With the Royals 1-0 victory over the Organization That Gave Us Dayton Moore, your Kansas City boys in blue stand at 8-6, half a game behind the Detroit Tigers as this post goes to press. If for a second we pretend that fourteen games is a good sample, cast logic to the wind, and party like it's 2003, that .571 winning percentage over a small sample would give the Royals 92 or 93 wins over a full season. And even if we ground ourselves in something resembling reality, this is a heckuva lot better than starting out 3-8, which was the Royals record at this point last year. I promised myself that I'm not going to talk about The Trade, since well, you know...
...so while no one should ever accuse me of being a Moore supporter-I stopped enjoying the way he was doing things after he made the obvious moves to get rid of some of the Baird mistakes-I'd like to remain positive on the Royals are long as there's any reason to do so, despite my tainted, critical spirit. So let's leave it at this - if the Royals were to continue getting these result, somehow, they'll be in contention, whether or not you liked the W-I-L M-Y-E-R-S T-R-A-D-E.
Eight and six, so how'd we get there? Will it continue? Let's look at this, player by player. Sample size, frample fries! Quick note! Up/down/neutral marks are subjective, so feel free to tell me I'm wrong about them.
Position Players, In Order Of Appearance!
Alex Gordon - LF -
Remember when Alex Gordon was a bust? And he played third base with very mixed reviews? And people were sometimes getting hung up on his smirk? That seems like a long time ago now. Alex gets the up arrow for getting on-base at a .371 clip out of the lead-off spot, which is really good, and for being one of the few Royals position players who doesn't look like he's trying kill a wasp with a croquet mallet at the plate.
Ready for the weird part? He's only walked twice thus far, and his low extra base hits total (.450 slugging with a .350 batting average) probably has something to do with the fact that he's pounding 48.9% of his hits into the ground, up from 42.3% last year.
Alcides Escobar - SS -
The BABIP fairy did not bless Escobar as she did Gordon. While a couple of weeks of a GB% near 50 percent is out of the ordinary for the latter, the former's 51 percent is actually lower than his rate of last year, which makes for a fast player who isn't going to hit a lot of home runs. Escobar went 2-for-4 today and scored the only run against theBraves to bring his season triple slash to .246/.279/.368. He also has one more home run than Gordon. It's early, yet. Probably too early for us to wonder about Escobar being high in the batting order.
Billy Butler - DH, "1B" -
Walking more than he's striking out, even if you take out the two "please don't baconator us" intentional passes. Stop me if you've heard this before, but Butler also hit more grounders than usual in the first two weeks of the season. With his batting average running low so far, he's sporting the funny triple slash line of .225/.392/.400 after Wednesday's game. He still doesn't run the bases well, or field well, but luckily interleague isn't 'til summer.
Wait, what? SELIG. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE.
Salvador Perez - C -
With all the positive buzz about Perez, it was actually a pretty mediocre start to the season for him. Yet another Royal who hit more grounders than one would typically expect, Perez also hit 27 percent of his batted balls for line drives, whille still only posting a .259/.271/.328 triple-slash, which suggests that he's getting unlucky on where the ball's going when he hits it on the screws. Still, Perez is out-Berroa-ing Gordon, having taken only one free pass this season.
Lorenzo Cain - CF -
340/.385/.383 to date, with the dreaded OBP > SLG problem. 54 percent of Cains batted balls were on the ground. Still, he got on base well, mostly on the strength of a 7-for-12 performance in the last three games. At this point in going through the Royals line-up, I was considering writing the words "all ground balls and no extra base hits makes [KCR Player] a dull boy" over and over.
Jeff Francoeur - RF -
Francoeur's wOBA, a robust .300, is fifteen points higher than last year's figure! This is the only thing I can say about Francoeur without my writing devolving into an endless, terrible series of nut tap jokes. He also drove the only run of the 1-0 victory. Go figure.
Mike Moustakas - 3B -
Still searching for the Moose that disappeared after the first half of 2012, Moustakas generally hit like, well, a moose swinging a taco would hit, provided you could explain to a moose how to (idiotic analogy continuation redacted). In case you were wondering if you were being irrational in yelling "why the hell does Moustakas pop up all the time?" after throwing your drink at the TV after yet another unproductive plate appearances, two-thirds of Moustakas's hits have been flyballs. On the bright side, he didn't ground out very much, and his walk rate is actually up from last year, possibly because he's terrified of popping up if he swings.
Chris Getz - 2B -
Hit a home run, completely validating the decision to stick with a middling utility infielder at second base for three years and counting. This Bloomquistian power surge rocketed Getz'd wOBA into the mid-.300s despite his .279 OBP. In 42 plate appearances this season, he has six extra base hits. He had 13 in 210 PA last year, and 9 in 429 PA the previous season. While I don't expect the SLG to stay above .400, it is totally possible that this is a Getz-sized Brian Roberts-esque breakout of 2005, given that positive trend. And really, the guy hit a home run for the first time since (mumbling noises), so he can have a green.
Eric Hosmer - 1B -
His batting eye is intact, so he's just either snakebit in terms of batted ball luck, or he lives on an ancient burial ground. The .359 OBP is certainly nice, the one double in 39 PAs is mildly concerning, but I'm mainly stuck looking at Hosmer's 28.9% line drive rate and wondering how on earth he hit .242/.359/.273. So while he getz the down arrow for the results, the jury's still out, as this is just one of the weirder stat lines I found looking at the Royals through the first two weeks.
Jarrod Dyson - OF -
Did anyone take Dyson in the Gr!t fantasy league? Because he's already got a triple and three stolen bases in limited playing time (which is the appropriate amount of playing time, as long as you aren't starting Jeff Fran-no, I'm not going into that again. I won't go back.). Dyson didn't play that much, but he was a positive when he did. Small victories.
Miguel Tejada - "IF" -
Everyone, I'd like to thank kcbottom9th for making me realize that the Calgary Flames are essentially the Kansas City Royals of the NHL. He's a braver man than me for having both teams on his dance card. I am using this space to say this, because, upon reflection, I realized attempting to write anything incisive about Miguel Tejada is a venture that I can't bring myself to attempt until I've gotten over the fact that the Royals, a baseball team with playoff aspirations, employ Miguel Tejada. Plus, I like Hockey a lot too.
As with everyone else on the roster not named Davis or Gutierrez, he did well against the Phillies.
George Kottaras - Bench Coach -
If Sal Perez wears out due to overuse, we know whose fault it is, Frank.
Elliot Johnson - IF -
I know that Johnson is listed at 6'1" 190, and Chris Getz is listed at a scrappier 5'11" 185, and that they don't really look alike, but I'm not convinced that Johnson isn't a clone of Getzy. Their birthdates are about six months apart, which sounds about right for the time it would take to vat-grow a utility infielder, and their career OPSes could be switched and no one would know the difference. 2-for-10 on the season. Mehhhh.
Pitchers, Starting With...
James Shields - True #1 SP -
Deserved better from the Royals hitters, but we all know that the pitching was the only real problem. Well, here's Shields, and he's pitched well so far, with a 20:3 K:BB in 21 innings. Success! Somehow the Royals managed to only win one of the games he pitched. If you're a fan of FIP and/or xFIP, they're both riding lower than his ERA of 3.43, at the moment.
Those fancystats people have a habit of reminding us that even with James Shield's projected contributions (some of them have the nerve to suggest that they won't be that much), the Royals will need some other contributions from the rotation to stay competitive. Well, get this: Santana has a lower ERA than James Shields so far. After a stellar eight inning, seven strikeout outing against the Minnesota Twins, and a game against the Blue Jays where he used some complicated type of voodoo magic to reproduce the same ends despite allowing ten baserunners, Santana's ERA is at 2.45 thus far.
The only visible blemish was the three home runs allowed against the White Sox, which was necessary, really, if you think about it. Santana has to keep his HR/9 above 1 somehow - the last time he didn't accomplish this feat, it was 2008. His strand rate is also at a ridiculous 93.1%, so that's not staying up for long. Credit where credit is due, though, Santana's not having problems missing bats thus far.
Wade Davis - SP -
Same pattern as Santana. Davis had an explosive first outing, and not in a good way, and then proceeded to keep runs off the board in the next two. As with Santana, one of the starts wasn't what you'd call stellar, as he only lasted five innings, surrendering seven baserunners in five innings to the Twinkies, but he still accomplished the goal of not letting people score while he was pitching. The start against the Braves on Wedneday, on the other hand, was extremely good.
Jeremy Guthrie - SP -
"Guts" has been good so far, if you look at the end results. The problems, once again, are a high home run rate and unsustainable positives. Guthrie's usually good for around five strikeouts per nine, and he's whiffed 7.78 K/9 over his first three starts, and stranded everybody. Historically, when Guts has kept his home run rate down around 1.10 per nine, he's a positive contributor as an average-to-slightly above starter. The years it goes higher, he's below average, and pretty much only worth the innings he eats. His home run rate won't stay as high as it is, but that's not saying much, since he's currently posting a 2.29.
Luis Mendoza - SP -
Naturally, the only guy in the starting rotation who posted a crappy strand rate this week was Mendoza, also known as "the guy who needs to get good results, or we see Chen/Hochevar in the rotation again." I speculate that Mendoza may have nibbled too much in his first two starts, as both his strikeout and walk rates were higher than usual, and his BABIP lower.
Bruce Chen - #6 SP -
Pitched four innings out of the bullpen, after losing the last starter's job in spring training, and has yet to be scored on. Chen really isn't that bad of a pitcher compared with Luke Hochevar, so here's hoping he gets the call if someone breaks down during Moore's push for 1000 innings.
Okay, so we all clapped for the Royals (I hope) when they made the decision to not insert the four million plus dollar man into the rotation. You know, the same way that parents feel compelled to clap at the end of fifth grade school plays. Anyway, Hochevar recently came into a game with men on base. That really, really can't happen. It especially can't happen since it's not like the Royals have a scarcity of better options. Luke is Luke is Luke, which means that he could have looked good in all his outings, and I'd still be tempted to go with the down arrow because we all know perfectly well what that next outing will be like.
Greg Holland - RP -
Blew a save, which has never happened before, according to some. I'm reasonably sure he's still good at pitching. If he could cut out the Rick Vaughn impression (8 Ks, 6 BBs), that'd be nice. K'd all three Braves he faced in the ninth on Wednesday, so that's a start.
It's always distressing when a pitcher who you've gotten used to blowing away the opposing team's would-be-late-inning-heroes falters, and that was the case against the Braves a couple nights ago. Craig already documentedHerrara's night in detail, so I won't harp on it. Weird stuff happens to relievers, even good ones, and I don't expect this to be anything other than a bump in the road. He looked just as good as ever in his bounce back appearance on Wednesday.
Aaron Crow - RP -
Yet to give up a run in five appearances, earned a save on the 8th of April when Holland had pitched two days in a row (with bad results). Don't tease us with bullpen usage that makes sense, Ned! Making use of the fact that the team has more than one reliever who can get three outs? I never would have thought it possible for an MLB manager.
J.C. Gutierrez - RP -
It's a rough life being a relief pitcher sometimes. Gutierrez has looked fine in three of his four outings, but has an ERA of 8.10 due to him being the other pitcher who went boom against the Phillies. 3.1 innings is the smallest of the small samples, but I've liked his stuff.
Tim Collins - RP, not LOOGY -
5.1 IP, 7 Ks. Twice allowed to go two innings in the Phillies series. If Yost has got the memo that Collins is not, in fact, a Left-handed One Out GuY, then that's really encouraging.
Thoughts for the Week(s):
1. Starting pitchers are getting out jams, which is cool for now. The problem is that high strand rates tend to come back down, and the result will be less pretty. This is stating the obvious, perhaps, but Santana/Davis/Guthrie can't continue to get results this good while pitching at their current level. Mendoza, conversely, has not pitched as badly as traditional stats make it look.
2. Hitting the ball in the air, whether hard and in-between fielders, or over the fence, is not a trick that the Royals have utilized this season. It probably has a lot to do with why Getz, Escobar, and Frenchy are all tied for second on the team in home runs. Getting more line drives and flyballs will happen naturally, though, unless we're talking about someone whose swing is completely out of whack. The team's Isolated Power (SLG - BA), one would think, should come up from its current figure of .113.
3. Speaking of which, don't tell Mike Moustakas to lift the ball more. Please. 26.6% Infield Fly Balls? Gross.
4. I'm not one to harp on managerial decisions, as the currently accepted version of bullpen management ensures that most teams don't get any advantage based on them, but I can't, for the life of me, figure out why Luke Hochevar would ever be put in a game with men on base. I really hope that if KC insists on him being part of the MLB club, someone tells Ned Yost this.
5. I'm prepared to give Hosmer the benefit of the doubt, and hope that when he bounces back from his current bad luck, that the overall package is a productive hitter. In other words, I don't think this is a Hochevar situation, where the advanced stats "think" he's better than he is.
Thanks for reading, hope to be around more often this season! I'll be doing these weekly, as long as I don't get kidnapped by aliens. They tend to target critical spirits, or so I hear.