Jun 19, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Humberto Quintero (33) and right fielder Jeff Francoeur (21) celebrate a victory against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. The Royals defeated the Astros 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Skeptical Optimism and the Royals


In Pittsburgh, the Royals looked rough at the plate, awful on defense and ended up dropping all three games to the Pirates.

They rebounded pretty nicely, though.

A return trip home was just right for the Royals, as they used late inning heroics to sweep the Brewers, take a series against the Cardinals, and unleashed a stifling mix of bullpen arms to get past the Astros. As they head home for the last interleague series of the year, they’re 7-2 in their last three series, taking their wins by a combined margin of nine runs.

"It ain't easy," Ned Yost might say. Photo Credit:

After Tuesday’s 2-0 win, the TV broadcast team noted a surprising stat. The Royals are second in the American League in shutouts. Even with a rough looking starting rotation and a slew of injuries, the Royals have reached that distinction.

This past week-plus showed one Royals blogger that this is a tougher team than we’d thought during their 12 game losing streak in April. In May and June (so far), the Royals are 25-21.

The result of the recent surge has the Royals five games under .500 and four and a half games behind the Indians in the AL Central.

All this without their long-time closer. All this with a struggling Eric Hosmer through the first two months of the year. All this with 10 different starting pitchers, two of which have had significant injury battles (Danny Duffy is out after Tommy John surgery; Felipe Paulino opened the year on the DL and is currently rehabbing for a return later in the month).

All this without their future franchise catcher.

It’s way too early to get worked up and start cutting paper for the parade on the Plaza, but it’s encouraging to see a team that looked like any other team from 2004 to the present for stretches of April make such a different impact as the season approaches its midpoint. Eric Hosmer started out with a surge in June but has cooled a bit. Still, he’s doing much better than he had performed in April and May. Alex Gordon looked to be regressing back to the same hitter we’d grown frustrated with, but moving back to the leadoff spot has worked wonders, as he’s gotten on base all but one game since and usually reaches multiple times a game.

Then, when their bullpen needed as much rest as possible – the Royals got about 70% of their innings from the bullpen in the last two games of the St. Louis series – they managed to get six innings out of Jonathan Sanchez and two (rough) innings from Louis Coleman. The following night, Luke Hochevar turned in a great start and ate up another 7.2 innings.

Now Paulino is close to a return. Now Salvador Perez is close to a return. Eventually, Wil Myers will have wiped out any excuses the Royals could make to say he shouldn’t be in the big leagues. Lorenzo Cain might even make it through this latest rehabilitation assignment.

Those are three good pieces for this team. Perez has been on fire during his rehab assignment and could be back up as early as Friday’s opener at home against the Cardinals. Paulino is about a week away, and Myers could show up at any time now that the Super Two deadline is projected to have passed.

It’s counting on a lot to say that the trio will lead to a resurgence, but Paulino was the best starter the Royals had before his groin injury. Myers has hammered more homers than Clint Robinson, minor league superstar and the former Texas League Triple Crown winner in 2010, in more than 100 fewer at bats. Perez offers a lot more behind the plate and with the bat than either of Humberto Quintero and Brayan Pena.

Will those three be enough to push the Royals to some kind of push in the division? They’ve gotten some solid starts out of Vin Mazzaro which has surprised nearly everybody and at some point, even with a taxi squad in Omaha, the bullpen could fade in the second half after so many innings.

The 2012 season has been a target of sorts while we wait out The Process. Some have jumped on Dayton Moore for being in year six of his rebuilding effort while other teams have made quicker strides. Setbacks have occurred, but it is frustrating to see teams turn things around much quicker. Still, the latest stretch has show the Royals that they don’t always need the biggest output at the plate to win.

"Can you believe this luck, you guys?" Photo Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Most nights, three or four runs won’t be enough, but on some nights it is, fortunately. Right now, the Royals are learning how to make that happen. That’s a lesson that teams of the last decade never managed to pick up.

Now, though, it’s Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar on the field during these close wins. Its Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera holding the lead for Jonathan Broxton. Pieces of future championship teams are learning how to win the tough games – against National League opponents at least.

Here’s to hoping it sticks. Optimism is a fun feeling, even if there’s the conditioned twinge of skepticism still hanging around.

 

Tags: AL Central Baseball Eric Hosmer Felipe Paulino Kansas City Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals Luke Hochevar MLB Royals Salvador Perez Wil Myers

  • jim fetterolf

    Surprised you didn’t mention JaKKKe Odorizzi, most likely major prospect to make a quick appearance, after the ASB I think. While Myers is putting up gaudy numbers at Werner Park and with a BA similar to that of Giavotella and within 20 points of Irving Falu in spite of being a bit challenged by breaking stuff, Odorizzi is having a more consistent experience than Danny Duffy last year.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf I just don’t think they’ll bring Odorizzi up before Myers mostly. Just a hunch – he could probably handle it. 
     
    I don’t share your concern on Myers, though. I think he’s ready to test out MLB pitching and he can’t find that in Omaha. He has a similar HR/AB ratio in home and road games alike and though Werner is pretty favorable to right handers, he’s gone the other way for homers at least three times that I recall. Who’s reported that he’s struggled with breaking stuff? I just haven’t come across that one. 

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel Might have been Dutton. Myers recently had a 3-19 stretch and said he’s seeing a lot more breaking stuff, even in hitter’s counts in AAA.
     
    As for Werner, it’s not untypical for PCL parks. Everybody hits in the PCL because of smaller parks and only seeing a major-league quality arm about once a week. Hosmer was hitting over .400 there, Giavotella is hitting .327 last I looked. It’s a big step to the majors.
     
    As for Myers being ready, this isn’t last year when a prospect was blocked by Kila, Aviles, or Betemit. Lorenzo Cain played for the Naturals last night, looks a few weeks out if his leg holds up, so will get a very long look before Myers comes up. Gordon and Frenchy are heating up and Dyson is improving with his first steady playing time in the majors, so there is neither an opening nor the need at the moment for Myers. I’m guessing we don’t see him til September, maybe not then due to 40-man roster considerations. Barring an injury, of course.
     
    I like Wil Myers’ talents, think he’ll be an impact player, but don’t see him as the next Alex Gordon come to save the Royals.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf Okay but that’s a 3-19 stretch. Any struggles he may have had then look to have been erased. He’s striking out less, walking more, hitting more line drives in June than in May and not sacrificing any power in the process. Myers is the most polished hitter in the minors as it is and if he had some struggle, he’s adjusted to it. If he slumped against breaking stuff, I don’t know why he wouldn’t be seeing more of it every single time up, unless he is and he’s adjusted. I catch Omaha games on MILB.tv occasionally and haven’t seen any issues, but maybe I’m just seeing the good games.
     
    Cain’s a bigger threat to Myers than Dyson though, provided he can stay on the field. Dyson has adjusted, too, but for a while there he was awful, striking out a lot, doing nothing with the bat and I’m not sold on his defensive wizardry the more I see him. I think his speed makes up for some bad routes to the ball and sometimes he plays too shallow because of it and gets burnt. Dyson’s not going to be the guy who blocks Myers. 
     
    Frenchy has five homers. Hasn’t hit one in nearly a month. Didn’t hit one in the first month. He has one extra base in June. He has one walk and 4 RBI. He’s 6 for his last 29. That’s not heating up. I think we’re stuck with him though. Contract + Dayton Moore. So yeah, maybe Myers can’t overcome the roster questions, but I think at some point he’ll force their hand, especially if Super Two isn’t the concern it was a few weeks ago.

  • eric.akers

     @michael.allen.engel I think that we could manage to bring up Myers, but it would probably be at the expense of Cain at the moment. I think it is just because of Jeff’s contract.  I can see us trading Jeff to a contender however: the strong hitting against lefties and the arm. I think we would get stuck with most of his bill though if we were to get anything good for him.
     
    I learned something interesting recently on MLBTradeRumors: apparently we offered Melky the contract that Jeff signed, but he turned us down leading to the trade.
     
    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/06/rosenthal-on-royals-as-barney-orioles.html

  • michael.allen.engel

     @eric.akers Yeah, I caught that and I’ve been meaning to work it into a post, but things have been busy. It’s a really interesting bit of news, though, and Melky looks brilliant for turning it down. I wonder what would have happened to Cain had both accepted. We’ll never know… 
     
    Also, yeah, moving Francoeur could be tough. I’m not sure there’s a GM in baseball who likes him more than Dayton and it’s not a typical expiring contract that teams will trade off this time of year. It’s not an albatross of a deal if he hits and plays some defense though. A hot July could up the offers. Rick Ankiel did nothing in 2010 and got us Tim Collins so maybe if there’s a diamond in the rough DM sees out there…

  • ArrowFan

    This will be the first year in (how many has it been now) that we finish above 500.  Acomplishing that would most likely place us in first place as well.  It will all boil down to how well we do against our divison in the second half.

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel  @eric.akers  I figure GMDM is shopping a lot of people right now. I expect some moves by the deadline and a couple might be surprises. Frenchy is among the possible moves, or could be our 4th OF and platoon DH with Hosmer. All gets down to how much the team believes in Myers at the moment and whether they see him making a big enough immediate impact to justify the finances.