Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Eric Hosmer had four ground ball singles in a meaningless game two nights ago.  He walked three times yesterday in a game the Royals really needed to win.  That’s a whole lot of on-base for two games and exactly what the Royals’ offense needs.

Let’s face it, Hosmer has been flailing at the plate for much of this season and done so batting either second or third in the batting order.  Ned Yost, the master of dome management, has steadfastly refused to move Eric down in the order.  Will his faith start paying off?

Hosmer’s triple slash by month for his career:

  • April: .250/.323/.365
  • May:  .253/.290/.381
  • June: .254/.308/.390
  • July: .303/.360/.454
  • August: .295/.356/.442
  • Sept/Oct: .294/.339/.453

Yes, month’s are arbitrary marking points, but I think it’s safe to say history might be on the Royals’ side when it comes to increased production out of the guy who, quite honestly, is supposed to be the best hitter on this team.  Given that Eric Hosmer was quite possibly the worst hitter in the lineup in June (and that includes Mike Moustakas), he really has nowhere to go but up.

The Royals need Hosmer to go up in a big way right now.  Two games in Minnesota does not a hot streak make, but it sure doesn’t hurt.  Especially with Kansas City heading into two three game sets against teams with losing records before coming home for four against the division leading Tigers.

 

This is a statistical snapshot of  the Royals rotation prior to James Shields’s disaster start on Tuesday.

Rk Pos Name ERA G GS GF IP H R ER HR BB SO BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
1 SP Jeremy Guthrie 3.69 17 17 0 112.1 110 48 46 16 27 68 469 111 4.67 1.220 8.8 1.3 2.2 5.4 2.52
2 SP Jason Vargas* 3.53 17 17 0 112.1 115 45 44 14 25 74 469 116 4.20 1.246 9.2 1.1 2.0 5.9 2.96
3 SP James Shields 3.79 17 17 0 111.2 120 58 47 15 24 87 476 108 4.12 1.290 9.7 1.2 1.9 7.0 3.63
4 SP Yordano Ventura 3.26 15 15 0 88.1 87 33 32 7 25 76 372 125 3.29 1.268 8.9 0.7 2.5 7.7 3.04
5 SP Danny Duffy* 2.60 17 11 1 72.2 49 23 21 5 29 55 294 157 3.80 1.073 6.1 0.6 3.6 6.8 1.90
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/1/2014.

The symmetry of the top three starters is kind of cool. Seventeen starts for each, they are within two-thirds of an inning and they are within seven batters faced.

What causes some concern is the ERA column followed by the FIP column a little further down the line. Entering Tuesday, all three were outperforming their FIP. Guthrie has been outpacing his FIP and xFIP for his entire career. Last year, the difference between his FIP and ERA was 0.75 and that was good for a 1.1 fWAR. This year, the difference is nearly a full run and at the halfway point, his fWAR is 0.5. Vargas is usually a little closer. Shields’s FIP is his highest since 2010. Not coincidentally, that was his worst season as a starter.

This is three-fifths of the rotation. These are the guys making the serious cash. And they look to be walking the tightrope.

Shields has been miserable his last nine starts. In his last nine starts, he has a 5.43 ERA covering 56.1 innings. During that time, he’s struck out 36, walked 14 and surrendered 10 home runs. Opponents are hitting .323/.362/.557. He doesn’t look hurt or mechanically broken. He’s just hittable.

If you revisit the chart above, Guthrie and Vargas are exactly the same pitcher, statistically speaking. And it looks like both will regress. ZIPS has Guthrie throwing 88 more innings this year with a 4.64 ERA. It has Vargas down for 98 innings and a 4.55 ERA. Obviously, these are projections so they have to be taken as such, but those numbers are frightening. At this point, the best thing we can say about Guthrie and Vargas is they have kept their team in games when they make starts. That’s not meant to be some kind of backhanded compliment. It’s fact. These two are going out there knowing their offense isn’t going to give them a ton of runs, and they grind out their appearances. The Royals have won 19 of their 34 starts. That’s a .559 winning percentage. That gets you into first place in the AL East.

The projection on Shields is more positive. ZIPS has him down for 106 innings and a 3.83 ERA.

Any time we gaze into the crystal ball, we really don’t know what’s going to happen. This isn’t meant to be a negative type of post where I’m spreading gloom and doom. Shields could find his change-up magic and Guthrie and Vargas could beat the projections all season, just like they have so far. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Or everyone could go off the rails. Hell, if anyone missed time due to injury, the whole thing could fall to shambles as there’s no major league depth in the organization right now.

The point is, Shields is scuffling and Vargas and Guthrie are way outperforming their peripherals. The Royals really need Shields to get it together if they are going to make any kind of run at October. Because to count on the rest of this rotation to continue to be this great would be risky.

When most of us were at lunch, things happened:

  • The Royals designated Justin Maxwell (again) and Pedro Ciriaco for assignment
  • They called up Christian Colon
  • They signed RAUL IBANEZ…..ten years too late.
  • And Bruce Chen and Yordano Ventura got called out for being cheap by a stripper.

Where are we?  New York?

Drafted as a shortstop, Colon has played 27 games at second, 12 at third and 33 at shortstop this year.  His call-up might well be a sign that the Royals’ infatuation with Danny Valencia as a platoon partner for Mike Moustakas is ending (as is there general infatuation with Moose) and certainly is an indication that they view Colon’s future as a utility infielder.  Hey, anytime you can use the number four overall pick on a utility infielder, you do it!

Ibanez?  Well, he’s hit home runs recently, just not this year and comments from the Royals seem to indicate they will use him in right, left (really?) and first.  Perhaps they will play Billy Butler at first and Ibanez at DH part of the time as it is possible the Royals just noticed Eric Hosmer’s on-base percentage.  I don’t know, gang.  Ibanez has been written off as ‘done’ at least three times in his career…..

The stripper?  I don’t care.  Does anyone really care?  Does anybody really know what time it is?

C ∙ 1985—86

sundberg2The Royals knew they had a promising batch of young starting pitchers heading into the 1985 season, and they wanted to find a veteran catcher to guide them. Luckily for them, Jim Sundberg had exercised a contractual option to demand a trade out of Milwaukee after ’84, and a five-player, four-team deal was struck that sent Sundberg to KC (with the Royals giving up Don Slaught and Frank Wills). Sundberg proved to be the perfect complement to the Royals’ stellar rotation, and he provided some unforgettable moments of his own in the ’85 postseason.

At the time of the trade, Sundberg said, “After watching (Royals pitchers) last summer, I was real impressed with the strength of their arms. Milwaukee first saw them in April. Even at that point, I thought they’d really be something. So I’m excited about working with them. The key thing they have is velocity and movement. And for young guys, they seem to know what’s going on.”[i] It is tough to parse how much credit a catcher deserves when it comes to pitching success, but Sundberg certainly deserves some of it as part of ‘85’s run-prevention unit, the best the Royals have ever had. His defensive numbers that can be tracked are not eye-popping for ’85 (especially his sub-par caught stealing rate of 29%) but clearly the pitchers felt comfortable throwing to the six-time gold glover. He was not acquired for his bat, but he was respectable enough at the plate in ’85.

But it was in the ’85 playoffs that Sundberg really made his mark on team history. He was behind the plate for every pitch in all 14 games. In the ALCS, he homered in game three as part of a comeback victory. Then he was the hero of game seven after driving in the first run of the game and later delivering the knockout punch with a bases-loaded triple off the top of the wall in Toronto.

In the World Series, he shined with his none-too fast baserunning. After doubling in game five, he scrambled for home on a Buddy Biancalana single and made a fantastic head-first slide, safe by the narrowest margin. It was the go-ahead run and the Royals held the lead the rest of the way. In the next game, he scored the walk-off winning run from second on a Dane Iorg single on what looked like a replay of his game five slide. It was the most dramatic play in Royals history. “I’ve been watching baserunners use headfirst slides to beat my throws for years,” Sundberg said. “So I figured, why not me? I’ve got one more slide left.”[ii] Manager Dick Howser, who could have reasonably pinch-run for Sundberg, said, “Sundberg only has average speed but he’s a good baserunner. He knows how to score on a base hit; he gets a good jump.”[iii]sundberg Sundberg spent 1986 as the team’s number one catcher again. His overall hitting dropped off in spite of belting a career high 12 homers. And while he still had some of the defensive magic left, the 35 year-old was slowing down. “I don’t throw as hard as I used to,” he said. “I used to be in a category of my own. As time goes on, you lose a little bit.”[iv] After that season, the Royals were no longer sold on Sundberg as a number one backstop, and they thought they had his replacement heading into ’87 after getting Ed Hearn from the Mets in the infamous David Cone trade. Sundberg was soon on his way out of KC in a trade with the Cubs (for Dave Gumpert and Thad Bosley). Sundberg was shocked but understanding: “I think I was brought here to teach the young pitchers…They know what to do now. They don’t need me. But I can’t be angry. This team gave me a world championship that I never got with anyone else.”[v]

[i] Fish, Mike. “Kansas City Finally Got Its Man.” The Sporting News (February 4, 1985): p. 35.

[ii] Attner, Paul. “The Champs.” The Sporting News (November 4, 1985): p. 2.

[iii] Nightengale, Dave. “Full Moon, Controversy, Tied Series.” The Sporting News (November 4, 1985): p. 18.

[iv] Uncredited. “Royals.” The Sporting News (May 26, 1986): p. 17.

[v] Nightengale, Bob. “K.C. Lost Confidence In Sundberg.” The Sporting News (April 13, 1987): p. 20.

Before the Royals headed out on the road to Chicago and Detroit a few weeks back, I wrote an article advocating Dayton Moore do something should he find his team at 42-39 on the morning of June 30th.  Should the Royals win two of three this weekend, they will be exactly 42-39.

Now, how Kansas City got there was a much more eccentric ride than I anticipated, but they will be pretty much exactly where a lot of us thought they would be: a few games over .500, in the thick of the wild card race and trailing Detroit.  Should the Royals actually get to 42-39 or limp to the end of June at 41-40 does not really matter much.  Either way, this is a .500 or touch better team with not a lot of hope of being any different without its General Manager doing something.

Certainly one could point to the following:

  • Eric Hosmer has real talent, has to get better and could (as he did in 2013) get really hot.
  • Mike Moustakas has shown signs of moving from horrific to just below average.
  • Billy Butler is returning to form.
  • Lorenzo Cain is healthy.
  • Danny Duffy is stringing together some consistently good (maybe a little lucky) starts.

I would counter with the ‘this is baseball and things tend to balance out’ argument and state that as all or some of the above happen or continue to happen, they might well be accompanied by:

  • Alcides Escobar could slump at the plate.
  • The starting rotation really might not be this good all season long.
  • Wade Davis or Greg Holland could prove to be human.
  • Lorenzo Cain could get hurt.
  • Rightfield could become a giant black hole of suck.

They are who we thought they were and they need to be better.  One player?  Two players?

Let’s go to the basement and talk WAR:  fWAR specifically.  I’ll digress for a moment and inform everyone that in the modern age, utilizing a statistic that you cannot readily figure on your Texas Instruments calculator does not make one a nerd.   Like batting average, RBI, ERA or any other stat, Wins Above Replacement is not perfect, but it comes closer to defining a players overall offensive, defensive and baserunning ability than anything else.   We have smartphones, computers, tablets and brains, stop thinking you’re cool because you don’t believe in anything after the slugging percentage column in a statistical table.

Okay, where do the Royals regulars rank in fWAR among the rest of baseball?

  • LF – Alex Gordon 4.3 fWAR – NUMBER ONE…..by a lot.
  • CF – Lorenzo Cain 2.2 fWAR – 6th
  • RF – Nori Aoki 0.9 fWAR – 12th (yeah, I thought it was worse, but it’s still not good)
  • 3B – Michael Moustakas 0.3 fWAR – 20th out of 24, all because of defense.
  • SS – Alcides Escobar 1.8 fWAR – 6th
  • 2B – Omar Infante 0.6 fWAR – 18th (Omar is better than this, but maybe not that much better, anymore)
  • 1B – Eric Hosmer  -0.8 fWAR – 26th out of 27th (gross – to be fair, Fangraphs does not like Hosmer’s defense, which is probably one of those defensive metric weird thingys)
  • C – Salvador Perez 2.4 fWAR – 3rd
  • DH – Billy Butler -0.6 fWAR – 8th (which is last among qualified full-time designated hitters)

As I wrote earlier this week, one can solve a little bit of the issue by simply playing Jarrod Dyson most of the time in place of Aoki.  The Royals, moving forward, would be wise to not get stuck on the idea that Infante is here for the next three years and ‘we still believe in Moustakas’ theory.  Would it be totally stupid to get a half year rental at second and restart with Infante next year?  If there is a big bat who takes time from Hosmer and/or Butler and/or anyone else not named Gordon or Perez, should Dayton Moore thumb his nose at the idea just because ‘Eric Hosmer is the future’?

The BP event is this weekend, make sure to buy Craig a danish if you see him.

I rip the Royals. A lot. Lord knows, they’ve deserved it. And they kind of make it easy.

But the last couple days some really positive things have happened around the team. Not necessarily in the win column or on the field. But stuff behind the scenes

First, the Royals hosted a group of visually impaired kids from Alphapointe on Tuesday. As I read the article in The Star, I thought to myself it was a great idea. These kids will never see the game, but they can hear and feel the game. The Royals took them on a tour through the Hall of Fame, a walk past the fountains and down to the field to listen to batting practice. They got to meet some players and Denny Matthews was on hand to teach some of the gang how to grip a baseball to throw certain pitches. It had to have been a thrill for those kids.

As usual, the John Sleezer photos that accompany the article online are delightful. My favorite is the one he took from field level as three of the kids leaned over to feel the grass. I mean, who among us hasn’t wanted to do that?

Second, on Tuesday the Royals had 11 year old Austin Sides throw out the ceremonial first pitch. His catcher was his father, who was returning from a year deployment in the Mideast. Austin didn’t know he was throwing to his dad. Well, just watch.


These reunions get me every time. But I guess they’re not for everyone.

“Before I deployed we went to an Angels-Royals game, so I’m like ‘let’s pick up where we left off’ and I’m like how better could that be than a first pitch at a Royals game,” Robert Sides said.

He got in touch with the Royals and, a few weeks later, got the go ahead. He knew he couldn’t keep his plan a complete secret.

“Becky, my wife, I let her know. Because she already said if I tried any type of surprise reunion with her she’d kill me and I believed her,” he said.

I like Becky.

I imagine these sorts of things are kind of tricky to manage. Do it too often and it will lose it’s appeal. Yet you can’t (and shouldn’t) ignore our service men and women. Kudos to the team for creating a great moment for the Sides family and those who witnessed it.

And finally, SungWoo is coming to Kansas City.

If you’re not familiar, SungWoo is on Twitter at KoreanFan_KC. He started following the team in the mid ’90s after catching a few games on the American Forces Korean Network broadcasts. He was watching to improve his English. After doing some research, he decided the Royals were the team to root for and he’s been one of us ever since. Read his story at Rambling Morons.

I’ll tell you, this guy is one hell of a dedicated fan. He’s up at all hours watching this team, he’s interacting on the web with idiots in Kansas City and now his wife bought him a plane ticket and he’s coming to Kauffman. And people are already stepping up to make sure this trip is an amazing experience.

The guy has such a following on Twitter that there’s no way he’s going to pay for a thing while he’s in KC. I don’t know if he drinks beer, but it would be an honor to buy him a Boulevard. I don’t know if the Royals would do something for him, but I think it would be cool if they could recognize him some way.

Regardless of what happens, SungWoo is going to experience first-hand what we already know: Kansas City is a great place with some truly outstanding fans.

One final thought for this post. (It may not be positive. Your mileage may vary.) I’ll be at The K on Saturday for another Baseball Prospectus event. If you’re at the game I’m sure we’ll make enough noise you can find us if you like. We’ve never done a “Royals Authority Day” or “Royals Review Day” when we were over there, so this is about as close to a meet and greet that will happen if you’re into those sorts of things. I hope you got your tickets to the event. I look forward to it every year.

It has taken me a long time to get onboard the Jarrod Dyson bandwagon.  I spent a lot of time grimacing at his subpar reading of fly balls and his once a month adventures fielding routine two hoppers to center.  The former 50th round pick’s approach at the plate would often irk me.  Irk me!  I tell ya!

No longer.  Give me more Dyson and I’m talking about more Dyson particularly when Nori Aoki comes back from the disabled list.

There is no doubt in my mind that Lorenzo Cain is a more gifted defensive centerfielder than Dyson, but I am even more certain that Cain is much better in right than Dyson (were Dyson to ever actually play an inning at that position).  My thought is based on a) The Royals love Lorenzo Cain’s defense and still move him to right when Dyson is in the lineup and b) Cain simply reads the ball better than Dyson and that ability makes him more suited to play ‘out of position’.

To be clear, both are exceptional defenders.   For his career, Cain has been credited with saving 41 runs over 1865 innings in center.  Dyson, in 1769 innings, has saved 31 runs (DRS via Fangraphs).  Their UZR/150 is equally as impressive:  Cain at 20.1 and Dyson at 22.0.   In the alternative, one could just watch those two play and see that they get to just about everything hit in the air these days.

The metrics (and we’re in small sample size territory here) show that Cain is quite possibly even better in right, with a UZR/150 of 33.9 and 12 Defensive Runs Saved in just over 400 innings.  You are going to have a hard time convincing me that an outfield of Gordon-Dyson-Cain is not the best defensive alignment in the game.

Offensively, check the career numbers of Aoki and Dyson versus right-handed pitching:

  • Dyson: .274/.341/.364   wRC+ 95
  • Aoki: .269/.346/.377  wRC+ 101

Right there, given Dyson’s ability in the field, should be all the evidence you need that Jarrod Dyson should be in the lineup against right-handed pitching every day for the rest of 2014.  There’s more, however.   Dyson appears to be getting better with his wRC+ progressing over the last three years from 89 to 104 to 101, while Aoki is regressing over the same period of time (125-98-64).

Let’s head down to the basement and check the two players’ fWAR:

  • Dyson 2012: 102 games, 1.4 fWAR
  • Aoki 2012: 151 games, 2.4 fWAR
  • Dyson 2013: 87 games, 2.4 fWAR
  • Aoki 2013: 155 games, 1.7 fWAR
  • Dyson 2014: 51 games, 2.0 fWAR
  • Aoki 2014: 68 games, 0.9 fWAR

No matter how much you love the idea of inserting Dyson as a pinchrunner onto the basepaths at a critical point in a game (which on this team with this manager, means whenever Billy Butler is on first in the 8th or 9th inning), you have to be willing to say Jarrod would be much more valuable playing all nine innings any time a right-hander appears on the mound.

Barring a hot streak from Justin Maxwell (which two different organizations have been waiting five years for) or a better-than-what-we-have-seen Aoki, I am inclined to think Dyson should play against left-handers as well, based solely on his defensive ability.  That is not ideal, of course, as Jarrod has never and probably never will be an effective hitter against southpaws, but it might be the best option for now.

Some/many of you might already be onboard the Dyson train.  My apologies for being late.

runelvys

RHP ∙ 2002—03, 2005—06

Runelvys Hernandez, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1997, is an extremely rare species: a pre-Dayton Moore, Latin American signing that found any success at all with the Royals. (It’s basically just him and Hipolito Pichardo.) Things went so wrong in the second part of his short career that it can be hard to remember the fleeting good times he had before things went off the rails.

He made his MLB debut in July of 2002 when the Royals were facing a pitching crunch thanks to a doubleheader, and he held his own. Manager Tony Peña was sufficiently impressed to grant Hernandez another start in another doubleheader soon after, and Hernandez built on his first start with a three run, nine K, seven inning performance. With the pitching crunch over, Hernandez went back down to Class AA Wichita, but was soon called back. He was in the rotation for good for all of August and September that year, and did not lack for confidence. Rocking the third person, he told reporters, “They gave me the opportunity to show them who Runelvys Hernandez is. I know I can pitch to these hitters. I know I can challenge them. Each time I go out there, I feel better and better.”[i]

By the end of the summer he had 12 big league starts under his belt, and most of them were solid. He was set to be an important piece of the 2003 rotation, and ended up starting Opening Day that year after winning Peña’s coin flip—literally—against Jeremy Affeldt. Hernandez ripped off six shutout innings in the opener against the White Sox, after which Frank Thomas said, “We were all shocked he threw four pitches for strikes. He did whatever he wanted, and we started chasing.” [ii] It was the start of a blazing month for both Hernandez and the team. In his first six starts, he went between 6—7 innings, and his runs allowed were 0, 1, 0, 3, 1, and 2. He was a big factor in the club’s shockingly good start.

Unfortunately, the beginning was the end for Hernandez as an excellent starter. The first sign of problems cropped up with a skipped start in May due to a sore elbow that initially was thought to be nothing serious.  But that turned into getting shut down for two months before returning for seven starts in July and August that were so uneven he was to be sent down to Class AA. That prompted him to finally admit he had been pitching in pain ever since his second start of the year, and it was soon determined that he required Tommy John surgery. That cost him the entire 2004 season. “I didn’t think I had to tell anybody. I wanted to show my teammates that I was there to help the team,” he said.[iii]

He did everything right to come back for the beginning of 2005, and his arm allowed him to throw a nearly full season. But the zip on his fastball never fully returned. He was effective on occasion, but overall it was not a successful year. He missed some time with a strained back and a 10 game suspension after beaning Carlos Guillen in the helmet. Hernandez maintained that he was not throwing at Guillen, but it was the fourth hit batter of the day and resulted in a brawl (with the infamous Kyle Farnsworth body slam of Affeldt) and multiple suspensions and fines.

Hernandez showed up to 2006 spring training embarrassingly overweight, and ended up on the disabled list due to “lack of stamina” before the season began. After some conditioning in Omaha, he returned for his season debut in late April. His teammates were not necessarily thrilled to see him.[iv] His performance for the rest of the season did not make them any happier. He mixed in one last high point when he pitched his only career shutout, but more representative of his 2006 was the game when he tied the club record with nine walks, or the time he came to blows with John Buck, his own catcher, in the middle of a game. He was shipped to Omaha for a while, and got the call back only when the team was out of choices. Hernandez’s tumultuous tenure with KC came to end after the ’06 season when he was cut (to make room on the roster for rule five pick Joakim Soria).

[i] Falkoff, Robert. “Hernandez Pitching Like Big Leaguer.” http://kansascity.royals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20020801&content_id=94229&vkey=news_kc&fext=.jsp&c_id=kc (August 1, 2002).

[ii] AP. “Don’t flip out—Royals win.” http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2003/apr/01/dont_flip_out/ (April 1, 2003).

[iii] Kaegel, Dick. “Hernandez Building Up Strength.” http://kansascity.royals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20050222&content_id=948145&vkey=spt2005news&fext=.jsp&c_id=kc (June 22, 2005).

[iv] McCollough, J. Brady. “A Weighty Presence.” http://www.coveringsports.com/runelvys.htm (April 26, 2006).

So the other day, I went on the radio in Topeka. I channeled my inner Rex Hudler:

“At this point, it’s about maximizing the peaks and minimizing the valleys.”

Or something like that.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time (or probably followed the Royals at all) you know what I’m talking about. This team, over the last season and a half, has been streaky to the extreme. The offense is the worst in the world for two-plus months, then has a stretch where they are so hot, they move to the middle of the pack in several key offensive hitting statistics. Then, instead of leveling off, they swing wildly back the other direction where they look like they haven’t picked up a bat in their lives.

So damn frustrating.

This is a team who hung 22 runs up on the Tigers Cy Young Award winners in the span of two games in the early part of last week. They followed that up by scoring a grand total of 10 runs over their next five games. You sit back and watch this offense struggle in April and May. You tell yourself, this isn’t a world class offense by any means, yet they have to be better than this. Then, they go on the aforementioned tear. You tell yourself, this isn’t the true talent of this offense, but damn are they on fire. Then, they slide right back into the pits.

Ugh.

So how do you want it on this Monday? Glass half full? There are currently seven teams in the American League with a positive run differential. The Royals are one of those teams. Their +14 run differential is fifth best in the AL, in fact. They are ahead of Baltimore and Detroit. We know offense is down across the board. The league average team has touched home plate 321 times so far. The Royals have scored 311 runs. Given their lengthy offensive struggles, this is surprising news. I don’t know if it means anything, but it’s surprising. In a good way.

For those of you who prefer to see the glass completely empty, despite the recent 10 game winning streak, the Royals offense remains one of the worst in the game. Their 89 wRC+ is ahead of only the Mariners. Their .304 wOBA is also ahead of only the Mariners. (Who just came to Kansas City, stole our bread, peanut butter and jelly, made sandwiches in our own kitchen and then proceeded to eat our lunch, almost choking because they were laughing so hard.) Their OPS+ of 89 is worst in the league.

Their .371 slugging percentage and .313 on base percentage is 13th out of 15 teams.

I try to remain positive. The Royals are 2.5 games back in the suddenly tight Central, while they are half a game back in a five team scrum for the Wild Card. No, I don’t think the Royals are better than any of the teams they trail – except maybe Seattle. However, baseball in the Wild Card era is littered with teams that aren’t what you would term world class who have competed in October. Yet watching this team flail away at the plate tests my patience.

Two points before I wrap this up:

First, Ned Yost needs to juggle his damn lineup. He looked like the cat who got the canary in the early part of this month. Vindication! Just leave him alone, he knows what he’s doing! Except I don’t think he does. To continue to hit Eric Hosmer third at this point in managerial malpractice of the highest order. Keeping Alex Gordon fifth is the same crime. I’ve said this a thousand times: Being a major league manager is about putting your players in the best position to win the ballgame. Yost’s current batting order doesn’t come close to accomplishing this.

Also, what was the deal with the Billy Butler pinch running saga on Friday night? The game is tied in the eighth and Butler leads off with a single. It’s usually so damn automatic that Yost uses a pinch runner. Hell, he will pinch run in that situation when the Royals are leading by five runs. Yet he sat on his hands. I’m OK with that initially. But then Butler moves to second on the Gordon single. It was hit up the middle and hard, so not even Jarrod Dyson could have advanced to third. That moment seemed tailor-made for a pinch runner. Yet Yost sat on his hands. Sal Perez lifted a fly to center. Butler tagged. I’ve never seen someone try to run so hard they actually went backward. Butler is out, but the ball hit his foot and bounced away. Talk about catching a break. Then, Yost finally removes Butler for the pinch runner. And the Royals make the final two outs without bringing home the run.

I’m not blaming Yost for losing that game. I’m just pointing out the bizarre management of the team in a tight game in the later innings. It’s Yost being Yost. Something Brewer fans know all about.

Second point, this is Dayton Moore’s team. It’s Year Nine. This is the offense he’s built through draft, trades and a pair of holdovers in Gordon and Butler. And this offense will probably rank 13th or lower in overall production when the dust settles on the 2014 season. Pitching and defense are key, but fail to construct a competent offense and all you’ll do is get to .500. And until they add a couple more Wild Card spots, that isn’t good enough.

Which is too bad. You saw the crowd on Friday. Kansas City is hungry for a winning team. (Or maybe they’re just hungry for dollar hot dogs and fireworks.) Either way, this city and this organization deserve better. Maybe the next GM can deliver.

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