So we've now reached June, and the Kansas City Royals early season struggles are looking more like an indicator that they are not very good instead of simply an early season swoon that this team can overcome. The club is 26-30 on the season, has the worst run differential in the AL Central and is duking it out with the Houston Astros for the fewest runs scored in the AL. Things at One Royal Way are definitely looking bleak.
There are four months of the season left, but the Royals slow start has already put a huge damper on the team's playoff chances. Below is a table with the current division standings, along with playoff odds from Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus:
|2014 Year to Date||Fangraphs||Baseball Prospectus|
The good news, I guess, is that both FG and BP expect the Royals to perform better moving forward. The team, really, shouldn't finish last in the AL Central. Still, a 10.7% chance of reaching the postseason in June isn't what anyone was looking for when the season began, and it will take a rapid turnaround to make anyone think the playoffs are anything other than a pipe dream.
And now, some scattered thoughts about the rest of the division:
- The Tigers, unsuprisingly, are once again the class of the division. You don't want to declare any team a division winner in June, but Detroit seems like the safest bet in all of baseball to stay on top.
Victor Martinez has been a stud for the Tigers, posting a 166 wRC+. He also has as many homers (13) as strikeouts, which is just silly. Miguel Cabrera (157 wRC+) continues to rake, and the Tigers top three starters (Verlander, Scherzer and Sanchez) have combined for 4.8 fWAR. Ian Kinsler has also been a nice addition, providing 1.8 fWAR thanks to above-average contributions at the plate and in the field. It looks like it will be another ho-hum 90+ win season for Detroit.
- The White Sox continue to hang around .500, and will get slugger Jose Abreu back Monday night when they start a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Alexei Ramirez has looked like the best non-Tulowitzki SS in baseball. Conor Gillaspie is rocking a 138 wRC+, but his .416 BABIP suggests some heavy correction moving forward. Tyler Flowers also has a crazy BABIP (.441), but is only hitting at a league-average clip despite the Fairy's blessing.
Chris Sale has only made six starts this season, but has been downright filthy (1.73 ERA, 1.80 FIP) when healthy. Jose Quintana continues to improve, looking more and more like a legitimate #2 starter. The rest of the rotation has been a hot mess; Chicago has already used nine starters this year, and the next best ERA belongs to Andre Rienzo at 4.26. The pitching staff will keep this team for seriously contending, but Rick Hahn has done a nice job returning this team to a respectable level quickly.
- I'm not sure I want to live in a world where Brian Dozier is a force to be reckoned with. Dozier has been an above-average contributor on offense despite a .241 BABIP, flashing serious power with 11 homers on the year. Trevor Plouffe, Josmil Pinto and Kurt Suzuki have also hit well, but Joe Mauer (90 wRC+) has been a disappointment since moving to first base full time.
Phil Hughes has worked out so far for the Twins, posting a 3.23 ERA with a 2.63 FIP. He's only issued eight walks this season and has kept his BABIP and HR/FB% under control. The rest of the rotation has been uninspiring, especially fellow free agent acquisition Ricky Nolasco. Glen Perkins is still a boss.
- Cleveland is also well below their preseason expectations as we enter the summer. Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher have struggled offensively, while Jason Kipnis missed May with an oblique injury. Yan Gomes has looked solid offensively and behind the plate, while Michael Brantley and David Murphy have both swung the bat well. The Indians' strength is in their lineup depth, so they haven't completely collapsed despite the slow start and injuries.
It's Corey Kluber and everyone else right now in the team's pitching rotation; the right-hander accounts for over half of their starter's fWAR. Danny Salazar was especially disappointing, and is currently in Triple-A trying to work on his delivery. Cleveland's defense hasn't helped, posting the second worst UZR in MLB.