After trading Zack Greinke, David DeJesus and Yuniesky Betancourt in the offseason, the Royals come into 2011 looking like a whole different team. With 2011 looking like a transitional year, with little hope for anything but 70 wins while waiting for the vaunted prospect class to get further seasoning, the current crop of big leaguers gave fans something root for in the first week (plus) of the season.
In this space last season, I would review the week for the Royals, trying to observe any kind of trends that might pop up as the year goes on. With most games ending early on Sunday, it seems like the best time to cut things up, so look for this column Sunday nights.
The Royals jumped out to a hot start, winning 6 of 9 games, including three in walkoff fashion and another in their last at bat. If not for a Joakim Soria blown save on Wednesday, they would have went 7-2. As it stands, they’re tied in the AL Central with the White Sox for second place. They both trail … the Indians.
Yeah, weird week.
Slash stats: .278/.345/.429/.774
49 runs scored
15 steals in 17 attempts
39 walks in 391 plate appearances, a robust 10% – the Royals really seem to have changed their approach, and it’s resulting in more baserunners and better pitch counts. So far.
33 of 96 hits went for extra bases
Team ERA (90 IP): 4.20
Starters ERA (52.1 IP): 4.99
Bullpen ERA (37.2 IP): 3.35
Bullpen ERA, omitting Sean O’Sullivan: 2.15
Pitching staff strikeouts: 57
K/BB ratio: 2.28
The Royals allowed 16 (!) homers. Most were solo shots, thankfully.
Billy Butler, 13-33, 2 HR, 7 BB
Alex Gordon, 15-42, 9 RS, 5 2B
Chris Getz, 10-29, 4 RBI, 5 BB
Aaron Crow, 6.1 IP, 8 K, 1 BB, 5 H, 0.00 ERA
Jeff Francis, 13.2 IP, 8 K, 2 BB, 1.98 ERA
Wilson Betemit, 8-21, 4 2B, 5 BB
Mike Aviles, 3-26, 6 K, 14 LOB
Kila Ka’aihue, 6-34, 13 K
Alcides Escobar, 8-40, 30 LOB – seems to come up with the bases loaded a lot so far and 12 have been left on in scoring position and two outs.
Kyle Davies, 9 IP, 2 GS, 9.00 ERA, 7 BB
Sean O’Sullivan, 4 IP, 5 ER
Joakim Soria, 6.2 IP, 5 ER, one blown save
Early returns show this team to be fun to watch and if they do nothing else this season, their overall team defense is much improved. Escobar is making the scouting reports look good by making all the plays at shortstop, the catchers are blocking the plate, and other than Aviles, nobody’s really botched anything in an embarrassing way.
One early theme in spring training was the Royals focus on the running game and through 9 games it seems to be something they’ve committed to. When Wilson Betemit has two stolen bases, the message is going out that these guys will run anytime with anybody.
The big winners this week are Aaron Crow and Alex Gordon. Crow has shown himself to have the composure to pitch at this level, so his issues last year must have been wholly mechanical. He’s poised and fearless (so far) out of the bullpen.
Gordon is showing us what we’ve been hoping to see for the last three years as Royals fans. He’s still striking out (9 times in 45 appearances), but his swing looks better and he’s hitting the ball hard every time. He’s even been going the other way with pitches and hit lefties. It’s like a whole new Alex Gordon and we all hope that he keeps it up.
The Royals travel to Minnesota for two games before returning to Kansas City for a four game series against the Mariners.