With Tuesday’s spectacular doubleheader sweep, the Royals have reached the halfway point of the season. They stand atop the AL Central with 48 wins. They have four All-Star starters and two reserves with the possibility of adding a third. The offense has had it’s ups and downs. The rotation has been overhauled and revamped with a cast of irregulars. The defense and the bullpen have both been rock steady. Hell, they’ve been better. They’ve been spectacular.
The team shot out of the gate with a seven game winning streak to open the year. It was as if October never ended.
As it stands at the middle of the season, the Royals stand an excellent chance of returning. The Royals have their second best mark in franchise history after 81 games. The 1980 team had 48 wins at this point. And you know the ’80 team was kind of special. This has been a stellar summer in KC. Let’s take a quick look back at some of the key contributors from the first half.
Most valuable Royal
Cain was the breakout star of October, winning the ALCS MVP award for playing complete baseball. He’s the entire package. We watch him everyday, yet I feel he’s properly rated in Kansas City. He’s developed into a solid bat to hit in the upper half of the order. His defense is among the best in baseball. And his base running is superior. Now, if he can only keep those hamstrings from barking.
According to the Fielding Bible, Cain has saved nine runs in center. That’s third best in the AL behind Kevin Kiermeier and Mookie Betts. That’s all well and good, but all I know is Cain covers acreage upon acreage in the outfield.
Cain leads the Royals in runs, steals, batting average, slugging percentage, wOBA and wRC+. He’s the complete package for the Royals, a deserving All-Star and the most valuable Royal for the first half of the season.
Least valuable Royal
Signed as a free agent to a one-year, $11 million deal, Rios has rewarded the Royals with a -0.5 fWAR. He’s been miserable in every aspect of the game. His offense is putrid. He owns a .044 ISO which is almost half of what Omar Infante has. He’s walking 1.4 percent of the time, which is also the worst on the team. That’s nearly subterranean. His defense isn’t horrible, but he seems to get late breaks on liners and hard hit balls, which causes him to play singles into doubles and doubles into triples. His defensive spray chart illustrates his average glove. He reaches only the plays he should make.
On the bases, he doubled his TOOTBLAN total on the year by running into two outs in the first game of the doubleheader on Tuesday. Including a bizarre tag up at second where he made the third out of the inning at third base. It was a tour de force of not giving a shit.
It’s time for the Royals to release Rios.
The message the Royals would send by releasing Rios and eating the remainder of his contract would be overwhelmingly positive. Rios and his performance are reminiscent of the “just happy to be in the major leagues” Royals teams of the mid-2000s. He’s a festering sore on the “return to the World Series” Royals team of 2015. A Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson platoon isn’t an ideal situation either, but at least you can’t question the effort you’d receive from the pair. Besides, together I’d wager the duo would outperform Rios in every aspect of the game.
Best scrap heap pick-up
Madson last pitched in the majors in 2011. When he arrived in spring training as a non-roster invite, I figured he was just another guy the Royals brought in for a look, but he would be gone in due time. Haha… glad I was wrong.
All he’s done is become the honorary fourth member of HDH. He’s holding opponents to a .188 batting average with a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio. He’s featuring more cut fastballs than previously and the results are there. His ground ball rate is a career-high 54 percent.
Most valuable pitcher
Or as I like to call him, The Wade Davis Experience. I mean, what else can you say about the guy? He’s a relief pitching beast.
On Tuesday, Davis pitched a scoreless inning. Again. That lowered his ERA by 0.01. Seriously. He’s so damn good a clean frame lowers his ERA from 0.25 to 0.24. It’s not like he’s pitching in junk time, either. He’s made 20 high-leverage appearances, most on the team. Of his 37 appearances, 34 have come with the Royals in the lead or with the game tied.
We’re watching a professional athlete at the extreme top of his game. Every Wade Davis Experience is truly special. Enjoy it.
It’s so tempting to go with the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, but I’ll go with this game from the end of April. The Royals took the lead in the top of the sixth, only to fall behind by two runs in the bottom of the frame. The Indians had a win expectancy of 82%. Big hits by Escobar, Moustakas and a bomb by Morales erased the deficit and then some. It was a game that had everything. You’re mileage may vary (and I’ve probably overlooked something obvious) but this one has stuck in my mind. Feel free to leave your favorite game of the year in the comments.
Honorable mention to this most recent run of wins, featuring three walkoffs (including the epic Orlando grand slam.)
It’s been a wild first-half ride. The Royals are playing better than I could have imagined. Here’s to a strong showing in the second half.