While is is cliche to say an off-day came at a good time, this Monday break in the schedule came at a good time for the Royals. Fresh off a sweep at the hands of the Rangers, who were playing without Josh Hamilton and Neftali Feliz, and losers of six of their last eight games, this young Kansas City team needs to check itself before it wrecks itself.
More than anything, I am hoping this off-day allows the team to truly take a breath and realize it still has a chance to be much better than virtually all of us thought they could be. Certainly, the Royals are not going to win ten of every fifteen games as they did to start the season, but they should not perceive themselves as a team that is going to lose six of eight, either.
In those six losses, only one was a true beat down (the 11-6 loss to open the Texas series). In every other game, even yesterday, Kansas City was a key hit or a key hold away from tying or winning. That is not the sign of a team with no hope. It is, however, a sign of a team with five rookies in the bullpen and whose best player this year was widely regarded as bust last year. There is not a whole lot that the organization can do about those facts, other than keep playing and get enough good fortune for the team to continue to believe.
I know, belief is one of those touchy feelly things that we tend to discount, but there is some merit to the simple fact that a player thinks something is going to happen to help his team win as opposed to thinking something is going to happen to make his team lose. We have been on the losing side of that equation with a number of Royals teams this century. Thus far, and it is early, the 2011 Royals seem to be avoiding the ‘loser mentality’. Doing so, warranted or not, going forward will certainly not hinder this organization’s drive back to respectability.
You wonder if Ned Yost is going to spend a considerable amount of his off-day time thinking about his lineup after seeing Mike Aviles go three for five yesterday with two home runs and a steal. Aviles, who is ninth on the team in plate appearances has gone 10 for 27 after starting the year 3 for 28 and currently has a slugging percentage greater than everyone on the team not named Francouer.
The snag is that the two guys in direct competition with Aviles for playing team, Wilson Betemit and Chris Getz, each had two hits yesterday. Getz, who was in a 3 for 31 stretch prior to yesterday, would seem to be playing his way out of the lineup….if we applied the same principals to his performance as the Royals applied to that of Aviles to start the year.
Quite obviously, you cannot take Wilson Betemit (.364/.424/.509) out of the lineup anytime soon and the organization is going to give Kila Ka’aihue more at-bats whether you like it or not, so the equation comes down to this:
- Aviles – .236/.271/.527 with 4 steals and 9 extra base hits
- Getz – .240/.330/.280 with 5 steals and 2 extra base hits
You make the call on this one, but I go with Aviles based on the above and the fact that he has two seasons worth of hitting decently well on his resume.
Speaking of Betemit (sort of), there has been discussion around whether he should be hitting fifth instead of Jeff Francouer. My gut reaction when Yost moved Ka’aihue down in the order was that he should, but it is a very minor issue at this point given how Jeff Francouer is hitting. Currently on a .325/.370/.566 run, I don’t think you do anything to mess with Frenchy right now.
Now, Francouer has had streaks similar to this before. After being traded to the Mets in 2009, Jeff hit .311/.338/.498 over a 75 game run. Those numbers are not at all dissimilar to those of his rookie season, albeit with a less power. While this is likely just another hot streak in a notorious hackers career, I will point out that with 7 walks in 21 games, Francouer is on pace to walk over 50 times this year: well above his career high. Right now, Jeff’s early numbers in a very small sample size bear a distinct resemblance to his 2007 season. I would take that year’s result of .293/.338/.444 with 40 doubles and 19 home runs, wouldn’t you?
The off-day has also allowed or caused Ned Yost to skip Sean O’Sullivan in the starting rotation this time around. Normally, that would all make perfect sense to me, but O’Sullivan is coming off two good starts. In addition, is it wise to go out of your way to get an extra start for Luke Hochevar, who has never pitched more than 143 major league innings in one season, and Jeff Francis, who admittedly wore down last year?
Finally, if you would rather think about baseball instead of work on this Monday, check the Royals’ schedule through the end of May and give us a guess on what their record will be over the next thirty-three games. Also, if you happen to see any series in there that we might consider ‘a break’, please let me know. From my perspective, this team is about to embark a pretty rugged stretch of games.