Are the Kansas City Royals on the verge of something special?
For the past couple of years (at least), we heard that the Kansas City Royals farm system was going to save the day. Well, it appeared that way to some of us outside of the KC fanbase. Despite dealing 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers previous to the 2013 season, they added a stud starter in James Shields. Adding Ervin Santana stabilized the top of the rotation.
But there was a pleasant surprise to those not familiar with the team.
Quick. Which bullpen led the American League in practically every pitching categories for the 2013 season? That would be the ‘pen of the Royals. You could go on and on about which categories: ERA (2.55), FIP (3.21), xFIP (3.38), SIERA (3.04), batting average against (.213), SO/9 (9.57), strand rate (81.4%). There’s more, too. That’s a post in itself.
And has Kansas City found themselves something special in closer Greg Holland. But it wasn’t just him. He had plenty of help from the likes of Tim Collins, Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Crow. Even Bruce Chen got in on some of the action.
The only concern would be the walk rates for Collins and Crow. We’ll talk about the ‘pen a little later, too.
Who had David Lough figuring into the Royals 2013 outfield situation? With Jeff Francoeur starting the season in right field, Lough’s playing time wouldn’t be anything like the 96 games in which he played. He started 80 games and compiled a triple slash of .289/.311/.422.
Escobar has never been one to take a walk, but he was even more hesitant last season. His walk rate of 3.0% had a profound effect on his .259 OBP. And that’s a shame because Escobar can create havoc for opponents on the basepaths. He was a prefect 22-for-22 in stolen base attempts. Take that Billy Hamilton…
Moustakas saw his ISO drop from .171 for 2012 to .131 for 2013. And for the second consecutive season, his OBP was below .300. No one would dare accuse him of being an on-base machine, but in his days in the minors, Moustakas had only one season with a OBP below .300. His next lowest: .337 in ’08. His April and May were not impressive (.183/.253/.307).
A positive spin would be that Moose did cut down on his strikeouts (20.2% for 2012 to 16.1% for 2013).
When I initially looked at the overall numbers, the stat that jumped out at me most was the Royals lack of scoring. Sure, the team was fifth in batting average (.260), but they were 11th in runs scored (648). The club’s wRC+ of 88 was 12th in the AL. And where did that lead me?
RISP. Sure, the Royals were third in batting in that situation, but they also only scored the 9th most runs.
But what was most telling was the team’s record for the month of May. Seems simple. Their dreadful 8-20 record for the month was arguably the main reason this club didn’t make the postseason. If they play .500 baseball in May, they would have ended the season with the same record as the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland made the wild AL postseason. Could have been even wilder had the Royals thrown their hat in the ring, too.
May was the only month where the Royals played under .500 baseball. You can’t win a division – or in this case, postseason spot – in the early months of the season, but you can lose one.
And ponder this thought. If Kansas City goes 15-13 in May, they tie the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central’s top spot. What might have been…
Hot Stove Activity
GM Dayton Moore was looking at the unenviable task of replacing Ervin Santana who appeared to have priced himself off the Royals ledger. While no one would dare state Jason Vargas as being “that replacement”, Moore was looking for the proverbial “innings eater”. Vargas possesses that ability.
Now the rumblings…
Would Kansas City be willing to deal Billy Butler? And I’ve also read Eric Hosmer. And only yesterday, Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star stated that the club could deal from its bullpen depth in order to upgrade the second base position. No apologies to Chris Getz fans.
How about Howie Kendrick? That’s the name most attached if such a proposal were to come to fruition.
Here it looks like I have the negatives outweighing the positives, but I don’t think that’s honestly the case. Sometimes it’s easier to delve more into negatives than positives. I don’t believe the Royals are that far away from creating more buzz. Could it be 2014?
That would not surprise me one bit.