Another year lost.
That is what we have seen this year, like so many other years, from the Royals. Another year of expectations not met, another year of a losing record, another year of failure. But how can it all turn around? They clearly have talent in place in a lot of areas. They have some guys who have the ability to perform next year, such as Alex Gordon in left, Billy Butler at DH, Alcides Escobar at shortstop, Salvador Perez at catcher, Mike Moustakas at third, and Lorenzo Cain in Center.
If you do a quick evaluation of this team, you will see that the Royals currently rank 9th in the AL in On Base Percentage (OBP). You will notice that we have about six regular players with league or better On-base numbers (League average is about a .320 On-base percentage) (Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain, and Chris Getz). If you weed out the players who don’t have above average OBP numbers (Below a .340 OBP), you only get Alcides Escobar, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez. In order to be a winner in 2013 and beyond, we need to constantly be evaluating the team’s on-base stats, and we need to consistently have an above-average overall team OBP (at least .330). You see that teams like the Rangers, the Tigers, the Yankees, the Cardinals, the Red Sox, and the Braves (All fairly consistent winners) have high team OBP numbers. If we want to be a team like those teams, we need to focus on getting on base.
If you dig a little further (And trust me, you don’t need to dig much further to see this glaring issue), you will see that we have practically no starting pitching. We are 11th out of 14 AL teams in ERA, and if you look deeper into the stats, you will see that we do not have a single starter with an ERA+ over 100 (Which basically means we do not have a single starter who is even average). We can safely assume that Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy (our only two starters who can be expected to have ERA+ numbers over 100) are going to be gone for at least most of the season. We can also assume that Jake Odorizzi will not immediately contribute to our starting pitching woes. The bullpen is playoff-caliber, but we need a complete overhaul to the starting rotation.
To recap, here is what the Royals need to contend next year and beyond:
1: An above average team OBP.
2: five pitchers each with an ERA+ over 90.
3: To make some shrewd moves on the market during the offseason to acquire these luxuries.
During the offseason, the Royals will have a payroll of roughly $50 Million and a budget of roughly $20 Million without any additions or subtractions.
If you take Hochevar and Chen’s salary out of the equation, we would have a salary of roughly $30 million this offseason. If you take even 1/4th of Jeff Francoeur’s salary out of the equation, we would have a budget of $33 Million.
With that money (Even if we don’t dump Francoeur) and our resources in the minors, we should have more than enough to acquire 3 starting pitchers who are at least decent, and a right handed bat at second base with a decent OBP (Jeff Keppinger is an example, or we could just call up Johnny Giavotella) to platoon at second with Chris Getz.
There are plenty of options on the starting pitching market this offseason. From top free agent targets such as Zack Grienke, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, Shaun Marcum, and (potentially) Jake Peavy, to potential trade targets such as James Shields, Josh Beckett, Josh Johnson, and Jason Vargas, the market is the deepest it has been in years. The Royals should have no trouble finding at least a few legitimate starting pitching options.
There will be a lot more speculation as to what the Royals do this offseason, but I thought I would give you a primer for what to expect from now until Opening Day next year.
The Royals will look to have different results with this 10 game homestand. The first homestand of the season ended with a miserable record of 0-10. If the Royals would have avoided the major skid, the teams record would be over .500. The team starts the homestand with a 3 game series against the division leading Chicago White Sox. In game one Bruce Chen continued in his slump that is destroying his ERA. Before the month of July, Bruce’s ERA was 4.5 and after his last three starts it jumped to 5.5. Luis Mendoza now leads the starting rotation with a 4.5 ERA.
The Roylas lost 9-8 in the first game of the series against the White Sox. In the gameBruce Chen struggled to get through 4.2 innings. Chen gave up 3 runs in the first innings and could not find his control walking three hitters. Chen totalled 110 pitches in the short start. Hitters seemed to comfortable in the batters box. Lorenzo Cain was the bright spot in the game. In his debut, Cain went 3-6 with a double and a RBI. Having Lorenzo Cain back in the lineup will add a major boost to the productivity. Mike Moustakas homered in the second inning off of Quintana.
Alcides Escobar was the clear MVP of the second game. Escobar clubbed two homeruns, his 4th of the year. This was Escobar’s first multi homer game of his career. The Royals shortstop now leads the majors for shortstops in batting average and OPS with .311 and .791. Along with Escobar, Chris Getz went 2-3 with a double. Francoeur, Moustakas, and Butler each added 2 hits. Luke Hochaver pitched a solid 5 innings giving up 3 runs. Greg Holland was the winning pitcher with Jonathan Broxton notching his 22 save. Crow and Mijares also got work in the game combining for 1.2 innings.
The Royals will be facing dominate Chris Sale in the third and final game of the series. Sale has been lights out with a record of 10-2 and a 2.19 ERA. Sale, an All Star, pitched 5 innings giving up 3 runs against the Royals on May 12. The Royals gave Sale his second loss of the season. Ned Yost and the Royals will be led by Luis Mendoza. Mendoza faced the White Sox last on May 13 and gave up 1 run in 5.2 innings of work. He recorded his second win of the season that game. Mendoza is currently 3-5 with a 4.5 ERA.
The Royals have played a total of 62 games this season in which they have lost 35 games. As everyone knows, it took the club its first 11 home games to get the first home win. In the middle of interleague play, the Royals are looking like they may just turn the corner and get back to .500. With Salvador Perez in the midst of his rehab assignment, a major piece to the puzzle will be inserted when he fully recovers. While Quintero and Pena have done a good job filling in for Perez, the void has been detrimental. Perez does more then just hit and field. He calls a great game and adds consistency.
- The Royals have had one home game in which over 40,000 fans were in attendance.
- Lead the Majors in worst home record standing at 11-20
- Are 16-15 away from Kauffman Stadium
- Have yet to score 10+ runs in a game.
- Have scored 9 runs only twice
With the stats from the players coming up, I wanted to feature the two break out players. Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas have become offensive threats this year. Last year, both players struggled immensely. Escobar, usually known for his glove, is hitting .288 which is 34 points higher then last year. Moose is hitting the same average wise but his power numbers are higher with 9 bombs so far this year. The most impressive improvement that Moose has made is with the glove. Moustakas has always been questioned as a third basemen because of his defense. He has put all worries aside this year.
- Billy Butler leads the team with a .299 batting average.
- Butler leads the team with 11 home runs. In second is Mike Moustakas (9)
- Alex Gordon has 19 doubles which is the most among Royals.
- Alcides Escobar leads the club with 11 stolen bases.
- Billy Butler leads the team with 37 RBI’s.
- Gordon lead the team in strikeouts (52) and walks (33).
- Bruce Chen leads the team in wins (5) and innings (75).
- Luke Hochevar leads the team with K’s (54), hits allowed (82), loses (7), and the highest ERA (6.27).
- Jose Mijares has pitched in a team high 31 games.
- Jonathan Broxton leads the team in ERA (1.52) and saves (15).
With 100 games left in the season, there will be major changes. The Royals goal before the All-Star break should be to reach and stay at .500. While many fans have called for OF Wil Myers to be called up, I am against this decision. Myers is ready now but the Royals are not. Why burn his time in the majors now when the team is not competing. If the Royals do make it back to .500 my opinion will be reevaluated. This is the part of the Royals’ schedule where they can make a serious push to the top of the division.
With a 0-10 record at home, the Royals were in desperate need for a home win. The Royals leaned on Danny Duffy, but Mike Moustakas ended up carrying the load for the Royals at the plate with 3 RBI’s and a home run. Moustakas has been swinging the best bat for the team in this young season. Along with Moose, Eric Hosmer and Jarrod Dyson each had 2 hits. Danny Duffy recorded his second win and ate up 5.1 innings with six hits and two runs. Nathan Adcock gave up one run in his first inning of pitching after Duffy. Jose Mijares and Aaron Crow both accounted for holds giving up zero runs. Jonathan Broxton earned his 5th save. In the ninth inning, Broxton gave a single up to Jeter, then walked Granderson. The initial feel around the ballpark conveyed the message “ here we go again”. The fans had seen this downfall before. This team has invented different ways to lose at home and today was about to be one of them. Next, Teixeira grounded up the middle, where Getz dove fully to field it and then flipped it to Escobar at second to start the double play. After the fantastic play, the overpaid, Alex Rodriguez hit a drizzler to third. Moustakas charged and fielded bare handed which led him to fire the ball to first getting the final out.
Just when the Royals were starting to act more confident with their continued success, New York’s powerful lineup was up and ace CC Sabathia took charge. Bruce Chen recorded his fourth lose at the feet of the Yankees. Chen survived for 6.2 innings. While Chen did make it deep in the game, he gave up 9 hits and 6 runs pushing his ERA to 4.98. Collins, Coleman, and Kansas City native Hottovy finished off the game without giving up another run. The positives for the blue crew were slim, but they did score two early runs against big CC. While Escobar stole his 6th base on the season, he also was penalized with his third error. The Royals had 7 hits while striking out only 8 times.
Felipe Paulino threw a gem on his return from the disabled list. He handled the pressure of the Yankees lineup and gave the Royals exactly what they needed. Paulino threw six shutout innings, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out six. He retired the first 11 batters he faced before walking Alex Rodriguez with two outs in the fourth inning. The Royals opened the first inning by scoring 2 runs. Jarrod Dyson reached on a rare error by Jeter and after Alex Gordon ripped a single into right field. Both runners scored easily on a double, smoked down the left-field line by Billy Butler. Gordon and Butler were the clear catalysts for the Royals. Gordon went 4-5 with 1 RBI and Butler drove in 3 runs on 2 doubles. Escobar and Getz created havoc on the base paths by each stealing one base. The highlight of the game was a rope thrown from Francoeur in right field to third to get a tagging Curtis Granderson. The bullpen for the Royals had another lights out game. While Mijares did give up a run, the pen had an impressive outing. Kelvin Herrera gave 1.1 innings of work with one strikeout. Aaron Crow ended the game with a scoreless ninth inning.
To end the series the Royals sent out Luke Hochevar. He struggled in the third inning immensely. Hochevar gave up 7 runs on 7 hits. The Royals fans went berserk on Twitter asking for Hochevar to be cut after tonight. This is extremely unlikely but I would not be opposed to it. 4 of the 7 runs came at the feet of Robinson Cano’s grand slam. Louis Mendoza came in as a long relief and did very well in his 4.2 innings of work. Mendoza did struggle with his command while giving up 5 walks. The walks were the main reason for the two runs he gave up. The hometown kid Hottovy gave up one run in 2.0 innings. Offensively the Royals were highlighted by the debut of Irving Falu. Falu started in his first ever major league game. His first at-bat was a triple to right field. He finished 2-4. Humberto Quintero bombed a homerun into the fountains. The series with two wins and two losses. Next up for the blue crew is the Boston Red Sox.
The “future” of the Royals was once thought to be Eric Hosmer. While Hosmer still has the most potential, and will most likely be the best player the Royals have, he has struggled immensely in the young 2012 season. He is hitting a meager .188 average. While Hosmer’s average is extremely low, he still appears to be hitting the ball well. The biggest difference from his last season performance has been the fact that Hosmer keeps missing hittable pitches. It is known that in an at bat, a hitter will see one “hittable” pitch. Last year, if a pitcher made a mistake to Hosmer, it would have been a crucial mistake because he was driving the ball to both fields. This year it seems as though he is over swinging on such pitches. Too many times I have seen him pass up or foul off great pitches.
Another important look into Hosmer’s stats blatantly show his struggles against left handed pitchers. Hosmer has only one home run in 173 at bats against lefties. Along with his power struggles, he continues to hit .225 compared to .299 against right handed pitchers. These stats have to scare the Royals organization somewhat. While Hosmer is going to be an elite first baseman, hitting seems to be the main obstacle holding him back.
Mike Moustakas has been an extremely nice attribute for the Royals. When Moose was called up last year, he struggled greatly, but Moose came to camp with a different body and mind this season. When he said he is in the best shape of his life, he wasn’t kidding. Moustakas has shown great improvements not only with the bat, but with the glove. Moose has been phenomenal at third. He has made numerous diving plays while eating up nearly every ground ball his way. He has also shown an extremely bright spot at the plate. He is currently hitting .315 with 3 home runs and 7 doubles. In the minors, Moose’s power numbers were gaudy. While he has yet to fully display his power, Moose has shown signs that lead me to believe his future will be extremely bright. The one flaw that both him and Hosmer share is hitting the lefties. Moustakas has 0 home runs while hitting only .222 against left handed pitchers. These two hitters are the future for the Royals at the plate, but aren’t proving themselves yet. With these struggles against lefties, the Royals will need Billy Butler to hit between Hosmer and Moose for years to come.
After winning the series against the Indians and splitting against the Twins, I am most excited to see how the Royals fair against the powerful Tigers. This series will determine if the Royals have a chance at turning this disappointing season around. The injuries to Perez, Soria, Holland, and Paulino have been detrimental to the Royals early success. Hopefully this team can show resiliency and find a way to keep “our time” intriguing.