A trip to the east side and the Royals bats fall into another slumber. It felt so promising after the Twins series where the Royals performed the requisite role of favorite and brushed aside the upstarts with ease. Not your time, Minnesota.
The Cardinals, as much as it pains to write, are good. Very good. They are not the Twins. They have been to the top of their division, they have been the favorites and they enjoy the view from the penthouse, thank you very much. My snide May remarks about them being “the second-best team in Missouri” was wishful thinking on my part.
Friday’s game was painful. Five hits. Four of them were of the infield variety. We know the Royals like to ride the singles train, but this was the kiddie version at the mall that goes around in a tight circle at under 5 mph. Pathetic. Hats off to Cardinal starter Jaime Garcia, though. He throws a nasty sinker and has had his struggles with shoulder injuries the last couple of seasons. It’s a minor miracle he’s still in the game. Add to the gross factor was Yordano Ventura exiting the game after he lost feeling in two fingers and the thumb on his pitching hand. Yeah. Friday sucked.
Saturday’s game was painful as well, but for different reasons. With a lefty on the mound for the Cardinals, Ned Yost opted for his NL Special Right-Handed Hitting Lineup with Alex Gordon the only left-handed bat in the game. When your lineup features Christian Colon, Omar Infante, the pitcher and rolls over to Alcides Escobar, you’re going to struggle to score. It’s not a coincidence the Royals only two runs on the day came on solo home runs. This was not a lineup constructed for the big inning.
Which brings me to another point: Yost has to address his lineup. Not in a week, a la Bobby Cox. Today. We are at a critical point in the Royals offensive struggles. It’s not so much about shaking things up. It’s about righting a wrong. Let’s start at leadoff. Escobar has to go. He is hitting .255/.285/.341. Unacceptable for a leadoff hitter. The only team that has gotten worse production out of the top of their order is Oakland. If you go by OPS+, the Royals have actually been the worst team in the AL at the leadoff spot. You simply cannot have October thoughts and have Escobar leading off. I understand he was the guy at the top of the order for September and October. Spare me the arguments for keeping him at leadoff. That was six weeks in a six year career. The Royals got lucky with Escobar at the end of last year. Luck tends to run out.
From Baseball Reference, here is the performance of American League leadoff batters by team, ranked by on base percentage. You’ll find the Royals second from the bottom. They also have the fewest total bases and their slugging percentage is the worst among AL teams. Don’t even get me started about their 10 walks. There is no way you can shine the turd of this table:
While the leadoff spot has been an issue all season, it’s also time for Omar Infante to take a seat on the bench for an extended vacation. The dude has five hits (all singles) in his last 62 at bats. One walk and 14 strikeouts. And Yost still insists he’s the choice at second base. You know my feelings on the situation.
And Alex Rios. Oh. My. God. I haven’t seen outfield play that uninspiring since Kevin McReynolds couldn’t be bothered back in the early ’90s. There is a decided lack of focus out there, which isn’t surprising given Rios’s past. When he’s going good, he’s locked in and a valuable performer. When he’s not… It’s all downhill. It’s a shame he suffered the injury to his hand in Minnesota because it felt like his season was going to be about the former. Now, it’s about the latter. He took longer than expected to recover from his injury (which also wasn’t a surprise to those who have followed his career) and has yet to find his swing since returning. And now it appears he’s carrying the offensive struggles to the field. Lackadaisical and careless. That’s how you describe his defense over the last couple of weeks.
Glaring holes at second base and right field. The more things change…
OK. You’ve read this far and are thinking, “Enough with the bitching. What’s your solution?” Fair. Here’s my suggested lineup:
I’m not entirely pleased with the construction here, but I have my best hitters stacked one through four, so I can’t complain too much. It happens that the Royals best hitters this year are left-handed, so the lineup dispenses with Yost’s favored LRLRLR kind of alternating of bats, but so it goes. Cain has just six extra base hits in his last 30 games, so he needs to drop. I’d like to move him lower, but Perez should never hit in the top half, in my opinion. Rios, as I mentioned above, has lost me, but I don’t see Dyson as an everyday alternative. A spot start, fine. Not six days a week. Although I could be talked into a Dyson/Rios platoon. But you think Rios has checked out now? Wait until he only starts half the games.
Colon is my second baseman, but like the Royals, I’m not happy about it. His defense doesn’t do anything for me and he continues to be overmatched by big league pitching. Neither facet of his game is going to improve.
You know what’s funny about all of this? The Royals are still in first place in the Central. They still have the best record in the AL. That’s great that the Royals are still in the pole position, but smart teams are constantly analyzing their operation and identifying their weaknesses. With the current offensive struggles, you could make the case the Royals are already not moving fast enough to make those critical adjustments. Yost likes to point out he doesn’t do panic. It’s not panicking when you are repositioning your hitters in order to put your team in a better position to win.