Four days into the second month of the baseball season and I still feel like I don’t fully have a grasp on this Kansas City Royals team. Is it the team that is in the bottom portion of almost all offensive stats? Probably not. Is it the team that is in the top layer of most pitching stats? Possibly. Is it the same stellar defensive team we saw last year? Yes, yes it is. After twenty nine games, the Royals have one of the oddest stats I ever remember seeing in baseball history. When they score four or more runs, they are undefeated(14-0); meanwhile, they have yet to win a ballgame while scoring three or less runs(0-15). There is no way this holds up all season, but the fact it has over a month of play is just peculiar. With that in mind, let’s look at some other notes of interest rolling around my dome(get out of my dome!), starting with the offense.
Looking at the Royals offensive stats two things come to mind: one, these are sad, sad numbers and two, there is no way this holds up all season–right? The worst are the power numbers: last in homers, last in slugging percentage and next to last in total bases. The young group of Royals bats have been living off of potential for close to three years now, so we are to a point where either they start producing or someone else is given the chance to take their spot. I have to believe at the least that guys like Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon will raise their power numbers and at least get the Royals to a halfway respectable level. The problem lies in the fact that the Royals offense has been fairly anemic for a few years now and no matter how much faith is thrown their way, the runs just aren’t there. I wish the answer is just to wait and the batters will come around, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe the ceiling given to a few of these hitters are just unattainable at this point.
Last night Danny Duffy made his first start of the season and he pitched a very Danny Duffy like game. I was actually pleased by that since earlier in the week against Toronto it looked to me like he was lost out on the mound. That night Duffy was called on in relief and hit Jose Bautista then turned around and walked the next guy on five pitches before being lifted after only two batters. Just a few days before that he had an awful outing in relief in Baltimore that cost the Royals the game. So after those two outings it felt good to know I was wrong and that Duffy was the same pitcher. Unfortunately that also means that he still is a pitcher with great stuff who doesn’t pitch efficiently. Outside of a great relief outing in Houston that saw him throw strikes and keep batters off-balance, Duffy still looks like a pitcher who has never learned how to let his defense help him out. There was hope that a move to the bullpen would help some of that and it still might. But if last night was any indication, Duffy hasn’t changed his colors. He was already on a75-85 pitch count and threw over 20 pitches in just the first inning. There is still time for Duffy to be a vital cog in the bullpen for Kansas City, but I’m really starting to believe that he just isn’t suited to be a starter, no matter how badly the Royals need him there. Royals officials have often referred to Duffy as being a “bull in a china shop” when out on the mound, but his ferocity and competitiveness will all be for naught if he can’t pitch more efficient. It’s still early to give up on him, but he isn’t quieting any critics with his pitch counts so far this season.
If I learned anything last year, it was proper perspective on a full baseball season. I know many of us, myself included, thought the Royals were done after the horrid May they had. In fact, I think I counted 3-4 times during the season where I thought they were completely out of it and an afterthought. Instead, this team made it interesting all the way to the final week of the season. It’s been nice this season to keep that in the back of my head and realize just how much baseball is left to be played. We are just about 18% through the season and despite some major concerns, there is no reason to think they can’t be in a wild card spot come September. At the moment Kansas City is only four games behind Detroit in the American League Central, which is obviously more than reachable. I was listening to the Royals postgame show on Friday night driving back from the game and I thought the host, Josh Vernier, made some great thoughts that those of us who are diehard baseball fans would be wise to keep in the back of our minds. Vernier talked about how baseball is a game where one game can turn your luck around and as long as there are still games being played then you have a chance. He also pointed out(wisely, I must say) that baseball makes even the smartest of us look dumb by it’s ever changing results. A guy can be hitting .156(like let’s say Mike Moustakas) but can be the hero on any given day. Or his luck could turn around and within a few weeks could be hitting one hundred points higher. The point being in all of this that what might look dark and gloomy now could be a giant ray of sunshine in a short amount of time. A losing team can be winning in no time and that struggling player could be your best player in very short order. I think it would be smart if we as fans remembered that more often rather than just pointing out what is wrong, myself included.
So buckle in folks. I have a feeling this rollercoaster isn’t ready to get off of the tracks. There are things for the Royals to work on but by no means is this year a wash already. My best advice is to sit back, relax and try to enjoy the ride as much as you can. Hopefully when June rolls around we are in a tug-of-war with Detroit for top spot in the Central. Hey, it could happen. At this point, anything can happen.