It's just kind of a cruel universe where the Royals can somehow win forty out of thirty games, and then drop back out of "contention" with series losses to teams such as the Marlins and White Sox. Needing a win from Jeremy "Embrace The Luck" Guthrie, the Royals once again stuck a 29-year-old utility infielder with a career OBP of .312 at the lead-off spot, playing second base. Because when your play-off chances dwindle by the day, you've got make sure that someone whose OPS is lower than my hat size gets as many plate appearances as possible.
Really appreciate the all-in, now, Mr. Moore. This season has been an unrequited success now that we've reached (arbitrary cut-off point) and are (number) games above .500. On to the Position Player Ups and Downs:
Chris Getz - 2B-
.230/.297/.288. If you stare at that triple slash line long enough, you might start to wonder, as I did, how it's possible that Getz has actually walked as many times as he's been struck out this season. I mean, realistically, all you have to do to get Getz out is to operate within the zone, as he won't punish you with anything more than a single. Also, in a data point that doesn't favor MLB managers' sanity, Getz, has been intentionally walked three times this season.
Eric Hosmer - 1B -
It speaks volumes about the Royals offense that the unquestioned bright spot is a corner infielder hitting .293/.342/.444 who strikes out more than twice the number of times that he walks. And yes, we all expect more from St. Eric going forward, but it took a couple of month of hitting the snot out of the ball for him to reach that triple slash line. With any luck, the couple months of popgun-level power will turn out to be a complete outlier. And at least Fangraphs thinks his defense has been around average this year, as opposed to the crappiness of his first two seasons in the league.
Billy Butler - DH -
Up to .382 OBP and showing flashes of the power we're used to from him. Now that he's hitting well again, he is officially not considered "a fat $%&@." In fact, I nominate Butler as the most likely Royal to become a sex symbol as the team reaches new heights.
Alex Gordon - LF -
The problems of early season that were evident in Alex's batted ball data have finally come home to roost in the second half. Mired in a season that includes his career-low walk rate and his lowest line drive percentage since 2009, it's been a struggle for Gordon lately. He's still way better than most players on the Royals roster, and I wouldn't be surprised if he snapped out of it and finished hot.
Salvador Perez - C -
For all the good things Salvy brings, I'm still watching in fascinated horror to see if he can successfully finish above .300 OBP, while rocking one of the least disciplined plate approaches I've ever seen. Unless more singles start falling for him--and really, they shouldn't, as his BABIP is around his norm--it's going to be close.
Mike Moustakas - 3B -
Moustakas keeps grabbing up arrows in my posts because he was so bad for so long that any stretch of average hitting brings his season line up. Positives include his incremental improvement in walk rate from last year, the fact that his defense is still grading as above average (given the fluky-greatness of last year's glovework), and a rise in his line drive percentage as his pop-up percentage has sunk to below last year's levels. Moustakas still has a long way to go to re-establish himself as a long term piece, but at least he's been trending positively. Finally.
Emilio Bonifacio - Baserunner -
If we go by "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," then we're left with "Bonifacio can run the bases well."
David Lough - RF -
Interestingly enough, Lough's fielding numbers are coming out as pretty darn good. Maybe he's this year's Moustakas--a guy who can field, but is being overestimated by fielding metrics--but it's good that he's not succumbing to one of the pitfalls of non-prospects. Any given organization usually has a few guys like Lough, who might be able to hit their way out of a paper bag but have never been anyone's idea of highly-touted, and one of the drawbacks is that they're usually pretty bad defensively. The Ken Phelps All-Stars, in other words, usually don't have much defensive value. Lough isn't likely to retain much value long term, of course, but the joke of employing Jeff Francoeur when guys like this are freely available gets funnier every day.
Speaking of "funnier every day," I would like David Lough to teach my children how to slide.
Alcides Escobar - SS -
It's pretty darn hard to compensate for a .265 OBP, and Escobar is still above replacement level as a result of his good glovework. He also impersonates a major league hitter against lefties (.275/.299/.376). Here end the positives. Escobar's hitting a Getzian .225/.250/.275 off same-sided pitching this season. At this point, his best option is probably to just not swing.
Jarrod Dyson - OF -
Dyson's in that weird territory where he's underrated as a price-to-value asset, mostly because of his contributions with the glove, on the basepaths, and his ability to put up a sufferable OBP despite lack of hitting skills. Yet he's also probably not a viable regular. Then again, the Royals went into this season thinking Frenchy was a viable regular, so I'll start making some "Dyson 2014" posters.
Justin Maxwell - OF -
Maxwell has been raking since being acquired by the Royals, and even with his negative fielding value he's been worth about .7 WAR in a third of a season's PAs this year. While he's unlikely to continue the Raul Ibanez impression, and he's too old to even kind of be considered a prospect, he's been fun as hell. Lightning in a bottle for Dayton Moore.
George Kottaras - C -
The average never seems to rise, and then it turns out the OBP's been crawling up this entire time. Kottaras remains not the kind of guy you'd want to see exposed by 500 PAs, but his .371 OBP out of the back-up catcher's spot is second on the team behind Billy Ray Butler. So that's pretty good. He's not a defensive ace, but it's hard to care too much about that in the face of not making outs.
Miguel Tejada - "IF" -
So, what kind of PEDs hasn't Miguel Tejada been linked to at this point?
Elliot "Chris Getz mk. 2" Johnson