Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Opportunity Knocking

Hey Royals, do you hear it?  Your chance for growth, your chance for redemption, your chance for the post season has come calling.  It’s arrived right at your front door.  It’s ready to party.  Is your house ready to host?

The Royals weak May schedule arrived with promises of a rocking good time, but the DJ wasn’t set up, and the beer wasn’t cold yet.  The promise party moved on, but lookie, lookie…its back yo.  Here we are in mid June, and the boys in blue seem like a very adequate, potential host for a throw-down.

How did they get here?  The Royals caught a huge break thanks to a horrendous, ninth inning error by Jose Reyes in Toronto, and have since made strides in their maturity and slug.  The Royals have strung together some nice series wins, and tonight they embark on a huge 7 game swing.  Three at Chicago, then four at Detroit.  Are they up for this next challenge?

It’s hard for us fans to take emotion out of evaluation, but I’m going to try my best for a few paragraphs.

I see arrows pointing up for this team’s rotation, a rotation already doing a great job. Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy are now fixtures, looking like great 3rd and 5th starters.  Shields has experienced some dips, but is a tried and true, bona-fide number one.  Even when he struggles, he recovers in the mid innings and spares the bullpen arms.  Jason Vargas is looking like the best free agent signing in Moore’s tenure.  The weakest link is Guthrie, and he’s an above average MLB starter.  This rotation is settled, balanced, and dependable.  It could also improve as Duffy and Ventura continue to mature.  Having Bruce Chen around to spot start or fill in for a tired arm is a luxury.

The Royals have the best bullpen in all of baseball.  They have 2 closers in Greg Holland and Wade Davis.  This one-two combo may put up numbers we have never seen.  Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera are talented but erratic.  That said, there is still serious depth to work with if they go into a prolonged funk.  Arrows up and steady.

Defensive matrices frustrate and confuse me.  Those stats say the team has regressed, but I just don’t care.  I’ll keep it simple.  This team plays great defense and will continue to do just that.  Arrows up and steady here as well.

The wild card for this team is it’s frustrating line-up. Can this team really count on Alex Gordon staying this hot?  Can Alcides Escobar really be this consistent and valuable at the plate?  Will Lorenzo Cain bat over .300 and stay off the DL?  Can this team count on their opponents playing crappy defense and winning games with four sacrifice flies?  Almost certainly not.  However, this team can expect to get more from Nori Aoki, Omar Infante, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and even Moustakas.

Hoz is heating up and did the same thing last year. Butler is not going to have a good year, but he’s going to hit more and always has.  Infante and Aoki will never become a dynamic top of the order tandem, but it’s very reasonable to expect them to perform closer to their career averages.  That would be a solid improvement.  Moose actually hit a fast ball for a home run, and followed it up with a two hit game.  Valencia will be off the DL shortly.  Third base will bring meager, but improved contributions.

I think this line up’s arrows are up.  That’s not saying much considering their April and May performance, but paired with this team’s pitching and defense it could be enough.  Who knows, they could always trade a bullpen piece for another hitter.

The question remains.  Are the Royals mentally ready for this type of party?  They bounce back well when given up for dead.  They can dust themselves off with both birds flying, but have yet to handle any degree of success or expectations well.  Handling the grind, accepting the daily challenge, gaining expertise, and learning how to enjoy the necessary discipline for any job comes with repetition.  Is it tipping point time?

Malcom Gladwell’s best-selling book, Outliers, preached that expertise comes after 10,000 hours.  That’s about 8 years of work.  Could the Royals losing and immature culture be maturing?  Have we simply been experiencing it’s frustrating adolescence the last 2 years?  Is this organization, this team, ready for manhood?  Dayton Moore’s 8 year anniversary came this June.  Makes one think a bit.

Let’s hope Gladwell’s theory mixes nicely with more extra base hits.  Let’s hope Ned Yost doesn’t drop the tray of drinks.  Let’s hope the Royals are ready to party, because it’s time is right about now.


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Tags: AL Central Kansas City Royals

  • jimfetterolf

    Good piece, Ed, I look forward to seeing it in Sam’s column in the Star next week :)

    My question is, are Royals fans ready for a full season of baseball with all the ups and downs that come with it? It’s not an instant gratification game.

    As for why the Royals have improved since the Astros; Ventura’s arm isn’t hurt, Duffy’s arm livened up, and Moose is back, Royals have gone 7-3 since his return.

    • Tyler_KC_Fan

      I’m not sure you’re giving credit where credit is due.

      Moose is batting .206 with 4 runs, 4XBH, 5RBI, 2BB, and 5SO in his last 10 games since being called up.
      Ventura has been very good all year. He’s riding a 4-5 record, 3.20 ERA, 70.1 IP, 63 SO to 21 BB, and an opponent BA of .242. It’s not like he just started doing well, he’s been doing well. If his injury was more sever we would be screwed, but other than that we haven’t had a reason to be concerned about him.
      Duffy is doing what he needs to do. Since becoming a starter he’s posted a 2-4 record, pitching 38.2 innings. He’s had four 2-hit baseball (28 total hits), 15 ER, 22 SO, and 18 BB. So in his 7 starts it’s not like he’s torched the league. He’s been a solid #5 starter. He’s gotten a lot better.

      But those 3 are far from the reason why we look like a different team since the Astros series. The reason we look different is the job swap of Grifol and Sevum. Our offense has improved drastically since Grifol was removed as hitting coach. We already had a steller defense and a great pitching rotation, but if you can’t score you can’t win. With our offense finally coming alive, or starting to run like we were hoping, we have won the series against STL, NYY, CLE, and split in TOR. We are currently on a 5 game winning streak and we are scoring more than we did to start the year. So yes, those three reasons above are nice, but let’s not cut Dale out of this recent success. He might deserve it more because he finally figured out how to make the offense click..

      • jimfetterolf

        The Moose thing was a little tease, Ventura and Duffy’s blips set off a wave of angst in Yosted community with everyone rending garments and going into mourning over a lost season, everyone except One, who due to modesty will remain nameless.

        As for Sveum, I like what he’s doing, which is reminding the kids to get a pitch up that they can attack, then drive it. Royals are pulling fastballs in hitter’s counts and that makes a world of difference. Looks like Billy may even be trying to pull an inside pitch. Dale is teaching what a few posters have been harping on after watching Hosmer chase a down and away pitch or short arm a cookie and watching Billy put a push swing in an FB down the pipe and flip it to right for a single. Perhaps transferring Pedro just got the kids’ attention. But its working, so don’t mess with it.

        For our readers, looks like the Royals are going to be 8-3 since the Moosiah returned from the dead :)

        • Tyler_KC_Fan

          The Royals are 10-4 since Sveum took over as hitting coach

          • jimfetterolf

            An irresistible twosome.

          • Tyler_KC_Fan

            Just to break it down even more for you….

            10-4 record
            Out scored opponent 67-54
            Scored over four run 8 times
            137 hits (average close to 10 hits a game)
            – 45 XBH (9 HRs)

            I would love to see someone trump those stats. Dale Sveum might have been our saving grace on the year.

          • jimfetterolf

            The differences are visible in the highlights, look at the swings used on the types of balls getting crushed. Billy even pulled a couple of balls last night.Alex has reowned the inner third of the plate, something Seitzer took away from him. The Moosiah’s leadership is paying off :)