Perfect Form - Mitch Maier Takes the Hill (Image: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE)

April in a Nutshell

The Opening Month of 2012 Has Really Hurt (Image: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE)

It has long been said that “Good Pitching beats Good Hitting” and the Royals don’t have good pitching, and therefore have the next-to-worst record in Major League Baseball after the first month of the 2012 season. Here’s a look at what happened in the Month of April…

I. Record/Standings
     a. April Overall Record: 6-15 (.286)
          AL Central: 4th (of 5)
          American League: 13th (of 14)
          Major League: 29th (of 30)
     b. April Home Record
          0-10 (.000)
     c. April Road Record
          6-5 (.545)
     d. April Streaks
          Winning: 3 (4/25-4/27: Indians, Twins)
          Losing: 12 (4/11-4/24: A’s, Indians, Tigers, Blue Jays, Indians again)
          Current: Lost 1
     e. April Opponents
             Angels: 2-1
             A’s: 1-2
             Indians: 2-4
             Tigers: 0-3
             Blue Jays: 0-4
             Twins: 1-1
             (+ two weather postponements)

II. Ned Yost Quote of the Month
     4/23- after losing all 10 games of home stand.
It was a horrible homestand. We didn’t win any games, but they played their tails off. I believe in these guys, I believe in their talent, I believe in who they are and I’m convinced these guys are going to be OK,” Yost said. “And we’re going to look at it two months from now, kind of laugh at it and say, ‘Remember that rough start we got off to?‘”

Finally - A Win (Image: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE)

III. High Point
     Winning on 4/25 – after losing 12 straight games
After suffering through a wretched two weeks of baseball which included blown leads, baserunning blunders, and a mountain of frustration, it seemed possible that the Royals would never win another game. However, a strong start and solid pitching finally got the Royals over the hump. Four home runs, including two by Billy Butler powered the offense to 11 hits and 8 runs. Luke Hochevar pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up just two runs. Tommy Hottovy, Aaron Crow, & Jose Mijares held wonderfully, allowing just one hit in relief. The Royals added an exclamation point by scoring four runs in the top of the ninth to give the bullpen some more breathing room. The team celebrated on the field with high-fives and humble embarrassment, but you could tell that they were spraying champagne on the inside.

IV. Low Point
     Losing on 4/11Jonathan Broxton blowing save with horrible 9th, kicks off losing streak
The Royals finally scrape together a run with a Hosmer single & a Butler double in the top of the 12th to take a 4-3 lead. Broxton brought in to save the game. After striking out the leadoff hitter Daric Barton, Escobar makes an error at shortstop. Then, Broxton issues back-to-back walks to load the bases. A groundout by Coco Crisp leads to the 2nd out of the inning but the tying run scores. Broxton then hits Yoenis Cespedes with a pitch to load the bases and then hits Jonny Gomes to end the game. A’s win 5-4 and the Royals don’t win again for two weeks.

V. Surprises and Disappointments
     1) Mike Moustakas‘ great start (Surprise). A traditional “slow starter”, Moose has been playing above the fray throughout the first month of the season. He’s been stellar on defense, but his hitting is two months ahead of pace. He’s hitting .315/.375/.534 with 3 HR (he hit 5 in 89 games in 2011), and 12 RBI (he had 30 last season).
     2) Clutch Hitting (Disappointment). Throughout the month, the Royals had several scoring opportunities that could have meant victories in nearly every game. Somehow, almost none of them produced a run, and the boys are one GIDP short of having the most in Major League Baseball (23).
     3) The Bullpen (Disappointment) We knew the Starting Pitching wasn’t a strongsuit, but we all believed that the bullpen would be strong. Losing Soria & Paulino before the season even started was a bummer. The team looked to someone to step up & help out the struggling offense, but the pitching fell victim as well. The staff ends the month with the 4th worst ERA (4.58) in the Majors, the 2nd most walks (87), and the 4th least Ks (145). One thing the bullpen is – overworked.
     4) Eric Hosmer (both?). Like the Royals as a whole, we all got a little ahead of ourselves with young Mr. Hosmer. Everyone expected him to come out and continue setting the world on fire in 2012, but he has stumbled out of the gate. Out of everyone, I can see him pressing the most. His long swing makes him susceptible to off-speed pitches and has resulted in some bad swings at bad pitches. He ends April hitting just .188 with 13 strikeouts. He’s made a lot of solid contact, which have resulted in outs. So, there’s somewhat of a silver lining to his batting average. However, things like that can prove to be more frustrating than anything. He does have 5 Home Runs and 13 RBI, so he’s producing runs despite his low average. Eventually, the hits will come for Hosmer – he just needs to hang in there.

VI. Transactions
     1) 4/12: Placed OF Lorenzo Cain on 15-day DL. Recalled OF Jarrod Dyson from AAA Omaha.
     2) 4/15: Recalled RHP Louis Coleman from AAA Omaha. Optioned OF Jarrod Dyson to AAA Omaha.
     3) 4/21: Placed RHP Greg Holland on the 15-day DL. Recalled RHP Jeremy Jeffress from AAA Omaha.
     4) 4/25: Called up LHP Tommy Hottovy from AAA Omaha. Optioned RHP Jeremy Jeffress to AAA Omaha.
     5) 4/27: Recalled OF Jarrod Dyson from AAA Omaha. Optioned OF Jason Bourgeois to AAA Omaha.
     6) 4/28: Recalled RHP Nathan Adcock from AAA Omaha. Optioned LHP Everett Teaford to AAA Omaha.

VII. Player of the Month
     Billy Butler
Billy is settling in nicely to his full-time role as the Royals’ DH. He ends the month batting .329, slugging .576, and has an OPS of .943. He’s hit 5 HR, driven in 16 Runs, and pounded out 6 doubles. He’s had a hit in 15 of 21 games so far. He was held hitless in all 16 plate appearances during the Toronto series, which brought his average down from .375, but he’s hit in five straight games (the last 4 were multi-hit games) to raise it again. Billy has long been one of the most consistent hitters on the team, and now that he’s only got that to worry about, look for him to continue his success.

Honorable Mention: Dare I say Chris Getz?  Though it may get me kicked out of the blogosphere, Getz has been serviceable as a utility man so far in 2012. He’s been platooning at second base with Yuniesky Betancourt and has so far been outperforming him. His average has been consistently around .300, he’s 3 of 4 stealing bases, and he hasn’t made an error on defense.

VIII. Pitcher of the Month
     Aaron Crow
You could make a case for and a case against just about every pitcher on the staff this year. Crow’s first appearance came in Game One vs. the Angels and was a nightmare. He came into the 0-0 tie game in the 7th inning and looked completely dominant. When he came back in the 8th, he looked like me. He got an out, then gave up 3 straight hits. After exiting, a triple cleared the bases & Crow was stuck with the loss. Since then, he’s been masterful. He’s given up just 2 hits in his last 10 appearances. He hasn’t allowed a run during that stretch, and he’s managed to lower his ERA to 2.38 after seeing it sit at 20.25 after that first game. The Royals will need him to continue to be solid & bring his friends along in order to reclaim their bullpen dominance.

Honorable Mention: Mitch Maier. Yes, it’s a sign of futility when you have to stick a position player on the mound, but for the second year in a row, Mitch has handled this role with grace and perfection. The Royals threw him out there on April 15th in Cleveland. They were down 13-5 and staring at their 4th loss in a row when Mitch took the mound in the top of the 9th. He faced the minimum – giving up a single before inducing an inning ending double play.

IX. Compare to April 2011
     2011’s season actually started in March, opening up at home with the LA Angels just as in 2012. The Royals won 3 of 4 from the Halos, the 4th of them in 13 innings. The April 2011 Royals showed a flair for the dramatic (Their 1st 4 wins came in their final at-bat). Overall, through 27 games, they went 14-13 and, as the month ended, found themselves in 2nd place in the AL Central – 4.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians. During that first month, they put together two 4-game winning streaks (and were 2 games into a 3rd as the month ended). They also struggled through a stretch where they lost 6 in a row, including 9 out of 11.
     The “Youth Movement” parade had not yet begun, so you still had guys like Kila Ka’aihue, Wilson Betemit, Mike Aviles, and Matt Treanor on the roster.

April 30th, 2011 Lineup:
1. Mike Aviles – 3B
2. Melky Cabrera – CF
3. Alex Gordon – LF
4. Billy Butler – 1B
5. Jeff Francoeur – RF
6. Wilson Betemit – DH
7. Alcides Escobar – SS
8. Matt Treanor – C
9. Chris Getz – 2b
Starting Pitcher – Sean O’Sullivan

Just for Fun: April 30th, 2005 Lineup:
1. David DeJesus – CF
2. Tony Graffanino – 3B
3. Mike Sweeney – 1B
4. Ken Harvey – DH
5. Eli Marrero – RF
6. Angel Berroa – SS
7. Matt Diaz – LF
8. Alberto Castillo – C
9. Ruben Gotay – 2B
Starting Pitcher – Denny Bautista

X. May Outlook
     In May, the big boys in the AL East come to town when the Yankees & Red Sox fill up the seven game home stand after the team comes back from Detroit. After that, it’s the first of three Thursday off-days before a quick five game roadie. Another five game home stand follows, including a three game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks (first interleague games). After that, Kauffman Stadium will sit empty for the rest of the month. In all, the Royals play 16 road games in May and just 12 games at home. Good for a team that is winless at home but has a winning road record. The Royals will play seven games against the AL East leading Yankees in May.

     There are also some good promotions in May at the K:
     5/3 vs. Yankees-Alex Gordon Rawlings Gold Glove Replica
     5/5 vs. Yankees-George Brett Mini Pine Tar Bat
     5/8 vs. Red Sox-“Our Time” T-shirt
     5/19 vs. D-Backs-All-Star Garden Gnome
     5/20 vs. D-Backs-Bark at the Park (bring your dogs)

XI. Summary
     My mom says that April Showers bring May Flowers.  The optimistic approach would be to say that the season is only 1/10 finished, so there is an infinitely long way to go. It is not nearly time to pack things in for the year.  This is a team that is capable of getting hot, continuing to improve, and still challenging for a Division Title.  (Stay with me)  They sit in a deep hole right now, and the first month of 2012 was a forgettable one.  Hopefully the boys in blue have done just that.

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Tags: AL Central April Baseball Kansas City Royals KC MLB Nutshell Recap Royals

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