New York State of Mind: Royals Swept by Yankees

kc1

My, how a week will change things. About ten days ago the Royals took a series from the New York Yankees in Kansas City, a series where the Royals looked to be playing at a different level than the ‘Bronx Bombers’. Jump forward to this week and there was very little in this series that the Royals did good. The defense was there. The bullpen was pretty solid. The offense…well, it was pretty much M.I.A. The starting pitching? Eek. So with that said, lets take a look at a series that will hopefully be forgotten by the end of the weekend.

kc2

Series MVP: Mike Moustakas

Honestly, a part of me just wanted to leave this spot blank. No one really stood out in this series as the offense basically took a powder in this series. Alcides Escobar and Kendrys Morales both got 4 hits in this series but didn’t provide much in the form of runs. Moustakas went 3 for 11, including his 5th home run of the year on Wednesday afternoon:

Moustakas has been one of the ‘feel good’ stories of the year so far and nothing says ‘improvement’ like a spray chart:

It almost feels like every week Moose will fly by some other accomplishment that surpasses his dreadful 2014 season:

Look, we all scoffed when manager Ned Yost said he was going to bat Moustakas second in the order to start the year. What started out as Yost trolling us(hey, it felt that way) turned into motivation for Mike and it has paid off in spades. Unfortunately, this series saw very little offense from the Royals despite the efforts of Moustakas, Escobar and Morales.

kc3

(Worst) Pitching Performance of the Series: Jeremy Guthrie

Look, I’m not happy about picking on Guthrie here, but Monday’s start was so bad for Jeremy that it felt like it should get it’s own section. Since no one else really went out there and stood out(besides one reliever who I will discuss in just a bit) I figured we would point out how monumentally bad Guthrie performed. The numbers in just a moment; first, take a look at the destruction:

Alright, that was just as painful as the first time. It was obvious early on that Guthrie was going to be left out there to take the beating, although apparently 11 runs was all the bleeding Yost could muster watching(I was done after the first 8 runs). 1+ inning, 9 hits and 11 runs while walking 3, hitting a batter and striking out 1. Oh, and 4 home runs given up. Hey, at the least there were some eye popping stats that came out of his outing:

Just an ugly performance all the way around. Guthrie has long been an anomaly; a pitcher who allows a lot of baserunners yet allows very few to score. That has not been the case this year and honestly he hasn’t put up numbers this bad since his short stay in Colorado. Before this start it had seemed like maybe he had gotten behind some of his struggles but Monday it appeared as if he was leaving the ball out over the middle of the plate and the Yankees made him pay for it. The numbers right now are staggering: An FIP of 6.01, ERA+ of 61(lowest total since 2006 for Cleveland, where he appeared in 9 games), he is allowing 11.9 hits per 9 innings, and 3 walks per 9. Most of the numbers so far are very comparable to his stay with the Rockies, where he was rescued by Kansas City for infamous space-waster Jonathan Sanchez. I still feel like Jeremy has value and still feel like he can bounce back from this. But the longer it goes on, the more you ask two questions: ‘how long can the Royals continue to throw him out there?’ and ‘when is Kris Medlen expected back?’. Hopefully Guthrie chooses to rise like the Phoenix.

kc4

All-Star Dominance

There was some good news that came out this week in the form of the the All-Star balloting being announced and it looks like the Royals have something else they are leading in; votes! There are 5 Royals leading their respective positions and so far Salvador Perez is the overall vote-getter. I’m sure there will be some talk about Royals fans stuffing the online ballots, but like many others, I could care less:

If anything else, this is happening for one reason; the Royals are winning. Winning does this, especially for a fanbase that has been dormant for a number of years:

Look, I would be happy with one Royal starting in the All-Star game. Five Royals? That would just be awesome. I have reasons to cheer for each of the five guys who are leading but a start for Alex Gordon would mean a lot, especially considering how his tenure as a Royal has been over the years. Escobar also seems to be cherishing the idea of being in his first ‘Midsummer Classic’:

So Royals fans, if you have not yet voted, what are you waiting for? Go vote here and let your voice heard. I also have yet to vote; just wait until I get my 35 votes in for all 8 of my e-mail accounts! I can’t wait to vote for Gordon 280 times!

kc5

Now onto the news and notes section of this series:

  • I mentioned earlier how there was one stellar pitching performance in this series and that was the outing Brandon Finnegan had on Monday following Guthrie’s awful tribute to Memorial Day. Finnegan came into the game in the 2nd inning and threw 3 shutout innings, allowing zero hits, 1 walk and 1 strikeouts. It was exactly what the Royals needed and lowered Finnegan’s ERA below 2.00 on the year. For a guy who has been bounced around this year, between the rotation and the pen, between the minors and the majors, he has managed to excel in the situations the Royals put him in. Now if the team could decide on a role for him and stick with it…
  • Finnegan had been recalled earlier in the day as Danny Duffy headed to the disabled list. I had actually mentioned this after the last series against the Cardinals and how it wasn’t a bad thing for this to happen:

There are a lot of theories out there about what is wrong with Duffy and it could be the shoulder stiffness that landed him on the DL, or it could be overthrowing or it could be him overthinking. Actually, I tend to lean toward all 3 to be honest with you. I’ve heard he could get up to 5 starts down in Omaha before coming back, so I wouldn’t expect to see him anytime soon, unless he is needed before then.

  • Finnegan was sent back down to the minors after Monday’s game to make room for Jason Vargas’ return from the disabled list. Vargas was on a strict 75 pitch limit(which was apparently not relayed to Steve Physioc in the Royals radio booth) and struggled out of the gate in his return. Vargas threw 4 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs while walking 1 and striking out 6:

Vargas had a rough 1st inning but settled down and it would have been interesting to see how he did if he hadn’t reached the pitch limit imposed on him. The Royals need Vargas to pitch closer to his performance in 2014 than what we have seen so far this year and hopefully this was the first step toward that.

  • I mentioned a moment ago about Physioc not knowing about Vargas’ pitch limit on Tuesday night and it was just one of many miscues he made on air that night. Maybe it was because I was following the broadcast closer than normal, but Physioc was atrocious that night and he seemed to not do any homework at all. I’ve never been a fan of his work, but this series really highlighted how bad Physioc is as a broadcaster. I’m sure he is a nice guy, but nice guys don’t always make good on air talent.
  • Speaking of the broadcasters, if I had to hear them say ‘well that wouldn’t have been a home run at Kauffman Stadium’ one more time in this series I was ready to pull my hair out. Yes, Yankee Stadium has smaller dimensions than ‘The K’; but these games weren’t played in Kansas City so it didn’t matter. The Royals had the same advantage the Yankees had in this series, so comparing the two stadiums is ignoring the fact that the Yankees took more of an advantage of the shorter porch in right field. It came across as sour grapes.
  • Paulo Orlando hit his first career major league home run on Tuesday. Orlando has seen a lot of playing time this year thanks to Alex Rios’ injury, and while his average has slipped the last few weeks, he is still one of the best feel good stories of the year. Even if he never hits another one over the fence, he will always have his one at Yankee Stadium.

kc5

Tweets of Royalty

 

kc6

As far as I am concerned the best thing to do about this series is forget about it and move on. The Royals will venture to Chicago this weekend for 3 games at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. I am pretty excited for this series, since I grew up watching tons of Cubs games on WGN(as did a lot of people my age) and have a deep fondness for Wrigley and the ballclub. I am also looking forward to seeing some of Chicago’s young talent, guys like Jorge Soler, Addison Russel and Kris Bryant; I’m looking forward to seeing them, even if I don’t want them to do very good in this series. The Royals will be throwing Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Jeremy Guthrie in this set and hopefully the pitching and offense can put forth some solid effort. It is only May folks, so I am not worried at all. We knew a slump would happen; the question is just how long it will last, especially with Minnesota playing so good. It’s going to be a fun 3 games and my plan is to just enjoy the Royals being at Wrigley, since this only happens about once every six years. I can’t imagine this series will be worse than what we just saw…

 

Advertisements

Show Me Win: Royals Defeat State Rival Cardinals

kc1

A couple times a year, the venom comes out in me. It’s a very specific time and it happens for a very specific reason. It happens because the Kansas City Royals play their state rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. Look, I respect the Cardinals organization and think they do a top notch job with their scouting and development throughout their minor league system. It’s obvious by the way the team churns out player after player that they know what they are doing. No, my distaste for this team is purely on their fanbase. You know, the ones that one time about 20 years ago were appointed “the best fans in baseball” by The Sporting News, a company based in St. Louis. The thing is, even though many of the fans there are fine, great humans and very respectful(Hi Ryan!), there have many I have met that are far from it. Every fanbase has them(I know some Royals fans that I wish I didn’t know), but there seems to be more of a sense of entitlement from St. Louis fans. So it brightens my day a little bit more when the Royals beat the Cardinals. Yes, I get a bit more joy from it then I should. Luckily, we saw 2 wins from Kansas City in this series, even if one of them was a rain shortened affair. So how did it come about? Just read on…

kc2

Series MVP: Kendrys Morales

I will admit it; I didn’t like the Royals signing Morales. I felt his 2014 was the beginning of his regression, not the fact that he had missed Spring Training and didn’t play until June. Sure, we are only 2 months into the season but so far Morales has made me look like a big dummy. All he has done so far in 2015 is lead the league in RBI’s, be near the top in doubles, put up an OPS+ of 135 and a WAR of 1.1(which is all offense at this point since he hasn’t played in the field yet). This series he started out with a bang, as he would club a 3 run homer in the 1st inning:

Morales would follow that up in the 3rd inning with another blast to right field:

So if you are keeping count at home, that is 5 runs for Morales, 0 for the Cardinals. Yep, that was all the offense the Royals would need that night, as they would go on to shutout the team with the best record in the National League. Morales would end up 4 for 9 against the Cardinals over the weekend, scoring 3 runs while raising his slugging percentage by 45 points. I’ve recently thought about who in this lineup would be missed the most if they ended up M.I.A. and if it isn’t Mike Moustakas(who the Royals did miss in the Texas series) then it would be Morales. Hopefully he keeps it up and he can continue making the case for American League comeback player of the year, which is seems like he is on track for.

kc3

Pitching Performance of Series: Chris Young

When Young signed with the Royals in March, it seemed like the rotation was already set and Young would be the odd man out. The team explained early on that Young would be on the Opening Day roster, even if that meant he started the year as a long reliever. I was personally fine with this, as every team needs extra pitching at some point in the season and Young was coming off being named the ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ for Seattle. Young got his first start of the year on May 1 and since then he has probably been the Royals best starter. On Friday, Young continued his high level of performance with another stellar outing against the Cardinals. Young got 6 innings of work in, giving up 6 hits, and no runs while walking 2 and striking out 2. His ERA lowered to 0.78…and 0.40 in his 4 starts!

In my eyes Young deserves to stay in the rotation until he proves otherwise. With Danny Duffy scuffling and Jason Vargas on the disabled list, it is an easy answer; Young stays put. But I have a feeling at some point a harder decision will need to be made…and if Young is still worthy, he should still be holding onto a spot in the rotation.

kc4

#ShortstopJesus

If you watch Alcides Escobar every day, from time to time you utter the phrase “I can’t believe he just did that”. It’s almost been a crime that Escobar has barely warranted attention to being nominated for a Gold Glove award(which he was last year), let along the fact that he still hasn’t won one. On Friday night Escobar showed why many of us refer to him as “Shortstop Jesus”:

Just amazing! Maybe it’s because the Royals had Yuniesky Betancourt for years at shortstop, but I feel like we should be thankful every day that we get to watch the golden defense of Escobar. Funny thing is, that wasn’t the only great play he would make in this series:

 

I talk very glowingly of Alex Gordon in left field, but I am almost as impressed with Escobar on a daily basis at shortstop. The Royals are lucky to have him locked in for awhile and to be a steady force in the infield. His offense might not always be perfect, but I have zero complaints about the defense. He is purely of another world.

kc5

Now onto a few notes from this I-70 Series:

  • Danny Duffy was originally scheduled to start on Sunday but was pushed back due to shoulder stiffness:

I’m playing a bit of ‘Devil’s Advocate’ here but I would almost bet money he doesn’t start on Tuesday. My gut tells me Vargas will come back and Duffy will take his spot on the DL. I’m not saying Duffy isn’t injured, but it would give the Royals a reason to send him down to AAA(on a rehab assignment) while also not using any of his options. It isn’t the worse idea, with the way Duffy has been pitching as of late.

  • Rain shortened Saturday’s game, as the Royals ended up with a 6 inning win by the score of 3-2, thanks in large part to a 2 run Alex Gordon home run. I know some Cardinal fans felt jipped, but I ask this question: who were the Cardinals going to score off of-Herrera, Davis, or Holland? I will wait for your answer…
  • After Friday’s night game, the Royals had the best record in baseball:

I don’t know about anyone else, but this was about as good a feeling as a baseball fan can get. To go from laughingstock of the sport to best record in baseball in just a few short years? Yep, it feels pretty darn good!

May 22, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals second basemen Omar Infante (14) attempts a throw to first over St. Louis Cardinals base runner Peter Bourjos (8) during the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Tweets of Royalty

 

Kansas City Royals' Alex Gordon, right, celebrates with Kendrys Morales after Gordon hit a two-run home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A small part of me(fairly small) really badly wanted a sweep, but there will be no complaints from me with a series win over the Cardinals. If anything it is some good mojo headed into New York to take on the Yankees for 3 this week. This road trip should be fun, as there is the games in New York and then 3 in Chicago against the Cubs. Hopefully the starting pitching can continue their streak of good starts and the offense can look past Sunday’s game against St. Louis. We are almost in June and talking best record in baseball; it’s hard not to feel like someone should pinch me. A 4-2 road trip is optimal but 3-3 would probably keep Kansas City’s lead in the Central. So for another week, the eyes of baseball are on the Royals. As much as it is weird, it is nice as well. A guy could get used to this kind of attention!

 

 

 

Short But Sweep: Royals Vanquish Reds

May 19, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco (39) steps back from a close pitch in the eighth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 3-0.  Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

This week began interleague play for the Kansas City Royals, as they would welcome the Cincinnati Reds into town for a short 2 game series at ‘The K’. I’m not the biggest fan of interleague games(I like having the two leagues only meet up at the All-Star Game and the World Series) but at the same time it is always interesting to see teams come into town that we probably only see maybe once every three years. So would the Royals welcome their competitors from the National League nicely…or would Kansas City show them why they are in first place in the American League Central? I think it would be safe to say the Reds received the latter.

kc2

Series MVP: Mike Moustakas

To say Mike Moustakas enjoyed feasting on Cincinnati pitching would probably be an understatement. Moose was only 6 for 8 this series, including back to back 3 hit games. Toss in 2 doubles, 2 RBI’s and a slugging percentage of 1.000 and you have a nice way to kick off interleague play. Just consider where we were at last year at this time: Moustakas was getting sent down to AAA as he was struggling mightily and there was nothing about his swing and his approach that was good. One year later we are talking about consecutive 3 hit games and the numbers are jumping off the page at just how good he has been:

It’s hard at this point not to get excited about what Moustakas is doing at the plate and in the field(where he is in 7th place in defensive WAR with .86). Through 37 games he is over half way to his hits and runs total, has a slash line of .342/.396/.503 and an OPS+ of 147. In fact the only numbers that seem down from last year is that he has been caught stealing twice this year after not getting caught at all in 2014…and since he is not a base stealer those numbers mean absolutely nothing. The 2015 version of Mike Moustakas(Moose 2.0?) is an all around complete hitter that has solidified the number 2 spot in the order and continually has been getting on base. It’s amazing how something as simple as learning to hit the ball to the opposite field would open up his game and make him an offensive force. Now we are only nearing the end of May, so there is still a number of months left in the season, but he has already surpassed my expectations of Moustakas being a ‘.250 hitter at best’. Another few weeks of this play and he will most definitely have punched his ticket to head to Cincinnati in July for the All Star Game.

kc3

Pitching Performance of the Series: Yordano Ventura

Yordano Ventura came into this year with a ton of hype and the mantle of being the Royals ace of the rotation. Unfortunately he has gone through some growing pains this year(trademark: Thicke, Alan) and outside of a few starts where he left early due to cramps he has mainly underperformed. Luckily, the Ventura we saw quite a bit of last year showed up on Tuesday night and threw a gem of a game. Ventura went 7 innings, allowing 4 hits and no runs while walking none and striking out 6. He threw 61% of strikes and for the most part let his infield do most of the dirty work, as he induced 14 ground balls. The best part was seeing no walks and Ventura didn’t nibble around the strike zone as much as he has his last few starts. This seemed like the guy we saw in Game 6 of the World Series and someone who could lead this pitching staff. I’m sure we will see a few more bad starts from Yordano before the year is up, but if he can limit the damage and pitch more like he has this week, it will help solidify the rotation and leave one less worry for the team on the mound.

kc4

The Catch

I am a self professed disciple of Alex Gordon. I believe him to be one of the greatest defensive players that anyone my age has ever seen. There is a reason he has won 4 Gold Glove Awards, 3 Fielding Bible Awards, one Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award in MLB and last year won the American League Platinum Glove Award. As someone who heavily values defense, I almost feel like the offense Gordon adds each year is almost extra to what he contributes with his glove, arm and mind(trust me, his mind is a big part of why he is so good). We already got one phenomenal catch this year from him in Chicago. On Wednesday night, he added another one to the highlight reel:

And now in motion:

Not only was that an amazing catch, but it also goes to show the lengths Gordon will go to just to get an out. The funny part is that ‘the catch’ was appreciated last night on many levels:

The only bad thing to the greatness of ‘A1’ is that if he doesn’t pick up the option on his contract after the season then he could venture off to some other team this offseason. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world where Alex Gordon isn’t a Kansas City Royal. Just the thought along makes me queasy. I am not ready to have him take his skills elsewhere.

kc5

It wasn’t just the brooms that were brought out in force. Time to look at some other news of note for this series:

  • Tack up 3 solid starts in a row for Jeremy Guthrie, all much needed. On Wednesday, Guthrie threw 6 innings giving up 5 hits, and no runs while walking 2 and striking out 3. Guthrie ran into some trouble early on in the 1st inning but after that seemed to calm down and held Cincy scoreless. These last 3 starts has lowered his ERA by almost 2 runs as he has allowed 4 earned runs in 18.1 innings. After his awful start to the season he has righted the ship and seems to be pitching more to his career performanace. With others in the rotation struggling, the Royals need Guthrie to at least be a solid turn once every 5 days.
  • There has been some discussion about Alcides Escobar maybe not being the right fit at the top of the lineup. Actually, Craig Brown of http://www.royalsauthority.com had a column last week talking about how Escobar doesn’t take enough pitches and hardly walks, which neither is a good approach at the dish if you are the leadoff hitter. I agree with Brown for the majority of this argument and his reasoning is solid. The issue is that the Royals really don’t have a typical leadoff hitter, other than possibly Alex Gordon, and you can see the argument for keeping him in the middle of the lineup. With that said, the Royals are winning with this lineup despite Escobar’s .331 OBP, which is almost purely from hits as he has only 5 walks on the season. I get where Craig is coming from on this, but I can’t imagine a change will happen anytime soon.
  • After Tuesday’s shutout of the Reds, the Royals had accomplished something that hadn’t been done by a Royals team in a very long time:

Unfortunately, they weren’t able to make it 3 shutouts in a row, as Ryan Madson gave up a run on Wednesday night. Still an impressive feat, nonetheless.

  • Closer Greg Holland was not available on Tuesday night:

It is always nice to have a healthy Holland. The thing is, without him available, they still have guys like Madson, Luke Hochevar and Jason Frasor who can do some of the heavy lifting, and Wade Davis is as good as any closer in the big leagues today(and goes to show you how out of date it is the way managers use their best pitchers in the bullpen nowadays). To have these other options has to be frightening to other teams and will be even more important later in the season.

kc6

Tweets of Royalty 

kc7

So with the Reds out of the way, this leads to a major matchup for the Memorial Day Weekend. It’s the best record in the American League against the best record in the National League, as the Cardinals come to Kauffman Stadium to take on the Royals. For years Cardinals fans come in swarms to Kansas City and the crowd ends up looking like a sea of read. Well, I have a feeling that won’t happen this time, as it should be a sea of blue this weekend. It also means this dormant rivalry, that really hasn’t meant anything for years now actually has some more punch behind it. I would love a series win for the Royals, sending the Cardinals back to St. Louis with their tail in between their legs. If anything it would quiet the ‘best fans in baseball'(and most of us are really tired of hearing Cardinals’  fans flapping their gums) without even having to bring up 1985. The more I think about it, a sweep at ‘the K’ would be beautiful. Hey, it’s lofty expectations but just imagine that warm and fuzzy feeling we would get from that, Royals fans? Yep, it would feel good. Very good.

A Bronx Beating: Royals Take 2 of 3 from Yankees

kc1

As most of you know, the Royals and Yankees used to be a very heated rivalry. Back in the day, the Royals hated the Yankees and the Yankees hated the Royals. There is a variety of reasons to not like the Yankees(I’ll remember at some point to compile a list) but I am one of the old school Royals fans who remembers this feud and despite this rivalry being very one-sided the last couple decades, I still hold on to my dislike for the Bronx Bombers. So to start this weekend with these two teams clashing, my feelings are already heightened. Add in that both teams came into the series in first place in their division, well…lets just say it had some added fuel. Would that fuel start a fire? Or would it just stink up the joint? Let’s dive in.

kc2

Series MVP: Lorenzo Cain

Before the season started I made the comment that I was most intrigued this year to see if Lorenzo Cain’s development would continue and 6 weeks into the season I have to believe that is a big ‘YES’! Cain’s impressive offensive output continued this weekend, as he would go 4 for 11, with a big 5 RBI game on Friday night and 3 runs scored this weekend:

Tack on a few more shoestring catches and a running grab near the wall and you have yourself a guy who continues to excel. It did appear throughout the weekend that anytime there was runners on base, Cain was in the middle of the action:

I made the comment earlier this spring that I didn’t know if Cain could hold up his .380 BAbip from last year, but so far he is sitting at .377, which is pretty darn close. I love the idea of having a number 3 hitter in the order who has speed, which is one more weapon to worry about if you are fielder and Cain hits the ball to you. We are still about 2 months away from the All-Star game in Cincy, but it would appear that Cain has quite the argument for being on manager Ned Yost’s squad.

 

kc3

Pitching Performance of the Series: Edinson Volquez 

The fact that I had three options for this spot is good news and the performances of Chris Young and Joe Blanton will be mentioned in just a bit. The starling start of Edinson Volquez though was a masterpiece and one of his best outings so far this year. Chalk up another quality start for Volquez as he would go 7 innings on Sunday, giving up 3 hits, no runs and 1 hit batter while striking out 5. This lowered his ERA to 2.74 and was much better than his last two starts. Volquez had great stuff today, mixing up a solid 2-seam fastball with some great off-speed stuff. This kept the Yankees offense off-balance and kept them off the basepaths. It seems that when Volquez keeps the ball down like he did Sunday he is fine. When he gets the ball up in the zone is when he normally finds trouble. These would also seem to be some words of wisdom for Danny Duffy as well, as he has struggled with that same issue so far in 2015.

kc4

The Moose is Loose

On Friday night, Mike Moustakas almost put himself into the Kansas City record books as he ended up just a home run shy of the Royals first batter to hit for the cycle since 1990. Who accomplished that feat? None other than old #5:

 

So history was on the line when Moustakas came up to the dish in the 7th inning, and we were all hoping for a ‘Moose Bomb’. Well, hoping, since most of the time the percentages say the chances of completing the cycle is not very good, let alone finishing one off with a home run. Moose would not get his dinger to finish the cycle, but he came about as close as a batter could without actually accomplishing the feat. Moustakas lofted a fly ball to left field, and the ball bounced off the left field wall, missing a cycle by a mere 4 feet. I initially thought there was no way he would finish the milestone, but as that ball traveled down the left field line I couldn’t help feeling like Moustakas just might do it. Alas, he came up just short, getting his second double of the night and finishing the evening going 4 for 5 with an RBI and 3 runs scored. It’s not quite a cycle, but it’s still a pretty good night.

kc5

Now onto the news and notes from another series win for the Royals of Kansas City:

  • Danny Duffy went out Saturday night and performed better than he had the last 2 starts(he did go 5 innings in this outing) but still wasn’t the Duffy we saw throughout most of 2014. The improvement was he had a much better control over his off-speed pitches and didn’t seem to be missing the strike zone by much(he still walked 4 Yankees in the game, though). The bad news is he still allowed 4 hits, 4 free passes and left a fastball over the middle of the plate for Chase Headley to hit into the Royals bullpen in left field. It does appear as if Duffy’s leash might be shortening a bit:

Duffy still has options, so if Jason Vargas is able to come off the disabled list this week then Danny could be the casualty. I’ve mentioned it before, and I will again: maybe Duffy should give old pal James Shields a call. At this point it couldn’t hurt.

  • On the other side of the spectrum is the performance on Friday night of Chris Young. At this point it is just another ho-hum start for him, as he went 5.2 innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 run while walking 2 and striking out another 2. It’s his third straight stellar start and with the way Duffy is throwing it’s hard NOT to keep Young in the rotation when Vargas comes back. In my eyes, he has earned a spot in the rotation.
  • I’ve mentioned it a few times, but it really needs to be stressed just how good of a season Kendrys Morales is having this year. Morales is leading the league in doubles and RBI’s, and his BAbip has risen over 100 points. He has been a pleasant surprise for Kansas City and has calmed any worries I had when the signing occurred. There is still a lot of baseball to be played, but so far this signing has been a major positive for GM Dayton Moore.
  • Watching the Yankees this weekend really made me appreciate this Royals defense. Not only is this New York team older, it also seemed to have some issues throwing the ball. Teams like the Yankees and Indians really make a person really understand just how stellar this Royals defense really is:

  • Eric Hosmer’s 12 game hitting streak was broken up on Saturday against New York’s CC Sabathia. Someone asked me the other day about how Hosmer has been hitting and I pointed out how quiet his body is at the plate this year. It feels like night and day watching him this year compared to last.
  • What a Royals debut for Joe Blanton? Blanton came into Saturday’s game, taking over for Duffy and it was hard to tell that he hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. Joe threw 4 innings, giving up 5 hits and 1 run while walking none and striking out 2. He wasn’t dominant but he helped give the rest of the bullpen a break and showed that he has more value than just “a guy who is security in AAA in case the team needs another starter for a start or two”. Blanton looks to be taking over the long reliever spot that Chris Young held earlier this year.
  • Sunday was one of my favorite games of the year, the Salute to the Negro Leagues. I was unable to attend the game(I had a graduation to attend) but while watching the game later in the day I noticed the Yankees wore their usual threads. I am a big fan of the history of the game and the Negro Leagues have always been one of my favorite things to read and study about. I’m not one to tell the Yankees what they should or should not do, but it just felt wrong that they didn’t participate in this great event and have actually never worn any kind of throwback jersey’s ever. By the way, if you have not already you definitely need to go and check out the Negro League Museum in Kansas City(I love it!) and their website.
  • Speaking of, the Yankees look to be doing right by the Negro League Museum and will be donating other items to help the museum bring some money. Thank you, New York.

kc6

Tweets of Royalty

 

kc7

So now the first place Royals(!!!) will take Monday off while waiting to open their interleague schedule in 2015 and take on the Cincinnati Reds in a two game series on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. One does wonder if the Kansas City scouts will be taking an extra look at Johnny Cueto on Tuesday, as he could be a possible mid-season acquisition if the Royals are in the market for a starting pitcher. This series will also set up a nice rivalry weekend, as the Cardinals will come in for three. Let’s hope for a change than the last few times the Cardinals have been in Kansas City; I would rather see a sea of blue in the stands than a sea of red. A sweep of Cincy would go a long ways toward building momentum against St. Louis and keeping a little bit of distance between the Tigers and Royals. No matter what, it should make for a fun week at ‘The K’ this week, so make sure you head out if you can!

 

Putting Out the Fire: Royals Take Out Tigers

eDETROIT, MI - MAY 08:  Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals waits on deck during the fifth inning while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on May 8, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Over the last couple seasons, whenever the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers get together to slug it out, it feels like a big time event. It’s not just because the two teams have been the driving force in the American League Central. No, it’s also because these two teams feel much more evenly matched as more and more time goes by. Plus, lets be honest here; whenever you play a team 18-20 times a year, you know more about their flaws than sometimes even your own. So yes, we are just a few weeks into May, but having the Royals and Tigers lock up felt like a big event this weekend, one that brought forth 3 really good games in Motown.

kc2

Series MVP: Alex Gordon

As has become the norm in May, Alex Gordon has started heating up the last few weeks. Gordon is a notorious slow starter and add in the offseason wrist surgery and he was bound to get a slow beginning to his 2015 season. Luckily for the Royals, he has started hitting and he came up big for the Royals in the rubber game on Sunday night. But he also came away with a big single in Friday night’s game:

This would tie the game for Kansas City in the 7th inning and it would stay that way until the bottom of the 9th. The Royals would unfortunately lose that game but not because of Gordon, who had a stellar night on Friday, going 3 for 4. In fact Gordon was 4 for 9 in this series, driving in 2 runs and scoring the winning run on Sunday night in extra innings. In fact, Gordon got on base that inning thanks to a hit by pitch, his 2nd in the series. He also received 2 free passes in this series from Tigers pitchers and was basically on base more than he was not. This series raised both his On Base Percentage and his slugging over 20 points, which is a big boost. It was tough to pick an MVP for this series, since as a group the offense had a good one and numerous players were considered, but Gordon felt like he was a notch above everyone else while in Detroit and was a vital cog in the team’s run scoring efforts.

kc3

Pitching Performance of the Series: Jeremy Guthrie

This was about a welcome surprise as anything else this season. It’s been chronicled many times(seriously, just go back and read about every series wrap-up, where I mention how ineffective Guthrie has been this year) so it was nice to see Guthrie go out and shutdown the Tigers on Saturday afternoon. He threw 7.1 innings of 8 hit, 2 run ball, only allowing 1 walk and 3 strikeouts. Yes folks, that was Guthrie’s first quality start of the season and a lot of it was the ability to keep the Detroit batters off-balance. Guthrie compiled 19 fly balls and 8 ground balls, which is about the norm for him, although compared to his last outing against Detroit he had more fly balls than line drives by a healthy margin. Guthrie is never going to blow anyone away, but if he can perform something close to this on a fairly regular basis, he will have earned his spot in the rotation and help the Royals in a time when the starting pitching has been struggling.

kc4

Mother Nature and the Royals Bullpen 

Sunday night the Royals were put into a peculiar situation. Kansas City was tied with the Tigers going into the bottom of the 9th inning and they had already announced that Luke Hochevar was coming into the game for the Royals. Instead the tarps came out and the game was halted do to the storm that was passing through. The delay went for almost 90 minutes and left Kansas City with a decision to make; let Hochevar still pitch or bring in anothe reliever. Hochevar had just been activated this past week, as it would have been his third game back after being out for the last year due to Tommy John Surgery. He had pitched the day before against the Tigers, but had thrown only 3 pitches, thus negating any worry about using him 2 days in a row. The Royals erred on the side of caution, instead bringing Jason Frasor in once the delay had been lifted. More than anything the team doesn’t want to take the chance of re-injuring Hochevar, so for the time being they will be extremely cautious with him. It was a smart choice, but it also left Kansas City with one less reliever. Because he was announced as coming into the game before the rain delay was announced, it was official and left the Royals with one less reliever once the game resumed.

Considering how much the bullpen has been used as of late, this was not a scenario the Royals really wanted to be stuck with. Luckily, Kansas City would score a run in the top of the 10th and brought Greg Holland in the bottom of the inning to close it out. That brings up another point…

kc5

Notes, notes and more notes from a stellar May matchup:

  • If you have a weak heart, Sunday night’s game might not have been for you. The bases were loaded by Detroit in both the bottom of the 9th and 10th and were unable to score any runs. Jason Frasor and Greg Holland wiggled out of these jams and came out spotless. It wasn’t fun to watch though. One wonders if the weather played a part in it, as Frasor walked 2 and Holland 3. Their pace wasn’t very good either. Those last couple innings were the epitome of ugly baseball and after bringing it up I think I will now purge it from my memory.
  • Omar Infante tried to make a ridiculous behind the back flip to first base on a ground ball in the 3rd inning Sunday and cost the Royals a run. I’ve watched it over and over and still can’t figure out what he was thinking.

Look, Chris Young is tall…but he isn’t that tall!

  • Speaking of Young, another great outing for him against Detroit. 6 innings, 3 hits, and 1 unearned run while walking none and striking out 3. For now he has Jason Vargas’ spot in the rotation while he is on the disabled list, but there has to be some talk of giving Young a more permanent spot if the rest of the rotation doesn’t start shaping up.
  • Mike Moustakas missed the series, as he was put on the bereavement list. I have not heard what it was for(I have been asked multiple times this past weekend) but I do know his mother has been sick the last few years. Hope everything goes well with whatever the issue was. Moustakas should be back on Monday.
  • The Royals did make a flurry of roster moves before Friday’s game:

  • Drew Butera made his Royals debut on Saturday, starting in the place of Salvador Perez. In fact, Butera(son of former big leaguer Sal Butera)played the entire game, which means a complete day off for Perez. Why am I making a big deal of this? Because even if the backup catcher starts a game in Salvy’s place, it is almost inevitable that he ends up in the game before it is all said and done.

I personally like Butera; good game caller, and works well with the pitching staff. His only downfall is he can’t hit worth a lick.

  • I know there was some uproar in Friday’s night game because Yohan Pino was brought in to pitch the 9th instead of Greg Holland. I more than anyone hate the idea that manager’s have where you can’t bring in your closer unless it is a save situation. I believe more in you bring in your best pitcher when the situation is more dire. But I also realize most managers think this way and that isn’t going to change anytime soon, so a pass here for Ned Yost. I also didn’t have issue with it since Pino to that point had not allowed a run in over 10 innings of work and Holland had just come off the disabled list earlier in the week. It wasn’t like Yost had brought in a reliever that had been stinking the place up as of late(see: 2014 Crow, Aaron). It was a move that just didn’t pan out, as Detroit would get on base and score the winning run off Pino.
  • Alex Gordon might have been my MVP of the series, but another good series for Eric Hosmer. Hosmer was 4 for 14 with 2 RBI’s. The biggest thing is he continues to hit the ball to the opposite field, a sign that he is locked in and seeing the ball good.
  • It was also a good series for the returning Alcides Escobar. He went 4 for 15, including his first ever leadoff home run on Saturday to start the Royals rally against notorious “Royals Killer” Anibal Sanchez.
  • Kelvin Herrera started serving his suspension during this series and should be back this week against the Rangers.
  • Speaking of suspensions, Yordano Ventura returned from his on Friday, and continued to underwhelm. Ventura went 6 innings, giving up 8 hits and 4 runs with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. Between Ventura and Danny Duffy, James Shields presence is surely being missed by these youngsters.

kc7

Tweets of Royalty

 

kc6

So now the Royals lead the American League Central by 1.5 games over the Tigers, with the Royals headed to Arlington to take on the Rangers. Four against Texas this week and then 3 at home against the New York Yankees this weekend should make for an interesting week. More than anything, the Royals need the rotation to stabilize this week, and Danny Duffy is the first up for that task on Monday. If the pitching doesn’t work, I suggest touching Adrian Beltre’s head; it seems to distract him. A positive week should go a long way toward extending their lead in the central; a bad week might push them behind Detroit. Think positive and we will be discussing the first place Royals for another week.

Deja Vu All Over Again: Royals Take 2 of 3 Games, Win Series Over Indians

kc1

The last few weeks have had a deep focus on the Kansas City Royals goal of winning the American League Central, as the team has faced off with almost exclusively all central division opponents. In fact, the Royals have been real chummy as of late with both the Tigers and Indians, as they faced them both last week, and face both this week as well. Interestingly enough, the Royals took both series against the Indians, just finishing off Cleveland winning 2 out of their 3 game series, much like Kansas City did last week in Cleveland. Some things were different though, and what better way to start than with the straw that stirred the drink in these last 3 games.

kc2

Series MVP: Eric Hosmer

Eric Hosmer has obviously hit a hot spell, as this is the second straight series that I have given him the title of ‘Series MVP’. I mentioned last week how Eric has improved in many areas of his game, most notably at the plate. Hosmer was 5 for 12 in this series, with 2 home runs and 8 driven in. In all he had 4 extra base hits this series(add in a double and a triple) and his home run in game 1 of this series was huuuuuge:

It seems minor to mention this, but a lot of Hosmer’s success as of late seems to be connected with his approach at the plate and the lack of movement while in the batters box. Last year you saw him take a big stride as the pitch approached and saw his body have a lot of movement in the process. This year, a more simplified approach has been taken as he takes a short step forward in the box before unloading and attacking the pitch. I honestly believe this has made him a better hitter, one who’s head isn’t flying off the ball and a body that isn’t flailing everywhere. It has definitely kept him locked in this past week as he just punished the ball as of late. If you go back and read the last Detroit series post, I mentioned how Hosmer has been coming up big this year in high leverage situations. Case in point: he not only had the home run showed above, but also this triple late in the game:

So could Eric finally be reaching the potential that we have all discussed for years now? I’m not ready to completely say yes to this, as I want to see how he handles his first slump of the season, as he seems to mentally struggle when that happens. But if he can keep his swing consistent, then we might just be seeing the Hosmer I was starting to believe we were never going to see.

kc3

Pitching Performance of the Series: Jason Vargas

The biggest worry for this Royals team early in the season has been the back end of the rotation. Hell, it should probably just be the rotation in general. The two biggest worries have been Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie. Luckily, Mr. Vargas finally came through with a solid outing on Tuesday night, his second quality start of the year. Vargas was roughed up a bit in the first inning, giving up 2 runs, but after that he was a rock. His final line had him throwing 6 innings, giving up 2 hits and 2 runs, while walking 2 and striking out 5. Ten of Vargas’ 18 outs were from fly balls and he kept his pitch count around 80. Vargas won’t blow hitters away but if he can locate his pitches(which has been his big issue so far) and not allow many base runners, he can be a consistent force in the back of the rotation. Unfortunately, Vargas has gone on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle and looks to be missing 2 to 3 starts. Normally that is a precursor for Tommy John surgery, but it appears that there is no damage to the ligament and a little rest and then some light tossing should do the trick. For now, Vargas’ spot in the rotation will be taken by Chris Young, who will start on Sunday against Detroit.

kc4

Now onto a few more thoughts as the Royals stay their ground with Detroit in the American League Central:

  • Coming off of his best start of the year, Danny Duffy struggled mightily on Wednesday night. In fact it was easily his worst start of the year, as he only got 3 outs, giving up 6 hits and 4 runs while hitting 2 batters and striking out no one. Duffy didn’t really have control of any of his pitches, as his location was way off and his slider was the cause of the 2 hit batsman. All the way around it was an ugly start from a pitcher who the Royals really need to step up and be a stabilizing force at the top of the rotation. Hopefully Duffy can bounce back when he starts on Monday in Texas.
  • Speaking of rough outings this week, Edinson Volquez would fit that criteria on Thursday afternoon. Most of this season Volquez has kept his walk totals down, which has always been a bit of a hindrance for him throughout his career. On Thursday, Volquez went only 3 innings, giving up 2 hits, and 3 runs with 6 walks and 2 strikeouts. It was hard not to worry that the ‘old’ Volquez had reared his ugly head but it turns out there was a reason for Volquez’s loss of control in the 3rd inning:

Yep, that baby exploded in the 3rd and caused Volquez to fall of the rails. Apparently this happens about twice a year for him and it’s always in               the same spot, on the knuckle’s inside, right below the fingernail. Neither Volquez or manager Ned Yost are worried he will miss his next start,               even if that means pitching through a hardened blister. That is good news, as Volquez has probably been the most consistent pitcher the Royals             have had this year.

  • Backup catcher Erik Kratz went on the disabled list this week with a left foot ailment(I know, I would have figured it was splinters in his rear end, from sitting on the bench so much) and the Royals went and acquired backup catcher Drew Butera (he of the famous catching Butera family)from the Angels. I like the move, if for no reason other than the fact that Butera is a good defensive catcher who works well with pitchers. He’s not going to hit a lick, but he can provide Salvador Perez  day off…I know, crazy talk, right?
  • Alex Gordon continues to swing a good stick, as he went 3 for 11 in this series, mainly from the leadoff spot. He has been filling in there for Alcides Escobar, as he recovers from getting hit in the head in Cleveland last week. Gordon was also hit by a pitch on Thursday, the 7th time this year he has been hit.
  • Closer Greg Holland returned from the disabled list this week, sending Yohan Pino down to Omaha. The Royals bullpen also saw the return of Luke Hochevar in Thursday’s game, throwing an inning of work, giving up no hits and striking out 2. If the key part of this pen stays healthy, it could be scary good. Holland, Davis, Herrera, Madson and Hochevar by themselves is a frightening thought for opposing teams. As much weight as we’ve put into the rotation needing to go deeper into games, the same argument could be made that as long as the starters go 5 innings, the bullpen can pick up the rest of the heavy lifting. Scary thought, folks.

kc5

Tweets of Royalty    

 

kc6

So another series win for the Royals and that will lead into a big weekend in Detroit, as Kansas City takes on the Tigers for 3 games. Methinks this will be a fun series that will have the feel of a pennant race, as it should. Yordano Ventura should return on Friday night, off suspension, and Sunday night the game will be on ESPN, which most of us longtime Royals fans know doesn’t happen very often(are the Red Sox/Yankees not playing this weekend?). A series win in Detroit would be huge, especially since the Royals will continue their road trip to Texas for 4 games next week. You have to love this feeling, that of a Royals team that is contending and is near the top of the division. In all honesty, that is all I’ve ever really wanted. The Royals and Tigers games should be considered a big deal, as it has become a big rivalry the last 2 years. Now lets take 2 of 3 and leave Detroit in first place!

 

In the Eye of the Tigers: Royals Split Series With Division Foe Detroit

kc1

May came in with a flurry on Friday and it also meant the Detroit Tigers were in Kansas City for a 4 game series against the Royals. I can’t even remember the last time a series in May(May!!) brought this much excitement, as many believe the American League Central could come down to these two teams in September. Not only was this a big series early on, but the fans of Kansas City showed up at ‘The K ‘ as if the division was on the line. In fact attendance has been spectacular so far in 2015, as even night games in the middle of the week are showing good attendance numbers. But the games still have to be played and this series had a little bit of everything in it. As a longtime Royals fan, it was nice to have this kind of excitement and the ‘October Buzz’ floating around this early in the series. So what all went down? Venture on for an in depth look at October feelings in May.

kc2

Series MVP: Eric Hosmer

It wasn’t a blow away series for the Royals offense this past weekend, but it was a very productive one for Eric Hosmer. Hosmer went 5 for 16 this weekend, accumulating 3 extra base hits, including his 3rd home run of the season. It was probably his best series of the year, as he stockpiled 10 total bases, and slugged at a .625 clip with 2 RBI’s. Maybe the most impressive stat on Hosmer this series was a BAbip of .444. To me, having Hosmer excel in a big series(even in May) is what the Royals need and hopefully he continue his consistency as of late. He still sometimes swings at pitches that he shouldn’t even be acknowledging, but his approach at the plate has improved and the numbers show that so far. My favorite stat of his so far this year are his numbers in high leverage situations. The last few years Hosmer has struggled in clutch situations, but so far in 2015 he has looked like a different batter when it really matters. He is only hitting .176 but he has an OBP of . 364(thanks to 5 walks in the clutch) and a slugging percentage of .588. He has 2 of his 3 home runs in these tight spots, driving in 6. The numbers show a batter who has been a little bit ‘all or nothing’ in these spots(mainly homers and walks), but overall we might be seeing a batter start to really show the potential we have been salivating over for the last 5 years. I will take these numbers from Hosmer every time Detroit and Kansas City clash; at this point lowering his strikeouts would be about the only complaint I really have with Hos.

kc3

Pitching Performance of the Series: Danny Duffy

I’ve been a little down on Duffy so far this season. He hasn’t pitched horribly, mind you. But he has looked more like the Duffy who had high pitch counts and wasn’t very efficient than the Duffman we saw in 2014, the one who felt like a legitimate top of the rotation starter. On Thursday night he looked like last year’s Duffy and it was glorious. Duffy threw 7 innings, giving up 7 hits and 1 run while walking 2 and striking out 7, all in 101 pitches. In the biggest series to this point in the season, Danny Duffy went out there and was very gnar.  I think we all hope at this point that this is  the Duffy we will see the majority of the time going forward. The Royals rotation definitely needs it and I still believe that Duffy is the key to this season. The rotation has had question marks as of late and Duffy’s start was one of 3 really great starts in this series. More on that in just a moment.

kc4

When Kelvin Met Miggy 

Friday night had one of those epic moments that make you love being a baseball fan. There is nothing quite like a fastball pitcher battling it out with the greatest hitter of this generation(I’m assuming no one is going to argue with me on that point?). In the 8th inning on Friday, with the Royals up 4-1 over Detroit, Kelvin Herrera would walk Ian Kinsler, bringing Miguel Cabrera up to the plate with the bases loaded. I can’t do this at bat justice, as it was easily one of the best things I have seen so far in 2015, but Craig Brown of Royals Authority did a great piece on the 10 pitch battle, really going in-depth and breaking down the at bat. Good stuff. At the end of the day, Herrera would get the better of Miggy and send him back to the dugout. Herrera was shaky that inning, but in the end he kept things in line and left Kansas City with the lead. Just an amazing at bat, and one you should watch if you have not already seen it. The look on Cabrera’s face at the end is worth another view, even if you have seen it.

kc5

Now, onto more newsworthy notes of this epic battle between the 1st and 2nd place teams in the American League Central:

  • I mentioned earlier that Danny Duffy’s start wasn’t the only great start of this series, and in fact there were 2 other great candidates for the pitching performance of this series. On Friday, Chris Young got his first start as a Royal, filling in as Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura were both serving their suspensions. He only went 5 innings, gave up 0 hits, 0 runs, walking 3 and striking out 9. Just a phenomenal start for a guy who is basically the 6th starter for the Royals(in other words, the guy you use to ‘break glass in case of emergency’). Sure, the no-hit thing is great, but 9 strikeouts?? From a guy who only throws in the high 80’s? Just awesome. Then on Saturday night, Volquez returned from his suspension and pitched a classic pitchers duel against Detroit’s David Price. Just another quality start for Eddie, going 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs while walking 3 and striking out 4. The walks were a bit up for Volquez but he was able to get out of some tight spots. This weekend showed that when the rotation wants to it can be a plus for the team. Now they just need Guthrie and Vargas to pick up some slack.
  • Alcides Escobar was placed on the 7 day disabled list at the beginning of this series, but Christian Colon has looked like a very competent replacement. Colon is riding an 8 game hitting streak at the moment, going 4 for 13 this series and playing some sparkling defense as well.
  • Lorenzo Cain dropped his appeal of his 2 game suspension on Sunday, meaning he will return to action on Wednesday night against Cleveland.
  • Yohan Pino continues to excel out of the bullpen for the Royals. In 10.2 innings, Pino has given up only 7 hits, 0 runs, no walks and 8 strikeouts. This from a guy who was basically signed to be insurance down in Omaha. There is unfortunately a roster crunch if closer Greg Holland comes back this week and it looks like Pino might be the one who gets sent down. Even if so, I have a feeling we will be seeing him again this season.

kc6

Tweets of Royalty

 

kc7

So the Royals split this series with the Tigers and the Royals will travel to Detroit this upcoming weekend for 3 games in the Motor City. I know I should be happy with a split, but after those first 2 games of the series I was really hoping for a series win. The Royals have Cleveland up next, as the Indians are in for 3 at Kauffman Stadium and one can only hope this series goes like the one in Cleveland last week. The Royals will get Cain back from suspension on Wednesday and Yordano Ventura should be back on Friday. May has always been a tough month for the Royals and hopefully they are able to not endure the cesspool that has been May the last two years. If it does, Dale Sveum should start looking for work. The Royals now sit in 2nd place in the Central, just 1/2 a game out of first. A solid week could return them to first as they battle within their own division. Contending baseball is fun folks. This is what Kansas City Royals baseball is in 2015.

 

Kickstart the Offense: Royals Take 2 of 3 from Indians

kc1

Normally, when discussing the strengths of the Kansas City Royals a lot of time is spent on the team’s pitching and defense, especially the last couple of seasons. So a month into 2015 and a lot of space has been spent on…the offense? Yep, the Royals offense(outside of a few blurps) has been a force so far this year while the starting pitching has been a struggle to say the least. After a series in Chicago where the Royals offense looked more like the 2014 version, the Royals bats returned with some thump this week against Cleveland, helping the team take 2 of 3 from the Indians and setting themselves up for a fun series in Kansas City this weekend against the Tigers. So how lethal were the bats in Cleveland? Onward and upward to a deeper discussion about this series.

kc2

Series MVP: Mike Moustakas 

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the Mike Moustakas we are used to. Moose killed Cleveland pitching this week, going 8 for 14, including a 4 hit game on Monday. It probably helped a bit that the Indians hadn’t gotten the memo that Moustakas can now hit the ball to left field and has been doing it regularly in 2015. Cleveland insisted on putting the shift on Moose early in the game on Monday and it took about 2-3 at bats before they realized that maybe that wasn’t the wisest move. In fact, thanks to Cleveland,  Moose’s batting average went up 40 points and his slugging percentage went up 25 points. Now, Moustakas only drove in 2 runs in the series but he would also score 4, which meant his being on base did turn into some Kansas City runs. As more time is passing and Moustakas continues to hit, one has to seriously wonder if he is for real and if so, is there a player who has so drastically changed his approach from one season to the next? No matter what, this new Moose is one that has earned his spot near the top of the lineup and seems to be locked in at the moment. This is truly the dawning of a new age for the Royals offensively and Moustakas is leading the charge.

kc3

Pitching Performance of the Series: Ryan Madson

Since we are now a month into the season, there has to be some concern thrown the way of the Royals starting rotation. Being flat out honest, they are just not getting things done. Luckily for Kansas City, the bullpen is an unmatched dominant force that is already setting records. A big surprise so far is the performance of former big league closer Ryan Madson, who hadn’t pitched in a major game since 2011 before this year and has looked like his old self so far this year:

Even a month into the season, it appears that the Madson signing is another shrewd move by Dayton Moore(it is weird to now say that with sincerity). He kept that up with his 2 games against Cleveland this week. Combined, Madson threw 2.1 innings, giving up 1 hit, and 1 run while walking none and striking out 4. So take out the home run by Roberto Perez on Wednesday and he would have been spotless. I don’t want to downplay Madson’s performance but this column would be completely different if the rotation had performed better in this series, which we will discuss in a moment. But it is nice to know that if something major would happen to HDH, Madson could step in and the Royals wouldn’t lose much performance-wise.

kc4

Concussions Are Not Cool

A scary moment occurred in Wednesday’s game as the Royals Alcides Escobar was hit near the left earflap of his helmet by a 96 mph fastball from Indians pitcher Danny Salazar. Escobar would eventually walk off with help from the Royals trainers but there has been concerns since about Escobar’s health, especially considering a possible concussion. Escobar was placed on the 7 day disabled list, which teams can use in situations like this when there is the possibility of a concussion and recalled infielder Orlando Calixte from Omaha. Hitters getting beaned is about as scary as it gets and often harkens thoughts back to Ray Chapman, an infielder in the early 1900’s who was hit in the head by a pitch in 1920, killing him. So despite the talk that Escobar could have possibly played this weekend, there was enough concern when he took the concussion test to place him on the disabled list. I can’t begin to tell you how freaked out I get when a batter(or even a pitcher) gets hit in the head with the ball. Watch at your own risk:

Hopefully Escobar is able to bounce back and can return once his 7 days are up. You hope it’s not a situation like Justin Morneau, who took a number of years to bounce back from a concussion he received while getting kneed in the head sliding into second base. That is worse case scenario here, but it is something that floats in anyone’s mind when getting hit above the shoulders.

kc5

Now onto other notes from a series where the Royals offense felt like Stella:

  • I mentioned earlier that the Royals rotation has been less than efficient. Honestly, the numbers don’t lie:

7 out of 21 is not a good number(1/3 of the team’s starts) and pales in comparison to what we have seen these last couple of seasons. The biggest detriments to the rotation has been Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas, who both started in Cleveland. Both did get through 5 innings, with Vargas giving up 2 earned runs and Guthrie giving up 4. Guthrie is still walking way too many batters and it does appear as if his tendency of allowing baserunners has finally caught up to him. Add in Yordano Ventura’s Wednesday start, where he dealt with control issues and when he did throw strikes they were hit hard, and you have some extra innings being thrown by the Royals bullpen. It helps that Kansas City has a phenomenal bullpen, but it would be nice for their starters to pitch deeper into games and throw more efficient. It’s still early but if it continues too much longer it will probably need addressed.

  • Kendrys Morales more and more looks like 2012-2013 Morales rather than last years debacle and it has really benefited the middle of that Kansas City order. He drove in 5 runs this series, is still hitting over .300 and slugging close to .500. It’s nice to see former Royal Billy Butler excel in Oakland so far, but it is also nice that to this point, the Morales signing has been a plus. Hopefully it keeps up and I can eat my words from when he was signed by Kansas City.
  • During this series Edinson Volquez dropped his appeal of his 5 game suspension and Yordano Ventura dropped his appeal on Thursday, which leaves Volquez back on the mound Saturday and Ventura on May 8th.
  • Alex Gordon is on a hot streak and hit a monster blast on Tuesday. How long you ask? According to Statcast, Gordon’s home run measured 468 ft., the longest of his career.
  • And another strong series for Eric Hosmer, who might not be hitting for as much power as we’d like, but he has been solid most of this year. Hosmer went 5 for 13 against the Indians, hitting his 2nd home run of the year, driving in 3 and raising his slugging percentage 45 points. His approach at the plate is much improved and one can only hope he keeps things consistent throughout the upcoming summer months.

kc6

Tweets of Royalty

 

kc7

So another series win for the Royals as they welcome Detroit into town for 4 big games at ‘The K’. Yes, it is only the beginning of May, but this is as big as it gets this early in the season. I think Kansas City would like to see some quality starts from the rotation and the offense to continue to excel. It will be interesting to see how these two teams matchup, as it doesn’t even feel like the same two teams from last September(which in some ways is true). The run through the Central division continues next week as Cleveland makes their first trip to Kansas City on Tuesday. It might be May, but honestly, the way this team is playing it feels more like October. Honestly folks, can we really ask for much more? It is good to be a Kansas City Royals fan.

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑