Royals Rewind: 8/9-8/15

The Royals finally had a relatively calm week off the field after the chaos of late July and the aftermath of  the trade deadline.  The only notable move saw Jose Guillen traded to the Giants for a player to be named later, and even that didn’t change anything from when he was designated for assignment on August 5.

On the field, the results weren’t great, but the performance wasn’t awful.  Finishing off a west coast road trip, the Royals got swept by the Angels, and, with the Yankees waiting back in Kansas City, the week looked pretty bad.  Fortunately, Kansas City was able to salvage two wins out of the week, and except for the home run derby game on Saturday, the Royals had a shot at a couple more wins.  Still (and we shouldn’t be surprised), the Royals didn’t make the plays to make the difference.

The Numbers
.243/.293/.326/.619
17 runs scored
16 BB in 249 PA – 6.4% walkrate
6 steals in 8 attempts

Team ERA: 3.67
Starters ERA: 4.12
Bullpen ERA: 2.54
41/17 K/BB ratio

Streaking
Bryan Bullington, 14 IP, 3 ER, 9K 2 BB – pitched a gem against the Yankees Sunday for his first MLB win; has he supplanted Bannister in the rotation with his two starts? Hmm…
Yuniesky Betancourt, 10-25, 2 HR, 5 RBI – set a new career high for homers the same week his first child was born
Wilson Betemit, 8-24, HR
Billy Butler, 8-26, HR – leads the team with 11 homers…needs to pick it up to get to 20
Mike Aviles, 6-15, 2 SBs

Slumping
Alex Gordon, 5-24, but scored 3 runs, drove in 2
Jason Kendall, 4-19 – if you think he’s bad now, wait until he’s even older in 2011 (and getting paid $3.5 million!)
Kila Ka’aihue, 4-23, this actually raised his 2010 line at this level
Mitch Maier, 2-20, not a good week for the internet darlings…

The Verdict
Other than the 8-3 loss on Saturday, every game was decided by 1 or 2 runs. So the Royals kept it close most of the time, and they had a shot to get back into the first game of the Angels series and came up empty, then had the last game of the series going into extras before a walkoff homer ended it. So the opportunities have been there, and with a few breaks, they could have gone 4-3 instead of 2-5 this week.

But it’s a young team, and you can’t rely upon luck. This team doesn’t create their own opportunities, as evidenced by the subpar 6.4% walkrate. When the singles aren’t sneaking through like they had been most every other week, you need those walks for a couple reasons: 1) well they put you on base, 2) they work the pitchers pitch counts higher, 3) it means you’re not swinging at junk that makes you ground out.

There were some encouraging signs, though. The young bullpen put some innings together and the 2.54 ERA this week as a group is good to see. If you assume Bullington as a starter from here on out, and that Brian Bannister doesn’t end up pitching out of the bullpen, the Royals relievers have an average age of just above 25 years old with Dusty Hughes at a ripe 28 years as the senior member. Joakim Soria leads that group in career innings with 238.1. The next closest to that number is Jesse Chavez, who has 126 career innings, but just changed leagues and has only 7.1 in the American League. Sure, it’s only one week but they stepped up collectively. Moreso, they gained some experience in high pressure situations that might help them out down the line.

Along with Bullington’s performance, Zack Greinke put up a nice start against the Angels to bring his ERA back below 4.00 for the year.

I don’t know what to think about Kila Ka’aihue, though. He’s driven quite a few towards the warning track and to the deep part of ballparks, so maybe he’s just running into some bad luck, there. But there’s also the question of bat speed. A faster bat can put 5-10 more feet on a drive, just enough to get it past the warning track and over the fence. It’s tough to say Ka’aihue was set in the long-term plans for the Royals already, but he has six weeks to show something that doesn’t jeopardize his spot for 2011 (not that they’d release him, but if he doesn’t get his OPS above .500, it’s hard to promise him significant at bats in the future).

The Royals will keep it in the division over the next couple weeks, hosting Cleveland and Chicago, then heading north to face Detroit and take on the Indians again. The battle for fourth place is underway. Bring it on, Cleveland!

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Bryan Bullington Joakim Soria Kansas City Royals KC Kila Kaaihue MLB Royals Yuniesky Betancourt Zack Greinke

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