The 2012 Royals are a team that is full of surprises. After fumbling through their worst month of the season, they followed up with their best one in August. Outside of a poor series in Boston, things really clicked for the boys in blue. The Starting Pitching was on point, giving the bullpen some time to rest their arms. When the bullpen was called upon, they did their job. The staff combined to turn in the 2nd best ERA in the American League for August. Offensively, the Royals did just enough to win, protecting their pitchers whether the score was 9-8 or 1-0. The team played well in close games, and won games that they were losing just a month ago. As a result, the Kansas City Royals pieced together their first winning month of August since the year 2000. After it seemed that the team had packed it in for the winter, they busted out and made their best attempt to keep the fans around a little bit longer. Here’s a look at what happened in the Month of August…
a. August Overall Record: 17-11 (.607)
Season Record: 59-71 (.454)
AL Central: 3rd (of 5)
American League: 11th (of 14)
Major League: 23rd (of 30)
b. August Home Record:
Season Home Record: 29-33 (.468)
c. August Road Record:
Season Road Record: 30-38 (.441)
d. August Streaks
Winning: 3 (three times) (8/7-8/9: White Sox, Orioles) (8/17-8/19: White Sox) (8/28-8/30: Tigers)
Losing: 2 (three times) (8/3-8/4: Rangers) (8/22-8/24: Rays, Red Sox)(8/26-8/27: Red Sox)
Current: Won 3
e. August Opponents
White Sox: 5-1
Red Sox: 1-3
(+ one weather postponement)
II. Ned Yost Quote of the Month
8/8-after 2nd straight win over the White Sox, opening up the month of August 5-3.
“We’ve been playing pretty good baseball here since August started. We had a horrible July, but we’ve rebounded, turned it around, and we’re playing pretty darn good baseball right now.”
III. High Point
Sweeping the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium on 8/30
With four games to go in the month, the Royals welcomed their menacing rivals from the Motor City into town. At this point in the season, the Royals were just 1-7 against the Tigers, so there was plenty of opportunity for Detroit to spoil the August party. The Royals played gritty baseball and won all three games by one run. They scored seven runs in two innings off of Justin Verlander in Game One. Bruce Chen was masterful over eight innings as the Royals shut out the Tigers 1-0 in Game Two. And in Game Three, Jeremy Guthrie continued he August success as he held the Tigers to just 1 run in 7 1/3 Innings and the Royals won 2-1.
IV. Low Point
Losing to the A’s on 8/16
It was nice to have to hunt for a low point for a change. In a month where losing streaks never climbed above two games, a frustrating evening at the K provided the low point. The Royals had come into this game having won the first two games of the series against a hot team chasing down the Texas Rangers. The Royals were hot themselves, having won 7 of their last 10 games. The A’s rolled out rookie pitcher Dan Straily to make his third career start. The Royals countered with Luke Hochevar. Straily was sharp, and the pitchers traded zeros for the first five frames. The A’s finally got to Hochevar for single runs in the 6th & 7th innings before chasing him and adding another run in the 8th. Straily, on the other hand, kept Royals hitters guessing for 6 1/3 innings, and the bullpen followed suit to complete the shutout and get the rookie his first Big-League win. Afterwards, Straily would be reassigned and has not pitched since. The Royals, however, got over the mystifying rookie and would go on to win their next three games – sweeping the first place White Sox.
V. Surprises and Disappointments
1) Playing UP to Competition.(Surprise) The Royals had some stiff competition ahead of them when the month of August began. Within the AL Central, the team played well enough to climb out of the cellar into 3rd place. They played the two teams ahead of them a total of nine times. The Royals stepped up their game and managed to go 8-1 in those games. The Division Leading White Sox won Game 1 of their first three-game set in Chicago, then KC won the remaining five games. The Royals swept the Detroit Tigers at home to round out the month. It’s a good sign to watch them play well against good competition. Now if they could only raise their play against teams that they should beat.
2) Home Dominance. (Surprise) The Royals were a disappointing 18-30 at home in the 2012 season coming into August. The team began the month with a 3-2 homestand, and then would only lose one more game at home in the month. This reversal of home fortune pleased the loyal fans, and gave reason to celebrate the team’s success in person.
3) Chris Getz‘s Showtime. (Disappointment) After battling for playing time all year, the Royals buckled down and made a decision on August 6th. They designated Yeniesky Betancourt for assignment and named Getz their full-time starting second baseman. It was sweet victory for Getz, and his opportunity to prove that the job should have been his all along. Getz had battled injuries all year, and sure enough, just 11 days later, he fractured his thumb while attempting to bunt. The surgery required season-ending surgery, and just like that, the Chris Getz show was over. The silver lining for Royals fans is that it finally brought about the realization of extended playing time for Johnny Giavotella in Kansas City. What Gio does with this gift is yet to be determined.
4) Extra, Extra! (Surprise) The Royals battled or backed into Extra Innings four times in August and won all four of them. Two on the road and two at home, it didn’t matter. All of them were one-run wins. Two in 10 innings, one in 11, and the most dramatic being a 12-inning affair in Boston. It was the only one of the four game set that the Royals managed to win The team was just 2-5 in Extra Inning games before August.
1) 8/1: Recalled RHP Jeremy Jeffress from AAA Omaha.
2) 8/6: Designated 2B Yuniesky Betancourt for Assignment. Called up INF Tony Abreu from AAA Omaha. Recalled LHP Francisley Bueno from AAA Omaha. LHP Jose Mijares was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco Giants.
3) 8/14: Released 2B Yuniesky Betancourt
4) 8/18: Placed 2B Chris Getz on 15-Day DL. Recalled 2B Johnny Giavotella from AAA Omaha.
5) 8/27: Optioned RHP Jeremy Jeffress to AA Northwest Arkansas. Recalled RHP Vin Mazzaro from AAA Omaha.
VII. Player of the Month
Could it have been Billy Butler? Sure. What about Alex Gordon? Deserving. However, I felt like Jarrod Dyson earned this praise for his work in the month of August. He’s been splitting time with Lorenzo Cain in Centerfield, and has been outplaying him in every facet of the game. Dyson is outhitting him by a hundred points. He got on base at a better rate of the same pace. He stole twice as many bases. And his defense has been incredible. Every time you look, he’s on his belly making a diving catch or using his blazing speed to chase down a ball in the gap. He may not be the long-term answer in Centerfield like Cain has been pegged to be, but I believe his play is going to drive Cain to be a better player. The way these two guys are splitting time is sending Cain the message that the job is not a lock to be his. In 14 games, Dyson led the Royals with a .333 Batting Average & a .391 On-Base Percentage. Oh, and he did all of this out of the lead-off spot. He was asked to help share these duties after Ned Yost decided to move Alex Gordon out of that spot. It was an unpopular decision, but Dyson helped ease people’s fears about the leadoff spot being a black hole without Gordon.
Honorable Mention: Eric Hosmer. It’s been a tough year for the Wizard of Hoz. He’s struggled in his Sophomore campaign as so many young studs seem to do. However, he showed some signs of life in August. He hit a respectable .287 with 3 Home Runs and 10 RBI. It seems to be a bit of a pity award, but he gets this based almost solely to pulling off one of today’s greatest feats. On August 18th, he hit a Home Run on his own Bobblehead Night.
VIII. Pitcher of the Month
It was an “I told you so” sort of month for the struggling pitcher and 2012 Opening Day Starter for the Colorado Rockies. In what was considered a lose-lose swap last month, the Royals traded Jonathan Sanchez for Guthrie. It was thought-with a shrug-that maybe what both guys needed was a change of scenery. Guthrie didn’t get off to a very good start in KC, but after working with pitching coach Dave Eiland, he found his groove in August. Guthrie started six games in the month, and went an impressive 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA. He became the leader on the staff by going out and pitching well. By leading by example. The entire staff was better in August, and I have to believe that they took inspiration from Guthrie. He averaged more than 6 innings per start, and his BB/K ratio was an impressive 7/27. If Guthrie can continue his success, he just might find himself in the 2013 Royals rotation and who knows, maybe a back-to-back Opening Day Starter
Honorable Mention: Luke Hochevar. Luke’s stats don’t reflect how well he pitched in August. The one place you might find it reflected is in the fact that opponents hit just .195 off of him during the month. His efforts, while valiant, resulted in an 0-3 record in 5 August starts. He did manage to keep his ERA under 4, which is impressive for Luke.
IX. Compare to August 2011
The 2011 Royals ended August with a record of 56-81, just slightly worse than this year’s squad. A year ago, the team trudged through the month and ended with a 10-19 record. A pair of four game losing streaks hurt them, and they also had four pairs of back-to-back losses. At the same time, they could never get things going in a positive direction, only winning two games in a row twice in the entire month. Losses can pile up in a hurry in that manner. The Royals were 6-11 vs. the AL East during the month, including getting swept in a four game series at Tampa Bay. With 25 games to go in the season, the team was probably out of range of losing 100 games, but the possibility was still there.
In our “not much has changed” reflection, Alex Gordon & Billy Butler were red-hot last August. Gordon hit .315 with 10 doubles & 5 Home Runs. Butler hit .304 while knocking 8 doubles and driving in 24 runs. Mike Moustakas was picking up steam after a rough summer, and hit .283 for the month. Even Jeff Francoeur was enjoying success, leading the team with 12 doubles & hitting close to .300. On the mound, Bruce Chen continued to pitch well and saw better statistical results during the month. He was 5-1 in his 6 starts with a 3.19 ERA. Greg Holland was also stellar, as opponents hit just .190 off of him in 13 relief appearances. On the flip side, a young Danny Duffy struggled to find his way. In 5 starts, he was 0-4 with a 6.84 ERA. Even Jeff Francis looked better on the hill than Duffy. As a staff, the Royals allowed the most walks (103) in the American League.
August 2011 saw the debut of one of the Royals’ most surprising and talented prospects-Salvador Perez. Perez took off immediately, wowing fans by hitting .279 with 5 doubles in his first month. Another young guy who made his debut was second baseman Johnny Giavotella.
X. September Outlook
The question, “Are We There Yet?” can almost be answered. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the playoffs, we’re talking about the end of yet another disappointing season. On the bright side, three of the past four Septembers have been winning months for the boys in blue, so there could still be things to root for. While their AAA brethren are playing for a championship just up I-29, the Royals are going to look to hold things together & stay in the middle of the AL Central Pack. In September, the Royals play the role of spoiler, which can be entertaining to an extent. It’s possible that we see a new face or two in September, so that will be interesting to watch. All but seven of the games played in September are against AL Central foes, so there is still a lot that could happen within the division. A goal for the Royals should be to beat the teams they’re ahead of, which has been a challenge for them this season.
There are also some good promotions in August at the K:
9/14 vs. Angels-Futures Night: A chance to meet & get autographs from some of the Royals top prospects.
9/15 vs. Angels-Armed Forces Day / Camouflage KC Cap
9/21 vs. Indians-Oktoberfest: Enjoy German beer & food at a Royals Game!
9/22 vs. Indians-Royals Fleece Blanket
September is already underway, and there’s now less than 30 games left in the 2012 season. The team will play just three games in October and will once again be watching the playoffs from the cheap seats. In a season that began with such promise, everyone is still searching for what went wrong. There are a lot of things you could hang the blame on: injuries, poor pitching, lack of clutch hitting, clubhouse distractions, poor managerial decisions, David Glass. However, we’re stuck with what we’re stuck with. The team has been inconsistent throughout the season, and that inconsistency is reflected by the team’s month to month record compared to its overall record. They can still make a statement in September, and try to create some momentum heading into next year. Unfortunately, that’s what this club does best.