A show of hands of all those enjoying being a Royals’ fan right now. Deep down, you are probably still thinking that this team will not approach 80 wins this season, but for now this is kind of fun isn’t it?
The Royals opened the weekend by just plain getting beat on Friday, returned the favor on Saturday and took advantage of a sloppy Detroit performance to blast the Tiger on Sunday. Not only is two of out three not bad (yes, I am watching Celebrity Apprentice this season), but it is very good indeed for a young team on its first road trip of the year. Sure, the Royals did manage to miss the top part of the Detroit starting rotation, but it was still a nice series win.
There are a number of topics we will touch on this morning in lieu of detailed, comprehensive research (all those nasty facts get in the way of my opinion), so let’s start it off….
Chris Getz led off for three games and the world continued to turn.
Ned Yost opted to sit Mike Aviles down after Wednesday’s zero for seven day dropped Mike to just three for twenty-six on the year. Aviles, a personal favorite of mine, has looked, at best, uncomfortable at third and, at worst, just plain bad, so a day off to clear the cobwebs seemed appropriate. One day off turned into two and the next thing we knew, Mike Aviles did not make an appearance in the entire series.
Now, if you have told be that Friday morning, you can bet I would have envisioned writing an entirely different, probably scathing, column today. As it is, however, you can hardly fault Ned Yost for sticking with Getz as his leadoff man in Detroit after he went 4-10 for the series with 3 walks and 2 sacrifice flies. All Wilson Betemit did during that time period was go 6 for 11 with 3 doubles and 2 walks.
I doubt that Yost and the Royals were truly planning on sitting Aviles the entire series. After all, we are talking about a guy who hit .325/.354/.480 and .304/.335/.413 in his two healthy major league seasons. Despite having become the whipping boy of the casual fandom and overly criticized by those who should know better, I doubt the Royals have truly given up on him after six bad (and they were bad admittedly) games. That said, look for no outrage (not even a sarcastic tweet) from me if Getz leads off tomorrow in Minnesota and Betemit is back at third.
While I am an unabashed ‘Aviles guy’, I am also something of a closet ‘Getz guy’ as well. Back when the Royals acquired Chris in exchange for Mark Teahen, I offered that there were a number of big time major league second baseman who had minor league numbers similar to or even worse than Getz’s .286/.363/.380 over 381 contests. Last season, pretty much deflated my hope that Getz could become Brian Roberts (minus the PEDs), but I have a little glimmer of hope.
IF Getz can continue to get on base at something resembling his minor league numbers and IF Getz truly is an above average defensive second basemen and IF he can steal bases with the success he has shown in limited attempts thus far: well, that is a guy that fills a void in the batting order and can help this team be better in the short term.
Pending the arrival of Mike Moustakas, I don’t have much problem with Yost playing the hot hand at second and third with whomever among Aviles, Betemit and Getz is playing the best at a given time. I would be surprised if Aviles does not yet end up being the best hitter of the three after 100 games, but no harm in getting them all at-bats for now so long as Yost does not ‘fall in love’ with any one of the three. The idea would be to play the hot hand, not stick with Getz everyday at leadoff if he goes three for twenty-six.
Alcides Escobar passes the eye test.
The Royals’ new shortstop can, at times, be quite painful to watch bat, but he is truly fun to observe on defense. After being overloaded with plus hands, plus feet, good arm, nice instinct crap from the front office in talking about a slew of shortstops who were, at best, league average in the field, it is nice to ACTUALLY SEE what those look like in action.
Nine games does not a great defender make, but Escobar looks like the real deal in the field. Enough so to get me wondering how much the Royals need him to hit to justify keeping his glove on the diamond. I looked to the A’s Cliff Pennington, who posted a UZR/150 of 8.8 last season, which put him in the top five defenders in baseball using that system. Despite hitting just .250/.319/.368, Pennington still posted a 3.7 WAR (Fangraphs’ number) by virtue of his defense.
Should Escobar, who posted a 4.7 UZR/150 last year at short, continue to play like he has in the field, which would lead me to believe his defensive metrics will approach those of Pennington, can he hit similar numbers? With two hits yesterday, let’s hope Alcides can pick up his hitting numbers to the modest ‘Pennington-like’ level. Anything beyond that and the Greinke trade starts to look really good.
Another guy who has looked good in the field is first baseman Kila Ka’aihue. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough defense to be had at first base to justify 13 strikeouts and just one home run in 41 plate appearances. As bad as Kila looked over the weekend, he did manage two walks, two hits and a sacrifice fly, so I am hardly ready to give up on him….except when Phil Coke is pitching.
That’s Not My Process
Alex Gordon is hitting .357/.400/.548 out of the number three slot. Billy Butler is blasting away at a .394/.512/.667 clip batting clean-up. That is The Process in action. Except, that is Allard Baird’s Process, not that of Dayton Moore.
Pretty much said Baird drafted Gordon in 2005, the real plan for the Royals was to have Alex and Billy blasting away in the middle of the order. Even with the coming emergence of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, the Royals certainly look much better with Gordon and Butler doing what they are doing right now. We can pretty much bank on Butler continuing to hit, but we are still in the ‘hoping’ mode when it comes to Gordon.
Still, you have to love it when a plan comes together, even if it is not your own.
Who said this was a bad rotation?
Well, pretty much all of us.
Still, after Bruce Chen used the elements and a generous strike zone to throw six shutout innings and strike out seven on Saturday, and Luke Hochevar went seven strong innings that included six strikeouts, the rotation gets a gold star for the weekend.
Hochevar was dinged for three home runs that led to all the runs scored against him, but otherwise looked very good. Obviously, you cannot go through life giving up three homers per game, but if two of those end up on the warning track (like they did for Nathan Adcock on Friday) instead of the stands….. Ifs and buts, I know, but I came away from Hochevar’s start in a positive frame of mind.
Not so much when it comes to Kyle Davies’ Friday outing. The Royals have played nine games and have not had a wild pitch or passed ball in eight of those. In Kyle’s start on Friday, he uncorked THREE wild pitches in what was an outright atrocious start. Of course, you don’t really want to look at the minor league starts of Jeff Suppan and Vin Mazarro, either.
Speaking of Nate Adcock, he tossed a big three plus innings of shutout ball on Friday to save the bullpen for the weekend. He did not strike out a batter, but did not walk one either. Nate was tagged for four hits and six of his outs were in the air, so it was not dominating by any means, but did the one thing you want a long reliever to do: throw strikes. While I think there was some good fortune in Adcock’s Friday performance, it was good enough to warrant continued looks at the major league level.
Right now the Royals, and particularly Ned Yost, are on a roll. Other than trying to steal with Billy Butler, pretty much every move Yost makes or doesn’t make seems to be working. The Royals scored nine runs yesterday despite going just two for seventeen with runners in scoring position.
The starting pitching has been, by and large, competent. The bullpen has been very good with the two biggest concerns being Robinson Tejeda and Joakim Soria. I think both those pitchers get back in the groove sooner rather than later and might well turn a very good bullpen into an absolute lock-down bullpen. The offense is averaging over five runs per game despite starting three players who are hitting below the Mendoza line.
Will it hold? Who cares? Enjoy the ride.