June 26, 2015

The Kansas City Royals began a three-game series on Friday, June 26, 2015 in the verdant, cavernous confines of O.co Coliseum. Kansas City was coming off an 8-2 victory in Seattle. Their record stood at 41-28. The Oakland Athletics’ came into the game at 34-41. After a rough start, the A’s had won five an a row and nine of eleven. Yours truly had camera in hand as I made my semi-regular Royals’ pilgrimage from my home in Sacramento.

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Eric Hosmer signs autographs before the game. I stationed myself behind the Royals dugout. Fans bring sharpies and things to sign: baseballs, paper, babies. Fans then hurl those things at the players. Eric Hosmer looks intense here, but fans have terrible arms.

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Fox Sports announcer Joel Goldberg announces on camera. I appreciate the improvised cardboard visor for the monitor, the duck tape drink holder and the socks!

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Here we have Royals right fielder Alex Rios shaking hands with Michael “Zman” Zagaris–team photographer for the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco 49ers. Rios scored the second Royals run in the third inning on a single from Lorenzo Cain.

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Again, nice socks Joel Goldberg.

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I believe this picture contains, from left to right, Oakland fans, Marcus Semien, a security guard, Stephen Vogt, an Athletics training staff member, Brett Lawrie, Josh Reddick and, what do you know, Ben Zobrist! The Royals acquired Zobrist and cash approximately one month later–July 28, 2015–for Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks.

Ben Zobrist hit a ninth-inning double off Franklin Morales scoring Josh Phegley to make the score 5-2. Greg Holland was then brought in to earn his fifteenth save.

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Eric Hosmer had a catch with Mike Moustakas before the game. Here’s Hosmer telegraphing his throw with his lips.

Hosmer singled in the third inning. Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain scored and Hosmer ended up on second after a bad throw from Oakland first baseman Ike Davis.

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Alex Gordon jogs to the outfield to warm-up prior to game time. Gordon hit a sixth inning solo home run off Jesse Hahn, making the score 5-1, Royals.

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Edinson Volquez throws warm-up tosses to Salvador Perez. Volquez was credited with the win in the game and moved his record to 8-4 on the season.

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The Royals disperse after the National Anthem. Alex Rios seems to be staring me down. I can only imagine it’s because of exposing his bromance with Micahel Zagaris. This photograph also features Jeremy Guthrie, Rusty Kuntz, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, and Drew Butera.

Kendrys Morales got the Royals on the board with a solo home run in the second inning.

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Omar Infante is about to make a warm-up throw to Alcides Escobar. I put the camera away for game time. The Royals won 5-2. Their record stood at 42-28 and they had a 4.5 game lead in the AL Central–their biggest lead to that point.

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The 2013 Kansas City Royals: All that is left to do now is win

Alas, the Chris Volstad era was over before it even began in Kansas City. Unfortunately, so is the Wil Myers era. The Royals “mortgaged the future” and made a “desperate move” by trading Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard—all future Hall of Famers—for some much needed height in 6’4″ James Shields and 6’5″ Wade Davis. The only logical outcome is that Myers, Montgomery, and Odorizzi will finish one, two, and three in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. The Royals, meanwhile, will stumble. Why? Because Losing = 😦 and Winning = :).

For the record, I am ecstatic about the trade because James Shields and I share the same birthday—December 20.

The knee-jerk response to the Royals-Rays trade was that the Rays dominated. I am impressed with the Crystal Balls these people have. You would think they would go into the stock market or something—like Keith Law, for example. I respect Keith Law. I am sure that he is a good employee, friend, husband, father, and cook. And I am sure he has had his share of prognosticating successes. However, Law’s assessment that “this is a heist” for the Rays and that “this looks like the move that brings Dayton Moore’s tenure in Kansas City…to an end” should be taken with a grain of salt. I used the stock market line for a reason. In March of 2008, Law was asked “Will the Dow dip under 10,000 at any point this year?” He said, “No, and I think we’ll see a rally in November no matter who wins.” Well, the Dow’s lowest level of 2008 came just after the election on November 21 when it hit 7449.38. Right before that, Law was asked whether Gavin Floyd would win 10-15 games. Law said “No,” Floyd should “get a good chiropractor” because he would be watching too many balls fly out of U.S. Cellular Field. Well, Gavin Floyd won 17 games in 2008.

Whatever, right? There is nothing else to talk about.

The Royals used to be good. Then they were bad. And they have stayed bad. Many people want to point to the fact that the Royals have not been in the playoffs since 1985. But they were really a contending team until the strike of 1994—the first year of the three division system. Incidentally, if the Royals had stayed in the American League West, they would have been in first place by 12 games when the strike hit. As it stood, the Royals had the fourth best record in the American League when the season ended in 1994. Then they became mediocre. Then they became abysmal. Royals fans feel bad about that. An explosion of baseball information and analysis then honed Royals fans’ ability to prognosticate doom.

Hardly anyone has prognosticated doom better than Rob and Rany on the Royals. Even before Moneyball, internet savvy Royals fans could turn to Rob Neyer and Rany Jayazerli for periodic, entertaining, sabermetric-infused doses of “the Royals do not know what they are doing.” Then Joe Posnanski got in on the act in the pages of the Kansas City Star. Soon, we learned that the Royals were not just a bad baseball team. They were a bad organization. They were putrid.

And it is not that the critcism was unwarranted. It is just that the culture changed after Dayton Moore took over, but the popular narrative did not. Sam Mellinger writes that Royals fans have been trained to hate the trade of Wil Myers. I think he is implying that “training” is due to the ineptitude of the Royals as an organization. However, I think that Rob Neyer, Rany Jayazerli, and Joe Posnanski are the most culpable of training Royals fans to hate this trade and almost anything the Royals do at the Major League level, in general.

Rob Neyer: “This is the worst trade in MLB history.”

Rany Jayazerli: “This sucks.”

Joe Posnanski: “I despise the Royals’ trade of late Sunday night. Despise. Deplore. Deride. Disapprove. If there were a Royals Tradebook Page, I would click the “dislike” button at least 10,000 times.”

Seriously?! These reactions were warranted? Have your feelings been hurt that badly? Neyer was a Royals fan who gave up on the team a long time ago and bashes the Royals when he can. Jayazerli, despite his continued ostensible appearance as a “Royals fan” has nothing but disapproval for virtually everything the Royals do at the Major League level. Posnanski drew many parallels between the Royals and his childhood Cleveland Indians. He drew close to Zack Greinke. And then the Royals traded Greinke and I do not know that Poz has had a good thing to say about the Royals since. And, yeah, you can point to what he wrote in SI, but I got the distinct impression his tongue was firmly planted in his cheek when he was envisioning life as a Royals fan in the future. I have come to despise anything any of them have to write about the Royals.

I give David Glass, Dayton Moore and the rest of the Royals staff credit for getting the franchise back to—at least what I would term—a respectable level. Of course, despite a highly regarded farm system, they have not won at the Major League level. Therefore, basically everyone–taking their cues from Keith Law, Rob Neyer, Rany Jayazerli, Joe Posnanski, and all the other Interweb writers–is smarter than the Royals front office because winning at the Major League level is like winning at fantasy baseball. Crafting the “I am smarter than Dayton Moore” argument is easy: You cite a player’s age or his FIP or his ISO or his +/- or his WAR or his OPS against right-handed pitching or whatever else aids the argument, you cite the Royals wins and losses, and, bingo, you are smarter than Dayton Moore and every other member of the Royals front office.

For the record, I do not think that winning at the Major League level is like winning at fantasy baseball. And I know for a fact that I, alone, am not smarter than the Royals front office. I think it comes down to emotions and how people feel about winning and losing. The Rays have some winning seasons under their belt so we feel good about them and imbue them with intelligence. The Royals do not have winning seasons under their belt. So we feel bad about them and imbue them with a lack of intelligence. Losing = dumb. Winning = smart. The Royals are obviously stupid for not realizing that.

Royals pitching acquires front court depth, Ervin Santana

The Kansas City Royals have already made their intramural basketball league more interesting. And they traded for a former All-Star.

Chris Volstad is six feet eight inches tall! He was selected off waivers on October 26 from the Chicago Cubs. Volstad is currently the tallest player on the Royals and adds some nice front court depth for the pitchers when they have pick-up basketball games against the hitters in Spring Training. Other guys battling for inside position will be Luke Hochevar, Will Smith, and Blake Wood – all listed at 6’5″. Always looking for height, Dayton Moore could pull off another deal for a tall hitter. However, that is not anticipated and the pitchers will have a decided advantage under the basket.

I am kidding, of course. Chris Volstad may not be good at basketball.

Meanwhile, the Royals and Angels swapped a couple of 6’2″ pitchers. The Angels sent $1,000,000 plus former All-Star Ervin Santana to the Royals for Brandon Sisk. Apparently, the Royals preferred Santana’s Body Mass Index to Sisk’s. Either that, or they hope that Santana gives them an even shot at winning when he takes the mound. Like Jonathan Sanchez a year ago, Santana enters the season with a career ERA+ of 97. Additionally, the Royals could not have found a pitcher whose 2012 season mirrored their own more closely.

Team Santana
Gm Opp Rslt RS RA IP R ER
3 KCR L 3 7 5.2 6 5
7 @NYY L 0 5 6 5 5
12 OAK L 0 6 7 4 4
17 @TBR L 0 5 5 5 5
22 @CLE L 0 4 7 2 2
27 TOR L 0 4 8 3 3
32 @MIN W 6 2 7.1 2 2
37 OAK W 4 0 7.2 0 0
42 @SDP L 2 3 6 2 2
47 @SEA W 6 4 5 4 4
52 NYY L 5 6 5 5 5
56 SEA L 6 8 4.2 7 7
61 @COL W 10 8 5.2 7 7
66 ARI W 2 0 9 0 0
72 LAD L 1 3 8 3 2
77 @TOR L 5 7 5 5 5
82 @CLE L 3 12 1.1 8 8
90 @DET L 6 8 6 4 2
95 TEX L 2 9 1.2 6 6
103 @TEX W 15 8 5 3 3
108 @CHW W 6 5 6 3 2
113 SEA W 6 5 6.1 5 4
118 CLE W 8 4 7 1 1
123 @BOS W 5 3 6.1 2 2
128 @DET L 2 5 7 4 4
133 @SEA W 5 2 7 2 2
138 DET W 3 2 6.2 2 2
143 OAK L 1 4 6 2 1
151 CHW W 6 2 7 1 1
159 @TEX L 7 8 2.2 6 6
Quality Start | Win

Remember April 8, 2012 when the Royals beat Ervin Santana and looked like world beaters? Good times.

Anyway, that began a string of six staight starts by Santana where the Angels lost. But that was not entirely Ervin Santana’s fault. After scoring 3 against the Royals, the Angels were shut out in each of Santana’s next five starts. Then the team won five of Santana’s eight starts. Then the wheels fell off and the Angels lost Santana’s next five starts. Then the ship righted, metaphors were mixed, and the Angels won Santana’s next five starts and eight of ten. They lost his last start when he went two and two thirds, allowing six runs.

So we have a bad start, followed by a solid stretch, followed by another dip, followed by another strong stretch, ending on a sour note. Ervin Santana experienced the Royals season in microcosm.

In my mind, Ervin Santana gives the Royals an even shot at winning as long as he stays healthy. He currently leads active Royals pitchers in career wins with 96. Bruce Chen has 71. Luke Hochevar has 38. Chris Volstad has 35. Next on the list is Vin Mazzaro with 15. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the starting lineup when the pitchers tip off the first game of intramural basketball.

I am kidding, of course. As stated, it is unclear if Chris Volstad is any good.

The 2012 Kansas City Royals: A Watched Pot Never Boils

I have no reason to be a pessimist about the Kansas City Royals. Pessimists jump out of windows. I am compelled to believe The Process is working. On the surface, 2012 was yet another losing season in a long line of losing seasons. However, there were positive signs in 2012 even if the results on the field were distasteful. Distasteful is better than putrid.

When I look at a baseball season, I like to break it out into a string of 9-game series. Most teams win at least 4 out of every 9 games over a 162 game schedule—18 9-game series or one 9 “inning” game. Even if it was exactly 4 of 9, the Royals won at least 4 out of 9 over a full season for just the seventh time in the last twenty years. This was despite the fact the Royals average of 4.2 runs scored per game was the third worst of the last twenty years. Their average runs allowed of 4.6 was a couple hundredths better than 1994 and the second best of the last twenty years.

Here is how the Royals looked in 2012, by “inning”:

Inning Game W-L RS RA RSA RAA
Top of the First 1-9 3-6 39 49 4.3 5.4
Bottom of the First 10-18 1-8 29 38 3.2 4.2
Top of the Second 19-27 5-4 36 46 4.0 5.1
Bottom of the Second 28-36 6-3 42 33 4.7 3.7
Top of the Third 37-45 3-6 31 38 3.4 4.2
Bottom of the Third 46-54 6-3 38 34 4.2 3.8
Top of the Fourth 55-63 4-5 29 35 3.2 3.9
Bottom of the Fourth 64-72 5-4 46 45 5.1 5.0
Top of the Fifth 73-81 4-5 44 48 4.9 5.3
Bottom of the Fifth 82-90 2-7 43 58 4.8 6.4
Top of the Sixth 91-99 2-7 29 46 3.2 5.1
Bottom of the Sixth 100-108 4-5 43 41 4.8 4.6
Top of the Seventh 109-117 6-3 34 25 3.8 2.8
Bottom of the Seventh 118-126 5-4 42 39 4.7 4.3
Top of the Eighth 127-135 5-4 37 40 4.1 4.4
Bottom of the Eighth 136-144 4-5 52 42 5.8 4.7
Top of the Ninth 145-153 5-4 32 39 3.6 4.3
Bottom of the Ninth 154-162 2-7 30 50 3.3 5.6
Positive Run Differential | Winning Record

Think about it, the Royals were four tenths of a run per game from having a pythagorean record of 88 wins. They had a bad April and a bad July, but were a solid .500 team the rest of the time.  I see this as progress.

Of course, there were negative signs as well. In particular, there was Eric Hosmer. I thumbed through the top rated hitters on baseball-reference.com. And I saw that good hitters, as a rule, did not regress like Eric Hosmer regressed in 2012. Aside from middle infielders, the closest ideal corollary I could find was Ron Santo. As a 20 year old in 1960, Santo’s OPS+ in 382 plate appearances was 97. The next year he put up a 122 OPS+ in 655 plate appearances. Then, in 1962, a 22 year old Santo’s OPS+ over 162 games played and 679 plate appearances was 74. After that, he was comfortably north of league average for 11 years. I do not know what happened to Santo in 1962.

Look at those 1962 Cubs. They had four relatively young Hall of Famers in their lineup: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Lou Brock, and Santo. George Altman led the team with a 137 OPS+. They had the rookie of the year in Ken Hubbs. They had four starting pitchers put up between 190.2 and 212.0 innings. How many games do you suppose the Cubs lost in 1962? They lost 103. I never would have expected that. But that is the thing about expectations. When reality conflicts with expectations, angst happens.

So, if the Royals are lucky, Eric Hosmer’s career will look like Ron Santo’s. And I cannot help but think about the health of a player—both physical and mental. Even if the Royals have an accurate picture of a player’s health, it is not like they are forthcoming with updates to the public—which is fine. But it means that I can never really know, for certain, the physical or mental disposition of any player. These are important points of reference in prognosticating a player. There is no pundit alive who knows these things.

I do not know the true value of defense, either. But it seems like Hosmer and the rest of the Royals infield might soon be considered the best group, collectively, in the American League. Salvador Perez has played like a monster. I just noticed there are no similarity scores for him on baseball-reference.com. The combination of defense and offense that Perez has displayed is, to me, comparable to some of the best ever. Alcides Escobar also appears to be turning into a special player—virtually any team would be happy to have him. Mike Moustakas got kudos for his defense even as his bat faded. At the beginning of last season, Hosmer, Moustakas, and Perez were still in the minors. I have such warm feels when I think about the potential of the Royals infield as it matures.

Throw in Billy Butler and Alex Gordon with the infield and I think that is a nice collection of players. After May, Alex Gordon was worth every penny of his new contract. He got some black! He led the league in doubles. So here is where the Royals deserve a lot of credit. They have Butler, Gordon, Escobar, and Perez locked up for three, four, five, and seven years, respectively. To me, each one is All-Star caliber. Presumably, Moustakas and Hosmer just need some experience and Lorenzo Cain needs to stay healthy.

Poor Jeff Francoeur can see the writing on the wall. It is spelled “Wil Myers.” Myers was the consensus Minor League Player of the Year in 2012. Frenchy is still a terrific defender—he led the American League in assists—and, in theory, a solid bat against left handed pitching. But that skill abandoned him in 2012. Frenchy still holds a very respectable .820 career OPS in 1329 plate appearances against left handed pitching. Unfortunately, his OPS against lefties in 2012 was .695. Wil Myers looms over Frenchy’s head. Myers played some center, so maybe Lorenzo Cain will be the odd man out, for a time. It will be interesting to see how the outfield looks when the Royals break camp in 2013.

It will also be interesting to see how the pitching staff is composed. The Royals were 18 games under .500 in 2012. They were also 18 games under .500 in games started by Bruce Chen, Will Smith, and Luke Hochevar. However, take away July’s 8.31 ERA and Bruce Chen was basically Bruce Chen—still a worthwhile starting pitcher. Will Smith pitched his best in July and put up a respectable 4.64 ERA after his first three starts. Smith is also tall. He is listed at 6’5”. Luke Hochevar is tall and you cannot coach height. Unfortunately, you cannot coach Hochevar, either. I would like to see Chen and Smith in the rotation, but I hope the Royals cut their ties with Hochevar this off season.

Luis Mendoza’s nearly league average ERA of 4.23 was a nice surprise and I have no problem with him in the rotation. I hate to get hung up on the mythical “number one starter,” because there is a lot of value is guys who give you an even chance to win. The Royals were 12-13 in games started by Mendoza. It was also nice to see the Royals flip Jonathan Sanchez for Jeremy Guthrie. The Royals were 10-4 in games started by Guthrie.

So here is a table of the games started by each pitcher with the corresponding team wins with team runs scored and team runs allowed.

Starter STARTS W-L RS RA RSA RAA
B.Chen 34 13-21 140 159 4.1 4.7
L.Hochevar 32 13-19 129 155 4.0 4.8
L.Mendoza 25 12-13 99 105 4.0 4.2
W.Smith 16 6-10 72 74 4.5 4.6
J.Guthrie 14 10-4 56 47 4.0 3.4
J.Sanchez 12 3-9 57 78 4.8 6.5
F.Paulino 7 4-3 22 17 3.1 2.4
D.Duffy 6 4-2 27 16 4.5 2.7
V.Mazzaro 6 3-3 22 28 3.7 4.7
E.Teaford 5 3-2 30 27 6.0 5.4
J.Odorizzi 2 1-1 11 21 5.5 10.5
N.Adcock 2 0-2 5 10 2.5 5.0
R.Verdugo 1 0-1 6 9 6.0 9.0
TOTAL 162 72-90 676 746 4.2 4.6
Positive Run Differential

Or, put another way…

Starter STARTS W-L RS RA RSA RAA
B.Chen 34 13-21 140 159 4.1 4.7
L.Hochevar 32 13-19 129 155 4.0 4.8
Everyone Else 29 15-14 123 128 4.2 4.4
Guthrie/Sanchez 26 13-13 113 125 4.3 4.8
L.Mendoza 25 12-13 99 105 4.0 4.2
W.Smith 16 6-10 72 74 4.5 4.6
TOTAL 162 72-90 676 746 4.2 4.6

I will give Bruce Chen the benefit of the doubt and say he had a bad month and was a little unlucky. The Royals had a slightly-below .500 pythagorean record in games started by Will Smith. Jonathan Sanchez was a disaster, but flipping him for Jeremy Guthrie basically put the Royals in the same position had Sanchez pitched respectably. The Royals were an actual .500 team in the 54 games started by Luis Mendoza and the seven other pitchers who make up “Everyone else.” Can I say it again? Luke Hochevar does not give the Royals a fair shot of winning. He tips the field, but in the other team’s favor.

Could the Royals possibly sign Joakim Soria to start, a la John Smoltz? Do they consider Aaron Crow again for the rotation? Can you see the Royals signing Kevin Millwood? Would they seriously consider signing Kyle Lohse to a long term deal? How soon will the Tommy John pitchers be ready? Will Eric Hosmer bounce back? Will Mike Moustakas mash an entire season? Can Lorenzo Cain stay healthy? When will Wil Myers make his Major League debut? Can I seriously go an entire post without mentioning the relief pitching?

To me, the Royals are like a pot of water about to boil over. When Dayton Moore got to Kansas City, the water was cold. He may have turned the heat on in 2006, but it has taken time for talent to percolate. The relief corps are like the tiny bubbles that rise to the top first. Good job, guys! Then Hosmer and Moustakas arrived. Johnny Giavotella is up, but Christian Colon will be nipping on his heels. Wil Myers will be up soon. Bubba Starling will be knocking at the door after that. Then, perhaps, Adalberto Mondesi will follow Starling. Jake Odorizzi will take his place in the rotation. John Lamb will come back. Kyle Zimmer looks promising. Mike Montgomery is still lurking. Noel Arguelles could surprise. And on and on. The churn of talent is unmistakable.

To paraphrase an unnamed Royals executive, one day we will wake up and the Royals will be good. There are just no two ways about it. I am ready for the narrative to change.

Top of the Fifth

We are through four and a half innings of the Royals 2012 season. They have only outscored their opponents in three of those nine half-innings. They are not ready for prime time. However, I am still high on the Royals. I am still high on their talent. I misjudged their chances this season, but they are dynamic and young. They will get better.

The 2012 Royals season over the first 9 9-game stretches, with won-loss record, runs scored average, and runs allowed average.

Inning W-L RSA RAA
Top of the First 3-6 4.3 5.4
Bottom of the First 1-8 3.2 4.2
Top of the Second 5-4 4.0 5.1
Bottom of the Second 6-3 4.7 3.7
Top of the Third 3-6 3.4 4.2
Bottom of the Third 6-3 4.2 3.8
Top of the Fourth 4-5 3.2 3.9
Bottom of the Fourth 5-4 5.1 5.0
Top of the Fifth 4-5 4.9 5.3

Top of the second: A winning half-inning

I moved to California’s Central Valley at the beginning of 2004. The last time I saw a game at Kauffman Stadium was during the 2003 season. That will change in July as I have my plane tickets purchased for a week long visit back to Kansas City. It is my twentieth high school reunion. At some point during conversation, I may draw an analogy between the plight of the Royals and my own 15-year marriage.

Having said that, the Royals had a “winning half-inning!” That is, each 9 game chunk can represent a half-inning of a 9-inning game: 162/9=18. Math! And in their last 9, the Royals went 5-4!

Royals hitters, April 26, 2012 to May 6, 2012, sorted by plate appearances:

Name PA BA OBP SLG OPS
Gordon 40 0.400 0.475 0.629 1.104
Butler 39 0.306 0.359 0.472 0.831
Hosmer 38 0.108 0.132 0.189 0.321
Moustakas 36 0.333 0.389 0.606 0.995
Dyson 35 0.303 0.314 0.364 0.678
Francoeur 33 0.300 0.364 0.433 0.797
Escobar 29 0.207 0.207 0.310 0.517
Getz 22 0.211 0.318 0.368 0.687
Pena 20 0.211 0.250 0.263 0.513
Quintero 14 0.071 0.071 0.286 0.357
Betancourt 14 0.154 0.214 0.308 0.522
Maier 8 0.000 0.250 0.000 0.250

I guess the good news is that Alex Gordon has more than turned the corner. Also, Mike Moustakas is more than for real. I think he should be getting more plate appearances while he has the hot hand. I understand Eric Hosmer is the golden child and all that, but would it really cause such a rift in the time-space continuum to switch Hosmer and Moustakas in the lineup?

For their careers:

Name PA BA OBP SLG OPS
Hosmer 682 0.274 0.321 0.448 0.770
Moustakas 469 0.273 0.321 0.404 0.725

I guess the answer is that maybe Moose can hit fifth if Frenchy is not playing.

Additionally, I thought Mitch Maier and Jason Bourgeois could be a competent platoon at any OF position. But with Lorenzo Cain out for an extended period, the Royals brought up Jerrod Dyson and sent down Bourgeois. Dyson’s hitting .300, but it is an empty .300. The Royals are using their entire 40-man roster and that’s fine, but I think Ned is trying too hard. I wonder what the Royals would do if they absolutely had to win one game.

I do not have a problem with Ned Yost as a manager because I think he is a leader of men. I think he sets clear expectations and then gives players the opportunity to succeed. When the players do not succeed, they are replaced. Ultimately, I am not worried about his lineups or the decisions he makes in-game. I do not think the 12-game losing streak was Ned’s fault. I think that almost any manager is going to make the same kinds of in-game decisions that will have many fans scratching their heads. I think it comes down to the talent.

Most of that is trivial because the team still allowed a run more per game than they scored. The team scored 36 runs in their last 9 and allowed 46–19 in the two starts by Luke Hochevar and 13 in two starts by Bruce Chen. Chen gets a pass, but Hochevar’s struggles are becoming worrisome. I expected Hochevar was going to be a solid contributor to this rotation. It looks like I must adjust that expectation. I will not be surprised if Luke Hochevar is no longer a member of the Royals at the end of the season. I do not think they place him on waivers. I think he might bring the same haul in trade as a Mike Aviles or Wilson Betemit.

Bottom of the first: Four Noble Truths for Royals fans

1. Life is suffering.
Life started out so well for Royals’ fans. Then we went through a Glass, darkly. However, the Royals now have Moore talent than they have had in quite some time. But the wins have not materialized on the Major League level. Life is suffering.

2. The discrepancy between desire and reality causes suffering.
Royals’ fans desire a winner. Some fans might say that respectability is what they want. Either way, the 2012 Royals have not delivered.

3. We can be free of suffering.
We can free ourselves of our desires.

4. Do not give up hope.
Either the narrative is that these are just the same old Royals or that this is something different. I say the Royals have talent, but they are 4-14 after their first 18 games, with a 12 game losing streak included. They have scored 68 runs and allowed 87. Are they really this bad?

I expected this team to be more consistent. If I hold on to that expectation, I will be disappointed. I now expect this team to be streaky, possibly freakishly. Poz has already laid down the gauntlet. The most wins for a team with a 12-game losing streak is 78.

It still comes down to runs scored and runs allowed. The Royals are 13th in the American League in runs scored. They are 12th in the American League in runs allowed. The good news about run scoring is that they are 5th in the AL in OPS. They have also been caught stealing more than any other AL team. Blame Ned, right? But the team with the most times caught stealing in MLB is the Dodgers and they are 13-6. This, too, shall pass.

Royals’ hitters, April 16 to April 25, 2012, sorted by Plate Appearances:

Name PA BA OBP SLG OPS
Gordon 42 .270 .357 .486 .843
Hosmer 39 .235 .333 .500 .833
Francoeur 38 .167 .211 .250 .461
Butler 38 .286 .342 .486 .828
Moustakas 36 .323 .417 .484 .901
Escobar 34 .344 .382 .563 .945
Maier 26 .273 .385 .409 .794
Quintero 23 .250 .348 .350 .698
Betancourt 22 .263 .364 .316 .680
Getz 18 .333 .375 .467 .842
Pena 13 .167 .231 .333 .564
Bourgeois 10 .222 .300 .222 .522

I think the bigger issue, still, for the Royals is getting consistent starting pitching. The Royals have had 6 starts so far of less than 5 innings. Only 1 opposing starter has gone less than 5 innings against the Royals. Two of those sub-5 starts are from Jonathan Sanchez which is a little troubling; possibly indicative that he is not fully back to health.

Two other sub-5 inning starts were from Luis Mendoza. This is not so troubling because Felipe Paulino is just about to return from the DL. Game 19 saw Mendoza go 5 and then leave the bottom of the sixth with the bases loaded and no outs. It could be one of the last starts he ever makes for the Royals.

Royals’ starters and their opponents, first 18 games.

IP ERA IP ERA
Chen 25.0 2.52 #1 Opponent 26.2 1.01
Hochevar/Sanchez 20.0 6.75 #2 Opponent 24.0 4.50
Sanchez/Hochevar 19.0 4.74 #3 Opponent 19.0 5.68
Mendoza 13.0 6.92 #4 Opponent 18.1 4.42
Duffy 17.1 3.64 #5 Opponent 23.0 2.35

Eventually, I think the Royals find consistent starters in 2012. The narrative is different from years past because the Royals were trying to make an apple pie with rotten oranges. Now, they are trying to make an apple pie with some apples that are not quite ripe. That is my metaphor and I am sticking to it. There is still time for ripening. After all, we are just entering the top of the second inning of the 2012 season.