The Royals haven’t played in almost a week, and I can safely say this is one of the first years that I haven’t been a little sad on the day or two after the break. I still love baseball and everything, but man, this team has been absolutely exhausting for weeks. It’s easy to see the players as people who wear pajamas and perform only for our entertainment, but they’re people too, so you can imagine how worn down they must feel by all of it. Of course, they’re responsible for the hard to watch product, so the theory starts to lose some steam, but you know what I’m getting at. A few days off probably doesn’t hurt anyone. In the last two weeks, only Michael A. Taylor and Carlos Santana are even hot, with maybe an honorable mention for Hunter Dozier and Nicky Lopez. So the break came at a pretty perfect time and getting to open up against the Orioles might help a little. But, as I said on Inside the Crown on Tuesday, the Orioles are probably thinking the same thing about starting off against the Royals, so it’s all about your perspective I guess.
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One of the things that has struck me so much about this Royals team this year is the lack of depth. I think we all knew they’d be thing. Think back to the start of the season. The lineup looked like it could be dangerous, but anybody paying even a little attention knew they could be in trouble if more than one of the original top seven found themselves out of the lineup or struggling. Well, Adalberto Mondesi has played 10 of the first 89 games, Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier have struggled through the entire season, guys like Carlos Santana and Whit Merrifield have had extended slumps and Andrew Benintendi has both slumped and missed time. When your most consistent hitter is your “hoping for a .300 OBP” catcher, that’s a lineup with some issues. But I don’t think I expected it to be quite so dire. Maybe it’s because I had a hard time seeing Dozier and Soler struggling like this. Maybe it’s because I expected Kyle Isbel to step up, or Kelvin Gutierrez. Or anyone really. But that hasn’t happened offensively.
On the pitching side, I think I’m a little less surprised. Again, we knew the rotation couldn’t afford missteps, but the guys in place - Brad Keller, Mike Minor, Brady Singer and Danny Duffy - had a look of a foursome that would be perfectly acceptable and would be able to provide innings. And, like the lineup, all of them have had their issues. That’s pressed guys like Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar into action, probably before they were ready. I don’t know why I said probably. We saw what happened when they took the mound. I figured those two and a couple others would be really nice depth to supplement the pitching staff later in the year, so maybe they were just too early on those guys. But where I’ve been surprised is that they haven’t been able to supplement the bullpen as quickly as I anticipated. Some of that is on Tyler Zuber’s inability to throw strikes. Some is on Richard Lovelady being hurt to start the year. But the fact that they’ve needed 73 innings from Ervin Santana, Wade Davis and Anthony Swarzak without better options so far is a bit surprising. I think that’ll be helped some with Dylan Coleman getting closer and maybe Zuber getting back, but either way, the lack of depth has been a glaring issue.
The All-Star festivities for some reason just seemed better than usual. Maybe it’s because we had a year off from them last year. Or maybe it’s because the Royals were featured prominently throughout the weekend. It started with the Futures Game, and getting to see Bobby Witt, Jr. and Nick Pratto in there was just really cool. It was also pretty fitting that Witt hit the ball hard twice and lined out twice. I really hope Ryan Lefebvre was practicing his unlucky outs speech for him because Witt’s ready to be a big leaguer after that. In all honesty, him hitting the ball significantly harder than anyone else in the game is pretty cool. Pratto didn’t get to show off his power, but he did get to show off his plate discipline, so that’s a plus. I just wish the game was more than seven innings. It’s just such a stupid decision made. Give us nine innings of these prospects and then you won’t have to make mid-inning pitching changes!
And the Home Run Derby was awesome too. Now, I’m a fan of the newer format where they have time, not swings. I just think that lends itself to more excitement. But obviously having Salvador Perez in there made it even more compelling. Last week, Soren Petro asked me what the ideal Derby for Salvy was and I said it was a great mound but that he didn’t advance and didn’t have to take 150 thin air swings. Well, I guess mission accomplished. I wonder if Salvy getting left behind will trigger a change in the rules moving forward to make it less bracket based. Either way, fun event. And the game itself was...fine. I hate the fact that the players weren’t wearing their own uniforms. That’s one of my favorite things about the game. But in general, it’s always exciting, even if just for a few innings, to see the best in the world all on one field.
I’m almost hesitant to talk about this here because I don’t entirely know all the context of some of the things I’ve heard. But at the same time, I do think they’re worth relaying. I don’t think this front office is as safe as some believe (and maybe fear). What I don’t really know is if that means they’re in a make or break this year this year or if they have until next season to show progress or if they’re constantly being evaluated or what exactly it means. But I feel like there’s been a very slow shift to some starting to criticize John Sherman for not taking action and I don’t think that’s fair in any way. He took over this organization after the 2019 season. I imagine he would have liked to have spent 2020 evaluating a new offensive development system in the minors and the big league staff doing their thing. But then the 2020 season was what it was and that was pretty much out the window. Agree or disagree with it, but I understand not wanting to make decisions based on that. And now, here we are, 149 games into his time as team owner. That’s not even a full season of baseball.
But I do believe that there will be action even if it’s not as quick as some seem to want that action. I obviously agree that there needs to be some coaching staff changes. I’m a little surprised there wasn’t something done if only to pay lip service. And maybe there will be before the series starts tonight, though I kind of doubt it at this point. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you see something, so does Sherman. He may not end up making the decision you want him to make, but this is still a very raw ownership group getting bearings with this whole organization. I thought his interview with Alec Lewis was very interesting and makes me very hopeful for what his time in the ownership chair will bring. I just think we have to be a little patient to wait for some things to unfold.
Since it’s been almost a week since the last Royals game, I figured maybe this spot would be good for a reminder of which players were going good and which were...not. In the last three weeks before the break, the Royals best hitter has been Michael A. Taylor...wait what? I kid you not. He’s hit .321/.377/.518 with a strikeout rate of just 19.7 percent in those last three weeks, getting himself ready for the trade market in a few days hopefully. That’s a 145 wRC+. Carlos Santana isn’t far behind him with a .250/.377/.516 line for a 138 wRC+ in that time. I guess Nicky Lopez is notable for his .349 OBP in that time. Really only Perez and Soler have been bad in that time. If you shrink up the dates and only go back to the start of July, Hunter Dozier has actually hit .265/.333/.441, so if you want to dream a little about him inching back to respectability, there it is.
Pitching-wise, uh, well...Carlos Hernandez was really good and Brady Singer was okay in the three weeks leading up to the break. And Brad Keller had two really good starts to end his first half. Oh and Duffy’s looked okay. Boy this is bleak. In July, Mike Minor, Kyle Zimmer, Richard Lovelady, Scott Barlow, Kris Bubic, Anthony Swarzak, Greg Holland and Ervin Santana all have ERAs above 9.00. I mean it’s a small sample, but it’s pretty easy to see where the biggest issue is with this team right now. And yes, that’s right, friends. It’s everywhere.