Alcides Escobar: All-Star?

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It’s amazing what a year can do. Last year at this time we were wondering what had happened to Alcides Escobar’s offense. Was the Royals shortstop just pressing? Was the loss of Kevin Seitzer hurting him? Or was 2012 a fluke? It was apparent ‘Shortstop Jesus‘ had to change something about his hitting approach before reporting to Arizona for spring training. Sure, Escobar is dynamic on defense and that alone would almost assure his spot in the lineup. But if Esky continued to lack offensively, it would only be a matter of time until the Royals started looking for different options. Luckily, he promised a more patient approach at the plate this spring and so far he has delivered. 2012 was a career year for him offensively, but so far he is challenging that this year. But is he hitting good enough to earn him an All-Star spot? Let’s take a look.

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Let’s start with what at this point is a pretty well known fact; Derek Jeter will be at the All-Star game and will probably start. Yes, his numbers won’t justify it, but sometimes it isn’t about the numbers(I know, it’s weird to hear me say that). So Jeter will take up one slot for shortstops, which will probably leave two open slots. I have found four candidates for those two slots who are having good enough seasons to warrant consideration: Escobar, Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox, Erick Aybar of the Angels and Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox. All four players are having outstanding offensive and defensive seasons and seem to be the elite of the American League this year. In all honesty, none are bad candidates for the midsummer classic, but like always, not all will go.

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So I went to the ‘RoyalTron 2000′(or I just looked up stats from Fangraphs, Baseball Reference and ESPN) and took a look at the American League shortstops and where they rank statistically. I figured to go with more basic stats for the most part(Runs, Hits, Batting Average, On-base percentage, OPS, WAR, and Runs Created), otherwise I figured I would be swimming in stats and not find my way out of that rabbit hole. The first thing that was almost immediately pointed out was that Alexei Ramirez should be a lock for a spot. Ramirez is currently sitting at either first or second in all of those categories except for runs(in which he is in third) and most have him sitting in first. So Ramirez should be a lock for an All-Star spot.

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This will leave one spot open for Escobar, Aybar and Bogaerts to fight over. Bogaerts placements are the most interesting, as half of the stats have him in fifth or seventh place, including seventh place in WAR. But he also ranks first in both OBP and OPS and second in RC. Those seem to point out his offensive potential that Boston sees in him and are great numbers for a guy in his rookie season. Also, those stats are probably the most important out of all of the ones I picked(other than WAR) and hold a bit more weight than the others. So despite his lower rankings in hits, runs and batting average, it is showing that Bogaerts is getting on base at a good clip and hitting for some power as well.

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So what are Aybar and Escobar bringing to the table? Aybar is ranking in second or third place 5 of the 7 categories, placing second in WAR and third in OPS and RC. His defense has definitely helped bump up his WAR number, despite being fifth in OBP. Escobar meanwhile is ranking second or third in 4 out of the 7 categories, including third in WAR and OBP. I would say at this point Escobar and Aybar are pretty even, although the defensive metrics seem to favor Aybar a bit more than Alcides, which would explain a higher WAR on his part.

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So between the three, who should get the final spot? It’s a tough choice, one in which you can make arguments for all three players. Fangraphs broke it down even farther, picking their team based on WAR(outside of Jeter, who they acknowledge as well will be there) and pick Aybar and Bogaerts. I’m a bit surprised that Ramirez was slighted by them, since he has the best WAR of all the shortstops in the American League. The argument for Bogaerts is based on his offensive production, which is notable and Aybar gets some help from his glove. It would appear that in spite of his improved numbers across the board(and you can glimpse those pearly numbers for yourself right here)that Escobar will be the one on the outside looking in, as either Aybar or Bogaerts will claim that final spot at shortstop.

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The positive to take from all of this is that there is a serious discussion and argument for Alcides to make the American League All-Star roster. His batting this season has improved enough that his defense isn’t the only thing mentioned when his name is brought up, even by rival executives. As a fan, I couldn’t be happier. Escobar has been a personal favorite of mine since his acquisition and I was personally rooting for him this past off-season. With Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and Greg Holland the probable picks for the Royals All-Star’s again this year, it appears Esky will be on the outside looking in. Don’t worry though; we will always have these fantastic plays to remind us how good of a shortstop Escobar really is.

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Questions with Getzie: The Canadian Version

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He might be across the border, but it’s time once again for ‘Questions with Getzie’, where former Kansas City Royals second baseman Chris Getz answers you, the fans, questions. Getz is now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, who recently made a trip to Kansas City to play the Royals, but still has a few fans in the city of fountains. Getz was also designated for assignment by Toronto over the weekend, so he is still a part of the organization, even if he isn’t on the big league roster. With Getz’s future in limbo, we figured we would take the time today and let him answer some questions Royals fans have had since he left Kansas City (or how I think he would answer them). So with a passport in our hand and a Labatt Blue in the other, it’s time now for Questions with Getzie!

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So how do you like Toronto, Getzie?-David, Lawrence, KS

Golly gee, it’s great! There is so much in Toronto to take in and be a part of. I’ve gotten to check out the CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Canada’s Wonderland! Actually, I spent one whole day in the water park at Wonderland and couldn’t get enough of the slip-n-slide! More than anything though I love the people. I’ve made a really special friend in Toronto, and he just happens to be their mayor! Rob is a great guy and I never have a dull time when we are cruising around town, searching for his friends. All in all I really hope I am able to make it back to the big club so I can enjoy the great city.

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How did it feel to come back and play against the Royals?-Clint, Lexington, MO

Shucks, it was a blast getting to see everyone. It was a little weird at first, but when Neddy saw me and ran toward me to give me a big hug, it felt like I had almost won the World Series! We talked about bunting and he told me not to listen to anything that Seitzer instructed me on. We went out for root beer floats before each of the games and he told me they left my locker empty in the clubhouse. The only weird thing was how long Lee held me in his embrace when he saw me. Mr. Judge is a really nice guy, but I sometimes think he would do good drawing more cartoons and not try to snapchat with me so much. I felt really comfortable playing at the K, which is probably why that was the only place I’ve gotten a hit at this year. I hope I get to make a return trip back soon. Dayton said he is still trying to get me back “home” but we’ll see.

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Chris, it was great to see you a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been burying Gio every chance I get in my columns, hoping that everyone else starts wanting you back. Next time you are in town let me know and you can crash at my place. PS-if only I could have held you a bit longer…-Lee, Kansas City, MO

Um, Lee, I think I’ll just stay at the hotel. The shrine you have set up at your house is creepy. And quit teasing Gio; he’s a good kid!

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Since you’ve been with both teams, how would you compare offenses of Toronto and Kansas City?-Michael, Excelsior Springs, MO 

Darn, that is a hard one! I think the two offenses focus on different things. Toronto likes to get these things called “extra base hits”, especially home runs. Neddy always used to say those are rally killers. I keep trying to convince everyone to bunt more and play for one run, but Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion just chuckle and walk away. I think I fit in better with Kansas City’s offense, but I seem to cross home plate more in Toronto. I can easily say both offenses are juggernauts, just in different ways!

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I would just like to point out here that I have a big league job right now and you don’t! Plus, I hit another home run. You do remember what those are, right? Suck it, Getzie!-Johnny, Metairie, LA

Golly, you finally made it to the big show! Congrats, champ! I know I don’t hit a lot of homers, but I occasionally flash my warning track power. In a month get a hold of me and we can discuss the differences between Omaha and Buffalo. Keep those dreams alive, kid!

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What are your thoughts on the new Royals second baseman, Omar Infante?-Sam, Olathe, KS

Shucks, I have nothing but respect for Omar! He’s a great second baseman and a great guy in general. If I had to choose someone to replace me, Infante is about as good as they could have done. He needs a little work on his bunting, but with some help from Neddy he can get there. I wish Omar nothing but the best of luck.

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How do you feel about the continuing struggles of Mike Moustakas and how Kansas City is sticking with him?-Andy, Warrensburg, MO

That is a tough situation to be in. Moose is a good guy and I am rooting for him. Luckily for him, Neddy is good about giving people second chances. Sometimes even five or six chances! All he needs to do is listen to Neddy and he’ll be fine. He might also want to bunt a bit more. It will help raise that average!

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Getzie, sorry to hear about you getting designated for assignment. I hoped you would get to stay in Toronto for a long time. A very looooong time. Sorry to kick you while you are down. I just worried I wouldn’t get a chance to do this again.-Sean, Emporia, KS

No problems, we are good. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Next time I bunt, it will be just for you!

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Golly, that was a lot of fun! It was great to hear from all of you and I hope we get to do this again real soon! I’m hoping to get back to Toronto so I can play some ball and to catch up on Canadian expressions. I still haven’t figured out what a hoser, loonie,or a two-four is. Until next time remember to bunt like it is the last day on earth…and no Sean, I haven’t been to Moose Knuckle. Although I think it is next to Cabbagetown.

 

A Letter to Toronto Blue Jays Fans

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Greetings Blue Jays Fans!

First off, I want to say that I have no ill will toward your team nor you, the fans. I’ve always loved our neighbors to the North and love that baseball has at least survived in Toronto. You’ve also given me a great joy, seeing former Wichita State Shocker Joe Carter hit a walk-off home run to win the World Series back in 1993. So what I am about to tell you is not a threat as much as a warning.

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You see, as a Kansas City Royals fan I feel I need to warn you about what your team has gone and done. I’m sure you think it is no big deal, and maybe you are right. You might not even have to deal with this, as this could be a bigger issue for your AAA team in Buffalo. But I feel you need to be warned. I feel you need to know about the frustration just around the corner. I feel you need to know just what you have now that the Blue Jays have signed Chris Getz.

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You might be chuckling right now, thinking to yourself “oh, this can’t be that bad.” Royals fans thought the same thing when Getz was acquired from the White Sox before the 2010 season. What has happened over the last four years has scared us to the bone. We didn’t realize we got a player who would be overvalued by management. We didn’t realize that they would think he was ‘#mistakefree’ despite us not being blind. We didn’t think there would be so much bunting….oh, good lord, the bunting. Seriously, there was soooo much bunting. You should go ahead now and just make it against the rules to bunt in Canada. I’m telling you, it will save you so many angry moments.

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I know the Rogers Centre is known to be an offensive ballpark and has quite the home run rate. That might be true, but don’t expect any long bombs from Getzie. I’m not even sure we could say he has “Warning Track Power”. It’s more like “Shallow Right Field Power”. Every now and then he might get lucky; he hit a few homers during his time in Chicago and hit one this past year in Atlanta. But by no means should you expect any extra bases from Getz. He singles, he bunts and sometimes has the occasionally liner down the line. Expect a true ‘Punch & Judy’ type hitter from this average second baseman. Yes, he would be like a Muppet(look up Punch & Judy, folks)! I love the Muppets and Chris Getz is no Muppet. Maybe Scooter. No one really likes Scooter. So maybe that Muppet, but that would be it. Statler and Waldorf laugh at you, sir.

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Defensively, you are getting an average second baseman at best. Sure, you might get told he is  above average defensively, but they are lying to you. Getz is serviceable at second, but he is nothing special. He’s a step slower than he should be, and makes the routine play easily enough. But that is it. Once again, we were told over and over what a great defensive player he is. Royals management forgot that a lot of us saw Frank White play. That is a superior defensive player. Getzie is no Frank White.

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At this point you might be thinking “but what are the chances he actually makes the big league club”? Under normal circumstances I would tell you a slim chance, but logically he shouldn’t have been the Royals primary second baseman for almost four years. Logic doesn’t always win out in the end. Add in that Toronto’s manager is John Gibbons(former Royals bench coach) and their new hitting coach is Kevin Seitzer(former Royals hitting coach) and you can see where Getz might have just jumped to the front of the line for the Blue Jays second base job. I mean, it’s not like Ryan Goins tore up the majors last year during his stint with the Jays. I hope for you, the fans, sake that logic wins out.

Chris Getz of the Kansas City Royals turns a double play against Atlanta's Juan Francisco

So Blue Jays fans, I hope I have warned you to what you might have in store this year. Getz will bring back warm feelings about Damaso Garcia or Danny Ainge. Hell, he will make you yearn for the days of Garth Iorg or Homer Bush. If you like an average player who does nothing spectacular but a few things okay, then you’ll be happy. If you prefer your players to use ‘bunting’ as a big part of their offense, you are going to want to make Chris Getz an official Canadian citizen. If not, you are in for a year where you start looking around to see who Toronto could acquire to play second base. You’ll hope and pray that the team wakes up and realizes their mistake. You’ll wish it was all a dream and that you’ll find Patrick Duffy in the shower. I hope you don’t understand this frustration, Blue Jays fans. But if you do, trust me when I say that us Royals fans will feel your pain. He might be your problem now, but we still have the scars from the four years of Getz.

Sincerely,

Sean Thornton

P.S.~Should I warn Cleveland fans about Francoeur? Eh, they’ll figure it out…   

The Ken Harvey Memorial Blooper Reel(Or Some of the Funniest Baseball Bloopers I’ve Ever Seen)

Cincinnati Reds v Houston Astros

Baseball plays 162 regular season games for every team. Then add at the minimum 20 playoff games. With that amount of action, something silly, weird or gross is bound to happen. Bloopers are almost as much a part of the game as popcorn, cracker jacks, and the drunk girl at a game who climbs into the fountains…

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Anyway, I love bloopers. So here are a list of weird, funny or out and out strange things that have happened at the ballpark.

Kevin Seitzer Wishes He Was a Hoover

We all hate the little dribbler down the line. Time is spent waiting to find out whether the ball is going to stay fair or go foul. If that doesn’t work, you try to blow it foul…

Not great audio, but you get the point. Seitzer tried pulling a “Lenny Randle” and failed. But he tried and trying is half the battle, or something. Welcome to Cliche Island. Seitzer was at least creative in his attempt to get the ball to go foul. If only he was that creative while working with Eric Hosmer’s swing in 2012…actually, he might have the better gig now in Toronto.

Phillip Wellman & His Flashbacks

Look, managing a baseball team is hard work. You have to keep track of 25 guys. You then have to remember their names. All of them. You have to pay attention for an entire game. You must make sure someone knows to refill the jug of water. Most of all, you must completely go crazy arguing a call on the field and do it in a creative way.

No one knew who Wellman was before this. Actually, no one does now. But if you mention the minor league manager who uses a rosin bag as a grenade, people remember. That guy. I’m not sure what he is up to nowadays. But I do know the bar has been raised for manager arguments with umpires. Speaking of…

Lloyd McClendon is Taking His Base & Going Home

This is one of my favorites. Sure, you can go crazy like Lou Piniella or Earl Weaver. You can kick dirt, cuss like a sailor, and yell till your face looks like that one kid from Willy Wonka who just HAD to chew that bubblegum-

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-OR…you can just walk off with a base. Like former Pirates manager & current Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.

Personally, I like the quiet and methodical plan. It does go to show you that yes, you can steal first base.

David Ortiz vs. A Phone

This isn’t a blooper as much as a major meltdown. Look, I hate AT&T’s service as much as anyone, and god forbid you ever have to actually call them, but defiling the bullpen phone might not have been the answer to his problems.

Few things to learn from this. One, Ortiz really believes he knows the strike zone. Like, REALLY. Two, do not sit near him when he loses his mind, or you might end up with part of a phone in your eye(Dustin Pedroia is VERY lucky). And third, I now see that he not only acts like Tony Montana, but sounds like him as well.

Jose Canseco FINALLY Uses his Head

This is a classic. To be fair here to Jose, he wasn’t exactly known for his defense. Also, his career was on the downside at this point anyway. Plus, Cleveland’s old stadium sucked. It was so bad they filmed the movie “Major League” in Milwaukee and acted like it was Cleveland. We knew better.

This is what Jose Canseco will forever be known for. Or for steroids. Or for trying MMA.

Probably not that last one. God, Jose. I’m trying to remember a time where you weren’t a joke. Just admit it was Ozzie doing all these things and all is good.

Ruben Rivera runs…He Runs so far away…

Ruben Rivera was a former top prospect for the Yankees that never really panned out. I have to assume baserunning had something to do with it…

The funny thing is, I remember a play close to this happening when I was in Little League. For the sake of me deciding to be a nice guy, a kid on the other team(who I won’t name) couldn’t figure out which way to run. His entire team was yelling at him to go the other way. Instead, he continued to try and take a detour. But this was in Little League. Rivera did this in a major league game. The bad part is, Jean Segura did something like this just this past season.

Just want to reiterate here, these are major leaguers. Who don’t know how to run the bases. Yikes.

BEES!!!!!

I wish Alfred Hitchcock had written about bees instead of birds. Or maybe this was punishment for Padres fans to have to watch Sterling Hitchcock pitch. I’m picturing Ron Burgundy covering this story…

By the way, cool beekeeper outfit. I should add that to my wish list for Christmas. Just a month away, folks!

Chris Getz Blooper

I typed that into YouTube. This is what popped up. I agree, YouTube!

I’m still surprised Getzie wasn’t on the BioGenesis list…

When Ed Whitson takes his shirt off, you know business has just picked up…

Maybe the greatest baseball brawl of all time is this classic between the Braves and Padres back in 1984. I’m thinking there was more fighting than baseball being played in Atlanta that night.

Pascual Perez with a bat. Ed Whitson without a shirt. A Craig Lefferts sighting. And the smooth styling’s of Todd Rundgren…

They just don’t make baseball brawls like they used to…

Ken Harvey, you are simply the best

There is a reason that this article was named after Ken Harvey. The former Kansas City Royals first baseman really felt like the human blooper. Like this.

Harvey also once got tangle up in the tarp at Kauffman Stadium. There isn’t video of this, so here is an awesome picture.

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Harvey also once(or twice) got hit in the back with a relay throw. Once again, no footage, but it really made you wonder why that guy kept getting to play in the field. So thank you, Ken Harvey. We miss the utter lunacy of having you on the Royals.

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The man they call Pence

No list of odd and strange is complete without something from Hunter Pence. Enjoy.

BREAKING NEWS: George Brett New Royals Interim Hitting Coach, Maloof and David Reassigned

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Well, my ‘no writing about the Royals’ lasted a whole two days. If you read my last article(in which I vented my spleen) you know a big part of my discontent with the Royals was them not making any changes while the team was sucking like a 40 year old hooker. Well, they’ve made a change but hopefully it’s not the last. It was announced earlier today that Royals hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David were being reassigned to the minor leagues and George Brett and Pedro Grifol as the new interim hitting coaches. To say there are a number of interesting tidbits from this move might be an understatement. Let’s start with the one that most Royals fans are excited about: #5 is will be back in the dugout.

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There is no bigger name in Kansas City Royals baseball history than George Brett. There is Brett, then a long ways till you get to runner up Frank White, who is probably the second most popular Royal ever. Brett is one of the few players who stayed with one team his entire career and even stayed with that team after his retirement. George is Kansas City Royals baseball. It’s interesting to see him leave the front office and take a position on the field though. Brett has helped out in Spring Training for the Royals for years, but it always seemed like he enjoyed not having to adhere to the daily rigors of being a major league coach. Being Vice President gave Brett the chance to remain in the organization while not having to deal with the day-to-day pains. George could go the park, talk to some fans, be Mr. Royal and then be done. He could golf all day and then just sit back and enjoy the game that night. He literally had the best of both worlds. So it’s more than curious to see Brett now go out on the road with Kansas City and be with the team every day. One would have to think this isn’t a long term thing, which is probably why the ‘interim’ label was thrown on there. My first thought was ‘he is going to do this until he misses being out on the golf course’. I very well could be right on that, but for now he is going to try and help the Royals fix their hitting woes. Maybe start having Jeff Francoeur hit off a tee. Sorry, couldn’t resist. One thing he can understand is struggling at the major league level early in his career.

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Brett won the Royals third base job in 1974, but struggled early and often. The team sent him to the minors for awhile(much like the team has done in recent years with Alex Gordon and Billy Butler) but when he was brought back George started to work with Royals hitting coach Charley Lau. Lau reconstructed Brett’s swing and turned him from a struggling prospect to one of the best hitters in the game. I have to believe some of that wisdom that Lau pounded into his brain has kept all these years later and can be passed down to the guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. If anything, Brett knows how to hit in Kauffman Stadium. After the gibberish Jack Maloof sputtered out yesterday, I can just imagine what those hitting coaches were telling the Royals hitters. George won’t sugar coat anything and will tell a hitter if he is doing something fundamentally wrong. I can already imagine the conversation he might have with Francoeur. I honestly believe the best thing about having Brett as the hitting coach is that he will preach hitting the gaps, which is what the Royals hitters should be doing. Three-fourths of the Royals hitters are more gap hitters than power hitters, so asking them to hit more home runs is ridiculous. But asking them to hit for extra bases or hit with authority is not. One can only hope that having a legend in the dugout can reach some of these guys and turn things around. But this isn’t the sole reason Brett is coming in.

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I have no way of actually confirming this, but my gut tells me the Royals put Brett in there as a PR move. If so, it makes sense. Kansas City fans love George. After all this time, he is still our favorite. Probably always will be. I can’t ever see a way where we turn on Brett. So putting him in this slot assures we never complain about it. It also takes the heat off of Neddy Yost and Dayton Moore, as Royals fan have been asking for their heads for weeks now. The Royals fanbase has been utterly pissed the last three weeks and have wanted a change to happen with this team instead of continuing to let the season spiral down the drain. Putting Brett in there shifts the focus and appeases the fans–for now. Most of us are smart enough to see this for what it is, but are still happy to see George. But he won’t be handling this job alone.

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I’ll be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about Pedro Grifol. I can tell you he was in the Seattle Mariners organization for 13 years and worked both as a manager and within the Seattle farm system in a number of roles. It does seem like the hitting coaches job will eventually go to Grifol, and from the little I have read it seems like a good call. In fact, you can read some of Grifol’s thinking here.  It sounds like Grifol has a good idea of what he wants from his hitters and what he would want to work on. Working with younger players has been his forte, so working in Kansas City will be perfect. There is a good chance at first he will be the one to preach whatever philosophy Brett wants to incorporate. All in all, I expect Grifol to work closely with George before eventually gaining the reigns of the position.

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Maybe one of the more puzzling moves in all of this is the re-assigning of Maloof and David. Both seemed like competent guys. Hell, Tony Gwynn had given Maloof his seal of approval. But it was obvious whatever they were teaching wasn’t working. I’m even surprised he was hired in the first place, as Maloof was NEVER  a power hitter throughout his playing career. In fact, he was more of a singles hitter who walked a lot–just like Kevin Seitzer. To top it off, that interview Maloof did was maybe one of the most confusing things I’ve ever read. If that was actually what Maloof believes, that the Royals shouldn’t even try to hit homeruns at the K, then he deserves to be fired. Just mind boggingly stupid comments. If it was Maloof going out there and trying to deflect the heat off of Yost, then mission accomplished. If it was Maloof wanting to jump off of a sinking ship, then he is a genius. No matter what, I’m not for sure I still want this guy in the Royals organization. Let’s hope he doesn’t preach his beliefs to the Royals minor leaguers, if those are in fact his beliefs. Sure seems like a firing here would have been a lot less messy.

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So will this move help the Royals? At this point, any change is good. I mean seriously: can it get any worse than it has been the last three weeks? The main thing is for the Royals hitters to listen and work on Brett and Grifol’s teachings. There is no guarantee this move will work, and in a lot of ways this is just a tiny band aid over a giant gash in the chest of this franchise. The real move that should be made is firing Moore and Yost and revamping the whole system. But for now, there is at least an effort being made. For us old time fans, seeing George once again in Royal Blue with the #5 across his back will be a great sight. Trust me, a loud ovation will be had at the first game back at the K next week. But there is a larger problem here that no legend can fix. More needs to be coming. Firing everyone and starting over seems to be the best idea for the future of this franchise. This is just step one.

The Breaking Point: A Lack of Accountability

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This very well might be my last post for awhile. To say the last three weeks have been frustrating would be an understatement. It’s not even that the Kansas City Royals have fallen into a giant rut that they can’t seem to climb their way out of. Let’s be honest: as Royals fans we are used to the losing. In fact, in some way we have grown accustomed to it. Losing and the Royals have gone hand and hand ever since the end of the 1994 baseball strike. There was one glimmer of hope(2003), one season of winning in Kansas City, but that has been it. It was gone as soon as it arrived. But this year was supposed to be different and during the first month of the season it appeared to be different. Anyone remember being 17-10 and being in first place? Seems like months ago, but it did happen.

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No, the losing isn’t why most Royals fans are up in arms. In fact, some of us expected them to be under .500 this year. No, it’s the way the team is losing, and how management is choosing(or not choosing) to deal with it. It has been very apparent since that fateful Monday afternoon in Kansas City about three weeks ago that the wheels have fallen off the bus. This whole slide can be pointed at the James Shields game against Chicago as being the starting point. Shields was dominating the Pale Hose and it seemed Chicago had no answer for ‘Big Game’ James. Shields was rolling but manager Neddy Yost felt that with a one run lead it was time to pull Shields in the ninth. Greg Holland came in to do his closer duties, but unfortunately for the Royals that meant coughing up the lead. The White Sox would come back to score again in the 10th inning, winning the game and making many Royals fans question Neddaniel’s decision. The problem wasn’t bringing in Holland, who had been pretty untouchable over his previous 6-9 appearances. The issue was that just two days before, Yost had kept Jeremy Guthrie in for the ninth inning, in a game where he was less dominating than Shields had been. His answer was that Guthrie had a two run lead, while Shields had a one run lead. I don’t really see that big of a difference, but it did seem to show a lack of consistency on Yost’s part. Anyway, since that game the Royals have been awful, and have not played like a team who once was in control of first place in the American League Central. There is a big part of the team that has fallen off the board, and it is something that was a problem in 2012 but ignored in the offseason; the offense.

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To say the Royals offense has been a disappointment over the last few weeks would be an understatement. There are so many fingers to point, but only so many fingers. Here’s an easy way to cover this; Gordon has been superb. Salvador Perez has gotten hot before taking a bereavement leave. Billy Butler is at least taking some walks. That’s pretty much it. Mike Moustakas is (still)hitting under .200. Wonderboy Chris Getz is right around there. Same goes for Jeff Francoeur. Lorenzo Cain has hit his first slump of the season, even though he is still hitting .295. Alcides Escobar has struggled mightily, falling to around .250 while Eric Hosmer is hitting a bit better but showing no power. This punchless offense can’t seem to muster very many extra base hits, but can single the crap out of you. It might be a good time to add in this team doesn’t draw walks either, last in the American League in that stat as well. Only thing is you need four singles just to knock in a run in that scenario. Sure seems like the team’s struggles last year wasn’t former hitting coach Kevin Seitzer’s fault, now does it? Nedly wanted his team to hit for more power this year, but the team is languishing in last in the American League in that category, and the last two Royals home runs have been hit by 39 year old utility infielder Miguel Tejada. Yes, THAT Miguel Tejada! The Royals pitching has slipped a bit, but they can’t carry all of the load. Having no run support on their part sure makes their job even harder. So you would think with these type of struggles that Kansas City would make some changes, right? You obviously don’t understand the Royals front office brass…

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This would be where it is no longer about just losing. After the Royals lost 2 of 3 games to the Houston Astros(the ASTROS????!!!!), it seemed that something had to happen. Something, anything. It didn’t matter what it was. As much as I would have preferred Yost or Moore being fired, I knew that was probably a long shot. So I would have taken anything to show that they recognize there are problems and that they are being addressed. Could have been sending Mike Moustakas to AAA to fix his swing. Could have been cutting Getz or Francoeur. Could have even been calling up Johnny Giavotella from Omaha. Just anything would have made me happy, made me know that they actually gave a damn. Nope. Nothing. Oh, they realize there is a problem. Yost has mentioned it. Moore has talked about it. Their answer? Do nothing. Wait for the ship to right itself. Moore said it wasn’t time to panic. Wait…what???!! Not time to panic? No Dayton, this IS the time to panic. We were told in the offseason that they were going to contend this year, that the main priority is to win. Instead, we are being preached to again to be patient. Let these younger guys figure it out. It takes time. Well, time is out boys and you need to start giving a damn about this team.

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What it comes down to is accountability. Kansas City and Royals fans have been patient for a long time. Infinitely patient. We still go to the ballpark. We still support this team. We still want to believe that Kansas City can be the toast of baseball again. But Moore is going on seven years now in Kansas City’s front office. Yost is on four. At some point they have to produce results. If your young third baseman is struggling for two months, maybe he needs to go to the minors for a bit. It isn’t a death sentence. Gordon did it. Butler did it. Hell, Brett did it! We sat through Hosmer’s struggles last year and from what we’ve seen this year, we still have the same Eric Hosmer, just one that is going out of his way not to pull ANYTHING. At some point these players need to either play better or be benched. The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. If that is the case, what has Moore and Yost seen from these guys to think they will just pop out of this hole? The real truth is that they staked their jobs on this season and on the team contending. Unfortunately, both have showed their true colors and shown that they can’t do their jobs properly. So the team continues to slide. They continue to look lost at the plate, and they continue to get outplayed by even a lowly team like Houston. The fact that Yost and Moore are doing absolutely nothing about this has pushed me to the point of not caring.

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Almost 30 years of being a Kansas City Royals fan means I have seen the team at their highest(1985) and their lowest(there are a lot of choices here, so pick whichever year you want from the last 18). I can tolerate the losing if there is a concerted effort being made to improve. I know the players are trying and aren’t happy with the way this season has turned on them. But they also have to be held accountability for the stink on this franchise right now. Moore and Yost obviously should be held accountable, and in all honesty this team will probably never get better with the two of them in the positions they currently are in. I can’t support a team who is falling off the tracks and has no plan to get back on it. It’s just too much. So I’m not watching any games. I’m not making a trek to the K. I probably won’t write another Royals related article for awhile here. I can’t do any of that unless there is a change. Like I said, doesn’t have to be Yost or Moore, even though I would love for them to join the unemployment line. But something needs to happen. We can’t be losers forever. If the Royals don’t want to care, then I won’t care. Simple as that. See you guys when the team gets their heads out of their asses.

What Is Working For the Royals…and What Isn’t

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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.

Alex Gordon-Most Underrated Player in Baseball?

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It seems weird to think about how far Alex Gordon has come over the past couple seasons. It seems such a long time ago that Gordon was written off by some as a bust and a failure as a former #1 Draft Pick. Who would have guessed that a move from third base to the outfield would unlock the potential that most felt A1 had all along? But it really isn’t as simple as that. It took more than a position change to get Gordon from where he is at today-as possibly the most underrated player in baseball.

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The first move seemed like a simple, last grasp move by the Royals. After years of being a third baseman, the team sent Gordon to AAA Omaha to work on learning the outfield. The thinking was he would have to think less playing out in left field. But there was more to it than that. From day one, Gordon had been compared to Hall of Famer George Brett. Now, Gordon wasn’t the first Royals prospect to be compared to Brett, and in all honesty probably won’t be the last. Since they played the same position, it was that much easier for everyone to make that comparison. Gordon was supposed to pick this team up and be an All-Star from day one. Instead, he floundered at the plate and in the field. No one will ever know how much pressure Gordon felt,  but playing the same position as the organization’s greatest player makes it that much harder for him to reach those lofty expectations. So Gordon was sent to Omaha in 2010 to learn the outfield and hopefully be the change he needed to tap into the potential of the newest Kansas City savior.

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Changing positions was just step one in unlocking the Gordon everyone wanted to see. Step two was working on his hitting. Gordon had always had a good eye, even when he played at the University of Nebraska. You could even tell that during his rookie season. The bad part was a green rookie from Nebraska wasn’t going to get the calls that a veteran gets. So we saw a lot of Gordon taking strike three calls, pitches that he thought were off the plate. He also started to get a little pull happy, so what once was a hitting machine had turned into a .250 hitter in the major leagues. Add in an attitude of knowing what he was doing, and you have a recipe for disaster. Rumors had floated around for years that one spring Brett tried working with Alex on his hitting, just giving him a few tips. Instead, the word was that Gordon blew him off. I have no idea if this is true or not, but if it was it shows why Gordon struggled at the major league level for such a long time. But by the time 2010 ended, A1 knew something had to change. Insert Kevin Seitzer here.

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In the spring of 2011, former Royals player and then hitting coach Kevin Seitzer began working on Alex Gordon’s swing. The first move was to get him to quit pulling everything. Seitzer was a singles and doubles hitter during his career, and he seemed to preach the same sort of philosophy to his players. Seitzer began teaching Gordon to go up to the plate with a game plan, and also to just think base hits. Gordon himself admitted that for the longest time he was focused on going up and hitting a double or a home run instead of just playing it nice and easy. Most have felt since the day he was drafted that Gordon was a hitter with power and should show that. The problem was that was all he thought about, instead of just keeping it simple. Seitzer re-trained him to be a hitter instead of trying to be a slugger. Once Gordon started seeing results in 2011, everything else fell into place and Gordon swore by Seitzer’s teachings. Even in 2013, with Seitzer out of the picture, you can still see his teachings when watching A1 at the plate. Gordon has evolved into one of the better hitters in all of baseball, as 2011 would eventually show us.

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2011 was Gordon’s coming out party. In 151 games, Gordon hit .303 with 23 homers and 87 RBI’s. Those are just main surface numbers though. Manager Ned Yost also moved A1 to the lead off spot early on in 2011 and was able to boost his numbers even more. Add in 17 steals, 45 doubles, and a WAR of 7.3, and even though Gordon wasn’t your typical lead off batter, he showed a level of comfort with his spot that had never been seen before. The Alex Gordon that we had all hoped to see when he was a rookie was finally here in his 5th year in the league. To top off those numbers, Gordon also proved a quick learner at his new position, with 20 assists in the outfield and a .991 fielding percentage. Thanks to those numbers, Gordon would rack up his first Gold Glove award for his play in left field.

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2012 was more of the same from A1, as he would finish with a .294 average, with 14 home runs and 72 RBI’s. Gordon would also tally 51 doubles to lead the league, but these numbers don’t really stress just how his year evolved. Gordon started out the year slumping, and was bounced around the order most of the year by Yost. Gordon was most comfortable at lead off again, but by August he was regularly batting 3rd in the order and protecting Billy Butler in the lineup. Butler would get most of the press in 2012 for his offensive numbers, but the argument could easily be made that Gordon had just as good a year for Kansas City. Adding to all this was Gordon’s second consecutive Gold Glove Award and finally baseball was paying attention to his defense, if not the total package.

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This year looks to be another stellar year so far, as a month in we are looking at about the same numbers that he has amassed the last few years. So why is Gordon not talked about when mentioning the best players in the game? Obviously, playing in the Kansas City market alone means you won’t get the coverage of a player in Boston, New York or Chicago. But market alone does not dictate why he has been overlooked. Gordon’s power number’s have never been what many in baseball felt he could do, and whether we like it or not, those numbers are still thought of as a prime number to look at to value a player’s worth. Never mind that 51 doubles are just as good as 20 some home runs, especially considering a good number of those help drive in runs. If anyone noticed last year, Billy Butler’s power numbers went up, while his doubles went down a bit. In the grand scheme of things, that is no big deal. But people heard a lot more about Butler in 2012 than they did Gordon. If Gordon had sacrificed a few hits to try to hit the ball out of the park, he might have gotten noticed more. But if he did that, he might not be the player he is today.

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So will 2013 be the year that Alex Gordon is fully recognized for just how good of a ballplayer he has become? With the way he has played so far, there is a good chance he could be making an appearance in the All-Star game come July. His numbers even indicate we could see his home run numbers spike back up near his 2011 total, especially considering he might be the strongest hitter on the team. He has also been the most clutch hitter the Royals have this season. There are very few flaws in his game right now, so it seems he could be poised for his best year yet. I feel bad for some baseball fans that don’t get to watch a player of Gordon’s caliber on a regular basis. When you don’t, you don’t make comments like I made last week to a co-worker. The Royals had tied the Tigers and the two teams were preparing to go to extra innings. I was leaving work when it was mentioned to me. Apparently(I say apparently because I only faintly remember this conversation), I said “Good. Just gives Gordon one more chance to hit another home run and win the game for Kansas City” or something to that affect. Gordon then hit a grand slam, his first career one, that could have possibly been hit out of Yosemite National Park. When it’s your team’s best player, you know anything is possible. It’s just time now for the rest of baseball to figure this out.

It’s Not All About the Pitching, Dummies!

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There were a lot of things that went wrong last year for the Kansas City Royals, but if you listen to the media you would think that all this team needed was a few top notch starters and things would be good to go. There is not a sane Royals fan out there who couldn’t see that the team needed pitching. BADLY. But something else was a big concern last year, but doesn’t get the press that the pitching has. In fact, it was a concern despite it being considered one of the team’s strengths going into 2012. Just as big of a problem for the Royals last year was the team’s hitting, or at least the lack of runs being scored. Nothing has changed with the lineup going into 2013, but yet we are to believe all is fixed. Shouldn’t we be worried about this as well?

Mike Moustakas, Kevin Seitzer

Now, I take back my earlier comment. There is one change for the Royals when it comes to the offense. Kansas City’s hitting coach last year, Kevin Seitzer, was jettisoned at the end of the season and ended up being the fall guy for the club’s lofty goals not being reached. We can debate for days whether or not Seitzer deserved to be fired, but the one thing that can’t be debated is that the offense, while being quite able to get on base, was not so successful on getting them to cross home plate. The stats prove that this team, when they want, can rake. The Royals finished 2012 4th in the American League in Batting Average, and 3rd in hits. They also show that this team wasn’t the best at taking a walk last year, as they were  9th in OBP, and 8th in OPS and total bases. What about runs? Glad you asked. The Royals were 12th in both runs scored and RBI’s in the American League. WOW!! That is a rather large discrepancy between the amount of hits this ballclub had in 2012 and the actual amount of those runners that scored. So exit Seitzer, enter the two-headed dragon of Jack Maloof and Andre David. The two of them will be working with the Royals hitters this year, and are hoping to improve on these shoddy numbers. But more on them in just a bit.

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So how do the Royals expect to see improvement on the offense when they will be sporting the same lineup as last year? The big part of the bump is expected to come from bounce back seasons from youngsters Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. It’s been written about a lot, so we don’t need to go into it much here. Both Hos and Moose had less than stellar 2012’s, and you it seems inconceivable that they would continue that downward slide again in 2013. But can we guarantee that these two will be back to normal expectations? There is a good chance of this happening, as both are perceived as natural hitters. So far, Hosmer has looked good this spring(yes, I know. It is only Spring Training. Remember he tore up the Cactus League last year as well.) , and the prevalent thought is that a lot of Moustakas’ problems last year were injury related, as he played most of the second half of the season with a knee issue. If both take a step forward this year, this could easily bump up the team’s offense and help relieve some of worrying there is about the team’s hitting.

Jeff Francoeur

Another big change the Royals need this year is some improvement from Right Fielder Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur was bad in 2012. Nope, that’s not the word I am looking for. He sucked. Big time. Francoeur might very well have been the worst player in baseball last year, as he hit a paltry .235, with a .287 OBP and (you might want to sit down on this one) a WAR of -2.7! That from a guy who hit in the 5th slot for much of the season. Francoeur thinks he has figured out part of what led to his hellaciously sucky 2012, and so far this spring he has been hitting at a solid clip. Once again, it is only Spring Training. But for the Royals to be better this year, they need a better year from Frenchy. If we get the same Francoeur we got last year, that Wil Myers trade will look worse and worse by the day. Royals management has faith in ‘The Man they call Frenchy’; I wish I could say the same. Although, at this point a .250 season would be an improvement.

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So what else are the Royals counting on to be different offensively in 2012? Well, to be healthy is also on the list. Last year this team lost two regular starters for a chunk of the season, as catcher Salvador Perez didn’t even play in a game until July 2nd, while center fielder Lorenzo Cain got injured in the second series of the season against Oakland, and ended up only playing in 61 games in 2012. The Royals need both healthy if they hope this season will be better for the team offensively.

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I don’t know what the team is thinking at Second Base. Last year, it seemed to be a revolving door of Getz-Betancourt-Giavotella-Falu-Abreu, and none really staked their claim. Johnny Giavotella has to show the team that he can hit in the majors, or the job belongs to Chris Getz. Getz hit a homerun this spring(OMG!), so I don’t know if the team thinks he has some pop in his bat now or what. With Getz, I just don’t think the team can expect much from him offensively. Giavotella is a mystery, as he reached the majors due to his bat, yet has not shown that same offensive prowess in the big leagues. Hopefully the Royals can get some offense from the position this year. If not, it will make you wonder why they didn’t go out and try to get someone this past offseason.

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So the Royals are counting on a lot of things that didn’t work in 2012 to go right in 2013. But if that wasn’t enough, manager Ned Yost has stressed since Seitzer’s firing that he wants his team to swing for the fences more this year. Now, this team should probably hit more homeruns. The Royals tied for last in this category in the American League with Minnesota in 2012. If anyone has a decent memory, Minnesota plays in a rather large ballpark, even bigger than Kauffman Stadium. The Twins were also way worse than the Royals last year, so it seems a bit odd that a team who was 3rd in hits would have that low of a homerun total. So yes, there is room for improvement. But this team doesn’t strike me as one with homerun hitters. Sure, Billy Butler lead the team with 29 bombs last year, but Billy still strikes me as more of a gap hitter. Same for Alex Gordon and Hosmer. Moustakas to me seems like the only one well suited to be a power hitter. Not that the other guys won’t hit their share, they’re just hitters more suited to be guys who are good hitters rather than try to swing for the fences. This also brings up another point. Why bring in two hitting coaches who were never power hitters back in their day, (and in fact were pretty close to the same kind of hitter Kevin Seitzer was), yet ask them to have the hitters focus on the long ball? It would seem to be a bit of a conflict of interest, as Yost has even said he would rather they strike out then fly out during a plate appearance. Would any hitting coach ever stress to his players that he would rather they strike out then hit the ball? I don’t think so. This just seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Nothing says ‘Rally Killer’ like telling your players to swing for the fences in a crucial situation.

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So here we are, just three weeks away from Opening Day, and the Royals so far this spring have tore it up offensively. I can see where people will get excited, thinking this is a sign of what we’ll see once the season starts. But it is not guaranteed, and last year can attest to that. This team could be one of the best offensive clubs in baseball, but at this point I feel even more conflicted on whether we will see that team or the one we saw last year. Having better pitching will help, but it won’t mean as much if the hitters can’t score some runs. There is an old adage that says ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results’. Let’s hope it’s not ‘playing the same lineup from last year and expecting different results’.

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