The Royals At The Break


Much has been going on at KoK over the past couple of weeks. Many new and excited things are taking place like the Royalman Report becoming a weekly fixture in our programming and Michael’s conversation with Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers. All of us here really hope all of you out there are enjoying reading and listening and following along just as much as we’re enjoying creating all the content for you. It’s been yet another struggling year and we’re all in this together, but hopefully, this will be the last one for a while.

Because it’s been yet another struggling year though, the annual “at the break awards” are about as fun to come up with as it would be to watch Yuniesky Betancourt try and hit a slider. Well, I guess that would be quite enjoyable now.

Every year it seems like the picks for any of the categories boils down to the lesser of two evils, and even though there would seem to be a clear-cut winner for the Most Valuable Player on the offensive side, there still isn’t a ton of excitement when looking at all the numbers.

First Half Offensive MVP

Of course, you know who I’m going to pick. While some could point to Alex Gordon’s elevated BABIP and decreased walk percentage as a reason to think his first half was maybe just a tad fluky, he still swings his way into the break with an .850 OPS, which is 70 points higher than his previous career best. A significant improvement for him, but still with a .185 ISO and a strikeout percentage near 20, there’s at least a yellow flag on him offensively when looking ahead to the rest of the season.

Two things that come with only green flags though are Gordon’s defense and base running. To this point in the season he’s continued to show he’s an excellent base runner (despite, for some odd reason, a pretty terrible stolen base rate so far) and has added value with plus defense in left field.

One thing that we can all be proud of, we have a category leader in something: Gordon leads all AL Central position players in fWAR, at 3.4.

Special mention has to go to Billy Butler.

Butler still holds the crown as Best Hitter on The Team, and I will refuse to acknowledge any arguments that use his HRs or RBI numbers as evidence to the contrary. His on-base percentage has hovered around .400 all season – rarified air for any Royals hitter during the Dayton Moore era – even though he’s cooled off a bit over the past two weeks and currently sits at .390.

His offensive merits have been argued enough both in this space, on this site, and on Twitter, so there’s not much need to get into them again now. It should be said however that if your argument for not trading Butler centers around there not being a market for him, well, then you’re just not paying attention.

Whatever his defensive weaknesses may be, there would be plenty of teams lining up to take a 25 year old hitter of his caliber, already with a distinct track record of success at the Major League level, off the Royals’ hands.

Designated hitters don’t just have to hit homeruns; they have to not make outs either. And they have to do the latter more so than the former. Butler is very good at not making outs.

First Half Pitching MVP

Well, I suppose it has to be Aaron Crow. As the team’s lone All-Star representative, however much of an “All-Star” you can be as a one-inning reliever, Crow’s ascension to his current status is really quite remarkable.

Last season in the minors as a starter Crow was actually demoted from Double-A to Single-A in an effort to jump start a career that really should have hit the ground running.

After a 5.73 ERA and 181 hits allowed to just 143 strikeouts in 163 innings at both levels combined, it didn’t seem as if the fast-track draft selection of Aaron Crow was going to pay off for the Royals.

Dayton Moore and his crew however showed tremendous faith in their internal evaluations as Spring Training broke this year, leaving Crow on the opening day roster. Since then, he’s been the team’s most consistent reliever.

With just 30 hits allowed and 44 strikeouts in 43.1 innings, Crow has shown flashes that he could be the quality starter this organization drafted with the 12th overall pick. Even if that transition is never made, he’s shown he could possibly be the team’s next closer should they decide to finally stop overvaluing the position, and trade Joakim Soria for a monster haul.

First Half “Royaling” Award

For the past couple of years a doctor friend (who’s cleverly named “Doc”) and I have spent most Royals games texting back and forth as a running narration of the events of the games. This continued until only this season when I found out what Twitter is, and I’ve unashamedly been cheating on him ever since.

Most of the texts centered around jokes mocking The Process, making sarcastic comments about why making outs is perfectly acceptable, and why neither of us could ever come to understand the complexities of how brilliant a strategy “pitching to contact” is. In other words, it’s exactly what you would find on most Royal-blogger Twitter feeds.

The reason I bring this up is because earlier this season, in what I can only imagine was yet another late-inning meltdown and a Royals loss, Doc came up with the term that can forever be used to describe this franchise, and will be easily recognizable to any true Royals fan: Royaling.

“Royaling” can be used in either the present or past tense and is simply defined as, “to Royal”. When you strand a runner at third base after he was there with one out or less – that’s Royaling. When the manager leaves Soria in the bullpen for the bottom of the ninth in a tie-game on the road, because it’s not a “save situation” – that’s Royaling. When Jason Kendall hits second for the majority of the season in front of the team’s best hitter, leaving a large number of the fanbase to complain that the best hitter isn’t any good because he doesn’t have enough RBIs – that’s Royaling. Oh wait…

The Royals offense was cruising right along for some time earlier this season. Alex Gordon was leading off and enjoying a career year doing so, setting the table for a couple of guys hitting behind him to have “career years” as well. At least, if you’re only paying attention to the RBI column, they’re having career years.

But the Royals were losing, as they often do, so instead of pointing the finger at what just may be the worst pitching staff in Royals history (my hyperbole), the lineup got flipped-turned upside-down and Chris Getz got inserted into the leadoff spot.

Ned Yost Royaled that one.

We know what the Royals think of the guy. He’s an extremely fast (Royals hyperbole) base runner, an excellent defender (more Royals hyperbole), and he’s the perfect guy to hit leadoff because of his combination of speed and his ability to have consistently good at bats. They think so highly of him, and aren’t afraid to let everyone know about it, that the predicted Tony Pena Jr.-esque treatment of Alcides Escobar has been shifted all-in style to the slap-hitting second baseman. I’m still a little peeved I missed on that one.

Chris Getz would make the perfect leadoff hitter if he wasn’t packing a .320 on-base percentage and a .291 slugging percentage, but, he is. Two. Ninety. One.

A .291 slugging percentage is almost impossibly low and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were three people in every reader’s office that could manage such a number.

Rany Jazayerli tweeted the other day that, since Opening Day of last year, Chris Getz has 16 extra-base hits. In over 500 official at-bats, the Royals chosen leadoff hitter, a guy that they actually traded for, has 16 extra-base hits. If a player comes to the plate over 500 times, the odds are in his favor that he should luck into at least 30 extra-base hits. And in an effort to “jump start” the offense, Getz was made the leadoff hitter.

That, is Royaling.