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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tweets of Royalty
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.