It's that time of year, Royals fans! You know, the time of year where the Royals are still technically in contention in July, Jeff Francoeur has finally been cut, and yours truly is off to camp! The last time all three events occurred in one season was never, of course. The last time two of them occurred in the same summer, I wasn't a camp counselor; rather, I was a small human going to Soccer camp. The lesson here is to cut Jeff Francoeur whenever possible, and to bring back Tony Pena Sr. as manager - the latter step is scientifically proven to double the Royals' play-off chances.
Being on the campsite again allows me to get in touch with my roots, where "my roots" equal "a man in a blueberry-colored t-shirt yelling at mlb.tv to stop freezing" and "being part of a large group of people that wonder if it'll ever stop raining on the coast of Maine ever again." It's a peaceful time of year, during which I've already been nailed by a sandball in the ear, thrown by a maniac seven-year-old from twenty paces away (give that kid a contract). It's the time of year to find oneself, as one staggers blindly back in the general direction of what may or may not be the correct cabin, hoping against hope that the light from a cell phone will help offset the fact that, once again, one has forgotten one's goddamn headlamp on a pitch-dark campground that one has worked on for multiple summers.
But enough with the thin-veiled metaphors for Dayton Moore's draft strategery and execution, on to your Kansas City Royals' Ups and Downs for the week, look at the Position Players. This post was written before the Independence Day offensive explosion. All stats are for games through July 3.
Alex Gordon - LF -
Finally trending upwards with his walk rate, and that along with his grand slam the other day earns him the thumbs sideways. Gordon's rate stats are down, but I hardly need tell you this. Nonetheless, I can't help but feel that Alex's slow fade after a hot start has gone relatively unnoticed outside of KC of the Royals blogging community. To be sure, Gordon's still very good, and if there's one thing I can say that's definitely a positive from the last month or so in regard to Alex, it's that I'm nitpicking a player who's already been worth 2.2 WAR this year. That said, while Gordon is the anti-Moose, with less than 2% of his batted balls going for infield flies, he's still swatting the ball into the dirt more than ever (44.2%).
Alcides Escobar - SS -
Escobar's pencilled into the number two slot tonight, and it's really hard to fathom why. Suppose you subscribe to the theory that MLB teams should hit their best player second in the line-up; if you do, it's awfully hard to figure out why a guy who's OBPing .280 is here. Even if you buy the "bat control" argument, Escobar really doesn't hit for a high average, despite batted ball data that suggests he doesn't try to do too much. If you're between the two extremes, and you merely expect a guy who can get on base, move guys up, and contribute a little pop in the second spot, you're left staring at Escobar's aforementioned bad OBP, weak .079 Isolated Power, and 10 GIDP this season hitting behind Gordon's .350 OBP.
This isn't to say Escobar isn't a useful player, because with his defensive rebound this season, he most definitely is, but the Royals really should move him, permanently, to the bottom rungs of the order. Expecting another 2012 success based on him maintaining a .290ish average is expecting too much of Al.
Billy Butler - DH -
Butler finally picked up his average a little bit, driving his overall hitting lines up and reassuring us slightly. Concerns about his lack of power are both legitimate (still stuck on his lowest IsoP since 2008) and somewhat overblown - even at his best, Butler's really been more of a high-average, moderately-patient, 20ish home run guy, so having six through July 2nd isn't exactly shocking when put in that context. I fully expect to see him rattle off a couple of three homer series at some point to get back near his normal 20 roundtrippers, I just don't expect a return to the 29 of a year ago.
Interesting trend - Butler's now above his 2012 rate for FB% and GB%, with the only percentage in decline being his line drives. Figure that one out. Baseball's strange.
Miguel Tejada - "IF" -
Don't know about you all, but for me, Miguel Tejada coming back to earth immediately brings to mind images of zombies in space.
Eric Hosmer - 1B -
The prodigal bat returned to Hosmer's hands, and did launch glorious dingers after what seemed like nine seasons of trying to get his swing back. He homered off the hated White Sox. He homered off the Braves, the hated devilspawn of an organization that produced our GM and half the freaking players he's acquired (slight exaggeration), he homered twice off the Twins and one game. And lo, when they decried that his rediscovered power as "not playing the game the right way," he homered again and dropped the microphone at home plate.
Lorenzo Cain - CF -
Proving once again that it is, in fact, possible for a breakdancer to be too funky.
Salvador Perez - C -
Keeps swinging, keeps hitting. Doesn't have time to bleed. Or walk. His walks in back-to-back starts on the 30th of June and July 2nd are the only times he's walked in back-to-back games all year. The current numbers he's putting up are jes fine (Pogo, anyone? Always liked that comic) for a catcher, but there's still cause for concern if he can't refine his plate approach a bit on offense.
George Kottaras - C -
Kottarized a ball for his first hit in three weeks against the White Sox. Yep, that sounds a lot like something George Kottaras would do.
All the way over the Mendoza line. The last time Moustakas went on a semi-hot streak, I said "he's not out of the woods yet, but [something vaguely positive]," and then he hit like a blind tortoise for about a month. So in an attempt to break this pattern, I'd like to say that peppermints and anchovies don't go well together.
Congratulations, guys, you've achieved the "played so terribly that the Royals decided Johnny Giavotella was a prospect again" prize. The winnings? One ticket to Omaha, one to the end of the bench to occupy the spot formerly occupied by the pizzas Jeff Francoeur ordered for Ned Yost.
Jeff Francoeur - RF -
David Lough - RF -
Despite the obvious warning signs of bad plate discipline (his 2.3% BB is Salvy-esque) and a high BABIP (.354), at least Lough's been relatively fun to watch thus far. Kinda like the Royals overall. It's anyone's guess how long Lough and the Royals can stave off regression, but at least they're still in the hunt, for now, and at least they have someone who looks like he cares in right field. Yes, I went there.
Questions for the Week:
1. There can really only be one at this point: buy or sell? Give trade targets/trade block players in your answer.
This has been another overly wordy edition of Royal Ups and Downs, and this is your humble camp counselor, and his assistants (three underpaid mosquitos), signing off!