Yes, the Royals are winning right now. We know this. It’s a fun time to be a Royals follower because this right here is one of the FEW reasons the Royals keep us interested. The simple fact that they are playing better than the teams they face. Maybe even the fact that they are playing better so unexpectedly. Maybe it’s the honeymoon phase of the 2011 season, it’s still early, and starting 7-4 doesn’t hurt the feeling. Is it that springtime is upon us, the winter season has passed and we are in a much better frame of mind? Who knows…
Whatever the case may be with the 2011 Royals, we know this for sure: Don’t mess with a good thing. The Royals seem to be following these guidelines strictly.
I was certainly caught off guard by the start of this team. Winning a series against a veteran Anaheim squad is never easy, even at home. Splitting with the division power White Sox takes some muscle. Then gutting out two of three from a Detroit team who is expected to take the division crown is the most mind boggling of all… On the road mind you.
Winning a series is a new slice of pie for this team. It certainly tastes different, and winning or splitting in the first three series to begin 2011 is as rewarding for this team more so any other. The Royals aren’t a classic story of a team battling adversity or riddled with an injury-plagued clubhouse. They are the sea biscuit of Major League Baseball and they ever so gracefully command that badge. They are a frail team that lacks flash or raw talent, harnessed with has-beens, draft busts, underachievers, and 5’7 left handed pitchers named Collins. Yet they are different from the harmless Royals we are all so accustomed to. They still have these weaknesses, but the mindset this team tells a whole new story.
A story of survival. A story of adversity. A story of taking risks.
A story of taking everything you have, putting it all on the line through timely, at times uncomfortable, AGGRESSION.
Aggressiveness is the sole trait that differentiates this team from the expected underdogs of the past. There is an aura feeding off this team that speaks deeply of survival.
Here’s what I’m noticing.
1.) Offensively, the team as a whole swings at a lot more pitches around the plate. Making way more of an attempt to put the ball in play. How many times this season have you seen a called third strike? Not as many as before.
2.) When a ball is out of the strike zone, the team has better discipline by laying off balls out of the zone. Plain and simple, they are getting more walks.
3.) With more walks, that means more runners on base. Once those runners get to first, we are stealing bases almost flawlessly. It’s a beautiful thing to see runners advance to scoring position and Butler or Gordon driving them home with a double to the wall.
Don’t be fooled…THE ROYALS ARE FINALLY PLAYING THE WAY A WINNING TEAM PLAYS!
They are fueled by smart decisions. They play with a higher mentality by doing the little things to become productive. So far this season we have lost games because of poor pitching. But now is not the time to bash the pitching staff. Luke Hochevar is coming off a great performance in Detroit, Jeff Francis has done all Dayton Moore has asked, and Davies and Chen haven’t been any worse than we give them credit for. Yes, Soria blew one. Yes, we had a few middle relief errors, but with a 7-4 record it’s hard to blame anyone right now. There isn’t one player this year that I want to point a finger at. When we lose a ball game, it suddenly feels like more of a team loss, rather than Jose Gullien playing carelessly, blaming someone else and wanting to kill a fan. Or Farnsworth throwing a 0-2 fastball down the middle to Thome in the ninth that eventually gets smashed as the Royals lose the lead. It’s no longer like that, and there is something very charming about it.
I can’t describe it any other way but to say we are doing the things that playoff teams do. We NEVER give up.
To better explain my point, take a look at the current numbers:
MLB Hits: 2nd
MLB Bat Avg: 6th (.272)
MLB Steals: 1st, with 15 and only been caught stealing twice! 88% success rate!
MLB BB: 5th
MLB Ground Ball/Fly Ball ratio: tied for 8th
The Royals are doing what is necessary to win. It’s no fluke why they are 7-4. Simple math folks, the Royals are putting the ball in play and getting runners home MORE OFTEN THAN NOT. Stranding runners is of the past it seems. All of this backed up by a so far stable bullpen (for the most part).
Be excited. Live this up, breath it, and drink it down. It makes sense and any schmuck off the old block will tell you to truly embrace the success NOW, because you never know when it could die off.
Strange as it may seem, I have a feeling this “success” could continue longer than we expected. The Royals have their heads screwed on tight, and that’s the way it should be.