Kansas City Royals Spring Training, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and be Happy About a 12-2 Loss

The Royals are on a winning streak. The best winning streak they have most likely ever been on, in fact. Until yesterday, they had taken the Cactus League by storm, winning 11 in a row and striking fear into the hearts of all the American League teams. Then of course, we remembered one thing: it’s spring training. This doesn’t mean anything. We’ve seen it time and time again. The Royals went 20-9 in 2004, only to lose 100 games in the regular season. And that’s just one example. So what’s there to be happy about? For what should Kansas Citians be excited beyond all reason about what has transpired these first two weeks of the spring? One word: everything.

Ok, so we lost yesterday, 12-2. The Big Cat, a.k.a Felix Hernandez, and Mariner company shut down what had been a potent Royals offense and absolutely lit up the pitching staff. On the surface, that is. Let’s delve a little deeper into the box score, shall we?

Hernandez threw two innings in his spring debut. He was a little rusty, but showed Cy Young form in a one run, two hit, two strikeout performance. On top of that, the Mariner split squad was on fire offensively, hitting three homeruns and scoring in bunches. But you shouldn’t care about that. Nobody should, and not because it’s just spring training. You shouldn’t care because Ervin Santana, who we acquired in a trade last year with the Angels, was once again pitching beautifully. In three innings, he let up one run on three hits, with four strikeouts. Awesome until you throw in the walks; of which he had none. Now it’s even more awesome. The Mariners scored all their runs against pitchers who stand almost no chance of breaking camp with us, and thus will not be on the regular season roster.

This game meant nothing, yet everything all at once. Our starting pitching continued to dominate, the bullpen guys who will actually make the team pitched well, and despite the offense not being there for this game, overall they have been astounding. Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon are hitting, .481/.481/.741 (thats average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage to you) .522/.542/.870, and .391/.462/.696 respectively so far. It seems these guys are hitting incredibly well, and their confidence will only go up. Everyone will go through a slump sooner or later, Hosmer especially went through a dreadful season-long sophomore slump last year, but has clearly come to camp showing how much work he put in during the offseason.

And how’s the trade working out so far? In two starts, James Shields has thrown four innings, letting up three hits with no walks, three strikeouts and compiling a 0.00 ERA. Wade Davis has thrown five innings in two starts, with the exact same numbers as Shields and only a .167 average against. Not bad, but obviously the case with pitchers is different. The arm always feels great in March. We’ll see how they’re holding up when July rolls around. On the other side, Wil Myers is hitting .268/.333/.429 in 10 games this spring, and it remains to be seen whether he will break camp with the club. In three appearances, Jake Odorizzi has thrown five innings, let up five runs on eight hits, two homeruns, three walks while amassing six strikeouts and a 9.00 ERA. Dismal numbers for a number one pitching prospect, and it will likely mean another half a season or so in the minors. Mike Montgomery is similarly dreadful, having thrown three innings and letting up four runs on nine hits with only one strikeout, chalking up a 12.00 ERA.

Of course, these numbers mean absolutely nothing right now. We’ve played 13 games. In spring training. Nothing has been won, nobody has really accomplished anything, heck our 25-man roster hasn’t come close to being decided yet. But there’s something different in the air this year. We don’t know what it is yet. There’s no one who wants what I wrote about the trade to be wrong more than me. And hopefully our spring thus far is at least a good indicator of how the season might go. Take it with a big grain of salt, but people, this may be the year that winning on the professional level finally comes back to a Kansas City sports team. Take notice. This year, the Royals are a force to be reckoned with.

Coming up: what everyone actually cares about in March, basketball. I’ll write up predictions for Kansas and others when the brackets come out, at the very least to give my few yet faithful readers a chance to do the exact opposite of what I predict so they actually have a fighting chance of winning their bracket pool. You’re welcome.

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