Royal Ups and Down - Buffoonery in Baltimore Edition

"Mmmphhh!" - Chris Dickerson - Rob Carr

The fourth installment chronicling the highs and lows of the Royals roster.

Your 2013 Kansas City Royals enter tomorrow's third game with the Orioles of Baltimore at 17-13, riding the minor downward slope of the team's first three-game losing streak of the year. Jeremy Guthrie's on the hill, coming off a shutout against the White Sox. While today's ups and downs focus on the hitters, let's not lose sight of Guthrie's high-as-a-kite 93.3% strand rate, his .240 BABIP, and two run difference between his microscopic ERA and his rather Guthrie-ish FIP. This is not to say that today's the day that Guthrie starts coming back to earth, but his K-Rate is descending back towards what we can normally expect from him, so it's not unreasonable to think corrections will take place in other categories. Such as runs allowed. And that might finally kill Guthrie's "undefeated starts" run that dates back to some time that I don't really care about because it's stupid.

Now, it won't really be Guthrie's fault when he stops stranding a ridiculous amount of runners and his ERA balloons, and people wonder what's "wrong" with him. The same can be said for the other Royals who were or are playing over their heads. People like to attach reasons and, on a larger scale, narratives to why a player slumps or does extremely well, but in the case of known commodities such as Guthrie, or Gordon, or name-a-veteran-Royal-with-limited-upside, these are usually just explanations of the naturally performance variance that occurs throughout a baseball season. Yes, there are times where Alex Gordon or Billy Butler won't be seeing the ball well, and they might have a discussion with the hitting coach based on that, but it's act just part of the big picture -- we know Butler and Gordon are going to hit. We know Guthrie isn't as good as a 2.40 ERA. And yet, of course, we're still hanging on the edge of our seats and jumping up and down when Gordon hangs dong.

The tough thing, as a fan, can be seeing past the narratives without getting silly-level frustrated when the team goes through a cold stretch such as the current one. Especially when you root for a team that's might sorta kinda be on the bubble of teams that might aspire to a contending-ish season. The life of a fan of a team likely to finish around the .500 mark can be rougher than rooting for a losing team sometimes -- at least most teams that finish 65-97 probably have shown some signs of cashing in their chips to build a winner in the future. A .500ish team that's already gone all-in on a 2-7 off-suit and is praying (because surely, the Royals organization is praying, not hoping or dreaming) for the river card to come as Chase Utley? Ugh. There are times, such as today's fifth inning, where it's enough to make one wonder if they could become a better poker player than these guys on ESPN 2.

I think I botched the metaphor, but my point is that I'm not sure I can go another day watching some of the black holes on the roster without flipping some tables. And I'm going to run out of tables pretty quickly, the way this series has gone so far. Such is baseball fandom, rolling with the punches of the BABIP fairy, the LOB% pixie, and the RISP vampire. And so it goes, and so it goes.

Billy Joel - And So It Goes (via billyjoelVEVO)

On to the Position Players Ups and Downs:

Alex Gordon - LF - Nope_medium

We start with the leadoff man, as always when upping and downing the Royals. Though, it may be of interest to some to note that Frank is considering dropping Gordon to the third spot in the order to help generate more offense. Though, how that works, I'd love to know. Getting less PAs for one of the your best hitters is supposed to improve the offense? Who hits lead-off? Who hits second? Wow, actually, I don't want to know the answer to either one of those questions. Just don't be surprised if they're answered tomorrow and we end up with Frenchy "handling a bat" in the second spot.

I digress. Alex Gordon's still really good, and I'm still very happy he's on the team. However, I give him the sideways thingamajig for these past two weeks because while his power's up, he continues to hack to the point where his OBP's down to .336. That's still reasonably alright, to be sure, but it's lower than I expect from him, it's dragged his wOBA back down to last year's levels, after a brief flirtation with his 2011 heights. Also, he's into the positive by most fielding metrics too, after a slow start on that front.

Alcides Escobar - SS - Kablooey_medium

Al was cruising along at nigh-.300 until the 1-for-13 in the last three games, though his generally positive fielding contributors and baserunning still have him as being worth slightly more than Gordon this year via Fangraphs. Escobar in a down week is still a player that contributes in all facets of the game, despite him being in the middle of last night's defensive debacles.

Billy Butler - DH - Nope_medium

Still waiting on the inevitable (not being sarcastic here) return of Butler's BABIP luck, though he had brought his batting average up to .278 before a 2-for-19 slump that hopefully ends after Wednesday's 0-for-3 with a walk. To be fair, it's not all bad luck -- he's struck out three times in eight PAs against the O's, so he hasn't been giving the spacious Camden Yards alleys as much chance to help him out as you'd like. This is all much ado about nothing, really -- Butler's still sitting at a .380 OBP, and there's nothing I'm seeing that indicates anything other than some bad luck and less pitches to hit than usual.

Now if only he'd run harder. I really need Butler to lead the team in CS's and blown out hamstrings in order to proclaim him as someone who's giving 100%.

Eric Hosmer - 1B - Kablooey_medium

Ugh. Well, I don't want to give Hosmer the down arrow because his overall line since the Tampa Bay two-gamer has been alright, but he's fast becoming my biggest worry in the lineup. When Moustakas was struggling horribly, I thought I was observing (disclaimer that I write way too often - I'm not a scout, nor do I pretend to be) the telltale signs of a talented young player pressing. With Hosmer, it's getting to the point where I'm just worried he doesn't have much more to give. I really would like to be wrong on that.

Lorenzo Cain - CF - Up_medium

He's continued to hit well after a mini rough patch versus Cleveland, his BABIP is now down to a high, but not ridiculous, .368, so it's hard not to be satisfied with what Cain's given the Royals this season. He's still hitting a ridiculous number of ground balls (59.1 percent of batted balls), but maybe that's a sign of a player that realizes that it's a good idea to put the ball in play when you have pretty sweet wheels.

Mike Moustakas - 3B - Up_medium

He's not out of the woods yet, but by golly if he didn't earn the first green arrow from some random blogger this week! Moustakas' good games have been really good, with five games where he's been on base twice or more in the past two weeks, versus three oh-fers. Versus Tampa, and again last night, we were treated to the rare, exotic sight of a Moose dong. UZR isn't high on his fielding this year, thus far, but it's not incredibly negative either. There's still the potential for a useful player here, so let's hope he stays on the right track (and doesn't make anymore key errors, but hell that happens to errybody). Pop-ups are down to 20 percent, line drives are around his career average, so that's going in the right direction.

Elliot Johnson - 2B? - Up_medium

The fact that Elliot Johnson might actually be an upgrade over the player we came into the season with as our starting 2B is a great example of why this offense is so freaking not good. Congrats, Elliot, have an up arrow for a singles-heavy couple weeks and for fulfilling the bare minimum requirement of not being Chris Getz.

George Kottaras - SH - Up_medium

Take the up arrow with the grain of salt that comes with limited plate appearances. That said, George Kottaras is unquestionably the most heroic man in the history of the universe. I'm probably just going to say he's doing well until Ned puts him in right field. I mean, it worked for the front office and Francoeur, right?

Jarrod Dyson - OF - Nope_medium

One does wonder how many times Frenchy has to prove that he can't play his way out of a wet paper bag before Dyson is allowed more than one start a week. It's not that he's set the world on fire when he's been in, but he's also probably not a black hole of suck in every facet of the game, so there's that. FRAA and UZR seem to really like his fielding so far, and that's a big part of the value Dyson brings. Speaking of which, Dyson was worth 1.5 WAR last season, essentially off-setting Francoeur's -1.4. It'd be nice if the Royals realized that Dyson's capable of being a positive contributor, however marginally.

It's worth postulating, though, that if the Royals are still in it by the trade deadline-ish, and you're of the opinion they should add more parts for this season, one target other than a 2B should probably be a corner bat.

Miguel Tejada - "IF" - Up_medium

Also gets a nod (and a wink) for being good in limited playing time. Hard to argue with a .400 OBP, no matter how unsustainable it is. Also, for what it's worth, at least Tejada's seen enough playing time that it makes sense, in an obtuse way, that the Royals put him on the roster out of Spring Training. Then again, given what we heard about his grumpiness in AAA last year, he's probably not the type to let his playing time be Kottarized without an objection.

Jeff Francoeur - RF - Kablooey_medium

The funny thing is, I assumed I'd have given him a sideways by now, on the grounds that it's freaking hard to have your wOBA keep shrinking every two weeks, but the Amazing Nut Tapper (hey, that spells out 'ANT'! I probably need sleep) has managed to do it again nonetheless. Another series of performances worthy of an AAA drifter has him at .266 for the season, including an OBP of .274. Even FRAA's ridiculously positive assessment of his fielding has him below replacement level.

And again, there's a difference between playing Moustakas/Hosmer though struggles, and playing a guy like this. With the first two guys, we're hoping that they improve, knowing that they've shown potential, and are on the right spot on the aging curve to expect them to realize it. There is no sign (I'm tempted to say, whatsoever that Frenchy isn't just is what he is at this stage: a terrible major league baseball player.

But hey, he finally got a night off, so I'm sure he'll be ready for tonight's game. And he still has more home runs than Eric Hosmer.

Chris Getz - 2B - Kablooey_medium

His allergies made the team better.

Salvador Perez - C - Up_medium

Earns the tiniest of up arrows for these two weeks due to defensive value, and his OBP crawling above .300. Perez's current mediocre line of .279/.309/.375 isn't that bad for a catcher, and he's clocking in at .4 WAR on the season. This is, of course, well below expectations, but it's fair to wonder why the expectations for Salvy Perez were as high as they were in the first place. Perez somehow managed a .301 batting average, thus driving up his OBP to a respectable .328 last year, while striking out much more than he walked. Walks aren't everything, but as the picture gets clearer on Perez, it seems he's just not a disciplined enough hitter to reliably hit for a high average. And without a high average, his OBP is going to be bad, because he's hacking to the tune of a 2.8 percent walk rate.

Though said walk rate isn't actually that much lower than last year's 3.9 percent, his K-Rate has ballooned to 18.3 percent, which is a figure that blows my mind, and his power is down. While you might expect a bit of a correction, there's not really anything in his minor league or, heck, major league track record to suggest he's capable of being the hitter he seemed to be in 2011 and 2012.

What does this all add up to? He might still be an above average catcher with some adjustments on his part, and he's certainly young enough to improve significantly at the plate, but Perez is totally miscast as a star in the here and now. There were a few people who thought he might be capable of twenty home runs this season, and I just can't match that up with what we're seeing from him this year. Also, I just noticed it's his birthday tomorrow, so I feel like a jerk for writing this. And so it goes.

Thoughts From Last Week:

1. Does Guthrie break the record? Yep! Hooray.

2. Hosmer improvement? Meh.

3. Sweeping the Rays? Rain.

4. Yost? Most people seem to be somewhere around the "he isn't any worse than most managers" threshold, which equates to "oh, for crying out loud, Hochevar?" on some nights.

5. if Hosmer has a .450 slugging percentage this month? I will watch the entire season of MTV's Skins.

Thoughts For This Week:

1. So...Hosmer? Is my assessment of him too negative, or am I right to have my faith in him turning things around wane? Between the powerless start and last year's performance, I need help to remain optimistic.

2. Elliot Johnson is better than Chris Getz, yes or no? And should we care who Yost starts, given the modest talents of both guys?

3. Who's the first member of the rotation to lose his spot?

4. Moustakas would need to bring his triple slash line to ___/___/___ before you'd stop worrying about him.

5. If Greg Holland blows another save, you will _______.

Random statement: if you can stand teen dramas, watch the British version of Skins, not the American one. I'm on the second season and it's great for that genre. Has two of the actors from Game of Thrones, oddly enough.

Random question: so who's going to the new Star Trek next week!?!?!?!?!? I'm currently foaming at the mouth with excitement. Either that, or I need to take my anti-Royals medication. Or it could be that I'm still on a high from dumb twitter wars with Old Man Duggan. It's honestly hard to tell. Go Royals!

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