After the outrage and invective that emanated from Twitter in the moments following the Royals sixth consecutive loss – and fifth straight at home – I was tempted to just cut and paste Nick’s post from yesterday.
Look, I understand the frustration. It sucks. There are a bunch of problems with this team and with this organization. They didn’t magically disappear in February and March. They didn’t suddenly reappear in April. They’ve always been there.
Clark has talked about the 62 games that can go either way… Win or loss… And how the season really hangs in the balance of those games. Catch some breaks and things look good. Have things go against you and it turns to crap in a hurry. We’re neck deep in crap.
Maybe I’m numb to the whole “Royals as a losing entity” thing. Twenty-seven years of horrible baseball can have that effect. In any case, I’m trying to keep my sanity and part of that is writing this blog. And part of that is telling myself that in the big picture, this team isn’t as bad as the first 11 games have represented.
Here’s why I feel this way…
– The Sal Perez injury. I never know how much to believe when you hear the Royals talk about character and clubhouse presence. But I do know it’s rare when those types of accolades are showered upon a 21 year old catcher. The kid is a special blend of talent and personality. His going down with the knee injury hurts this team in so many ways defensively. And it probably hurts the starting staff in ways that are difficult to quantify.
– Alex Gordon is slumping. I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know. He’s hitting .140 and for the second consecutive evening, made the final out when he could have either tied or won the game. If the Royals are going to have any kind of offensive attack, they have to get him going at the top of the order. Without him, we’re going to see a bunch of games like the one we’ve seen the last two nights with extremely depressed run totals.
– Eric Hosmer is lost. He is fishing for the pitches low and away. He is getting tied up inside. And he has one hit in six balls put in play that were in the dead center of the plate. Not the start we hoped for from the guy regarded as the future of the franchise.
– The Lorenzo Cain injury. After the Jerrod Dyson Experience in center field over the weekend – which was crazy because he is not as bad in the field as he looked – it’s safe to say we miss Cain’s glove. The question about Cain was all about the bat, so with the early injury the jury is still out. As much as I love Our Mitch, he’s not an every day player. And Jason Bourgeois doesn’t inspire confidence. Plus, his arm gives me Johnny Damon flashbacks.
– Greg Holland isn’t himself. Last year, Holland stranded 31 of 33 runners he inherited. This year, he’s stranded just one of five. For a guy who’s being used in extremely high-leverage situations, this is a combination of a judo chop to the stomach and a knee to the groin.
The Royals aren’t built to weather the slumps and injuries. It’s a thin team. I suppose we could point the finger at the architect – and many will – but these things happen. Center field has been an issue in this organization for years. Last year, maybe we could have gotten by if Melky Cabrera had gone down because we had Cain in Omaha. This year… Cabrera is in San Francisco because the Royals had a need at starting pitcher. Which now leaves us thin at CF. Tough cycle. Same with catcher – although the Royals have gotten decent production from the backup tandem of Pena and Quintero. Bullpens are notoriously finicky from one year to the next. Slumps happen. Etc, etc, etc…
The bottom third of the order has the potential to be abysmal. So when they play to their potential and the big guns are struggling, this team is in serious offensive trouble. Three of the five starters make Kyle Davies look like an All-Star. And the bullpen has had it’s share of hiccups. Unfortunately, if the Royals get a good start from Chen or Duffy, the bats go silent. If the starters get torched, the bats light up and mount a comeback that falls short. And the bullpen is no longer a strength… It’s a wild card.
The offense is striking out once every 5.5 at bats. That’s the second worst mark in the league. And they’re hitting a home run once every 48.1 at bats. Again, that’s the second worst mark in the league. Their line drive percentage is 16 percent – worst in the league.
Of course, the base running has been abysmal. Bourgeois got picked off on Tuesday… Another out made on the bases. When your team is reaching base at a sub .300 clip, every out is precious. The Royals have never, ever understood that there is a fine line between aggressive and reckless. And they’re not even coming close to that line.
I don’t think I’m some kind of optimist, but I still target Royals to finish with 74 wins. This isn’t 2004 all over again… Remember that one? Where we bought into the contention fantasy, only to have that team lose 104 games? This team isn’t going to be in the hunt for the pennant as “Our Time” would suggest, but they will right the ship and regain respectability.
Speaking of which, I know that there are a good number of people who bought into the Our Time campaign and the expectation that this team could play .500 baseball or even contend. You’re pissed. I get that. Fans want to desperately believe. It’s not foolish to think that this was “Our Time.” And it sucks that another slow start has happened. But given the fact that this team was not built for a championship, a stretch of bad baseball like we’re currently experiencing seemed inevitable. So my question is: If you were going to have a stretch where this team won just three out of 10 games, does it matter when it happens?
To me, no. It doesn’t matter when it happens. Although I do understand those who say it does. That April is an exciting time because it’s the start of the season and there’s the promise that this is finally a good year and a slow start dooms that promise.
All I can tell you is things will be OK.
There’s going to be a point in the season when the Royals reel off seven wins in 10 games. We’re not even eight percent through the season. I’m not ready to walk away from this team because of 11 games. No way. There’s too much potential here. There have been positives in this stretch…
– Bruce Chen has been really good in his three starts. Two walks and 14 strikeouts? A 0.83 WHIP? A 3.54 xFIP? I’ll take it.
– Danny Duffy is showing serious signs of development and intestinal fortitude to be an extremely good starting pitcher in this league. His performance on Monday was the best game I’ve ever seen him pitch. He was literally two pitches away from moving his start from “quality” to “freaking outstanding.”
– Mike Moustakas has been playing amazing defense at third base. I figured him as a solid defender, but he’s made some highlight-reel quality plays at the hot corner.
– Billy Butler is a hitting maniac. His plate appearances are worth the price of admission. Total professional hitter.
– Mitch Maier’s career ERA is still 0.00.
So I’m still on board. Maybe I’m crazy. Or maybe I’m some kind of masochist. But I really believe they will turn this thing around, catch some breaks and win some of these close games they’ve been losing.
I’m not ready to throw in the towel on my summer in mid-April.