Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Sometimes you can see moves happening from a mile away. It was well known for years that Dayton Moore had a fondness for former Atlanta Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur, all the way back to his days in the Atlanta front office. So when the Royals signed Frenchy to a deal in late 2010, it was a shock to literally no one. 

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise last week when the Kansas City Royals hired former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny as special adviser for player development. The rumors of Matheny being brought into the fold go back a few months, as it was first brought up by Derrick Goold in August. Goold had this to say just last week after the hiring:

    


Matheny, 48, will take part in working within the Royals’ organization and the role will also have a scouting aspect to it, he said. Before becoming the Cardinals’ manager for the 2012 season, Matheny worked as a special assignments official for the Cardinals and spent time during spring training and the season working with the organization’s young catchers. Matheny won seven Gold Gloves during his 13-year playing career in the majors.

So in a lot of ways, we’ve been preparing for this move for quite awhile. Would anticipate be a better word? Probably not, since Matheny did not leave St. Louis with high praise. Our own Max Rieper covered many of the issues associated with Matheny’s time as Cardinals manager earlier this week and I touched on some of the problems he created about a month ago when discussing replacements for Ned Yost.    

So this move isn’t the most popular for Royals fans, but it also feels like a knee-jerk reaction to something that hasn’t even happened. The thinking is that while Matheny has only been hired as a “Special Adviser”, the true purpose for the Royals to bring him in is to make him the replacement for Yost, whenever he decides to finally hang it up. Call it a “Manager in Waiting”.

It’s easy to see why people have connected the dots. When Yost was brought in, he was also hired as a “Special Adviser”. He also had major league managerial experience. He was also someone that Moore spoke very highly of, just as he did with Matheny: 


“This is a great opportunity to have Mike become a member of our organization,” said Royals general manager Dayton Moore in a statement. “It’s always been our policy to hire the best baseball people we can and this is a perfect example of that.”

So it is easy to see why almost everyone has instantly assumed that Matheny will be the next Kansas City manager. But the truth is that this is all speculation and it even feels like people are jumping to conclusions.

Let’s start with the obvious: Ned Yost is still the manager of this team. That will probably continue to be the case until he doesn’t want the job anymore. From the outside looking in, that appears to be when the 2019 season concludes, but for all we know it could go on past that. The one thing we can probably place money on is that no one will be uprooting Yost from his seat except for Ned. 

There are also a couple of very viable options already on the Royals coaching staff that could replace Yost. Bench coach Dale Sveum, bullpen coach Vance Wilson and catching/quality control coach Pedro Grifol have been mentioned in the past as possible successors to Ned and all three have been in the organization for a number of years. In fact, after the 2017 campaign this statement was made by Yost after the coaching staff shake-up:


“We feel like we’ve got the right people to take over for me,” Yost indicated. “We’re not bringing someone in.”

Now, this comment was made over a year ago and things change. I’ve even made the comment in the past that sometimes people change their mind and decide to go in a different direction, even if they felt differently a month, a week or a day earlier. An organization can change their mind and often do based off of where they feel the direction of the on-field product is headed.  

That being said, it also appears that the Royals have discussed Ned’s replacement for awhile now and have someone in mind for the job. Considering that Dayton has the highest of respect for Yost and the years he has spent in baseball, it is easy to see Moore taking Yost’s recommendation under the highest of consideration. 

Along those same lines, it would make sense for the front office to also take the consideration of some of the veterans on the roster and who they feel would be a great fit as manager. Grifol has been a name bandied about these last couple of years as a candidate and he is someone the players respect and look up to. You don’t have to let the players choose the new manager, but allowing a few of them some input might not be the worst idea when the future of the team is in consideration.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

One other item to consider is the effect that time could have on this situation. Matheny has been in baseball for a number of years and I’m sure still has a number of friends within the game. It is not out of the realm of possibility to see someone hire him as a coach somewhere, if that is something he desires.

Back in the day he was a great defensive catcher and it is easy to picture a team wanting him to come in and work with their young backstops. While he might have had a rough time communicating with some of his players when he was managing, it is possible that if you take the pressure of that job out of the situation, he could flourish with more one on one teaching. 

I could even see a team wanting him as a bench coach. Now before you snicker at that thought, remember how Trey Hillman did in his time as Royals manager and then remember that he eventually became the bench coach for both the Dodgers and the Astros. So yes, weirder things could happen.

The point of all of this is that there are no guarantees that Mike Matheny will be the next Kansas City manager. There is still quite a bit of time before that position is even open and things could drastically change between now and then. 

For all we know, Matheny was simply brought in as a fallback in case their first option becomes unavailable. Maybe he simply is just being brought in as an adviser and that is the only interest the organization has in him. Worrying about “what might happen” is dangerous and takes the focus away from the now and then.

So for now, don’t worry too much about Matheny being in the organization. As much as some of us don’t want him anywhere near the managerial position, for now he isn’t. That is where your focus should be. Don’t want to believe me? Then take the words of a man who has covered the team for quite a long time, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com:  

In Flanny we trust. Now go on and worry about anything else but Mike Matheny. Trust me, it will help your sanity.

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Who Should Be the Next Royals Manager?

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On the last day of the 2018 campaign it was announced that manager Ned Yost would be returning to the Kansas City Royals to helm the ship for the 2019 season. This wasn’t a big shock, as there had been a prevalent thought that Yost wanted to come back for at least another season and continue the rebuild that is currently in place (I know, Dayton said it’s not a rebuild. We all know it IS a rebuild. But nice try, DM).

It appears from the outside looking in that the job is Yost’s for as long as he wants it. He has a good working relationship with both Moore and the Glass family, and the fact he led the Royals to back-to-back World Series’ gives him a certain level of leeway that many men in his position would love to have.

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Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

But at some point Ned is going to decide to call it a day and go home. In fact, that day is probably closer than you think. For all we know, Yost could decide to retire at the end of 2019 and hand off the reigns to his successor. It’s hard to remember, but Yost has been in this position since May of 2010, which is a lifetime for a major league manager. Imagining someone else leading this Royals team is difficult to picture at times.

But we are going down that road anyway. Let’s imagine that Yost steps down and the Royals are on the hunt for his replacement. Who should they look for? Should they hire from within the organization? Should they go with a younger manager or one with experience?

Sam Mellinger  of the Kansas City Star recently took a look into just what the Royals would be looking for and in some ways it is a bit eye-raising

From what I can gather, the Royals would basically want Ned 2.0, an updated version of Yost for the future of a changing game.

They would prefer someone with previous managing experience, which is worth noting, because the trend elsewhere is for fresh faces. They want someone with respect, who’s a good communicator, has a feel for the game, all the typical traits you’d expect. The biggest difference might be that they’d look for someone with a little more feel for metrics, and the ways baseball is changing.

Using the term “Ned 2.0” made me chuckle because I might have pictured him as a cyborg for a moment. But it is very telling of what they are looking for and it immediately led some to think of former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, including Mellinger:

My friend Derrick Goold was first to the scene on the Royals’ interest in Mike Matheny. Not that Derrick needs it, but I can confirm the interest. There will be other names that come up, too, and they don’t necessarily have to check every box.

Just mentioning Matheny probably made you groan, right? I get it, since he isn’t my first choice for the job either. This past season really drove home the flaws in his managerial style, which was hit on ad nauseam this summer:

Even in the recent past, old-school managers such as Ned Yost, Dusty Baker, and Charlie Manuel have won not because they’re John McGraw, but because they can get 25 guys to pull together. For that reason, if you can’t get the tactics right, you damn well better bring the best out of your players.

Matheny was never able to do that. And ironically for such a young manager, he committed an age-old sin: inflexibility.

To me, that reads that Matheny is the exact opposite of Yost. Bizarro Yost? Very possible. So as much as we freak out when we hear Matheny’s name, I can’t imagine Dayton Moore will look past that, unless he can just charm the pants off of Moore.

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Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

But there are options to replace Yost and some are definitely in-house. Pedro Grifol has long been a favorite and someone the players are very fond of. By the end of George Brett’s tenure as hitting coach in 2013 , the players had shown a strong bond with Grifol and preferred him to Brett when it came to hitting issues. He is also bilingual and obviously a good communicator.

Dale Sveum, the current Royals bench coach, is another option. Sveum has managing experience (he led the Cubs for two seasons, 2012-2013) and has been a coach for Kansas City for five seasons now. Sveum has obviously built a relationship with a number of the current players and would be able to slide right into the system the Royals have been utilizing these last few years.

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Credit: MLB.com

My choice (and the person I felt was a future Royals manager from almost the moment he was brought into the organization) is Vance Wilson. Wilson managed Kansas City’s AA squad in Northwest Arkansas for four seasons and is the Royals current bullpen coach. Wilson has managed a number of the current players on the Kansas City roster and is familiar with their successes and failures. Wilson can be a bit old school, but has also been willing to use analytics as well to help the cause.

I found this comment from 2011 very telling into what kind of manager Wilson would be:

“I’m learning how to relate to the players, especially this new generation of players, and I’m learning to make guys better not only as players, but people. I will see where it takes me beyond this.”

This sounds like something from the Dayton Moore handbook. If anything, it fits the style of leader that Moore looks for in his managers.

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Credit: Associated Press

Jason Kendall, a former Royals catcher, has also been mentioned as a future manager over the years. He currently works in the organization as the Special Assignment Coach and has long been a favorite of the Kansas City front office. Kendall is an interesting option, but he might be a bit too rough around the edges. I’m not for sure today’s players would be very receptive to his gruff managerial style, which I imagine is what you would get from Kendall.

We could also throw in former Royals outfielders Raul Ibanez and Carlos Beltran onto the list as well. Neither have any managerial experience, but both are highly regarded in the baseball community and great communicators. One has to wonder just where the Royals would be if not for Ibanez’s speech to the Royals clubhouse in 2014, a speech that motivated the team and led them on their run to the postseason that year. Could something like that motivate Dayton to hire Raul? Experience (or lack thereof) might not be the deciding factor if the Royals like a candidate.

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There are a number of other candidates that Kansas City could consider when the time comes. Mike Maddux, Tim Wallach, Jay Bell (another former Royal), Bo Porter, Eric Chavez and Joe Espada are just a few more names that could be considered as the future Royals manager. The one thing to remember is that while the Royals might be looking for a Yost clone right now, that could change at the drop of a hat:

By the time Ned retires, the organization could have shifted their needs and desires in a different direction. Personally, I am fine with that. Deciding who leads this team moving forward shouldn’t be a hastily made decision and instead should be done with meticulous detail. Figure out where you want the team to be and decide at that point who is the best candidate to get you to your destination. That should be your choice.

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Credit: Orlin Wagner, The Associated Press

But we aren’t there yet. This is all speculation on our part and it might change twenty more times before Yost steps down. But the future gets a bit closer everyday, a future without Ned. Hopefully the Royals are prepared when that day comes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Kansas City Miracle

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If you are a Kansas City Royals fan you have probably uttered the question ‘is this really happening?’ more times than you can remember this past month. There were high hopes coming into the 2014 season, and even dreams of their first playoff appearance in 29 years floated in most fans mind, even if there were still concerns about this team. I freely admit I was a bit skeptical about their chances and whether a team with a wildly inconsistent offense and a tendency to focus on more old school offensive methods could stack up enough wins to lock up a playoff spot. Little did we know that the Royals would far exceed any of our expectations and cement themselves into our minds and hearts for years to come.

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Early on it appeared the Royals were very Jekkyl and Hyde, as at times they looked like an elite team that could contend throughout the summer months and possibly even topple the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. Other times they looked like the worst parts of the previous season Royals, struggling to score runs and being held back by a stagnant offense. Nori Aoki looked like regression had begun to sink in, Mike Moustakas looked like he had left his swing in Arizona, and Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer were both hitting well below expectations. May saw Pedro Grifol transitioned from hitting coach to catching coach(yes, that still seems to be a made up position) while 3rd base coach Dale Sveum would take over the hitting coach duties. At this point the pitching and the defense were keeping this team in games, but the offense just wasn’t carrying their weight.

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June was another story though, as the Royals would go on a 10 game winning streak, even toppling Detroit and taking over the lead in the American League Central. Everything was falling Kansas City’s way, with hits dropping in when needed, hard hit balls being hit by opponents right at Kansas City defenders and even passed balls bouncing right back to Royals catcher Salvador Perez. Everything seemed to be on course and was the first sign that this wasn’t the Royals of old. Yes, they were a streaky bunch, but did enough things right during their lull’s that they weren’t going to fade away late in the season.

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Maybe the highlight to this point of the season was the development of two young starting pitchers, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Duffy had dealt with a number of setbacks over the years, to the point that some wondered if he would ever really put things together. After a short stint in the bullpen, the rest of baseball took notice in June when Duffy would keep Baltimore in check, pitching perfect baseball for the first 20 batters of the game, pitching into the 8th inning while only allowing 2 hits. Outside of a rough September, Duffy was probably the Royals best starter throughout the summer and made the case to be the team’s #1 starter in 2015. Early on Ventura showed the rest of baseball why there was a buzz around him with a fastball that could reach triple digits and a curve and change that was constantly improving. There was some concern in late May as Ventura would leave a start early due to elbow discomfort but the injury ended up being minor and Yordano would only miss one start. The concern did cause Ventura to pitch a bit smarter, choosing to “throw fire” a bit less and let the Royals top notch defense take care of things for him. Yordano would have his ups and downs during his rookie campaign, but there was more good than bad and it was easy to see why the organization is excited about having him around for years to come.

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August saw another hot streak for the Royals, one that would push the Royals back up to the top of the Central Division. This time Kansas City would rattle off 8 straight wins, some would say partially because of South Korean super-fan Sung Woo Lee making his first ever trip to Kansas City. Lee would be in attendance for the Royals climbing back on top and seemed to re-energize the fanbase, watching one of their own get to experience this team in person for the first time. Alex Gordon stepped up big for Kansas City in August, pulling off a line of .292/.356/.585. As Gordon goes so goes the Royals as the entire team seemed to be picked up by A1’s hot streak. Even when the rest of the team struggled during the month, Gordon picked them up. Eric Hosmer would get hurt during this time which forced designated hitter Billy Butler to 1B where he has long wanted to return(Butler played the position before Hosmer made his way to the big leagues in 2011). The move seemed to energize Butler’s bat and his fielding was nothing to sneeze at. August was also the month that it finally hit some of us; this team had a real shot of making the playoffs. Not only making the postseason but to possibly even win the division. There was still concerns with this team, but they had put themselves into a position to make a serious run and it was close enough to get excited and take this run very seriously.

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September rolled around and for all the excitement that August brought us, this month would make us question whether the Royals playoff drought would actually come to an end. The Boston series in particular sticks out as a series of one team making a push(Kansas City) and one team just playing to finish out the year(Boston). The Royals did not look their best during that weekend, with the Sunday game loss hurting the most, as Aaron Crow would give up a grand slam to Daniel Nava in the 6th inning and propel the Red Sox to a victory. Manager Ned Yost would make comments after the game to question the Royals and what could thwart them from reaching the postseason. If the Red Sox series felt like a left down, the Tigers series felt like a kick to the groin. Kansas City still had a chance of winning the division when the Tigers came to town on September 19th but a frustrating series dashed most of those hopes and questioned whether or not this team could hold up against a team like the Tigers. With a week left in the season, it seemed as if the Royals only hope was either for the Wild Card or for Obi Wan Kenobi…

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…but then something happened. The Tigers lost on both Friday and Saturday against the Twins by a large margin, depleting Detroit’s bullpen. Kansas City would continue to win against the White Sox, locking up a playoff spot on that Friday night in Chicago and putting themselves in a position to tie Detroit on the final day of the season. If the Tigers lost and the Royals won, there would be a tie for the American League Central and game 163 would have to be played to determine the winner of the division. Unfortunately Detroit took away that opportunity for Kansas City by beating the Twins on Sunday, making them the Central champs and the Royals as the first Wild Card, as they would be at ‘The K’ to take on the A’s in a winner takes all game that would soon go down in history as an all-time great.

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This game turned out to be a major turning point for this young team as it seemed to give them the confidence they needed and show that yes Virginia, the Royals really are major contenders. This game had a little bit of everything: stolen bases, home runs, injured catchers, questionable bullpen decisions, numerous comebacks, outfielder collisions, and a liner down the third base line that will go down in infamy. More than anything the Royals showed a tendency to defy logic. Back in August I had said that I was just going to enjoy the ride the Royals seemed to be making for a postseason appearance. I had waited 29 years to see ‘my team’ be on baseball’s big stage and felt it would be wrong if I didn’t enjoy it even if I didn’t always agree with Kansas City’s management. The Royals clinching a Wild Card spot meant the world to me; winning that game at home was icing on the cake.

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So when the Royals started play in the American League Divisional Series I didn’t have lofty expectations. Sure, I wanted the Royals to win and advance in the playoffs but in some ways it just felt like an extra bonus and was enjoying it as such. What I didn’t expect was how much better they looked in this series against the Angels, the team with the best record in the American League in 2014. The Royals took the first two games in Anaheim, thanks to not the small ball they had prided themselves on but the long ball as both Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas came up with big blasts in Games 1 and 2. Game 3 was another story, as the series would move to Kauffman Stadium. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at this game and the Royals showed they were for real, piling up runs early and helping them to an 8-3 victory to finish up the sweep of the Angels and advance them to the American League Championship Series. This team was playing their best baseball of the year and it came at just the right time. Seeing them in this position and seeing 40,000+ of my fellow Royals fans brought a tear to my eye and made me appreciate what was happening. I could pinch myself to make sure this was happening but I knew the truth; the Royals were winning and doing it when it mattered the most.

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So now it was on to the American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles. There was a little more concern with this series as Baltimore had many of the same strengths as Kansas City and could also trump them when it came to power. The Royals would win games 1 and 2 in Baltimore in dramatic fashion thanks to late inning heroics and the stellar defense and pitching the team had been touting all year round. Game 3 returned to Kansas City and would be another tight affair, with a solid outing by Jeremy Guthrie and Mike Moustakas doing his best impression of George Brett at third base, catching a ball and falling into one of the dugout suites. This would lead to game 4 and the Royals would score 2 in the bottom of the first and would never look back. The Royals had swept the Orioles and were headed to the World Series! What was amazing about this series was Kansas City’s offense went M.I.A. late in the series but it didn’t matter; they got enough offense while the pitching and defense continued to do their job. The Royals were 8-0 so far in this postseason and it almost seemed like they would never lose, even if we all knew they would eventually. I spent most of this year feeling like this didn’t have the feel of a playoff team but even I knew that if they got there(IF) they were a team made for the playoffs. So far they had shown it, and were now only 4 wins away from a World Championship.

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The Royals were set now and ready to play the San Francisco Giants to be called champion. Honestly, none of us saw this coming. Just the fact they got to this point meant the world to us Royals fans, nevermind the shot at being World Champions. The Royals would battle in this series and even went ahead 2 games to 1 after Game 3 but the Royals just couldn’t solve the Madison Bumgarner rubik cube. It went all the way to Game 7 where they would lose by the thinnest of margins, 3-2. I felt so much pride that night but also sadness because of the loss. I had started to believe during the ALCS and really felt like the Royals were going to get themselves a new trophy to put in the Royals Hall of Fame. Instead they came up just short, as Alex Gordon was literally just 90 feet away as Salvador Perez popped up to end the game. I shut off the television and went to do something else; I couldn’t watch the Giants celebrate. As sports often do to you, the loss was breaking my heart. After 29 years I wanted to win it all. You can’t fault any of us for wanting this magical ride to end with the highest of honors. It just wasn’t meant to be.

World Series Giants Royals Baseball

But I’ve had almost a week now to get back to normal and I started to ask myself ‘what am I going to remember about this 2014 Royals team?’. I’m going to remember how good the pitching and defense was all season. I’m going to remember the excitement of finally getting to the playoffs after all these years. I’m going to remember how great this team played when they needed to, in October. More than anything I will remember how the team was energized by the Royals fanbase. This team fed off of us, the fans and they embraced it when they didn’t have to. They never gave up just as we never gave up, no matter how many times this team was down in the playoffs. I am going to remember how I felt watching this all unfold and how it reminded me that as much as I love numbers and how they can tell a big part of the book, they don’t always tell the whole story. More than anything I believed. I think I had forgotten how to somewhere along the way, but I believed this team could win the whole damn thing. They almost did. So thank you, Kansas City. Thanks for being you. You reminded me just why I bleed Royal blue. Now let’s win it in 2015!

 

Two Dudes With Attitude: What Should the Royals do With Hosmer and Moustakas?

hayspost.com
hayspost.com

Maybe the most perplexing issue facing the Royals in this disappointing 2014 season is the struggles of two players who were supposed to be sure things:

tripod.com
tripod.com

No, not those two. We already know they are hard hitters. The two I am referencing are these two:

zimbio.com
zimbio.com

Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have to be two of the most frustrating players ever, if for no other reason than the fact that they were supposed to be the cornerstones of this franchise. Instead it’s getting more and more apparent that these are not the baseball players(droids) we are looking for. So where did it all go wrong?

yahoo.com
yahoo.com

Let’s start with Moustakas first, since I have chronicled his issues heavily. There was last year’s struggles ; aaaaand this year’s slump. You read that correctly; Moustakas has pretty much been in a slump for two seasons now. Moose had looked to really up his game in 2012, as his defense had drastically improved and his bat produced numbers good enough for consideration for the All-Star Game that season. But a knee injury in the second half of the season sapped his power and seemed to sap whatever lightning he had trapped in his bottle.  Since then he has been a mess at the plate, producing either a strike out or pop-up 30% of the time this season and producing these numbers earlier this season:

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Moose’s numbers seem to be bottoming out this year and even a stint in Omaha didn’t cure whatever is ailing him, as he has only four hits since his return and his hitting .148 in those eight games. The bad thing is that even his newfound patience, which has raised his walk rate, seems to be of no use. Moose seems to have bad pitch selection, as he has a higher contact rate on pitches outside of the strike zone than inside the strike zone. The other major concern is that Moustakas can’t seem to hit fastballs at a regular rate, which is explained by his -10.0 wFB, or Fastball runs above average. To give you a comparison, Billy Butler has never had a wFB below 15.1 in a full season(besides this season where his numbers have taken a dive). More and more it just seems Moustakas can’t catch up to a fastball:

blessyouboys.com
blessyouboys.com

So the verdict on Moose? Moustakas is still young enough to bounce back and be a regular contributor in the majors. He is still above average defensively and has some pop in his bat. At this point, the Royals have given him over 1500 at bats and he still has a career slash line of .235/.288/.376. The team has given him close to a season and a half to break out of this “slump” and he is still putting up putrid numbers. There does appear to be some trade interest for Moose, with three teams interested. My guess would be that those three teams think a change of scenery would do him good. In my opinion it might be time to cut ties with Moose and let him get that change of scenery. If the Royals decide they don’t want to do that, they have to send him back to the minors…for real this time. His hitting obviously hasn’t improved from the ten days he spent in AAA, so a more prolonged time might be the way to go. The Royals are unfortunately thin at third base, at least in the upper minors. Cheslor Cuthbert is in AA Northwest Arkansas, but he still needs time to develop before he is major league ready. Hunter Dozier is the other major third base prospect in the Kansas City farm system, but he is currently in Wilmington, the High A team for the Royals. Dozier has been crushing the ball as of late, but he still has a way to go. So there isn’t a clear cut answer at third base for Kansas City in the minors, but it is also apparent Moustakas isn’t that answer either.

zimbio.com
zimbio.com

Now onto the other Kansas City problem child, Eric Hosmer. Hosmer struggled mightily in 2012 and started out 2013 about the same way, only he was able to get some hits but showed absolutely no power and seemed incapable of pulling the ball. Insert Pedro Grifol in as the Royals hitting coach at the end of May and we started seeing a new Hosmer, one who could pull the ball and hit homeruns. The difference was notable in his swing and stance:

kckingdom.com
kckingdom.com

The numbers are a bit closer, thanks to the change in June, but it is apparent there was a different Hosmer between the first and second half of last year:

Split       G GS  PA  AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
1st Half   90 86 374 344 46 98 18  2  9  40  7  3 25 51 .285 .332 .427 .760 147   8   1  1  3   2   5  .310    89   111
2nd Half   69 69 306 279 40 90 16  1  8  39  4  1 26 49 .323 .379 .473 .852 132   7   0  0  1   2   2  .368   113   140

 

So coming into this year, it seemed as if Hos was fixed and there were no worries with him…

i70baseball.com
i70baseball.com

…but there are worries. Hosmer has seemed to have lost his power(slugging percentage is down to .357 from last year’s .448) and his approach at the plate the last few weeks has been hack-tastic. I’m starting to think Hosmer went to school at Francoeur High, where their motto is “We have never seen a pitch you don’t like”. Hosmer’s strikeout rate is up, walk rate is down but the biggest fall has been his situational hitting. Hosmer’s RE24(Base-Out runs added, where zero is average) is at -3.5, compared to last year’s 25.1. while his WPA+(Wins Probability Added) is at 4.6 next to last year’s 14.3. What that basically means is that in situations where the Royals need a big hit from Hosmer, he just isn’t producing. His doubles are way up this year, sitting at 20 already compared to last year’s 34, but across the board he is hurting the team more than helping. His defense is still above average(although the advanced metrics have not been nice to him defensively over the years) but his oWar is at a -0.9. So whatever he is bringing to the table defensively is being negated offensively. This is a nice look at his “new” approach:

fangraphs.com
fangraphs.com

Hosmer has a bit different verdict than Moustakas at this point, as there is still value in Hos. It amazes me that the Royals continue to hit him in the 3rd spot in the order, as he is hitting only .171 in the last month, but there he is every night, near the top of the order. Does a trip to Omaha help? Possibly. I could see a scenario where Hos is sent down and Matt Fields  is given a shot in his absence. The likelihood of that happening is probably miniscule, as the Royals seem reluctant to admit their draftees need to be sent back down(Moustakas being the perfect case). Another option is to package Hosmer in a trade to a contender at the trade deadline. David Lesky(who is a great follow on twitter) first proposed this at PineTarPress.com and I was taken aback at first. I had never really considered the idea of trading Hos, as he always seemed like a possible future MVP candidate. But as we stretch into year three of him struggling for major portions of the year, I really started considering if this was the right thing to do.

zimbio.com
zimbio.com

On one hand, it’s obvious the talent there. When Hosmer puts it all together he is a middle of the order threat and can be a major factor in the direction this ballclub goes in. But the more he struggles, the more you start wondering what is fundamentally wrong to where he can’t just put it together. Why does his swing get messed up so often? Why is his approach at the dish a mess? Why does his power go on vacation at the worst times? You really start to wonder if mentally he just isn’t cut for this and if this is how he will be his entire career. The Royals are very much in “win now” mode and if they fall out of contention this move could be considered. Hosmer still has a lot of value and I’m sure some team is already salivating at the thought of working with him on his swing and untapping his true potential. I’m not saying the Royals should go out and trade him; what I am saying is that it isn’t foolish to consider that as a possibility.

kansas.com
kansas.com

Hosmer and Moustakas were supposed to be two of the main keys to get the Royals to the “Promised Land”, the playoffs. But so far we are left with two players who just aren’t producing like this team needs them to. I remember once having a conversation about which of the two of these hitters the Royals should try to sign to an extension if you could only keep one(the thought being they are both Scott Boras clients so there was no way the Royals would be able to keep both). This was early in the season of 2012 and I couldn’t make a definitive choice. Now in 2014, I seriously don’t think the Royals should sign either to a long term deal. As the old saying goes, it’s time to quit straddling the fence on these two; it’s time for Kansas City to either “Shit or get off the pot”, cause Hosmer and Moustakas are killing the Royals in more ways than one.

 

 

Moose’s Struggles, Part Deux

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Early on in the movie “Groundhog Day”, Bill Murray starts to realize that he is living the same day over and over again. Murray goes through different stages of realization, everything from anger, sadness and depression to hope and glee. Right now myself and most other Royals fans feel like we are living the same day over and over again; in this day, instead of a little furry creature popping out of the ground and telling us how much winter we have left, we get Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas continuing his struggling ways. His stats pretty much speak for themselves:

Year                      Age            Tm            Lg   G   PA   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+  TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2011                       22           KCR            AL  89  365  338  26  89 18  1  5  30  2  0  22  51 .263 .309 .367 .675   86 124   5   1  2  2   0          5
2012                       23           KCR            AL 149  614  563  69 136 34  1 20  73  5  2  39 124 .242 .296 .412 .708   91 232   4   7  0  5   4         *5
2013                       24           KCR            AL 136  514  472  42 110 26  0 12  42  2  4  32  83 .233 .287 .364 .651   77 172  13   5  1  4   1         *5
2014                       25           KCR            AL  40  139  125   9  19  7  1  4  17  0  0  12  26 .152 .223 .320 .543   47  40   3

How did one of the Royals top prospects go from a sure thing to questioning whether or not he is even a true major leaguer?

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In 2012 Moustakas looked like a future All-Star. During the first half of that season Moose had put everything together. His hitting was solid, his defense was surprisingly above average and he looked like a player who had put everything together. There was very serious discussion that he could make the All-Star team that season. Then Moustakas came down with a knee injury in the second half of the year and his numbers went in the tank. Going into 2013 it seemed that all of his struggles late in 2012 were purely from the injury and that he would be back as a key part of the Royals offense. Except that didn’t happen. Moustakas struggled pretty much the entire 2013 campaign and never looked like a guy who was locked in or confident. There were little spurts where he seemed to be coming out of his slump, but there never seemed to be a sustained stretch where Moose looked like the player he was in 2012.

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Earlier this spring it appeared as if we would see a different Mike Moustakas this season. Moustakas had gone to the Venezuelan Winter League with Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol, working on restructuring his swing. The early reports from Surprise, AZ were very positive. Even I was almost convinced that Moustakas’ approach at the plate had improved. The truth was it had changed this spring; his stance had changed at the plate and his swing was much shorter and more compact. It seemed that if he brought that approach with him into the season he would bounce back.

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That approach was brought into the season, but a hitless first 21 at bats led him to falling back into old habits and straying from his short and compact swing. The one item that has stayed consistent is his new-found ability to work the count and see more pitches. Moustakas’ walk rate is up, 8.6% from a steady number around 6% the last couple seasons. The rest of the numbers are down and quite ugly. Whatever confidence Moose had coming into this season has evaporated and he looks just as lost as he did last year. It has gotten to a point to where the Royals have floated the idea of sending Moustakas down to AAA Omaha and have started giving backup third baseman Danny Valencia a few starts this week. It’s obvious the leash on Moose has gotten shorter and to be honest it should be. No matter how good his defense is(right now his dWar  is at 0.2, just a shade over average) it isn’t enough to compensate for how bad his bat has been. So the question needs to be asked: should Mike Moustakas be sent down to the minors?

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In my opinion, yes. I am rooting for Moustakas to come out of this slump as much as anyone, but the honest truth is he is hurting the team more right now than helping. It’s one thing to say it’s early in the season and a small sample size. It’s another when he is over 100 at bat’s and it’s creeping up on June. Moose has been in the bigs now for close to three years now and can’t be coddled forever. We’ve heard a lot the last few years that we need to be patient with the youngsters on Kansas City’s roster, but they aren’t youngsters anymore. His confidence is shot, his swing is a mess and nothing is really changing. It’s time to make a move.

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Is a trade a possibility? Personally, I don’t think it is. The Royals seem to believe that Moustakas can bounce back from this and prove his worth. That tells me that at least for the rest of the season they won’t part ways with him. There is a very outside chance it could happen, if the right player came along. Guys like Matt Dominguez, Chase Headley or Pablo Sandoval come to mind as third baseman that they could trade Moose for. The only issue is that Moustakas’ value is so low that it would probably take more than just him to get any of those players. There is a greater chance that the team sends him down to Omaha for part of the summer and call him back up if he gets on a hot streak.

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It seems pretty apparent that the Royals are going to have to make a decision and make it soon. Moustakas’ continuing struggles are hurting a team that is already having offensive issues, even if you take him out of the picture. We are to a point in his career where you either pull your weight or the team finds someone that can produce. Loyalty is a great thing to have of your employees but it can also be a character flaw. The Royals have been loyal to Moose and have given him every opportunity to show what he can do. Unfortunately what he has shown the last few seasons is a guy who loses confidence easily and struggles with major league pitching. He might not be a AAAA player, but he is playing like one. At this point trying anything new(anything at all) would be an improvement. Maybe he should take note from “Groundhog Day”:

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It’s time Moose. It’s time to let Punxsutawney Phil take the wheel. Can’t be any worse than what you are doing now.

Just One Fix: Helping the Ailing Royals Offense

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We are through eleven games so far into the 2014 campaign and to say the Kansas City Royals offense isn’t clicking is a major understatement. It’s been awful. Disgusting. Weak. Punchless. Craptastic. Describe it any way you want, they are simply not getting the job done. The good thing? We are only eleven games in. Seriously. I get that as Royals fans we are programmed to expect the worst, but the reaction of the fanbase this weekend was frightening. The season is over already? Eleven games, people. Chill out.

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I heard a lot of ideas that fans had yesterday to fix this club. Fire Yost/Moore/Grifol? Sorry, it’s none of these guys’ fault. For once, the blame doesn’t fall on their shoulders. Trade Butler/Moustakas? To who? For what? Their value has never been lower, but they should trade them? The Royals wouldn’t get anything of value in return for them, so that is a pointless argument. Bring back Brett? I love George Brett, but he isn’t coming back and he shouldn’t. He isn’t what elevated this team last year; Grifol is the one who worked on Hosmer’s mechanics, not George. George was just there for motivation, which he was fine at, but he was the hitting coach in name only. To be honest, why would the Royals bring Brett back? Is that the answer every time this team struggles offensively? When I answered that question in my head, I kept coming back to the same thing: no more hand-holding. No more coddling. The younger core of this group has been in the majors now for over three years. They need to either produce or lose playing time. With that in mind, it got me to thinking of what the Royals should do. Now, I’m not totally sure I have the answer to this; hell, maybe I’m not even close. But if I was in charge, or even just asked my opinion, this is what I would do.

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First thing I would do is shuffle the lineup. Move Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler from 3rd and 4th to 6th and 7th in the order respectively. I would then bump Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez from 5th and 6th up to 3rd and 4th. Gordon and Perez are at least having good at bats, with Perez getting off to one of the few good Royals starts to the season. I would then move Lorenzo Cain up from 8th to 5th in the order(nice call, Dalton!). Cain is also getting some key at bats, so he should be rewarded for it. With all these moves, it would move Mike Moustakas down from 7th to 8th in the order. Here is the thing though; I actually think Moose had some of the best at bats of the Minnesota series.

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Did I just say that the guy hitting .111 had some of the best AB’s in that series? Yes, yes I did. Moose had 2 hits in Friday’s game and a hit in yesterday’s contest. Moustakas was also able to accumulate a walk in games 2 and 3 of the Minnesota series. Mike actually looks like he has a game plan when he steps up to the plate(unlike Hosmer and Butler) and is still taking quite a bit of pitches compared to the rest of the team. We even saw him drive the ball throughout the three games, so there is reason to believe that he is just a tick off and about go on a bit of a hitting streak. I know Moose is struggling and not hitting even close to how he was in Arizona this spring, but he doesn’t look lost like others do. I know it’s frustrating, but I’m willing to be a bit more patient with Moustakas, at least for awhile.

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With all that lineup shuffling, I also think it wouldn’t hurt to have a few of the hitters struggling to sit out a game or two. Nothing major, just take a day off, no pressure and sit with hitting coach Pedro Grifol and go over a few things. Sometimes it just takes a different perspective to get your head on straight. Maybe let Justin Maxwell play a few games at DH while Danny Valencia gets some reps in at 1B or 3B. I know Ned Yost thinks it’s better to be in the lineup everyday to get out of a slump, but at this point it is just hurting the team. It won’t hurt for guys like Butler or Hosmer to sit out a game or two. In fact, Yost has a habit of not getting his bench players much playing time. Who already forgot Brett Hayes is on the roster? It looks like there has already been some work being done, as Grifol talked to Butler about moving off of the plate and stand in his normal spot in the batter’s box. It’s good to hear that a veteran like Butler is open to trying something, anything, to help his situation. A game or two talking baseball with Grifol might just be the thing for a few of these hitters.

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So it isn’t much, but that is what I would do to try and get the Royals offense going. Honestly, I don’t think a drastic event needs to happen for the hitters to come alive. They mainly just need to go out there, relax and try to keep it as simple as possible. This Royals offense has been living off of potential for years now; it’s time for them to either prove their worth or the team will have to consider Plan B. The Royals aren’t in a position where they can completely dismantle this team in the middle of the season, but something would have to be done if the offense continues to sputter along. The main thing is the blame needs to start falling on the players, not everyone else. 2014 could be the season we find out who really belongs and who needs to move on. But remember, we are only eleven games in; there is still lots of time to turn this thing around. Patience will be our greatest weapon.

The “New” Mike Moustakas?

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Everyone knows during Spring Training is when hopes are the highest. You hope that one major prospect is ready to take the next step and make themselves part of the big league roster. You hope that veteran that seemed washed up has one more year of productivity in him. You hope this is the year Alyssa Milano finally notices you and doesn’t think you are “that creepy guy who gives me compliments”. Restraining orders aside, this spring is the time where most Kansas City Royals fans(and employees) hope that Mike Moustakas is for real and ready to be the player he looked to be in the first half of the 2012 season. This spring Moose has looked the part…but is he for real?

Mike Moustakas, Miguel Montero

It’s hard to judge simply by Spring Training stats, no matter how good they are. How good you say? Take a look for yourself.

Year   Tm Age GS  G PA AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB OppQual
2014   KC     25 20 57 45 12 21  6  0  4  17  1  0 10  6 .467 .561 .867 1.428 39   0   1  0  1   0     8.8

The most interesting is seeing how close this year’s Spring Training stats are to last year’s. Most don’t remember but Moose had a good spring last year and started off the regular season hitting well before his swing headed south. But there are a few things that are different with Moustakas this year from last. Manager Ned Yost has talked about how last spring Moose was hacking more and now has more of a game plan when he steps up to the dish. But there have been some very noticeable changes from last year.

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Above is a GIF of last year’s stance. He’s always had a bit of an open stance, but not a prominent one. Also notice the amount of movement in his swing. We’ll come back to that later. Now, here is a shot of his stance this spring:

pinetarpress.com
pinetarpress.com

It’s not as easy to tell, but the stance is quite a bit more open. It’s open enough that it is noticeable when you watch him bat. I have to believe with the more prominent open stance, Moustakas is able to see the ball a bit better, especially against lefties. That is one of the other changes this spring. Moose has been hitting lefties a lot better than he normally does. Last season was maybe his toughest against lefthanded pitchers:

Split             G  GS  PA  AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
vs RHP              128 396 365 37 89 22  0 10  32  2  2 23 60 .244 .295 .386 .682 141  11   5  0  3   1   1  .265   109    90
vs LHP               66 118 107  5 21  4  0  2  10  0  2  9 23 .196 .256 .290 .546  31   2   0  1  1   0   0  .229    69    55

Moustakas’ struggles against lefties is why the team acquired Danny Valencia in the offseason. It must have been the kick in the pants he needed, as he has looked more than comfortable against all lefties, even the occasional LOOGY. Moose being able to hit lefthanded pitchers helps go a long way toward him being more productive in 2014.

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Earlier I mentioned the amount of movement in Moose’s “old” swing. It’s always seemed a bit long, loopy and not as compact as it should be. This spring, his swing has been the other change that makes me feel better about him going into the season. From the few games I have watched, his swing looked more compact with a lot less movement. I mentioned this to David Lesky of pinetarpress.com a few weeks ago and he agreed:

Lesky spent some time in Surprise, Arizona this spring, so he got to see Moustakas up close and personal. To me, the biggest thing I’ve seen that gives me hope that this isn’t just a spring thing is the swing. It’s just a matter at this point of being consistent with his swing and not falling back into old habits.

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There are a lot of factors that will determine whether or not the Royals have a successful 2014 or not, and the production(or lack of) from Mike Moustakas is a major one. So far this spring it is obvious that Moustakas put in a lot of time this winter to work on his swing, as evident by his time spent in the Venezuelan Winter League with hitting coach Pedro Grifol. If Moose can be consistent and continue to hit even close to how he has this spring, than it will go a long way to cementing his spot on the roster for not only this year but for the future. He might never be a .300 hitter, but a solid .270 with quality run production should make him a middle of the order guy for Kansas City. Soon enough, we will know if the “New” Mike Moustakas is real or just a figment of the thin Arizona air.

 

2014 Kansas City Royals: Be Royal…Code for Playoffs?

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Two weeks from today, the Kansas City Royals will take the field and open the 2014 season in Detroit. Optimism runs high for the Royals this year, as they are coming off of their first winning season in a decade. Not only were they not eliminated from the playoffs until the last week of the season, but they are returning a large portion of the team that got them to this point. Now, I wasn’t quite sold on their chances in 2013 and I even admitted my mistake once the season was over. Going into this year, I think this is a team who will post another winning season(the Royals haven’t posted back to back winning seasons since the early 90’s) but playoffs? Let’s go ahead and take a look at this team and what can be expected coming into what very well could be a make or break year.

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Let’s start with what was the biggest strength for Kansas City in 2013, the starting pitching. Most of the same faces are back from last year. James Shields will once again anchor the rotation, leading a staff as free agency is beckoning him. Last year I foolishly didn’t believe Shields was a true ace(silly me), but I was proven wrong as ‘Big Game James’ showed he was up for the challenge. Following him will be Jeremy Guthrie, as he put up solid numbers that continue to defy logic. I only say that since Guthrie continues to give up more hits than innings pitched year after year but also puts up respectable numbers. One would think at some point that would catch up with Guthrie, but he’s been doing it for years and other than his dreadful few months in Colorado, he has been able to not let a large portion of those runners score. Following the ‘Jeremy Guthrie Magic Trick’ will be newly acquired Jason Vargas. Vargas will actually start the second game of the year, but that is more about not pitching Vargas and Chen back to back, since they are practically the same pitcher. Vargas’ signing this winter was the most highly debated, especially after the Royals went out and re-signed Bruce Chen as well. By no means am I saying Vargas is a bad pitcher or that the Royals overpaid for him(although signing him for four years is debatable), but it doesn’t make sense to have him and Chen on the same team. Vargas is replacing Ervin Santana, who put together a splendid year in 2013. It’s doubtful Vargas will put up numbers even comparable to Santana, but he will eat innings and (hopefully) keep the Royals in the game. Chen will be the fourth starter, at least for the first half of the season. If the Royals are serious about this contending thing they won’t have Bruce in the rotation come July. Look, I like Chen and he is great for the clubhouse but the formula they used with him last year(rotation only half the year, other half in the bullpen) is really the way to go with him. The fifth spot in the rotation seems to be young flamethrower Yordano ‘Ace’ Ventura, who might make all of us forget about Santana. There are some lofty expectations on him, as comparisons have even gone as far as future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. If Ventura is even close to what we think he could be, the Royals will be in for a fun year. So with all this said, as much as I like the rotation(and that is without even mentioning how we could see either Danny Duffy or Kyle Zimmer replace Chen at mid-season), I have to believe they won’t be as solid as they were last year. I’m not saying that in a negative way as much as saying that they were so good  last year that it seems inconceivable that they would be able to achieve that two years in a row. So expect a slight dip this year with the starters…but not much.

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Another solid bunch is the Royals bullpen. The bullpen was so solid last year that only the Atlanta Braves had a better pen in baseball. Leading the bunch was closer Greg ‘Dirty South’ Holland, who surprised even his biggest fans by shaking off an early season slump to put up some of the best numbers of anyone in Kansas City’s history(yes, even up there with Quisenberry and Montgomery). The pen was so deep last year that a guy like Louis Coleman, who was nasty both in the minors and the majors, was only in the big leagues for a portion of the season. One of the main cogs in the bullpen last year was Luke Hochevar, who will miss the 2014 season to have Tommy John Surgery. No worries, Royals fans, as former starter Wade Davis, who is a much better reliever than starter, will be taking his place this year. Add in Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera, and (probably) Donnie Joseph and you have one of the best bullpens in the game. Now, bullpens tend to rollover every few years, so we could be seeing some changes in the near future, but if they can last one more season then the Royals can worry about changes during the offseason.

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Now onto the starting lineup. To be flatly honest, this Royals lineup might be the most solid one they have had in years. Before last year, I really felt like the Royals hadn’t done enough to fix their 2012 lack of offense. Honestly, I was proven right. If the offense hadn’t been so streaky one wonders if the Royals would have actually made the playoffs. But this year, things are different. Just taking a glance and there are no major holes in the lineup, no Getz’s or Francoeur’s dragging it down. There are a few question marks, guys coming off of down years in 2013. Mike Moustakas might be the most talked about Royal in this conversation, as he pretty much stunk up the joint last year. It didn’t matter if he was facing lefties or righties, starters or relievers, Orioles or Indians, he just didn’t look good at the plate. Moose tucked his ego aside, went and played in the Venezuelan Winter League while working on his swing. Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol managed the team Moose was on, so he was able to work with him on a personal basis. What we have seen this spring is more of an open stance from Moustakas, less movement in his swing and a better ability at hitting lefthanders. If Moose can bounce back, that leaves one less worry with this offense. Alcides Escobar was another concern, as he went from having a great offensive 2012 to a downright dismal 2013. It didn’t matter if you hit him at the top of the lineup or the bottom(although he should have had no business at the top of the lineup, where he batted a whopping 49% of the time), Esky was one of the worst hitters in baseball last year. Granted, we all know he is in there for his defense, but a little bit of offense would have been nice. Most Royals fans(and I assume a good portion of the Royals braintrust) would agree that even if Escobar hits in the .260-.270 range, his defense would make up for the rest. The Royals have him signed to a very team-friendly contract, but if doesn’t produce this year then they might have to start looking elsewhere, or at least until Adalberto Mondesi Jr. makes it to the big leagues.

MLB: Spring Training-Kansas City Royals at Milwaukee Brewers

Elsewhere in the lineup, Eric Hosmer is expected to hit much like he did in the second half of the season, as is Salvador Perez. Two guys who’s numbers were down last year was Billy Butler and Alex Gordon and both are being counted on to improve on last year. I know many soured on Butler, as he didn’t put up the power numbers he had the year before, but he was still one of the better hitters on the team. Gordon is being moved down to fifth in the order and will be asked to drive in more runs this year. In the past he has struggled when lowered in the order, so it will be interesting to see how he does. The two new additions to the Royals lineup are right fielder Nori Aoki and second baseman Omar Infante, who are expected to bat first and second respectively. Aoki should get on base at the top of the order, even if he doesn’t walk as much as expected out of that spot in the order. Infante might be better suited to sixth in the order but should be fine second, as he can do about anything asked of him from that spot. Both should be improvements over the players they are replacing and should give the lineup a different look. Lorenzo Cain will be the center fielder and at this point I believe most just want him to stay healthy. Royals management expects continued improvement from the youngsters, which very well could happen. We could also see some struggles as well. Either way though, this offense looks way better than it did last year and one can only hope it produces more to help out the pitching.

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The bench though is where there are a few concerns. Since the Royals plan on carrying 12 pitchers when they break camp, that leaves them with only four spots for their bench. One will be the backup catcher, which at this point appears to be Brett Hayes. It also appears as if both Justin Maxwell and Jarrod Dyson will be with the team to backup in the outfield. That leaves one spot, and most of the spring it appeared the Royals would be daring and not keep a backup infielder and instead keep 3B/1B Danny Valencia. Valencia has use, as he scorches lefthanders, but it would appear a backup infielder might be of more value. That seems even more apparent as both Escobar and Infante have battled injuries this spring. The Royals swear they can fill Valencia in at second and move Infante over at SS, but Danny has never played second and it doesn’t appear smart to start that now. The Royals options as backup infielder aren’t very promising, but they could suffice if absolutely needed. Pedro Ciriaco would seem to have the first shot, as he has hit well this spring and is out of options. Jason Donald has also had a good spring but is out of options. There is also former first round draft pick Christian Colon, who can man second or shorstop, but is pretty much just a glove-man at this point. The Royals don’t have great options(and let Emilio Bonifacio, their best option, go before Spring Training), but they knew this all offseason. It would seem insane to go into the season without a backup infielder, and I hope they come to their senses. If not, we could see Valencia at second base and possibly even Moustakas sliding over to shortstop. That’s just scary and nonsensical, folks.

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Finally, Ned Yost will be coming back for another season as manager of the Royals. You all know my thoughts on Neddy, and at this point I’m not even going to give you links to my columns ranting about Yost(which also seem to be some sort of weird therapy sessions). My feelings haven’t changed about him. I don’t think he is the guy to get Kansas City to the promise land. He did a good job last year of not letting the guys get too down after their craptacular May, which I give him kudos for. He has learned at this point to just let them play. But we all know he likes to tinker, and that hasn’t changed. Expect some bunting, expect some questionable lineups, and most definitely he will keep a starter in longer than he should. But until the Royals decide he isn’t the guy, it doesn’t matter what I think. Ned is the devil you know at this point.

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So with just two weeks remaining until the games count,  the Royals almost have their roster set and ready to go. I’ve bounced around a lot of ideas as to what I think will happen this season and where I see them come October and a lot of other issues will factor in during the season(injuries could play a major part, as the Royals lack a lot of depth, especially in the lineup). Last year, I picked them for right around .500, or just a tad below. This year, I believe at the very least this is a winning ball club. Playoffs? I’m not quite there yet. I definitely don’t see them toppling Detroit in the Central and am not totally sure they can get past Cleveland. But if the youngsters continue to develop and Ventura is as good as advertised, this could be a really fun season. In some ways this season is ‘Playoffs or Bust’, as the window for this team is closing. Shields is a free agent at the end of the year, and Butler and Gordon both can be free agents after 2015. There is more young talent on the way, but it’s anyone’s guess just when we will see them. I personally see this team winning 83-87 games, just barely missing out on the postseason. A lot of things went right for them last year and the percentages say that doesn’t happen two years in a row. I do think this team will be fun to watch, even if they win 83. Dayton Moore has finally put together a winning team, one that he pretty much developed. July might be a true test of how much he(or David Glass, as he would have to open the pocketbook) wants it. If the Royals are in it, they have to go for it. This team can contend, but might be still one or two players away from the playoffs. Once again Kansas City, it’s time to prove me wrong. Make me eat my words. I would gladly do it if it means I am watching the Royals play in October. Maybe by then I will understand what ‘Be Royal’ means.

P.S.-I’m pretty sure we will hear this song this year at the K. I just hope they realize the lyrics don’t really make sense for a winning team. Just saying.

This 2013 Kansas City Royals Season

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This 2013 season for the Kansas City Royals…the comment that has been made a lot the last couple months is how this season has been a roller coaster for Royals fans. So let’s start where all good stories start, the beginning.

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April was a great month for the Royals, as they would string together their first over .500 month of the season…but we weren’t for sure they were actually contenders. The team would travel to Philadelphia that first weekend of the season and Mike Schmidt and George Brett would throw out the first pitch simultaneously. Schmidt would also discuss how he had hemorrhoids during the World Series in 1980 but didn’t talk about it like George. Philadelphia would also be the sight of Greg Holland’s first blown save of the season; Royals fans would freak out. But the real shocker in April happened on the 16th. In an event that I thought would force the end of the world, Chris Getz hit a home run. Seriously, a real over the fence, over the right fielder’s head and in the air home run! In other news, someone saw a unicorn in Atlanta that night. April would also see the Royals stranded in Boston, as a manhunt to find terrorists was going on, locking down the entire city. The Royals were back in action the next day, just in time to hear David Ortiz sound like Tony Montana.

Kansas City Royals v St. Louis Cardinals

Jeremy Guthrie would throw his first ever complete game shutout on the 3rd of May and…well, May sucked for the Royals: A-LOT. May was also the month Ned Yost asked if he should spank his players for their bad performance. Really. The team was so bad in May that they started the month in first place and by the end of it they were in last. It was so bad that on May 30 the Royals threw a Hail Mary and hired George Brett to be the hitting coach. All this stuff happened the first two months! I’m still shocked Chris Getz hit a home run.

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Moving on to June, Brett and assistant hitting coach Pedro Grifol would work with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas and on June 14th, we began to see improvement in Hosmer. By June 17th, the Royals were back at .500, even if the team was winning with smoke and mirrors. Then on June 22nd, an angel swung down from the heavens, and sent little Christopher Getz to Omaha. I was elated. Lee Judge was probably in tears. Wil Myers was also recalled in June. Unfortunately, it was for the Tampa team that Kansas City traded him to. I still cry when watching his highlights. By the end of June, Hosmer had homered and looked like he did his rookie year, while Moustakas had pushed his average up over .200. June 29th, Johnny Giavotella was recalled by the Royals, as he was told he would be the starting second baseman by Dayton Moore. He would last a whole ten games and 38 plate appearances. In a corresponding move, Jeff Francoeur was let go by the team, which left a giant hole on Frenchy Quarter Thursday’s, but gave David Lough a chance to play a good right field for Kansas City, something we hadn’t seen since 2011.

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July brought us the All-Star game, where three Royals were selected which hadn’t been done in…sorry, ran out of fingers. Let’s just go with it’s been a long time. Or 1988. This is also the time where people started noticing just how dominant Greg Holland has been this season. Right after the All-Star game, Dayton Moore said the Royals were capable of winning 15 of the next 20 games. Most of us laughed, mocked and threw some snark around…and then the team went out and won 16 of 20! The Royals would stand pat at the trade deadline, not dealing Ervin Santana, but would also lose George Brett, as he stepped down as the hitting coach on July 25th. Hey, we got two months out of #5…the golf courses were calling him!  Things were going so good in the second half of the season that Bruce Chen was inserted into the rotation and has been a pleasant surprise.

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers

August started and the red-hot Royals continued to win. Everything the Royals were touching turned to gold, as even new acquisition Justin Maxwell got off to a great start for Kansas City, hitting over .400 while hitting a couple of big home runs for the team. All the while, the Royals had sneaked back into the wild card hunt, pushing themselves to within 2 games of the second Wild Card spot. The Royals would come down to earth a bit by the middle of the month, as middle infielder and soon to be Royals retirement home inhabitant Miguel Tejada was suspended by Major League Baseball for twice testing positive for amphetamines. No word on if Chris Getz was tested after his long bomb in April. Injuries would also hit the Royals, and looked as if the end was near for our boys in blue.

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September would roll around though, and the winning would pick back up. Ever so slowly, the Royals crept up this month, closer and closer to the second wild card spot in the American League. Close enough that playoff tickets are getting printed off just in case. Close enough that other teams are already saying they don’t want to face Kansas City if they make it to the playoffs. Close enough that some of us aren’t sure how to act in a pennant race. We are sitting here, two weeks left in the season and the Royals are contenders. Sure, they’ve taken the long, weird and nonsensical way to get here, but they are here. This, THIS is all we have asked for the last eighteen years. Let’s hope this becomes a regular occurrence in Kansas City. This 2013 season…

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