Today is the last day of June and the 2014 Season is officially at its halfway point. The Royals, 42-39, are 3.5 back of Detroit and 1.5 behind in Wild Card. They scuffled in April and May, but will finish the month of June, winning 6 of 8 series. The teams that beat them, the Mariners and the Dodgers, are playing great baseball.
What does the month of July and the season’s second half hold for our Boys in Blue?
July, at least on paper, gets off to a forgiving start. They go on the road, where they win more often, to Minnesota. The Royals are throwing Duffy, Shields, and Vargas at 3 very below average starters. They should win another series.
Then things get interesting. The Royals travel to Cleveland. The Royals are better than the Indians, and will have a nice opportunity to put the Indians even further back in the division. This is the type of series you expect a team that’s taken the next step to take advantage of. If the Royals can put the Indians in their place July 4th weekend, it could set them up very well for the rest of the month. They stay on the road after their clash with the Tribe, flying down to Tampa. Who would have thought the Rays would have the worst record on the American League at the season’s half way point? There’s a good chance the Rays will have just raised the white flag on this season. David Price may very well be on a different team, and I am payring Ben Zobrist will be in the Royals line up! The point is, the struggling Rays will be even more hung over than usual, and the Royals will likely take another series. It’s very reasonable, expected, that the Royals will win 2 of the month’s first 3 series.
The last series before the All Star break has the Royals hosting Detroit. This lays out quite nicely. The Royals will have every opportunity to go int the All Star break with both hands on their season’s wheel, gaining momentum and closing the gap between them and Detroit. It feels, in more ways than one, that the Royals are half way there. Half way through the season, as close to the post season, as they are to another playoff-less campaign. Things will heat up in July, and questions will be answered.
Will Lorenzo Cain stay healthy, hot and in the lead off spot?
Has Nori Aoki seen his starting days with Kansas City end/ Will Dyson see his at bats soar, as he starts against all right hand pitchers?
Will the Royals trim down one reliever and give themselves more offensive options/combinations?
Will Billy Butler‘s hitting continue to improve? Perhaps resulting in a month with 5 home runs?
Will Escobar keep up this offensive pace?
Can this team’s ( valuable) every day starters stay healthy?
Will this team get anything resembling a wins over replacement performance out of third base?
Will Eric Hosmer even hit like an average major leaguer?
Most importantly, can this starting rotation continue to perform at such a professional, consistent rate?
If they answer yes to six or more of these, they are cooking with fire.