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.