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That familiar sinking feeling

After a dreadful road trip the Royals find themselves in a familiar position of looking toward the future.

Kansas City Royals v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

When you’re a bad team, the losses tend to pile up. Not unlike the grease-stained Arby’s sandwich wrappers in the back seat of your car. You keep flipping them back there and one day you realize you can’t see out your rearview mirror.

The Royals closed out their seven-game, two-city road trip on Sunday with another loss. It was their sixth defeat on this sojourn away from Kauffman. That qualifies as a dreadful week of baseball. No matter the expectations.

It’s just a continuation of a trend. Going back to May 15 (a purely arbitrary date disguised as not so much given that it was the middle of the month), the Royals 4-13. They have been outscored 59 to 100. Remember early in May when we made bold claims that the Royals were better than their record? That was fun.

Overall, the record is 19-40. It is two games worse than at the similar point last season. The .322 winning percentage means the club is on pace to lose 110 games.

To be fair the Royals run differential through this point last season was -98. This year, it’s not as bad at -54. Their third order winning percentage of .426 underscores a team that, while lacking, still shouldn’t be this bad. That’s nearly 100 points off reality. Yet here we are.

In this situation, you have to squint to find the good. Especially when it comes to the pitching staff. Yet in the just-completed series against the Rangers, there were some positives.

On Thursday, Jakob Junis was sporting a nasty slider, recording seven swings and misses on 42 pitches. The Rangers put seven of those sliders in play, but only two—Shin-Soo Choo leading off the game for Texas and then homering in the fourth—went for a hit. For the night, he went six strong, his only mistakes coming on the aforementioned slider that caught the fat part of the plate to Choo and a curveball that Nomar Mazara took to the opposite field stands. Honestly, the pitch to Mazara wasn’t that poor.

Friday, Danny Duffy went five strong, allowing just two hits and facing one over the minimum. The problem was, the Royals were counting on Duffy to do something similar in the sixth. Alas. It went something like this: Walk, strikeout (good), single, single, single, walk, MONSTER GRAND SLAM. While you can make the case for Duffy as the Royals best starter through the first two months of the season, he maintains his capacity to frustrate. No Duffy start is easy. No Duffy start is safe in the “Damn, he’s locked in” kind of mode. The propensity is always there for an epic derailment. Even when he’s locked in.

It was Homer Bailey day on Saturday. I got nothing.

Sunday, Brad Keller took the ball and delivered his third consecutive positive start. In this one, he worked seven innings and while he did allow nine hits, he did not walk a batter for the first time this year. That’s something, given his 5.32 BB/9 entering the game—the second worst walk rate in the majors. Couple his outing on Sunday with his last start the previous Tuesday and Keller has walked just one batter in his last 13 innings of work. That start broke a string of four consecutive starts where he walked at least four batters.

The other notable news from the weekend came from that the Royals were willing to trade almost anyone on their current roster. On Monday, Major League Baseball will open its annual draft. The Royals, as you surely know have the second overall pick. It’s yet another marker on the road back to respectability. Despite the advances made in the starting pitching the last series, the Royals will almost assuredly pick in the top five in next year’s draft.

The point is, the road on the rebuild is long and full of potholes. Positive developments today, while they give us reason for optimism, are merely diversions from the larger picture. The Royals—as they are currently constructed—are in a tailspin. We don’t know where the bottom is and we may not find out until the dust settles. But the draft and the idea of wholesale trades fuel the optimism of a brighter future. The team we’re watching today will not be the team we watch at this time next year. Hell, it may not even be the same team next month. With the Royals on pace for another 100 loss season, change is both inevitable and necessary.

Tomorrow begins today.