After one week of absence due to SBNation being powered by exclusively by extremely tired hamsters, Royal Ups and Downs triumphantly returns! The Royals have had an equally tough time of late, dropping from 17-12 to 21-22.. Though apparently everything's fine now, and props to the SBNation maintenance staff for not complaining about our instant gratification attitudes during the run of problems!
Well hey, at least we avoided the curse of 18-11. That's about the only positive I can take out of the Royals last couple weeks of play, aside from the usual "Gordon is really good, Butler's still good and is coming around, Shields can pitch" comments that I'll cling to as the team continues its approach towards a .500 record. It's hard to get that mad at the players, really, outside of a couple that draw ire due to their demonstrable idiocy being portrayed as leadership. What's extremely easy is to extremely dislike the way that this organization goes about its business, to recap:
The Royals traded their best prospect in the off-season to acquire a very good pitcher for two seasons, who is pitching even better than expected so far. There is no reasonable line of thinking that could lead to any other conclusion than this being a "win now" move. Faced again with a fall towards .500 (and possibly beyond) due to under performance of players like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas and, well, the simple fact that the team wasn't really projected to win by anybody with a projection system worth a damn, Francis Yost got cranky in a recent press conference.
Despite the fact that everyone and his mother and father and entire extended family including family pets (not limited to cats or dogs, but including all manner of birds and rodents) always knows that the Shields move was an all-in, the man who is employed by the organization decided to invoke the old Royals PR defense of lamenting the "instant gratification" problems with American Culture. Again, that's the same organization. "We Come To Play," was screeched, triumphantly, into our willing ears, and then 40-odd games later, we get something along the lines of, "holy crap why aren't you happy that the team might be good in the distant future after someone in the Glass family learns what a baseball is and we're all fired?"
It's not just the hilarity of the instant gratification crutch being used on the fans, the media, the tragically American followers of this team, it's also the fact that the Royals organization has failed to come up with any new material since the days of Trey Hillman not educating us. C'mon guys, really? If you're going to vomit up a bullpucky excuse through the mouth of Yost, can't you come up with something else other than the same ridiculous thing that the last manager told us? Lest Dayton Moore and the Royals organization forget, Trey Hillman was fired. The Royals organization is not only hilariously bad at drafting, rubbish at acquiring free agents, hilariously backward when it comes to defensive metrics, but they're also bad at coming up with a new excuse for being bad. To the point where they're quoting a guy who they asked to leave. Just wow.
Failing coming up with a new, entertaining excuse that'd cause them to at least be mocked for something other than what we've all been laughing at for fours years, someone (Moore) actually saying something like, "we're not where we want to be right now, and we need to get better as an organization" would go a long way towards regaining a modicum of credibility. But really, that's the same thing as asking them to stop pretending as if this entire farce of a rebuilding program has actually been leading anywhere. Moore and the current Royals organization either need to change the way they do things, or they simply will not be the people to bring Kansas City a competitive baseball team again.
Please, do not get me started on the Lough vs. Francoeur defensive value "debate," I might throw something.
I've got more to say, but we need to get to the Pitchers Ups and Downs, and other contributors on this site have already broken down that Hillmanesque press conference, and frankly I'm just tired of front office/managerial hoohah, so here goes:
What else can really be said about Shields that hasn't already been said a thousand times today? The dude abides. No statistical nugget better sums up the Royals fall to earth better than four starts, thirty-one innings pitched, six runs allowed, four losses.
Credit where credit's due - despite the fact that Santana's numbers are starting to look distinctly more like those of the Ervin Santana that usually exists, he's managed to retain his value nicely thus far. As his LOB% has begun to shrink towards what we can reasonably expect from a starting pitcher that hasn't made a pact with Cthulu, he's compensated by keeping his walk rate and HR/FB down (usual caveats apply to the latter number). Even his bad start, four runs allowed in 6.1 innings against the Yanks, he avoided issuing any free passes. Also, this week I remembered that it's a "V" in his name and not a "W."
Whenever we get into a discussion about the merits of Jeremy Guthrie, and whether or not his contract makes sense, inevitably something like "Guthrie has made a career out of exceeding his expected numbers" comes up. There's some truth to that, in that Guthrie's always been a pitcher with mediocre peripheral numbers who's managed to cobble together a couple seasons where he might have been mistaken for a solid number two starter. Those seasons were years ago, though, and while Guthrie has continued to exceed expectations in terms of ERA vs FIP, the results still show a downward trend in the last three seasons, and he's not getting any younger.
At this point, Guthrie's pitching more than ever on smoke and mirrors, with an unsustainable 90.9 LOB%, compared with a previous career high of 76.5%. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate has dipped below 5 per 9, which is a bit of a red flag for a guy on the wrong side of 30 whose stuff has never missed bats particularly well anyway. One area of improvement we can reasonably expect is that his HR/FB, which is a ridiculous 18.3 percent right now. That won't be nearly enough to cover up the fact that when that LOB% comes down, and it will, Guthrie's left as a mediocre pitcher.
All of this is to say that Guthrie will likely end up being worth the money the Royals pay him this season, but this contract could look really ugly as he declines, given the backloaded paydays of $11 million next year and $9 million in 2015.
Mendoza gets the up arrow, as he quietly put together three "quality starts" in the last month, and he actually pitched pretty well in the two games on the left coast, particularly the one against the Angels where he whiffed six and walked none. Mendoza will likely never be more than what he is now, a back of the rotation guy who can give you six solid innings, but he did at least finally hold to that standard in his last three starts.
His only outing allowing runs was against the Yankees, but he allowed three in 1.2. Eleven strikeouts in his first nine innings pitched, one K in his last 6.1. Still yet to allow a home run on the year, and yet to actually make a case for the rotation on a team that doesn't employ Wade Davis.
The level of anxiety I've developed at giving Luke Hochevar up arrows two weeks in a row is not healthy. While he's hardly playing a shutdown role in the 'pen, he's been quite good. Hell, maybe he really is a decent reliever. Regardless, every time he takes the mound, I'm still terrified.
A whopping 24 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched this season, Holland's found his form after an early season bout of a-couple-bad-outings-that-happen-to-every-good-relief-pitcher.
Herrera continues to have problems with the gophers. He's still missing bats, striking out more than a batter per inning this year, but he's now given up as many home runs as walks - eight on the year.
Mixed three scoreless outings with a couple where he gave up a run. Hasn't missed very many bats this season compared the last two - his current strikeout rate is 5.68 K/9 vs. 9.05 and 9.44 in his previous two seasons, but it's still early yet.
Collins hit rock bottom at the beginning of May, giving up seven hits and five runs in two outings while recording only two outs. Over the last four, he's held the opposite scoreless over four innings, so it seems he's found a way to right the ship. Small sample size caveat applies here, but his walk rate is down from last season, currently at 2.57 walks per nine. If that holds, it'd be the second straight year he's improved in that regard.
Oh, and a Royals fan on twitter told me that Yost's "infatuation with Collins is worse than his with Francoeur," which means there's at least on person in the greater Kansas City area who would make a worse GM than Dayton Moore. Also, if someone would be so kind as to check the local papers for escaped mental patients, that'd be prudent.
I have no questions for this week. It's super symbolic, you see, since the Royals organization, and Dayton Moore, have no answers.