The six game winning streak for the Royals was both a positive for the club's chances of staying on the fringes of the wild card race for the moment, and it also served to remind us that, at least for the time being, the Astros are in a sort of rock bottom league of their own in terms of wins and losses this season (along with Miami) - you kind of need to be in order to get swept by this year's Royals' team. It says a lot about the KC organization that, at this point, I think the grass is greener on the Astros side of the pitch. Until Dayton Moore is fired (and there should be more coming from my fellow contributors about possible replacement candidates, so I'll spare you my thoughts on that), it's hard for me to see much reason for hope. At least, with a full-blown rebuilding program, there's hope for Astros fans right now.
It also reminded me of the European soccer league formula of promotion/relegation. If you don't follow soccer, the basic idea is that there's more than one division/league, but they're all arranged in a hierarchy rather than by region, and if you finish at the bottom of one league, you're bumped down to the league below that. If you finish at the top of any league other than the premier division, you're bumped up. I am, in no way, saying that this is a better system than the way MLB does it, but it got me to thinking how many times the Royals would have been "relegated" over the past decade since their last winning season.
So all that said, if we indulge my crazy sports fan brain, and we use the most popular system of promoting three teams and relegating three each season, meaning that the worst three teams from each the AL and NL would be sent down to the fictional MLB Second Division, let's see how the Royals fare since 2003, in descending order:
- 2012 - 72-90, avoid relegation by one game over Boston.
- 2011 - 71-91, avoid relegation by two games over Baltimore
- 2010 - 67-95, relegated. Next worst team was Cleveland, with a two game edge
- 2009 - 65-97, relegated. Baltimore, Cleveland, and KC were in their own league of suck this year.
- 2008 - 75-87, avoid relegation by one game over Detroit.
- 2007 - 69-93, relegated again.
- 2006 - 62-100, relegated. Still not close.
- 2005 - 56-106, relegated.
- 2004 - 58-104, relegated.
Yes, this is another way of showing that the Royals haven't been particularly good, but I found it rather amusing exercise. Not quite as amusing as the fact that Jose Valverde is still pitching in high leverage situations, though. I'll certainly take the wins, but the Tigers blind spot when it comes to Papa Grande continues to impress - if that ball gets called inside against Butler last night, which it was, there's a distinct possibility that the Royals, relegation candidates for years, might have swept the mighty Tigers. I fully expect them to trade for Wayne Rooney soon.
With all that out of the way, on to the Ups and Downs for the Royals Position Players:
Alex Gordon - LF -
Gordon earns his first down arrow of the year for an inevitable regression in his BABIP, which at .365 still stands higher than either of his other two years since he rose like phoenix from the flames. There are other slight concerns to go with Gordon, such as a declining walk rate (6.7% vs. 9.8% for his career) and an isolated power that's more on par with 2010 than either of his good years. Even more concerning, his bunt hit percentage is down 100% from last year.
But seriously, the only thing that really nags about Gordon to me is this; given his goodness in the miasma of suck that is the Royals line-up, and the endless march of the days towards the trade deadline, I seriously hope he's not a candidate to be moved. That may not be rational either way, because the Royals organization probably thinks it's contending, and there's mounting evidence that GMDM doesn't know how to use a phone (Moustakas still being in the majors is data point one), but there it is.
Alcides Escobar - SS -
I believe this video adequately sums up Escobar's recent performance at the plate:
Billy Butler - DH -
OBP's up to .381 tonight, but where's the power? Well, don't ask Alex Gordon, because Butler's Isolated Power (as a reminder, that's SLG-BA) is only eleven points lower than Gordon's. There's sort of a weird perception that Butler's underachieving among certain quarters this season, whereas Gordon's regarded as the same old positive. Part of that is no doubt the fact that Gordon has defensive value, but the rest seems to a perception driven mainly by the difference in batting average. With Billy currently ten points below his current career BABIP, and a couple percentage points off his career LD%, I can see Butler finally going on a tear soon. Especially now that we have recorded proof that it's possible to make him angry without stealing his Baconator.
David Lough - RF -
Came back to earth after a hot introduction, but did bag a homer last night. Lough, at .279/300/.441, is probably still hitting over his head, but he's still a better option than Francoeur. If Frenchy is moved/cut/permanently benched, the Royals could have a sufferable right field with Lough and Dyson, until Francoeur's inevitable extension.
Eric Hosmer - 1B -
It's a little bit of a downer that two weeks that see Hosmer's hitting line at .271/.328/.339 isn't actually a week where he was slumping relative to the rest of the season. In other words, these past two weeks were par for the course for Hosmer these days, which stinks. His flyball percentage has sunk to 18.3 percent, down 9 percent from last year, and his groundball percentage is at nearly 60 percent. This is nothing you haven't heard before, but he slaps the ball too much. Still.
Lorenzo Cain - CF -
The best breakdancer on the team has been an XBH machine of late, culminating in his dramatic, game-saving home run off the insufferable Papa Grande in tonight's game. Strikeout rate down, walk rate up...yep, safe to give him an up arrow again. Welcome back, Lorenzo!
Mike Moustakas - 3B -
Omaha now, please. When I asked earlier in the season when the time to send Moose down was, the most popular opinion was to let him try and sort things out in MLB until around mid-May. Almost a month after that date, Moustakas still doesn't look right, still isn't hitting, and still hasn't wormed his way above replacement level.
Chris Getz - 2B -
Elliot Johnson - 2B -
The whole "not being Chris Getz" novelty has worn off, and what's left isn't pretty. Neither one of the two has a hitting percentage over .300.
Jeff Francoeur - RF -
1-for-10 with one whole walk since we last met. Down to negative .8 WAR for the season. He was at -1.4 last season, so at this rate, he'll actually "improve" on that number. Go Frenchy!
Miguel Tejada - "IF" -
Miguel Tejada has been the Royals best infielder this season not named Salvador Perez. Let that sink in for a second, then come over here if you need a hug. It's all right. The tears are natural.
But hey, he's at .333/.382/.471 in 54 PAs. Small sample size? Yep. Unsustainable? Uh huh. Looks totally unhappy in his mlb.com pic? Totally. But it's hard to complain about getting anything out of Miguel Tejada.
George Kottaras - C -
As bad as the Kottarizer's triple slash line looks, he has a higher OBP than Francoeur, Getz, Johnson, Escobar, Moustakas, and Josh Hamilton. The things a .300 OBP will buy you these days.
Salvador Perez - C -
Having about as good a season as he can with his current batting profile. Perez's K:BB ratio is abysmal, his BABIP is high enough that one could expect a drop of around forty points, his power has dropped to the point where he's asking Butler for tips on his homer-happy approach, and his baserunning is pretty bleh. That all said, the current incarnation of Perez is still a valuable player, with his above average defense and ability to punch a lot of singles. Perez's streakiness is related to his approach, but it sure as heck is fun when he's hot, as he is now.
The Royals will pay him $1 million this year. According to Fangraphs, he's already been worth 6.8 big ones on the year.
Adam Moore - Heir to the Throne -
Hit reasonably well in his call-up, but probably still needs to be bumped off to extinguish the line of House Moore.
Questions for the Week:
1. Who, if anyone, would you attempt to move at the trade deadline in a month and a half? Who do you target if you see the Royals are buyers?
2. How many blown saves will Valverde need to accumulate in order to lose his job?
3. Moustakas gets sent down. We give the third base job to Tejada?
4. British Premier League being shown on NBCSN this fall, any interest? Any futbol fans here?
5. Watching the Stanley Cup Finals? (Ugh, Bruins)
6. Man of Steel, Superman movie that isn't awful?
That's all for this week. By the way, we just took two out of three from the Tigers. That still happened, and I'm pretty pleased about it.