Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I had to stop writing about the Royals lately. Not because I was too busy or I was not watching their games. Not because their offense is atrocious or because Yordano Ventura’s season was in jeopardy or because Kyle Zimmer will not see the majors this year. Not even because I am preparing to move to Houston in a week and I am trying to get ready to be surrounded by more terrible baseball. 

No, I have not written about the Royals because I have been hurt. I have been heart broke. I have been in pain watching Alex Gordon smack two home runs followed by recording only 4 RBI’s in the 8 games since. I have languished as the Royals waited too long to send Mike Moustakas to the minors. I have been frustrated as I watch Billy Butler seemingly groundout or strikeout at every single at-bat. I have been in agony as the Royals have barely even come near to hitting a home run, as Royals fans explode in sarcasm whenever the Royals hit a ball that merely reaches the warning track, as SINGLE PLAYERS are hitting more home runs than the Royals as a team.

I do not want to write another post about their offensive ineptitude. I would like to avoid more criticism of the players’ pathetic stats. I refuse to discuss this season is a horrible roller-coaster (or to be more “Kansas City-like” – it is a horrible waterslide at Schlitterbahn), which is only marginally better than being outright terrible. But one thing that I do not want is to stop caring about this team.  

And right now, it is incredibly hard to care about them. I wish I could say that they are not trying so we could just say “TRY HARDER,” but they are clearly battling. I wish I could say that we should fire Ned Yost and Dayton Moore but everyone knows that a regime change in the middle of a season for a team that is not even rebuilding would mean another several years of futility, which would undoubtedly result in the Royals setting the professional sports record for most consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance. 

I am tired of having long losing streaks and more losing streaks than winning streaks. I hate that as soon as the Royals get behind by a run I feel that the game is over. I despise how teams like the Astros and Twins and Rays have all been crappy at times but have put together teams that challenge for division titles without needing a decade to do so. 

When the Kansas City Chiefs hit rock bottom and Jovan Belcher committed horrific acts and we suffered through Scott Pioli and Matt Cassel and games where we only threw 4-5 passes, we banded together and SAVED OUR CHIEFS. We got rid of Pioli and Cassel. We brought in new life. We filled the stadium and set a record for loudest crowd and MADE THE PLAYOFFS. We brought back a team that was left for dead by a crappy general manager and coaches who had no control over their team. We demanded that owner Clark Hunt put a quality product on the field and he listened and WE SAVED OUR TEAM. 

Let us band together now and SAVE OUR ROYALS. Whatever it takes. Send letters to David Glass. Fly banners demanding a change. Start wearing black to games to signify the funeral of the old Royals, so we can usher in the new Royals. Do something, anything, so we can SAVE OUR ROYALS and avoid being the city with the longest playoff drought.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Home runs and Alex Gordon win games

So the Royals won on Saturday and Sunday, salvaging a split with the Orioles and bringing their record above .500 again and back into second place in the AL Central. Finally, some positive things to talk about!

First of all, Danny Duffy was majestic on Saturday night, leading the Royals to a 1-0 victory after throwing almost 8 perfect innings. Adam Jones, who is a massive jerk, ruined the perfect game with a hit up the middle with 2 outs in the seventh inning. Other than that, Duffy looked like the pitcher he was drafted to be, and should he maintain this level of pitching, he will remain in the rotation, even after Bruce Chen comes back from injury. There were a few things that went Duffy’s way, such as a phenomenal defense and lack of offense by the Orioles, but overall Duffy looked effective and did not offer any bases on balls. However (there is always a “however” with the Royals), Duffy only had 2 strikeouts, which could be a slight concern as the defense may not always bail him out and he is prone to control issues. He needs to keep the hitters on their toes and mix up his pitches.

(I know that some fans were probably bored by the 1-0 victory. It was like watching a chess match between Gary Kasparov and Deep Blue, with the technically sound Royals winning based on one smart move [which happened in the first inning when Billy Butler drive Nori Aoki home]. I am not concerned with the boredom, but more with the fact that the Royals could not muster any more runs after the first inning. In fact, in their first 3 games against the Orioles in this homestand, they only scored 2 runs. That is pathetic, but I digress)

Secondly, on Sunday Alex Gordon smashed two home runs, which effectively knocked out their starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and killed an Orioles rally. This prompted an amazing photoshop job by twitter user @GSmithKC. 

I love how the Orioles are shown as roadkill. And I love how Gordon finally grabbed the keys to the Royals’ bus. I have enjoyed his defense this season (by the way, he has 4 outfield assists and teams STILL try to run on him – idiots), but his bat has been quieter than a Prius going under 5 mph.

Interestingly, Gordon now leads the Royals with 22 RBI’s. In second place is Omar Infante with 19 and HE HAS NOT PLAYED SINCE MAY 6. In two weeks, only one player was able to pass Omar?!? That is a bit of a warning sign. The offense absolutely has to start producing more runs, especially because Detroit is running away with the division again.

Speaking of Detroit, they were supposed to regress this year. The Royals were supposed to have a chance at winning the division. Instead, the Tigers have the best record in baseball and seemingly cannot lose, especially to the Royals. Rather than discuss them, I will use this space as a chance to point this out:
HAHAHAHAHAHA the Tigers suck. Also, way to choke and get swept in 4 games in the 2012 World Series. By the way, some more happy news to end this post: The Royals hit at least 2 home runs in 3 of their games on this homestand and won all three of those. HOME RUNS WIN GAMES.They also are only 3 home runs behind St. Louis for fewest in the MLB. A big series against the White Sox (who will be without Jose Abreu) could push them above the Cardinals, which would be worth celebrating.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Shoo flyouts, don’t bother me

One run, two games. That’s it. That is all the Kansas City Royals have mustered against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday and Friday, IN THE FRIENDLY CONFINES OF THEIR HOME FIELD. It is so upsetting that I can’t even write about the fact that they gave out free zubaz pants last night. Sigh.

Currently, the Royals record stands at 20-21, and 10-9 at home. They are tied for third place in the AL Central. They have scored 157 runs and allowed 157 runs. THEY ARE AS MEDIORCE AS YOU CAN GET. They are moon pies, neither amazing nor terrible, but somewhere perfectly in the middle.
We all know that the problem is their offense. Baseball has the longest season of all pro sports, and understandably, it takes time to get into a rhythm. Patience is a key virtue in America’s pastime. However, we are now a fourth of the way through the season and the Royals’ offense is barely exhibiting any sign of life. Below is an actual EKG reading of the Royals’ offensive pulse. Scary isn’t it?

As a Royals fan, it is becoming so difficult to remain patient with them. I know that I come across as very negative and pessimistic on this blog but I love the Royals and my intent is to examine my favorite ballclub in ways that the casual fan might not observe on their own. For example, last night I noticed that the Royals were constantly hitting worthless flyouts:

Your casual fan might observe these as normal or part of the game, but I saw in inordinate amount of flyouts last night. I stopped counting after Nori Aoki’s mentioned above (which was the Royals’ sixth flyout in half of a baseball game). The Royals typically are not a flyball hitting team (as exhibited by their extreme lack of home runs and the ridiculous number of groundouts by Billy Butler). There has been a lot written on the fact that the Royals swing at more pitches outside the strike zone than other teams. While that itself is a concern, they also make more contact with pitches outside the strike zone. For the vast majority of hitters, the best hit balls will be thrown in the strike zone, so if the Royals are hitting balls thrown outside the strike zone, they have a lower chance of making solid contact, resulting in weak hits, flyouts, groundouts and FEW (if any) HOME RUNS. Johnny Giavotella hit a pop fly to shortstop that traveled maybe 20 feet high. I would bet that pitch was nowhere near the strike zone.

I would like to blame the Royals’ coaching staff but as professionals they are most likely preaching to the players to stay inside the zone and wait for their pitch. It is the players who are to blame for the lack of production (and GM Dayton Moore, who refuses to provide Ned Yost with players who hit for power AND average). With 121 games left, the Royals have plenty of time to turn things around and start producing, but it will start with the 9 men on the field, AND THEY WILL HAVE TO STOP HITTING WORTHLESS FLYOUTS AND STOP SWINGING AT PITCHES OUTSIDE THE STRIKE ZONE.

I hate to stay a Debbie Downer and Negative Nancy, but I also wanted to look at the Royals runs scored per game. They currently have scored 157 runs, which is more total runs than only Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and San Diego. Houston is the only American League team they score more than. They average 3.83 runs per game, lower than the MLB average of 4.22 and the American League average of 4.4 runs per game. They have only hit 18 home runs, which is basically half of the MLB average of 37. If the Royals added just 10 more home runs (giving them 28, still below MLB average), they would be averaging over 4 runs per game and would likely have won a few more games. Knowing that James Shields is leaving after this season (barring an incredible miracle), I wouldn’t mind trading him before the July 31st deadline and gaining a power bat for the future. It’s not like Shields is part of the Royals’ plans for the future anyway…

They need to win their next two against Baltimore to stay above .500 and challenge the White Sox for second place next week. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

To win, you have to spend (and hit)

     This Royals team is hard to decipher. On the one hand, they are characterized by an anemic offense, ranking towards the bottom in most offensive categories. On the other, their record sits at 20-19 and they have flirted around .500 most of the season.
     This was supposed to be a “Playoffs or Bust” season for the Royals, especially since their staff ace (James Shields) will likely be leaving at the end of the season. The Royals added a solid second baseman (Omar Infante, although he has battled injuries) and a decent right fielder (Nori Aoki), and both of those players also filled holes in the top of the batting order. So far they have been reasonable additions, with Infante leading the team in RBI’s and Aoki having one of the highest home batting averages in the MLB.
     Clearly, those two have not been a problem, outside of Infante’s injuries and Aoki’s defensive mishaps. The problem has been the homegrown talent, namely, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler (which reflects poor coaching and player development). All three of them had worse-than-expected years last season, but were expected to bounce back this year, which has not happened yet. Moose has  been hitting so inconsistently that there are rumors of sending him back to AAA; Butler is becoming a liability since he doesn’t play defense, and Gordon has been outright disappointing (1 HR and 16 RBI’s through almost 40 games). Eric Hosmer is barely doing any better, with only 1 HR himself, and the team as a whole ranks dead last in the MLB with only 18 home runs.
     When considering the statistics above, it is clear why the Royals’ fan base is becoming more and more impatient with the product that is being put on the field. And justifiably so. After almost 3 decades of not reaching the playoffs (which will soon become tied for the worst playoff drought in the history of pro sports if they don’t make the playoffs this year), it is completely fair to demand a team that is competitive and has a shot at October baseball.
     Interestingly enough, despite their offensive woes, the Royals have flirted around .500 all season long, and are currently in second place in the AL Central. There is little hope of catching the red-hot Tigers, who seem primed to capture a fourth straight AL Central crown. The Royals will need a massive surge, on the lines of a 10-15 game winning streak, to even consider winning the division, and if that doesn’t transpire they have to grab one of the 2 wild card spots. Currently, they sit tied with a few other teams for a wild card spot but it is hard to see them sneaking by the other teams in September, especially with their awful offense. The A’s, Rangers and Angels have more veterans and more high-priced talent and better coaching and are more likely to grab those spots.
     As I write this, Alex Gordon has gunned down another running attempting to score, and it reminds me of why the Royals have won half of their games: their defense and pitching have been above average. Can you imagine the Royals’ record if their offense was even just average? Or if any 2 of Hosmer, Gordon, Butler, or Moose was hitting near their expected numbers? The results might be scary. The Royals have played 9 games decided by 1 run, and they have gone 3-6 in those games. A more consistent offense might have won 2 more of those games. They have also played 8 games decided by 2 runs and they are 6-2 in those, an indication of their offense picking up the pitching. The majority of their wins have come with them scoring at least 4 runs. After a shaky start, their bullpen has been lights out, with stretches of 20 or more innings without allowing an earned run. IF ONLY THEY COULD SCORE RUNS THEMSELVES!
     I love the Royals and always will, but if they want to make the playoffs and truly become Kansas City’s team, they need a drastic improvement in their offense and their attitude towards scoring. They need to hit for power. They need to get base hits with runners in scoring position. They need to stop swinging at pitches outside the zone (those are balls, take a walk!!). And they simply need to start scoring more.
     I do not feel that I am a pessimist when I say that I do not believe that the Royals will make the playoffs this year. And after James Shields leaves through free agency, I don’t think the Royals will make the playoffs until they get rid of Ned Yost and Dayton Moore and adopt an attitude that scoring runs is what wins games (coupled with decent pitching and a competent defense, both of which the Royals have now). I feel that I have a realistic view based on evidence when I say that the Royals cannot hope to catch up to the Detroit Tigers (by the way, the Tigers payroll is $160 million. The Royals payroll is $92 million. If you want to win, you have to spend). I am tired of the lack of hitting power. We have not seen a Royals hitter hit 30 or more home runs since Jermaine Dye. We have not had a player make the All-Star game based on offensive production since Bo Jackson or George Brett. We have been forced to watch dreck like Chris Getz, Neifi Perez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Tony Pena, Jr. for DECADES. It is time to get a Frank Thomas, a David Ortiz, or a Chris Davis. It is time for homegrown talent to PLAY UP TO EXPECTATIONS. It is time for Billy Butler and his $8 million contract to leave town, for Mike Moustaks to be sent down, for Alex Gordon to change something, all in the hopes of waking up an offense that has slumbered for 30 years. It is time to produce winining streaks of more than 5 games in a row and to eliminate losing streaks of 5 or more games. 
    At this point, the Royals are about to lose a 2-1 game to the Orioles. In the grand scheme of things, this one loss is meaningless, but in the grand scheme of the 2014 Royals, it represents one more disappointment by the offense despite stellar pitching. Back to .500 they go, the playoffs becoming a dream that so many players will never achieve. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It’s raining home runs

The Royals won their second game in a row on Tuesday night, a solid victory behind two home runs and 8 strike outs from James Shields. That is correct, the Royals hit two home runs FOR THE SECOND GAME IN A ROW. Is the world coming to an end?!?!?!?

That is a valid question and it remains to be seen what will happen to the world, but even with the 4 home runs in the past 2 games, the Royals still have the fewest in the league with 18, only 5 behind the Cardinals.

In other notes:

James Shields stifled the Rockies hitters all night, giving up only 5 hits and one earned run. Although Shields is expected to be an ace every night, the Rockies are leading the majors in home runs, batting average, runs scored and on-base percentage, so shutting them down is fairly impressive. Hopefully Jason Vargas is up for a repeat performance tonight so the Royals can make up some ground on the Tigers and further distance themselves from the White Sox, Twins and Indians.

If you did not watch the game, you missed some very entertaining baseball. In the sixth inning, Shields struck out Troy Tulowitzki, which was his 1,500th career strike out. There was a pause as the scoreboard flashed the milestone and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Shields had no idea what was happening and his hilarious reaction is at the link below:

He finally figured it out, and tipped his cap before striking out the next batter. What a stud. He will be missed next year.
The Royals relievers also looked fantastic, and have not given up a run in the last 17 innings. In addition, Aaron Crow still has not allowed an earned run and his sparkling 0.000000000 ERA remains intact. Below is an equation for determining Crow’s ERA:

How you figure it out is simple: take pi and multiply it by the number of runners that cross the plate which is 0. JK, I don’t know what I’m doing. Anyway, this ERA is somewhat misleading as he has allowed plenty of inherited runners to score. Wouldn’t that be something though if he went the whole year with a 0.000000 ERA? He might make his second All-Star game. Below is a picture of Crow, my fiancĂ©e, and me at Target Field in 2012. I told him that day that he needed to be amazing in 2014 for the Royals to make the playoffs. I guess he listened...

Danny Valencia had one hit last night, giving him 12 hits in 13 games. In comparison, Mike Moustakas has 16 hits in 34 games. I was not comfortable with Valencia covering third base earlier this season, but since Moose couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat, I think I prefer Valencia now. In addition, Johnny Giavotella had another hit last night, giving him 4 hits in 5 games. Those aren’t incredible numbers, but considering how poorly Moose has hit, they seem monstrous in comparison. 

Despite the hitting woes, Moose remains on the team. There was hope that he would be sent to Omaha to destroy some minor league pitching for a while and then return, presumably with the ability to hit major league pitching. This is the same thing that happened to Alex Gordon and he turned out to be pretty good. I guess the Royals really are sticking by his defense at third base and his POWER POTENTIAL. 

The Royals need to do well on this 9-game homestand, so hopefully they start a winning streak tonight.