Mike Moustakas went 1-for-3 Sunday at the plate with a double, but remains the poster child of futility of these 2014 Kansas City Royals. Photo by Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals swept by Minnesota Twins in 4-3 loss

By the time the Kansas City Royals had tossed away their 3-run eighth inning comeback in the bottom of that frame, the air had long escaped from the balloon in a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins Sunday at Target Field.
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer hit a line drive, 2-out double that bounced against the centerfield wall to score Alcides Escobar, completing a 3-run eighth inning and giving the Royals a 3-2 lead.
But in the bottom of the eighth, Aaron Crow relived Jason Vargas, who had given up only 2 runs on five hits through seven innings. Crow promptly walked Pedro Florimon, who stole second before he issued another walk to Brian Dozier. Wade Davis replaced Crow and got Joe Mauer to strike out.
Davis, not satisfied with success, decided it was prudent to then walk Trevor Plouffe on five pitches, loading the bases for Chris Herrman.
What happened next was simply astounding. Herrmann hopped an easy ball back to Davis who came in to his right to field it, then threw wild home attempting to get the force out. Two runs scored to make it 4-3 and the Twins sweep of the Royals was complete.
Casey Fien (1-0) recorded the win. Aaron Crow (0-1) took the loss.

NOTABLES: Amazingly, Aaron Crow still has an ERA of 0.00. Wade Davis blew his second save in the Royals first eleven games, and he’s not the Royals closer. Jason Vargas has a 1.64 ERA this season. The Royals managed seven hits, four of which came from the eight and nine hitters. The Royals dropped to 4-7 on the season.

NEXT GAME: Tue., Apr. 15, Kansas City Royals vs Houston Astros, 7:10 p.m. Probable starters: Yordano Ventura (0-0, 0.00) vs. Lucas Harrell (0-2, 11.05).

Writer’s note: I realize it’s a team sport, but nothing sends a message to a team more than a 2-year grasp on futility.
In 2007, Kansas City Royals current third baseman, Mike Moustakas, was acknowledged as the team’s No. 1 prospect, the No. 18 overall prospect in Major League Baseball, the best power hitter in the Royals system, the best infield arm and the best hitter for average.
Among his recurring accolades, he was again rated the best power hitter in the Royals system in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
To add to the expectations, in the 2010 Texas League he was rated best power prospect, best defensive third basement, most exciting player and best batting prospect.
For the second overall pick in the first round of 2007, and a Scott Boras client who was awarded a $4 million signing bonus, he had sure lived up to the “can’t miss” label associated with his draft ranking.
Now, more than ever, the Royals desperately need all that potential to come to fore. So far, the team has only seen glimpses since the “Moose” was turned loose on Majors pitching in 2011.
In 2012, Moose hit .242, but stroked 34 doubles and 20 home runs. He had an OPS of .708 and the team and its fans figured that was a good platform for seasons that could only get better.
In 2013, his batting average dropped to .233. His monthly average splits for that year are a study in a schism of pure failure and acceptable success. Combining April, May and September, he was 45-240 (.187 batting average). Combining June, July and August, he was 65-232 (.280).
A batting average of .280 is an acceptable figure for a third baseman, especially if there are power numbers to go along with it, such as the ones Moose demonstrated in 2012.
But a .280 average is not his norm. He is a career – albeit a short career so far – .241 hitter. There are so many splits that demonstrate the ineptitude of his career .241 batting average. But Royals fans know – and General Manager Dayton Moore knows – that the guy who hit .394 and .429 in 2013 and 2014 Spring Training seasons, respectively, can erase the ineptitude of all his poor stat splits if he just does one thing – gets hits. The cynic in the bleachers, however, is rewarded more and more and each day in thinking that Moose will eternally be known as the MVP of March.
Manager Ned Yost, when pressed early to make judgement about Moustakas’ poor start (4-36, .111 through Sunday), said it wasn’t fair to clearly evaluate a player until he had reached 100 at bats. Now a third of the way there through ten games played, Moose is on his way to collect nine hits by the time he reaches that benchmark. By then, he is tracking to have three runs batted in.
To get his batting average to the aforementioned .280 mark in 100 at bats, he will have to go 24-64 (.375). If he does, it’s conceivable he could have nine runs batted in. The 100 at-bat total would represent one-sixth of the season. Take those nine RBIs and do the math to project his season total.
For him to swing the bat at a .375 clip, however, just to get to a respectable batting average by 100 at bats, seems idyllic at best. For him to continue to scorch the ball at a higher clip than .280, one that could raise his RBI total above 70 for the year is, frankly, far-fetched.
Last year, Yost famously said in response to Moustakas’ hitting woes that “Maybe…I can go to the third base tree and pick another third baseman…Obviously, third basemen who can hit and hit with power, they must grow on trees.”
Finding another third baseman last year was not an option. Overcoming the lack of productivity from that bat in the order proved to be impossible. In one of the six months in 2013 – equivalent to a player’s 100 at-bats – the Royals sunk themselves. When the Royals went 8-20 in May, they effectively took themselves out of the race, never to catch up.
This is what Yost and Moore are proposing the Royals do with Moose – effectively take him out of the race. Because by the time 100 at bats rolls around, in about 17 games from now, Yost and Moore may very well be searching the sprouts on that “third base tree.” To hope that Moustakas blossoms by then is a chance they are willing to take, even though in order for  the team to be competitive in the American League, production from corner infielders is a necessity, not a luxury.
If Moose’s average is still hovering at the century mark after 70 at bats, how much more of the season will Yost and Moore continue to play without a productive third base bat?
Someone better start watering that tree.


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  • Tyler_KC_Fan

    So you choose to talk about Moose and his struggles so far, but ignore Butler’s pathetic efforts? Moose contributes more to the team then Butler has. We have a DH, someone who is supposed to hit the ball and that’s it, and he can’t even get the ball out of the infield.

    Before we get rid of one of the best defensive 3B in the AL, we need to get rid of our DH who can’t do his one and only job, which is to hit the ball. If you look at his AB against MIN (who was one of the worst teams so far this year) he went 0-11, 1BB, 1RBI (which he shouldn’t have had because the SS mishandled the ball and couldn’t turn the inning ending double play) and 5K. Almost half of his AB he struck out. I believe he hit the ball out of the infield 1 time. All he is supposed to do is hit the ball. So far, he had grounded out 25 times this year and flies out 3 times. That right there is worse than anything Moose has done all year. There AB aren’t even that far off. Butler is batting .152 and Moose is batting .111.

    Butler has to go before you even consider Moose getting send to the minors or released.

    • Ardent Shepherd

      What he said.

    • The Plaindealer

      I get the frustration over Butler’s start. However, Butler, unlike Moose, has a track record of figuring it out. Butler had a down year last year and hit .289. We’d throw a party if Moose could hit .289 for one month!!
      Honestly, if you had to bet the house on which one will hit over .280….seriously, do you even have to stop and think?

      • Tyler_KC_Fan

        Why does Moose have to bat .280?

        My point is, even with all the struggles offensively Moose has had/having, his defensive ability more than makes up for that. Esky isn’t a great offensive hitter yet he is still on the team and not in any trouble of losing his job. Why is that? Because he is a future Gold Glove SS and his defense makes up for his lack of offense. Butler can’t do any of that. Butler would never become a Gold Glove 1B if he had the opportunity. Butler’s offense doesn’t make up for his inability to play 1B at a major league level. Butler, ideally, is only good for one thing and that is hitting the ball. The last two years he has been horrid at his one and only job. Butler should be leading the team or in second place in RBIs, hits, HRs and probably doubles. Being a DH, all he has to do is hit the ball. Butler leads the team or is second place in double plays, ground outs, strikeouts and (the most pointless stat for someone who can’t run) walks. Butler is being paid $8.5M this year and will get $12.5M next year if the team brings him back. This year alone, Butler is making more money than everyone on the team, except for Shields and Gordon. Butler is not worth his pay and he hurts this team more than he helps this team. Not only is he absorbing to much of the teams yearly payroll, but he will ruin this team in the future if he doesn’t go.

        Bringing him back at $12.5M next year guarantees we wont resign Shields. Bringing him back is a small chance already, but wasting this much money on a player guarantees Shields wont be coming back. Now, if I was a betting man, I would say bring Shields back will give the team more wins than bring Butler back.

        • The Plaindealer

          Shields is not coming back next year. It wouldn’t matter if Butler and his salary are traded tomorrow. Shields is not coming back. He is much more likely to be traded at the All-Star break than come back next year (which he’s not coming back, I repeat ).

          Last year Billy was 1st in RBIs, second in hits and doubles, third in average and home runs and 1st in on base percentage.
          And while it’s true he is a liability in the field, which gold glover do you want to replace so badly in the field if you had someone other than Butler as DH?
          The argument that the third base position is an offensive spot that can be compensated for with a good glove is, frankly, absurd. If you believe Yost and company are happy with a light-hitting third baseman who flashes leather, then we will just agree to disagree.
          As far as Escobar is concerned, he’s out- hitting Moose , so your point is moot.

          • Tyler_KC_Fan

            Unless you can see the future, I find it hard to believe you can already say Shields wont be back next year. I also find it 100% incredibly hard to believe that you think there is a better chance of him being traded at the All-Star Break then being resigned – seeing is how the team is trying to make it to the playoffs this year and trading away the #1 pitcher in the rotation makes absolutely no sense. Shields said HE was done talking to the team about an extension once the year started. His agent isn’t HIM though. I can almost guarantee his agent is still talking to the Royals to try and work something out. Unless you know something that everyone else in the KC metro and fan base doesn’t, you can’t “repeat” and say that Shields wont come back. And I bet that $12.5M that would be going to Butler next year would look way more appealing to Shields if we said he could have it.

            As for your, “As far as Escobar is concerned, he’s out- hitting Moose” comment. Butler has 2 more hits than Moose, and Butler has 3 more AB than Moose. Moose has 2 doubles this year and Butler has 0. They have the same number of strikeouts and Moose has 1 more walk than Butler. So if you want to say that Esky is hitting better than Moose so my point in moot, then Esky is hitting better than Butler is, which makes my point even stronger. Esky went 1-17 in the first two series and Moose went 0-15. Sense then Esky has gone 8-19 and Moose has gone 4-21. Butler has gone 2-22.

            Your move.

          • Tyler_KC_Fan

            Also, forgot to put this in my post as well.

            I’m not taking a Gold Glover out of the field either. I believe the team still has Maxwell who would be a solid fit for that position. In 35 games last year he had 5HRs, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 26 hits and was batting .268 with a .351 OBP and a .505 slugging percentage. At the rate he was going last year, he would have hit more HRs, doubles, triples, a higher slugging percentage; while being a little short of OBP and been a couple hits short of Butler if he played the same number of games with the Royals as Butler did. If Maxwell walks to he’s not like a slug running the bases either like Butler is. Maxwell can actually run. Keep in mind to, Butler’s stat line up to the All-Star Break was 18 doubles, 8HRs, 49 RBIs, 61 SO, .402 slugging percentage, and a .371 OBP. That puts him at 3rd or 4th in almost every category. Towards the end of the year he got better at hitting, I’ll give him that. But why pay a DH so much money to be in the middle of the pack with his stats? This year is the exact same story, too. He is either in the middle of the pack for every stat, or he is towards the bottom.

          • The Plaindealer

            Look. It has been widely speculated that Shields will command a contract in the neighborhood of five years and nine figures. That’s $130-$140 million. The Royals are out of that sweepstakes.
            On Butler, again, he has put up solid numbers year after year. Moose hasn’t scratched .250. But, if you think a) the Royals could trade Butler and, b) they could find someone who has produced better, then you’re brighter than me. I concede.
            Remember , though, you’re talking about a guy who won the Silver Slugger award 2 years ago. They don’t just hand those out to any hitter.

          • Tyler_KC_Fan

            A player can request all the money he wants, but it only matters what he will actually get. Look at Santana and Cruz. Both thought they deserved big pay days, both got 1 year deals that were worth little to nothing in the baseball world. Shields knows that the Royals are basically his team, and going elsewhere wouldn’t guarantee him the same fame/control he has with the Royals. I never said he was resigning. I said it’s a small chance, but a small chance can change into a resigning just as fast as a small chance can turn into a walking.

            Butler needs this year more than the Royals do. Next year is a team option, and if Butler keeps on the track he is the Royals would be foolish to keep him. The Royals have got to trade him. Trading Butler frees up salary space, potential contract extensions, new and younger stars that can make their move to the bigs, and Moore and Yost have both been on record say that they want the DH spot to become a spot where the team can put a regular fielding player there to rest there legs, but keep the bat in the lineup. That will prolong Salvy’s career, keep Cain healthy all year, keep Hosmer fresh, keep Infante away from any injury he may get from a slid into 2B, and the list goes on. With Butler on the team, that will never happen.

            The Silver Slugger was deserved as well. He had 29 HRs, 107 RBIs, batting .313 with a SLG of .510. However, he has never been able to consistently put up those numbers, much less put a season together where he puts up identical numbers. Those numbers, with the pay he is expecting and receiving, is worth it. The reality of the situation is he isn’t putting up those numbers and he has proven he can’t consistently put up those numbers. His one, and only, All-Star Game appearance was on a technicality. The only reason he made the All-Star game was because it was in KC and the fans vote for someone on the home team to be on the team. If the All-Star game wasn’t played in KC, Butler wouldn’t have been on the team. Butler’s one and only significant award he would have won thus far in his 7 (going on 8) year career with KC is a Silver Slugger, one time.