Well, guess there's no 18-11 moment this year. Turns out the Royals are still playing baseball very, very well. It's now August, so all the "hot start" talk has given way to "they're pretty good" and "they kinda make us mad." For me, the last couple years of Royals baseball still seem a bit surreal. I'm not sure of the exact moment where this roster sort of came together like so much Hershey's Magic Shell--I could throw out a couple, including a certain WC game against Oakland--but it sure is cool. I'm not sure that it's going to sink in how good this team has been, since it's been a year and a half of goodness and I'm still confused.
It's been awhile (yours truly is still in self-imposed exile at 4H Camp for the summer), so we're covering a lot of territory, but here are your Position Player Ups and Downs.
SS - Alcides Escobar -
Last time out I wrote, "Alcides is maybe a tick off last year's pace." Well, with the bat, it's pretty safe to say he's fallen off a bit. The OBP over the last month is fine, and he's actually been more adept at making contact this year. How good the contact has been over the last month is pretty questionable, as he hit .277/.323/.311 in July. That's a whopping .034 ISO. Even a spray hitter like Alcides has never been below .064 for a year.
The defense is as usual, of course. Escobar not hitting really doesn't hurt you that much what with his ability on the other side of the ball.
OF/2B - Ben Zobrist -
Zobrist adds value to this team wherever he plays, since his bat plays in either of the slots--corner OF, 2B--where the Royals have had trouble finding anyone who can actually hold a bat. Also, he's slugging over .800 so far as a Royal, and it's quite the trade acquisition.
It's worth noting that Zobrist's defensive metrics this year have swung the wrong way, so the Royals might not be dealing with the rare super-utility player who's actually good defensively at all the spots he plays (which is a big part of what made him so insanely valuable instead of just valuable).
CF - Lorenzo Cain -
Going to fall back on the "last time I wrote this," and point out that I said after a couple months that "this might be a career year taking shape." I didn't know to what extent, of course. Cain's had an absolutely absurd season thus far; every time you think he's cooling off, he goes 4-for-4 with two XBH. According to fWAR, he's already basically been as valuable as he was all last season. And last season was his previous careers highs by a lot.
I think everyone's noticed this by now, but to reiterate: this year has been something really special from Lorenzo Cain. His latest trick was hitting .367/.424/.667 in July.
1B - Eric Hosmer -
I'm getting whiplash from viewing Hosmer's ups and downs, but July was up up up, as he OPS'd over 1000. I'm done trying to prognosticate the future for Hoz. He's hitting .313/.373/.477 and his defense is not awful. I'll take it.
DH - Kendrys Morales -
Morales has leveled off, OPS'ing less than 750 in the last two months after being at 850 for April and May. His current level of hitting--.284/.340/.448--is still nice to have in the line, though. It's not like he's cratered or something. Is this a good time to mention that Billy Butler, who I was quite fond of, is hitting .243/.307.370 in (admittedly harder to hit in) Oakland?
3B - Mike Moustakas -
Woof. The success of the team in general, the lingering feeling of his insane start, and other teammates hitting the snot out of the ball have all contributed to the papering over of the bloody demise of Moustakas's batting average bubble. Hitting under .200 for a month will drag your rate stats to mortal levels right quick, and Mike's now down to .283/.343/.418 after being in the "batting title" chase for awhile. While I doubt he'll sink to previous levels, it's fair to point out that he hasn't become a star.
C - Salvador Perez -
The incredibly neat thing about Perez's first two seasons was that he wasn't just a "good hitter for a catcher," he was just a pretty good hitter who also happened to be a catcher who played pretty darn good defense. While the defense and the overall run environment kept him just as valuable last season, we're now on close to two seasons of sub-.300 OBPs. So I guess what I'm saying here is that, yeah, he's now just a "good hitter for a catcher."
The defense is valuable and the contract is still a bargain. But man, how do you even drop as low as a .262 OBP? Perez's average has sunk, and he's got seven walks all year. I guess that's how. He finally seemed to be coming out of it last night, so maybe that's a sign of things to come.
OF - Alex Rios -
Rios heating up has been the slowest of slow burns, which'll happen when A) you've been injured and B) you're Alex Rios. That said, he OBP'd .340 in July, and hasn't been a disaster afield.
2B - Omar Infante -
Asking me to write something about Infante at this point is like asking me to review "Saw 6" or something. Well, uh, the blood looked okay!
Infante's fielded pretty well, actually, but he's still well below replacement level thanks to the .244 OBP. .244. As in, "double digit points below Salvy's OBP."
OF - Jarrod Dyson -
I write a different version of the sentence "Dyson is really good at defense and very fast and has some OBP skills and could probably start more often" for about 75% of my Dyson comments, so I apologize for redundancy. But it's downright fascinating sometimes to watch a team like the Royals--who basically built their success around defense, particularly of the OF variety--repeatedly pass up the chance to give Dyson more playing time in favor of other options. Not that some of those options haven't been good, not that Dyson's a star, not that it's even necessarily wrong to use Dyson as the World's Best 4OF, but wouldn't you think that KC would err on the side of playing a guy like this too much? Baseball is weird.
Also Existing But Not Ranked: Cheslor Cuthbert, Drew Butera
The Royals resume their demolition--knock on wood--of the
remnants of the northern empire Detroit Tigers tonight, with new buddy Johnny Cueto going against Matt Boyd. Happy Hump Day!