Wow, just a few things went on this weekend.   We had the NFL Draft, a guy named bin Laden was erased from the face of the earth and the Royals swept the Twins.  Now, if we have to debate which of the three is the most important story, then I will pick up my toys and go home.   

You might have noticed over the years, that this is not a world affairs blog nor do we talk about the NFL.   As such, we can discuss a very big sweep over Minnesota and just generally think happy thoughts throughout this off-day.

I think a lot of us thought Kansas City was about to go into ‘the big slide’ that we have so often seen in the past.   After leaping out of the gates by winning ten of their first fourteen games, the Royals had floundered all the way to a game under .500.    They had been swept in back to back road series, looking very 2006-ish in getting drubbed in Cleveland.

The here-we-go-again feeling certainly had overtaken me.   One could almost feel a stretch of games coming that would see the Royals drop twenty out of twenty-five and sink once more out of the collective national baseball consciousness.     Instead, however, we saw this team right itself and sweep the Twins:  obliterating them in the final two games of the series. 

At this point in time, the Minnesota Twins are an injured, hapless bunch, but there is something to be said for beating teams that are not playing well.    There is also something to be said for playing baseball in your home park.

In 2010, the average home record of American League teams was 45-35 (yes, I know that doesn’t add up to 81) and the average road record was just 36-44.   Only four teams had losing records at home, while five teams managed to post a winning record on the road.   In 2009, the averages are similar: 46-35 at home and 35-45 on the road.  Like in 2010, four teams posted losing home records, but only two were overall winners on the road.

There is nothing earth shattering in those numbers and, without looking, I have to imagine that we could go back a great number of years and generally see similar results.   Quite frankly, Dorothy, there is no place like home.  For the Royals, that seems particularly true through the early part of the 2011 schedule.

On their way to posting a 12-5 home record, the Royals have average 5.6 runs per game and posted a robust team slash line of .278/.355/.446.   The pitching staff has held opponents to a .256 batting average on their way to posting a 3.64 earned run average and allowed less than one home run per game (14 in 17 contests).

On the road, Kansas City is just 3-8 and averaging only 4.5 runs per game.   The offense has hit just .268/.318/.410 and the pitching staff has posted a 5.95 ERA and allowed the opposing teams to hit .307.  The pitchers have also given up 21 home runs in just 11 games, despite posting a better strikeout to walk ration (1.97 on the road as opposed to just 1.51 at home).

Obviously, just 17% of the way through the schedule, the imbalance of who the Royals have played at home versus the teams they have faced on the road versus who was hot and who was hurt all skew the results.   Still, those are pretty dramatic differences on both sides of the ball.   Given the youth of this team and type of starting pitching they employ, none of us are probably overly surprised by the split, but I found it interesting.

It also gives me some  hope that despite a tough 31 game stretch that began with the Twins’ series, with 19 of those games at home, the Royals might be able to stick around that .500 mark through the end of May.   Should they manage that feat, then the discussion gets extremely interesting on many fronts.   Defending the home field over the next six games against Baltimore and Oakland will be critical.

Now a couple of bullet points to finish up:

  • As has been discussed in many locations, the inclusion of Jarrod Dyson on the 25 man roster is a somewhat curious decision.    While he has made an impact in the role this year, there just are not a lot of pinch-runner/defensive replacement guys being carried by anyone these days, but I was envisioning the scenario wherein doing so makes sense and also does not cripple a manager’s ability to make in-game moves.  It would seem to me, that having good enough pitching to go with an 11 man staff instead of 12 is the key.  In the Royals’ case, that would allow them to carry an extra infielder.   On days when the lineup includes Getz, Aviles and Betemit (one of the latter two DHing), you would still be able to pinch hit for Escobar or Getz.   I am not really against having Dyson on the current roster, just thinking how a ‘Dyson-like’ role fits on a logical 25 man set-up.
  • Speaking of defense, I have a hard time justifying a weak bat at any position other than catcher and shortstop.   Simply put, it does not seem to me that any other position effect the defense enough to carry a sub .700 OPS.   I bring that up, because Mike Aviles is hitting and Chris Getz is not.    The Royals have no real options but to play Alcides Escobar (whose defense is great, but he really needs to post an OPS well above his current .516), and the two catchers and they remain loyal to Kila Ka’aihue and probably should for another three or four weeks.   They have an option at second to add another offensive weapon and should use it on an everyday basis, even if it does mean weaker defense.
  • Finally, I am pretty ambivalent when it comes to Mitch Maier, but it was nice to see him have a big day on Sunday after replacing Jarrod Dyson.   Mitch now has a grand total of 11 plate appearances in 2011.  It is tough duty to be the last guy on the bench and easy place to lose focus.  To his credit Maier has been a true professional and kept himself ready to play even though he knows the odds are that he seldom will.  That is a subtle addition to clubhouse chemistry that should not be overlooked.

Is four of the next six a realistic goal?  I would like to think so, although Royals pitchers will not be able to walk 17 batters in a series and get away with it very often.