This page has been filled with foolish optimism sometimes. It is not unwarranted, and I try to make said optimism sound as objective and logical as possible. Sometimes though, it can be pretty transparent for what it is: hometown favoritism. But that won’t stop me from making the same mistakes again.
The Royals are having a tough time right now. We just watched them lose their fourth straight game to the worst team in the American League, and they did so because of the exact opposite reason they got swept by the Athletics: bad starting pitching. But, I can’t say I’m surprised. There’s a reason Jeremy Guthrie was terrible in Colorado but Cy Young like since he joined the Royals. He’s a fly ball pitcher who does very well in the polo-field-like Kauffman Stadium, but terrible in the cramped ballparks like Coors Field or whatever the Astros stadium is called now.
But this isn’t about tonight’s game, this is about the big picture. We are a quarter of the way through the season, and the Royals have a 20-21 record; which since 2009 is our best start through 41 games. It doesn’t feel that way though, considering at one point we were 17-10. Not to worry though, the baseball season is long and arduous, and no slump nor losing streak nor hitting streak lasts forever. Thanks to baseballreference.com – which, besides YouTube and badgerbadgerbadger.com, is the best website on the internet – I’m going to show you why there are plenty of reasons to still keep that playoff dream:
Alex Gordon is tearing the cover off the ball
If it weren’t for a certain triple crown winner named Miguel Cabrera, Gordon would most likely be leading the early MVP discussion. So far, he has a .343/.367/.535 split with six home runs and 29 RBIs. But beyond the basics is where he really shines; he’s hitting .457 with runners in scoring position, .500 with two outs, and .375 in the 7th inning or later (seriously, I found all those stats on one page. I could spend hours on this site.) The point of all those numbers is that Gordon has shown that the two Gold Glove seasons he just accomplished were no flukes. Speaking of which, he has three assists with no errors.
The bullpen is atrocious when it counts, but the starters have been awesome
Remember how I said nothing lasts forever throughout a baseball season? Well this is one of those things. Collectively, the relievers have blown five saves in 16 opportunities. By comparison, Mariano Rivera has gone 15 for 15 so far this season. However, as a team the Royals have allowed the fewest runs in the American League. Three of the starters – James Shields, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie – have sub three ERAs, but thanks to the offense’s lack of consistent production, and that shoddy bullpen we just talked about, only have a 10-8 record in 25 starts. But all it takes is a couple of good outings, or a rain out, or a night with some ice skaters, and they will get themselves back on track.
Every team has a bad month
Like I keep saying, nothing lasts throughout the course of the season, and that includes the good things; like winning streaks. And losing streaks. After going 14-10 in the month of April, the Royals are 6-10 in the month of May so far. However, it should be noted that every World Series winner, aside from the 2009 Yankees, has had a month in which they had a sub-.500 record. The 2006 champs St. Louis Cardinals had three such months. Three! I know Kansas Citians are used to essentially being eliminated from the playoffs in May, but this is not one of those times.
I do have a couple of ideas on how to turn the team around in timely fashion. One is move Bruce Chen back to the rotation and Wade Davis to the bullpen. Currently all five starters are right handed, and a lefty could help add balance. Davis has a 5.98 ERA with a 3-3 record and has let up six home runs in 40 and 2/3 innings with a 1.67 strikeout/walk ratio. By comparison, as a reliever for the Rays last year he was 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA and only let up five homers in 70 innings with a 3.00 SO/BB ratio. Those numbers speak for themselves.
Second is hit Moustakas third. He’s hitting terribly so far, and most people would think hitting the guy with the worst batting average third is even more terrible. But hitting in front of Billy Butler would get him out of his slump within two games. He’d see so many fastballs he’d think he was hitting in the home run derby. He’s hit anywhere from the fourth to the seventh spot in the lineup with no results. Hit him third, and I guarantee he breaks out of his slump.
This team will turn it around. One reason why is accountability. Ryan Lefebvre talked about it in the broadcast, and he mentioned that when Shields and Santana each lost 2-1, they both said they didn’t do enough, instead of blaming the lack of run support. That did not happen in the past; one in particular, and I won’t mention his name (it starts with a Z and ends in ack Greinke) would be incredibly selfish. In this clubhouse, it’s win and lose as a team. Everyone is on the same page and believes in the common goal: the Royals first playoff appearance since 1985. I truly believe that April’s winning ways will return very soon. Before we start talking about the Chiefs, let’s give the Royals all the attention they deserve. We play the Cardinals on Memorial Day, and I’m sick of Kauffman looking like it’s bleeding when they come to town. Keep the seats blue, keep the Cardinals fans at bay, and keep the dream alive.