahead of them in the Wild Card are within 1.5 games of each other.

And if that’s not enough, in the next 11 days the Royals will play four games against the A.L. East leading Boston Red Sox and five games against the Tigers. In between those series, the Royals play the Miami Marlins, so there’s a chance to win more games if they don’t take the Marlins for granted.

The Royals haven’t played an above .500 team since July 25. Since then, the Royals are 10-2, which is good, but winning against below .500 teams should be expected. To be fair, the two teams above .500 the Royals played since the All-Star Break were the Tigers and Baltimore Orioles, and the Royals went 5-2 against them. Since the All-Star Break, the Royals are the only team in the Major League that have won all their series.

The next 11 days will determine if the Royals are for real. If they hold their own with the Red Sox and Tigers (and gain on the Tigers in the standings), the Royals won’t play an above .500 team until they play the Tigers again on September 6. In fact, the Royals play the Tigers and Indians 17 more times, 11 of which are against the Tigers. It’s simple: if the Royals keep winning series, they have a chance to make the playoffs.

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The Red Hot Royals

The Kansas City Royals have caught fire after the All-Star break, winning 11 of 13 games and nine in a row after a 7-2 victory over the Twins on Thursday afternoon. The only problem is that their AL Central foes, the Tigers and Indians, are also red hot. The Indians have won eight straight games and sit 2 games behind the division-leading Tigers. Kansas City is now 6.5 games back.

Mike_Moustakas

Royals fans now have a sense of excitement after the way the team has opened the second half. Keys to the Royals’ second half surge have included:

Stellar starting pitching

Jeremy Guthrie leads the Kansas City rotation with a 3-0 record in the second half. James Shields and Ervin Santana each have two wins. Wade Davis and Bruce Chen both have one win in two starts. Santana has a sparkling 1.21 ERA while Davis isn’t far behind at 1.80. Chen and Shields both have a 2.25 ERA and Jeremy Guthrie’s is the highest of the starters at 4.00. Chen has solidified his spot in the rotation for now and Davis has improved on what was a rough first half of the year.

A lights out bullpen

Four Royals’ relievers have yet to give up an earned run after appearing in at least four games. Luke Hochevar leads the group with 8.1 innings of scoreless relief. Tim Collins and Aaron Crow have 4+ innings without allowing a run and Louis Coleman has 3.2 innings without a run to his name. Not only has the bullpen been great, but they have also excelled in pressure situations, protecting six one-run wins for the Royals. When you combine the starters and the bullpen, Royals’ pitching sports an incredible 2.25 ERA since the break, good for second in the majors, ahead of the Tigers and behind only the Indians.

Mike Moustakas is heating up

Moustakas has struggled for most of the season, but he has recently found his swing. He has a team-leading three home runs and eight RBI in 12 games played in the second half. He even has a .325 batting average, bringing his season average up to .229. Moustakas had the big two-homer game against the Twins on July 30.

Royals batters are hitting for average

Jarrod Dyson is setting the pace for the Royals with a .389 average in 18 at-bats. Four other players are hitting above .300. Billy Butler is at .327, Moustakas and David Lough are in at .325 and Miguel Tejada owns a .313 average. As a team, the Royals are hitting .266, tied for fifth in the American League (up from .256 pre-All Star break).

Greg Holland is shutting the door

Holland has been great all year and has only continued his dominance after the break. He has converted all six of his save opportunities and has allowed only one earned run. Opponents are hitting .280 against the hard-throwing right-hander. If the Royals continue their amazing run, Holland should only have more opportunities to close out tight ball games.

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Kansas City Royals: Still a ways to go

After May, it looked like another typical Royals season. But approaching the All-Star break, the Royals are around .500 and within striking distance of the A.L. Central. It’s a position the Royals haven’t been in since 2003, when they had marquee names like Darrel May, Ken Harvey and Desi Relaford (those were the days). The team is playing better baseball, but they’re not playing good enough baseball.

DaytonMoore

Things are getting better. Eric Hosmer is playing like he should. Jeff Francoeur is gone and signed with the San Francisco Giants. Fan favorite Johnny Giavotella has the chance to be the everyday second baseman. Greg Holland is one of the best closers in baseball. The outfield is solid with All-Star Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, David Lough and Jarrod Dyson. All-Star catcher Salvador Perez is the cornerstone of the team and he’s only 23 years old. The offense is waking up. Yes, the Royals are the best they’ve been in years.

But there’s still a ways to go. Besides James Shields and Ervin Santana, the starting rotation is hit-or-miss. One start, Jeremy Guthrie is great, another start he’s lousy. Wade Davis is failing as a starter and Luis Mendoza is back in the bullpen, with Bruce Chen taking his place. The bullpen doesn’t have a go-to guy for the eight inning. Inconsistent reliever Kelvin Herrera spends too much time on I-29 shuffling between Kansas City and Omaha. Giavotella is the everyday second baseman, but after seven games he’s at .208/.269/.292. Mike Moustakas isn’t where he needs to be and Billy Butler is at .270/.374/.407, which is almost pedestrian for the Royals designated hitter.

So far, the Royals can’t get to .500. They had a chance against the Yankees Wednesday night, but lost 8-1, and now are two games under .500.

The trade deadline is at the end of the month and the team has to decide if they want to make a trade for a run for the A.L. Central or stay where they are and hope things get better. So far, there’s no real trade rumors, big or small. It depends how the Royals play the next couple of weeks.

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The state of the Royals offense

If you are a fan of the long ball, the Kansas City Royals may not be the team for you.

billy 595

Kansas City has 54 home runs as a team this year. This puts them second to last in the MLB, in front of only the Marlins. The Royals are the only team in baseball that doesn’t have a player with 10 or more home runs. Eric Hosmer leads the team with nine homers, including five home runs in the teams’ last eight games. Alex Gordon is second on the team with eight home runs.

The Royals have only four players with five or more round-trippers. Billy Butler has six and Mike Moustakas has five. As a point of reference, the Orioles lead the league in homers and have eight players with five or more and four players with 10 or more.

Last year Butler led the team with 29 homers and Moustakas added 20, but both are well off the pace they set in 2012.

Not only does Kansas City struggle to hit home runs, but they also don’t walk and thus they are in the bottom half of the league in runs scored.

With 210 walks on the season, the Royals rank 26th in the majors. Kansas City is 21st in the league with 334 runs scored. They are also in the bottom half of the league in on-base percentage, slugging and OPS.

The strengths of the Royals’ offense are hitting for average and being aggressive in the running game. As a team, Kansas City is hitting .260 on the year and is 4th in the majors with 60 stolen bases.

For the offense to get better, they must get more runners on base, especially via the walk. With more base runners, the Royals can attack on the base paths and have more chances to hit with runners in scoring position.

George Brett, the new Royals hitting coach, needs to stress the importance of drawing walks and having a patient approach. Kansas City has plenty of good hitters, even if hitting home runs is not their strength. With more walks the team should see a spike in runs scored and will give the Royals’ pitchers the run support they’ve been lacking.

The sixth inning of Thursday’s game against the Indians was a good example of the power of drawing a walk. Hosmer and Butler drew back-to-back free passes off of Ubaldo Jimenez and after Moustakas reached on an error, Lorenzo Cain launched a grand slam. It was nice that Cain came up with the big hit, but it was all set up by the lead-off walks.

The Royals took advantage of eight walks in the game and hit three home runs in a 10-7 victory over Cleveland.

More of the same would be nice for Royals fans.

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Francoeur had his chance, Giavotella gets another chance

Last Saturday, the Royals cut ties with outfielder Jeff Francoeur, designating him for assignment. Taking his place is infielder Johnny Giavotella, who will get regular playing time at second base.

Johnny-Giavotella

Royals fans clamored for these moves, but it’s too early to tell if they will make a difference. This year, Francoeur spent most of his time on the bench and ended up with a .208/.249/.322 line with three home runs and 13 RBI. Giavotella went three for four with two RBI in his 2013 debut against the Minnesota Twins and went 0-3 with a walk against the Cleveland Indians Tuesday night.

Giavotella will get plenty of playing time at second, with Chris Getz being sent down to AAA Omaha. Giavotella still doesn’t have the defensive prowess of an Elliot Johnson (or Chris Getz for that matter), but he does have offense, something desperately needed in the Royals lineup. Giavotella didn’t make the most of his opportunities at second base the other times he was on the team, but with Getz in Omaha, Giavotella will get an opportunity to see if he belongs in the Big Leagues.

As for Francoeur, it was a move that needed to be done. He couldn’t find his hitting stroke and with David Lough and Jarrod Dyson playing well, the Royals weren’t doing themselves or Francoeur any favors. The players and the team like Francoeur and he does have leadership qualities, but he wasn’t getting it done on the field. And Francoeur would be the first to admit he wasn’t playing well enough to stay with the Royals.

These moves needed to be done, but there’s still more issues the Royals need to overcome if they hope to become contenders in the A.L. Central. Mike Moustakas is improving with a .218/.279/.326 average, but he still has a long way to go. Wade Davis is 0-3 in his last three starts and Jeremy Guthrie went 1-1 with a no decision. In those games, the Royals went 1-5. Billy Butler is still being Billy Butler, but he isn’t hitting with power, with only one home run in June. Alex Gordon had a rough June with only three extra base hits, but with his grand slam Tuesday night, he appeared to be getting on track again. That is, until Gordon left Wednesday night’s game with a concussion and a hip contusion. Let’s hope Gordon makes a quick recovery.

Given all the Royals troubles this year, they’re still hanging in there. They had a 16-11 June and were 38-42 on July 2, 5.5 games back of the Indians. But they need to do more than tread water. They need to win games and win series to get above .500 and contend.

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Lately the Royals offense is more lucky than good

After being ten games below .500 at one point, the Kansas City Royals made it to the .500 mark early this week before losing two in a row to the Cleveland Indians, falling to a 34-36 record.

Chris_Getz

After the debacle of May, it’s good the see the Royals playing better baseball. But they’re not playing good enough to contend for the A. L. Central, much less be a playoff contending team. Losing two out of three games to the Indians proves that. The team batting average is .257, which is only point better than last week. They’re also dead last in the A. L. with 37 home runs and a .368 slugging average, so the power isn’t there.

While first baseman Eric Hosmer shows improvement with a revised swing, third baseman Mike Moustakas is stuck with a .189 batting average and calls from some fans to send him down to the Minors and move Alex Gordon to third. Sending Moustakas to the Minors might help, but moving Gordon to third is a bad idea. Remember one of the reasons the Royals moved Gordon to the outfield? It’s because he wasn’t that good at third base.

And then there’s the Jarrod Dyson coming back from the DL problem. Dyson isn’t the problem. Outfielder Jeff Francoeur is the problem. Francoeur is at .214/.257/.335 and spends more time on the bench while David Lough patrols the outfield. Lough was called up when Dyson went on the DL, and Lough has done well with a .296/.310/.418 line and made a couple of spectacular defensive plays. He’s proven to be at least a league average outfielder and better than Francoeur is now. Which means Lough will likely be sent down to the Minors when Dyson returns.

Yes, it doesn’t make sense, but sometimes the realities of baseball doesn’t make sense. Dyson doesn’t have options remaining, so if the Royals don’t add Dyson to the major league roster, they have to trade, option or release him, which the Royals won’t do. However, Lough does have options remaining and the Royals can send him back to Omaha with no restrictions.

The Royals could release Francoeur and eat his remaining $4 million salary, but it’s unlikely the team would do that either, seeing they still believe Francoeur will come out of his hitting slump. The likely scenario when Dyson returns is to start him in the outfield, have Francoeur on the bench and send Lough to Omaha. It’s not the fair decision or frankly the most logical decision. But if Francoeur doesn’t show improvement, the club will have no choice but to cut him loose and call Lough up as a Royals outfielder, which could happen sooner rather than later.

Next is Chris Getz, the Jeff Francoeur of the infield. Getz has a .216/.278/.288 average and platoons with Elliot Johnson, who has a better .252/.284/.342 average. But is Johnson an everyday second baseman? Seeing Johnson appeared in 47 games and Getz in 46 games, the Royals don’t think so. Second basemen aren’t known for their power like first or third basemen, but if a team isn’t getting much production from the corners, then the second baseman has to pick up the slack. That’s not happening with Getz and it’s uncertain if it would happen if Johnson was an everyday player.

Then the usual offensive stalwarts, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, are having “down” years. Gordon is at .288/.344/.416 and Butler at .273/.379/.399. They’re not bad numbers, but the Royals need to find offense where they can get it.

The Royals did a good job improving their starting rotation and despite some rough outings from the bullpen, the ‘pen is holding its own. The Royals pitching staff leads the A. L. with a 3.41 ERA and has kept the team from falling into oblivion. But the hoped for production from the lineup hasn’t been consistent. If the offense doesn’t improve, it could be another Royals season like it’s been the last ten to twenty years.

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Is George Brett making the Royals a better team?

A couple of weeks ago, the Royals were in their worst funk of the season. After losing seven games in a row by May 29 and with a 21-29 record, the Royals made a change and reassigned hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David to the Minor Leagues. In their place, the Royals hired interim hitting coach George Brett. Yes, the Royals legend George Brett.

George and Ned

At the time, it appeared to be a move done by the Royals to show they’re trying to do something and placate a cynical fan base. Hiring the Hall of Famer and the all-time Royals hits leader on an interim basis could either be a brilliant move that sparks the team into winning or become another flop that’s plagued the Royals for almost two decades.

So what happened on Brett’s first day of his job? The Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2, snapping the losing streak. Then the Royals went on to an 8-4 run with a six-game winning streak thrown in. Sure, the majority of the winning streak was against the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros, teams they should beat. But a win streak is a win streak and they did take two out of their last three games with the A.L. Central leading Detroit Tigers.

So with the addition of George Brett, the Royals should be hitting for higher average, hitting more home runs and scoring more runs per game, right? Well, not exactly. When Brett joined the Royals, the team had a .261/.314/.375 average. Now they have a .256/.310/.365 average. They’re still last in the A.L. with 33 home runs, with just two home runs hit in June. Since Brett was hired, the Royals average 3.3 runs a game. They averaged 4.0 runs before Brett was hired. And if that’s not enough, Mike Moustakas has a .184/.250/.286 average, Chris Getz is at .211/.247/.319 and Alcides Escobar is at .238/.263/.313. The Royals won’t win many games if these team and individual stats don’t improve.

So does Brett bring any value to the Royals? I believe he does. Just his presence in the dugout should inspire confidence among the players to play better and the coaches and manager Ned Yost to perform better. When Brett talks about hitting, offense and baseball, I’m sure the players will listen. And while the stats don’t reflect it, the bottom line is the team is getting timely hits and winning games. It doesn’t hurt the pitching staff has an A.L. leading 3.45 ERA either.

George Brett didn’t need this job. He had a good life as a retired Royals legend. He could do what he wanted when he wanted. His legacy as a Royal was secure. Brett knows he’s risking his legacy and perhaps reputation by taking this job, even if it’s only an interim basis. As the hitting coach, Brett will work long hours and spend a lot of time on the road, making players less than half his age listen to him concerning hitting, offense and baseball. But at 60 years old, Brett still has that competitive fire and still looks for a challenge. And it’s obvious Brett has a passion for the Royals to succeed or else he wouldn’t take the job.

The Royals have made it clear Brett will decide at the end of the month if he stays with the team or lets someone else be the hitting coach. And if the Royals keep playing well, Brett might have a real hard decision to make.

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