The Royals started the month of May with a blowout win over the Minnesota Twins. After getting blown out the night before, it was a great response and took them to a 16-9 record, which was the best in baseball. They haven’t won since, which if you were wondering is really bad. There are babies born who have had their bris and healed in the time since the Royals last won a baseball game. Is this the weekend that changes? I’m going to go ahead and guess against it, but they’re bound to luck into one at some point, right? Maybe the seven inning games will somehow help them today. The last couple weeks of baseball have been especially infuriating because they’ve just been littered with such bad play that it’s hard to even see a bright spot coming through when watching the games. I thought the late rally on Tuesday might help launch something, but nope. And now they’re up against one of the best teams in baseball, so let’s just say things aren’t going great.
Dayton Moore has really held fast to the idea that you need 40 games to know what you have as a team. And while that makes sense, I can’t fathom the idea that he might wait even longer to make a move. Maybe by the time you’ve read this, moves will have been made, but as I mentioned on Inside the Crown yesterday (come on, people, just subscribe already, it’s FREE!), the most obvious move is to send down Ryan O’Hearn for Edward Olivares. I don’t think Olivares is anything great, but I think he’s a solid player who is off to a hot start and can help fix multiple issues on this team. He is a solid defender and can give Mike Matheny options with Michael A. Taylor and Jarrod Dyson.
The issue is that O’Hearn isn’t good enough to be in a big league lineup and his presence is pushing Jorge Soler to the outfield, where he’s absolutely terrible. The relentless need to have O’Hearn in the lineup probably cost the Royals the game yesterday. Obviously we don’t know if things would have played out the same as they ultimately did, but that second inning when the Tigers scored four could have easily been a 1-2-3 inning for Daniel Lynch if not for Soler’s attempt to play defense in right. And I don’t blame Soler one bit. He’s not a right fielder and shouldn’t be out there at all. I’ve been so impressed with Matheny in so many ways, but this is one thing that I just can’t wrap my head around and it needs to be rectified immediately.
The Royals are about to get healthier, which seems like a good thing to me. Kyle Zimmer, Jesse Hahn and Adalberto Mondesi are all on rehab assignments. The former two in Omaha and the latter in Northwest Arkansas. I was a little bit surprised to see Mondesi sent out so quickly after he was sent to Arizona given that the organization had mentioned how he was still having trouble swinging from the left side. He went hitless last night in his first rehab game, but did draw a walk and did hit from the left side, so that’s a good sign. Vahe Gregorian tweeted a potential timeline that could include him back in the big leagues by Tuesday. I personally think that’s a little quick given that he’s had issues with timing in the past and probably needs a few more plate appearances than a handful of games in AA will provide for him. But the Royals probably are feeling a little desperate.
Mondesi’s near return might actually deter them from doing what I mentioned above as they are likely to insert him back at shortstop (okay, that’s definitely happening but the rest is likely) and moving Nicky Lopez back to second and Whit Merrifield back to right. That will also really help the defense at three positions, but it doesn’t solve a ton with the offense’s issues. I guess it does make the most sense, but I guess there are worse things than doing what they can to keep Lopez’s .342 OBP in the lineup. He obviously needs to hit more, but at the bottom of a lineup, it’s fine enough if anyone else was hitting. Which leads me back to thinking they need to get someone up who is actually hitting, and that’s Olivares right now.
There’s probably nobody outside the Royals organization who wanted Hunter Dozier to be good this year than me. I did not hide my excitement over his upcoming season when I wrote about him breaking out big time this year and mentioned it at every opportunity during spring on my radio spots. And then he had a really solid spring after signing that new deal and I felt pretty good about that prediction. A thumb injury on Opening Day derailed things for him for a few days and he just hasn’t been able to get anything going since. Sure he had a nice run a couple weeks ago when he had seven extra base hits over a four game series. But he hasn’t had a single hit since then. I can give you the numbers but I don’t have an explanation. He’s chasing a lot and missing a lot. He’s swinging at pitches in the zone and missing a lot. He’s just missing a lot. Nothing is working for him. For a time, he was legitimately hitting into tough luck, and he is 0 for 6 on hard hit balls since last Thursday, but every plate appearance seems tougher to watch than the last.
This isn’t just a player the Royals can see what happens and non-tender him at the end of the year. They gave him a long-term deal, so they have an obligation to do what they can to get him right for the majority of that contract. Dozier has an option remaining. It’s probably not the most common thing for a team to sign a player to a long-term deal and then demote him mid-season, but I think that’s their best option right now. The team just doesn’t have enough going at this time to let him figure things out at the big league level. They can bring up Kelvin Gutierrez and get a two or three week look at him, which is something they should do anyway because he’ll be out of options after this season. Maybe I’m naive in believing Dozier can get it straightened out, but I can’t imagine it would be too long and they can get him back in the big leagues and he can stop making me look so bad for singing his praises all winter.
I was really intrigued by an MLB Now segment the other day talking about moving the mound back. There’s obviously a big issue in baseball right now with the average line of .234/.311/.390 coming into yesterday actually worse than the worst offense in 2007. When I brought this up last week, a bunch of people mentioned the idea of them moving the mound back. I was under the impression that moving the mound back would cause more injuries, but they’ve apparently conducted studies that showed that moving the mound back as much as three feet actually wouldn’t have an impact on arm health of pitchers, so that has sort of changed my tune on that idea and I’m really interested to see it play out in the Atlantic League.
The upside to increase some contact and maybe make it a little less impossible for hitters to hit off anyone but Royals pitchers is that hitters have a little extra time to make a decision. Velocity won’t decrease, but perceived velocity will, which should help hitters to be able to catch up to some of the crazy fastballs we see today. The downside is that it’s more time for pitches to move in the insane ways we see from so many pitchers. But again, hitters have more time to identify that. I also see an interesting upside of stolen bases rising, and that’s important because the ultimate goal of any of these changes is to make it that teams are more willing to shoot for base hits rather than trying to launch absolutely everything. Increasing steals will make a regular old base hit potentially worth a little more. I honestly don’t know what the answer is, but something has to give and this seems like an idea that could at least start that give.