Most colds go away within a week, and it appears the Royals season-opening sniffles are no exception to the rule. After yesterday's loss the the Minnesota Twins, the Kansas City Royals find themselves at 9-8, a record more befitting a baseball team that has aspirations of contention, and a nice turnaround from last year's 4-7. There's still things going wrong, or just wonky, but there's plenty more highlights from the last week than lowlights. Who's been good? Who's been bad? Who's been unable to stop hitting the ball into the ground? Read on for the Position Player Ups and Downs.
(Programming Note: going forward, these will be based on the two weeks in-between posts. For this one, it covers the performance of the position players up through yesterday's game. And yes, the title is a cheap acknowledgement that the NBA playoffs have started. Go Wizards!)
Aoki seems pretty much exactly as advertised so far -- a patient, solid hitter who doesn't have a lot of power, and a rather mediocre fielder. This package adds up to pretty decent starter in righter, and that's so much than what the Royals had run out to that position that I can already count the All-Star votes. I'd expect, or hope, that his OBP will come up a bit more going forward, but otherwise his .286/.338/.397 seems like what you'll see him hit over the long haul.
Omar Infante - 2B -
Everything I just wrote about Aoki, I could probably just copy and paste for Infante. He's hit decently, fielded decently, and that looks so much better than what we're used to at second base that I'm getting ready to carve an Infante statue out of one of the melons in the fridge. He's even homered, for heaven's sake, which I didn't think a keystone player was allowed to do after the last couple years. The question remains: honeydew, or cantaloupe?
Eric Hosmer - 1B -
Not really seeing the power we want out of Hosmer yet, but it's sort of hard to for me to give the down arrow to someone rocking a .352 OBP. He's hitting the ball on the ground a little too much, and his line drive rate is pretty low, but I expect both of those trends to reverse pretty soon. I wouldn't worry about Hoz's power just yet, as there might be something to the idea that he's just not getting as much to hit as usual. And, well, he's hitting enough flyballs that one of them's bound to take the express lane sooner or later.
Salvador Perez - C -
Salvy typical. He started the season on fire, and is now running just as cold as he was hot. Encouraging signs: over this small sample, Perez has more than tripled his walk rate. Discouraging signs: as with Butler of this season and Moustakas of every season (except this one, oddly enough), he's popping up too gosh darn much, though at least the rate of his batted ball data is in line with most of his career. If the walk rate improvement is real, that's pretty exciting in the long run, despite his recent slump. I'm not cashing that check yet, though.
Alex Gordon - LF -
Looking absolutely splendiferous afield, which is a big reason for his up arrow. He's actually hitting at the lower end of what you hope for form Alex Gordon, despite him hitting the team's first dinger, and his walk rate is continuing its worrying decay so far, but Gordon's .281/.319/.422 should come up as he starts squaring the ball up more -- he's at 10.3% LD%, compared to over 20% for his career -- and nothing else in his batted ball profile looks concerning. There are things you worry about with him, maybe, but I'd still like to see him higher in the line-up, for what that's worth.
Billy Butler - DH -
Just look the old Dugout comic where Sam Perlozzo was yelling at Daniel Cabrera to "throw the goddamn ball over the plate" because "they might miss it, or hit it at someone," the temptation with Billy Butler is to just scream "hit the goddamn ball in the air, Billy" because, you know, it might go far. The super frustrating thing about Butler's start, and some of Butler's last year, is that unlike the wild hurler that that one was based on, we've actually seen Butler hit the ball in the air--drive the ball--for whole seasons at a time.
Even with Butler's recent uptick that's seen him have a couple multihit games and surge above .200 for the year, there are significant concerning signs. For one, it's not even just that he's pounding the ball into the ground a lot. He's doing that to the tune of 64.7% of his batted balls, which is way higher than both last year's figure (53.4%) and his career number in that category (48.4%), but when he is getting the ball in the air, it's not going as far is it historically has. His IFFB% currently sits at a Moose-esque 22.2%.
And now, with his five game hitting streak and back-to-back 2-for-4 games, the talk is to move him back to clean-up. I think Butler's usually a darn good hitter, who gets too much flak for his deficiencies, but I'm not seeing a whole lot in the numbers that suggests he isn't still out of whack.
Mike Moustakas - 3B -
Well, to be fair, he's homered twice. And bizarrely enough, his struggles are more related to not hitting any damn line drives than his career-long pop-up problem, but man, things aren't really encouraging for Moose.
Justin Maxwell - OF -
Tough to give anyone a down arrow based on 18 PAs, but I'm brave enough to do it for 3-for-17 and 8 strikeouts. Still, take this one with a grain of salt.
Alcides Escobar - SS -
His bat is alive! No player on the Royals better exemplifies their success of last week than Escobar, who suddenly finds himself with actual hitting percentages above .300. The typical small sample size warning applies, of course, but if Alcides hitting .290, that's practically an automatic green arrow from where I'm sitting.
He has appeared in two games. He did not fall over in his one PA. Expectations met.
Valencia's 11 PAs are a neat microcosm for his entire career. 6 PAs against lefties, two hits, one dinger, no strikeouts. 5 vs. righties, 1-for-5 with two Ks. Though even with him being lefty-mashing centric, it's eventually going to be a question as to whether he steals more PAs from Moose. In case you're wondering, Moustakas is 0-for-10 with two walks against lefties. So, again, I will give Moore and Co. mild props for Valencia's acquisition. Of course, it was to partially mitigate a problem they started in the first place.
He was hitting and fielding well before going on the 15-day DL with a groin injury. I think it's fair to say at this point that while Cain is a pretty solid player, his reputation for being injury prone isn't an unfair one.
The Kansas City baseball squad, now one game out of first, are in Cleveland tonight, as Zach McAllister represents Josh Duggan's favorite team against Jeremy Guthrie. Go Royals!