And the afternoon of May 18th, 2014, the Kansas City Royals surged back over the elusive .500 mark, on the strength of eight runs being hung on the Baltimore Orioles and the somewhat flammable Ubaldo Jimenez. And when the final, fateball ball thudded into the glove of Royals Closer Greg Holland, covering first for Eric Hosmer's toss, the Royals had officially salvaged a four game sweep. In a small way, it felt as if
(rest of sentence redacted due to joke being horribly overused).
But seriously, it's nice to see the Royals with a winning record, and just as nice to salvage the latter two games when the offense looked it like it had gone into hibernation mode in the first two. So who helped drive the Roys mild resurgence, and who's still sleeping? Read on for the Position Player Ups and Downs.
Norichika Aoki - RF -
Being able to not make an out remains the most important end result, but there's always going to be some question as to whether power is the more important tool for a hitter. This isn't to say the every player needs to be a power hitter, or that you need home run power to consistently succeed, it's to acknowledge the line of thinking that, if you can't at least punish a mistake down the middle, there isn't any reason to avoid pounding the zone against you. And, thus, your walk rate won't be as good.
I'm not suggesting that this is, in fact, the kind of player Aoki is or will continue to be. But it's worth wondering, when he goes through stretches like this, if this might be partly the problem. Aoki's SLG has dipped to .329, four points higher than his OBP, and he's only drawn three walks in his last ten. Whatever the case, it hasn't been a good couple weeks for him.
Alcides Escobar - SS -
Continues his impression of a league average middle infielder with the bat, which should make us all relatively happy with him. He's even shown flashes of pop lately, including a glorious long fly against the Seattle Mariners on the 11th. His defense has been getting mixed reviews so far, but the hitting percentages aren't out of whack, Thus far, I think it's fair to cautiously say that this year looks a little more like 2012 than 2013 for Alcides.
Eric Hosmer - 1B -
His performance has not been bereft of bright spots, but the only thing I think I need to say is that his triple slash numbers currently reside in a very deep pit labelled "below the team's SS's numbers" And yes, if Hosmer is struggling to get out of said pit, Moustakas is somewhere in China. But Hosmer gets the down arrow because his numbers have actually dropped since last time, whereas some other people here escape the angry red arrow due to "dead cat bounces."
Billy Butler - DH -
His three hits against Baltimore lase night almost convinced me to tip the scales in his favor, but his overall performance in the last two weeks still isn't what you'd call "good" so much as "not worse than before." Good hitters go through slumps, to be sure, but Butler's buried within the aforementioned pit to the tune of a 599 OPS. It's May 19th, so that's kind of terrifying.
Alex Gordon - LF -
When the hits have come, they've come in bunches for Alex. His last nine games: 3-for-5, 0-for-5, 3-for-4 (BB), 0-for-2 (2 BB), 0-for-4, 2-for-4, 0-for-4, 0-for-3, 4-for-4. No, they doesn't really mean much, it just caught my eye that he's been either an unholy terror or barely finding a way on base lately. Last night was the latter, when the command-challenged Oriole staff couldn't get him out, and he clubbed two home runs. More of that, please! Alex Gordon driving the ball in the air is something we all need more of in our lives.
Salvador Perez - C -
Perez has steadily climbed back into the percentages you expect him to be in, with a decent OBP and good pop for his position. His batted ball percentages, in terms of GB%, LD%, and FB% are all back within a percentage point of his career norms. His defense is also registering as a positive in most metrics now, so everything's coming up Milhouse for Salvy.
Lorenzo Cain - CF -
Three green arrows in a row after the clean-up position, which must mean that Moustakas is hitting 8th. Snark aside, Cain's looked good since return from injury, playing his usual very good defense. His OBP is up to .372 for the year, which must mean that the other Royals hitters are currently looking at him as if he's some kind of alien, or maybe a stunt double that refused to stop playing the part after the initial trick.
It is worth noting that Cain's spike, unlike Salvy's, is very BABIP-based, as he's currently crusing at .359 in that column, and he's pounding the ball into the ground right now. For a guy with Cain's speed, that's not too bad a thing, but the corresponding drop in line drives will be an issue if those percentages hold.
Mike Moustakas - 3B -
What's wrong with Moustakas is something that requires more than just the week-to-week look-ins that are the meat of my posts. That said, I will note that his batted ball data currently indicates--and has for awhile now--that he's bad and unlucky, not just bad. With virtually the same LD% as in 2012, when he hit .242, he's currently "hitting" 157. That's more of a realistic admittance than anything in support of keeping him in the line-up, though, as the current results are so bad that the Royals will have make a choice eventually. And even if those numbers evens out, which would be in his favor, I'm not sure that Moustakas in "good mode" is even league average, factoring in his defense.
Johnny Giavotella - 2B -
Giavotella did belt one out of the park shortly after his call-up, but so far he's proving the Royals right about going outside the organization. Thank goodness for small victories, I guess. Again, batted ball data likes him a little more than his results thus far (let me stress "a little"), but he still hasn't done anything to shake the Quad-A label. And if his bat isn't up to doing so, his glove won't carry him.
Danny Valencia - 3B -
Vs Lefties: .333/.344/.500 -- put him the middle of the order!
Vs Righties: .188/.278/.188 -- ...I think he might just be hoping for a walk.
But don't call him a platoon player, or someone somewhere whose last name may or may not rhyme with "toast" might get cranky. Valencia's overall performance is the kind of "adequate left masher" that you can find for fairly cheap every off-season, so the fact that his overall line dwarfs Moose's is pretty depressing. That said, the numbers indicate he hasn't been a good defender at third.
Still, whatever his own negatives, reaching base in six out of his last eight games, with nine hits and three walks over that span? That'll do, Danny.
Jarrod Dyson - OF -
Had a pretty nice game in the San Diego series, with two walks and a hit, other than that, really not much to report.
Brett Hayes - C -
Speaking of "not much to report," Brett Hayes is the king of "not much to report." We eagerly await his first...uh..."anything other than an out" of the season.
Others: Omar Infante had cooled off slightly before going on the 15-day DL. He hasn't played since the 6th. Pedro Ciriaco's back, and played 2B last night! Justin Maxwell was designated for assignment, sporting a .138/.219/.172 line for the year.
The Royals are in action tonight, finishing up the homestand against the Chicago White Sox, before flying out to Anaheim for the weekend. They'll put their "above .500" status on the line, with Jason Vargas going against Scott Carroll.