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32 games. ONLY 32 games. It’s hard for some Kansas City Royals fans to remember that we are only 32 games into the 2013 season, so there is no reason to freak out over a tough week. There is still a lot(and I mean A LOT) of baseball left to play, and the team is still over .500 at 18-14. With a rocky last week, let’s look at what has worked for the Royals early on this season…and what isn’t working.

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The Starting Pitching is Working

  • This past off-season, Royals GM Dayton Moore’s main objective was to beef up the starting rotation. Last year was a rough one for the Royals starters, to the point that the offense was working behind to an alarming degree due to the starters giving up a batch of runs early in the game. Dayton needed pitching and knew if he didn’t this off-season, he would be on the unemployment line. Ervin Santana, James Shields and Wade Davis were acquired in trades and Moore re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a three year deal. There were questions about Santana, Guthrie and Davis, with Shields being the one guy most Royals fans could agree was a solid acquisition. It’s been obvious that Shields has pitched like the ace the Royals wanted him to be. If that wasn’t enough, most of the question marks have looked solid. Guthrie has continued his great pitching since Kansas City picked him up  stole him from the Rockies, and Santana has been phenomenal. Both have done the two things that the Royals want from them: throw a lot of innings and keep the team in the ballgame. Santana has looked like the guy who threw a no-hitter at one point and was one of the better up and coming pitchers in the game. Davis has been the one question mark, as he has had trouble shifting back to the rotation after being in the bullpen in 2012 for Tampa Bay. Wade has had some great starts(Atlanta), but some awful ones as well(last night against New York, for one). It’s too soon to give up on Davis, but so far the move back to starting isn’t working. The Royals have him signed for a couple more years, so he will be given every chance in the world to work his way out of this. That worry aside, the pitching is doing their job and it is safe to say is actually the reason the team is above .500. Dayton Moore had set a goal of 1000 innings for this ball club in 2013, and at this rate they have a very good shot of reaching that goal. It is only 32 games in, but so far Dayton’s acquisitions have done their job–and then some.

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The Defense Flashing Some Leather

  • Last season was puzzling for the Royals defense. We all knew the team had some great defenders. Alex Gordon had won a Gold Glove. Salvador Perez was touted as a plus defender. Mike Moustakas had improved his defense to the point that none of us thought we would ever see. Add in Alcides Escobar(there is a reason he is known as shortstop Jesus), Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, and you have 3/4 of your lineup flashing some serious leather. Only the numbers didn’t show that. Whether it be an off year, or infield shifts, the numbers just didn’t shine a positive light on Kansas City. You can check it in all it’s glory here. But so far in 2013, the defense has been more than solid. Sure, there have been a few bumpy games. But let’s be honest; those games will happen from time to time. They also have Jeff Francoeur in right field, and he has a good arm and….well, he has a good arm. Chris Getz is average at second base, which I know a few will argue, but the stats show he is nothing more than that. Despite this, the team needs to continue to have the solid defense they have had so far. There is no reason to think it won’t, as most of these players have been good defensive players since they were taking bus trips in the minor leagues. The defense DOES have to hold up if the Royals want to contend this year. If I had to put my money on something staying consistent for this team, it would be the defense.

Now, a look into what is NOT working…

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This Year’s Offense Looks like Last Year’s Offense  

  • To be honest, I’m not surprised. In fact, I expected it to happen. The Royals struggled in 2012, and came back with the exact same lineup, expecting the younger players to take a step forward. That has not happened so far. Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar, two disciples of former Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer(or the guy who fell on the sword in the off-season), have been the two most consistent hitters on this team. Lorenzo Cain, finally healthy, has been superb so far and Billy Butler, despite his average, has made it his plan to get on base as much as possible, by any means necessary. Then you see a drastic drop off. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have not looked their best. Salvador Perez is a free swinger, which seems to have finally caught up with him. Then there is Francoeur and Getz. The two weak links of the team haven’t been good. Francoeur did okay for awhile, but is now back to 2012 depths. Getz has been even worse, despite hell freezing over and him hitting his first home run since he has been in Kansas City. The biggest problem I see with the offense is the amount of hackers on the team. Once you get past the top of the order, you run into some major free swingers. Patience is a virtue the Royals need to learn and learn quick. It does seem as if Moustakas is starting to come out of his funk. Hosmer has been getting hits, but has somehow lost the power he showed in 2011(and the last two Spring’s). No amount of lineup shuffles can fix this problem. What the team needs is a solid hitting philosophy and follow it. Kevin Seitzer couldn’t get through to them, and so far it doesn’t seem as if the tag team of Maloof and David are either. The pitching can only hold this team up so long; the offense needs to back up the starters and produce. Period.

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Manager Follies

  • For anyone who has talked Royals with me for even just a bit, they know of my dislike of one Neddaniel (Frank) Yost. I have been calling for his firing for over a year now. He is the anchor around the Royals neck. In fact, I felt dirty writing something positive about him just last week. Unfortunately, Neddy has shown his true colors this week. Taking Shields out of Monday’s game. Usage of Luke Hochevar. Constant shuffling of the lineup. Keeping Wade Davis in longer than he should. That’s just this week. Yost imploded when he was managing Milwaukee in 2008. When he was asked why his team was struggling during a pennant chase, Yost told management he “didn’t know”. Does that make you confident if Kansas City is in the hunt come September? It doesn’t me. Yost’s biggest challenge is to be consistent on a daily basis. He let Jeremy Guthrie stay in to close out Saturday’s win, but then pulled James Shields after 8 innings on Monday. What is the difference between the two situations? In all honesty, nothing. Yet he commented that Shields did his part and Greg Holland’s role is the 9th inning. Not consistent. After 30 games, Yost felt the need to shuffle a struggling lineup. It’s only 30 games–shuffling it just seemed like a panic move. This is the THIRD regular incarnation of a Royals lineup since the season started. The THIRD!! There is no consistency in his decisions and in his actions. Early in the season, Yost was doing a good job by not doing anything. He was just letting his players go out and play ball. Now there is a slight bump in the road and he feels the need to flip everything upside down. This is a young team that needs consistency. Instead, they have a leader who is in constant change. This isn’t going away, folks. Dayton likes Yost. A lot. But if this team is serious, Neddy needs to go. It isn’t working.

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It would seem to be 32 games in that the Kansas City Royals have played more good baseball than bad. Being 18-14 speaks to that truth. Now they just need to continue that and improve the areas that aren’t working. It is a long season in a weak division, which gives us all hope. But there is no room if you want to contend. This team deserves to get the most bang for their buck. Otherwise there will be more disappointing talk than positive come September.

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