The Royals dropped their fourth game in a row tonight, to the Houston Astros no less, to run their season record to 20-21. Tomorrow’s game makes it the 42 game mark, which is an important date in Dayton Moore trivia, because he has never been general manager of a team that has had a winning record after the 41st game of the season. (h/t @BHIndepMO)
Now while you could provide an argument, and possibly a compelling one, about 42 games into a season not being all that much in the grand scheme of things and there still being plenty of games left to played, the very same red flags there were before the season about a roster built largely on contact-dependent production, still remains and has finally started to even out the team’s luck.
Coming into this year the main reason provided for why the Royals would and could contend was the progression of two players that were drafted higher than anyone else while Dayton Moore has been in charge,* Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. And while there were very real concerns about both of them after the 2012 season, Moore and Co. still felt as if now, 2013, was the time to “go for it” packaging four prospects for two pitchers to bolster an ailing rotation.
*Excluding Luke Hochevar because if Royals can use his being picked when convenient to their argument, so can I.
Nothing about the motivation behind the acquisition of James Shields and Wade Davis was or is unsound – I’ve written a number of times about there needing to be some point in which wins were paramount – however there are a lot of things about the application of that trade, along with targeting nothing but pitching in the offseason while expecting major progression from more than half of the position players on the roster, is unsound.
And now with the two focal points of expectations and hopes struggling more than anyone could have imagined, the organization is defensive, without answers, and acting like a petulant child stomping their feet when questioned. (More on that shortly.)
Mike Moustakas is currently hitting .178/.252/.311 on the season with seemingly no end in sight. His plate discipline coming up through the minors was always a cause to relax on the projections for what he would be as a major league hitter, but it never seemed to be this bad or be cause for this much damage.
Moustakas is now a career .240/.294/.384 hitter in 1,130 plate appearances, far past the mythical 1,000-plate-appearances-mark Moore had previously laid out as the time to pass judgment on a hitter, and for all the struggles the third baseman has with patience and drawing walks to allow him to tap into his power, it’s his actual swing that’s cause for concern due to his 17.8 infield pop-ups percentage. His top-hand dominant swing creates far too pronounced downward and upward angles of bat path, resulting in a small zone for solid contact and a small margin for error.
Hosmer is currently batting .266 with a .340 on-base percentage, which isn’t terrible, but he’s slugging .345, a number so low for him that it should make everyone question whether 2011 actually happened or not.
His swing has completely changed from 2011 when he used an open stance, got his front foot down early, and let his hands fly.
Now, the only chance he has to drive the ball is to the opposite field (as evident by his spray chart), lucking into solid contact because he is such a gifted hitter, in spite of his long swing.
Take a closer look at this swing as compared to Gordon’s from their home runs in Baltimore.* Hosmer’s hand load is far too active and twists around his body as his shoulders turn. Gordon’s is near still, with just the slightest push straight back.
(click gif to view)
The more the hands over-rotate disproportionately to the shoulders, the more likely it is for the hands to swing out and around, instead of straight through, to the hitting zone. This makes it harder to catch up to higher velocities. But, if timed currently, and with advanced hand-eye coordination and special talents like those of Hosmer, he can still square up pitches to drive the other way, simply because his zone for contact has been moved deeper across the plate.
Both hitters have flaws right now hurting their production; both have flaws that are entirely fixable. The question becomes now if those flaws need to be fixed in Triple-A. And that talk has just about started up.
The question the Royals have to ask themselves is if spending the next however many months helping their two cornerstone players fight through their struggles stunts their overall development, and how much they’re willing to sacrifice Hosmer and Moustakas’ long-term potential for a shot at the playoffs this year.
Because there needs to be a conversation about when is the appropriate time to send both players down in hopes that they can turn back into the players they’re capable of being. The most prime example of this type of decision is currently playing left field.
Alex Gordon was sent down to Triple-A not necessarily because he was a bad player, he wasn’t, but because he wasn’t the player he could have and should have been. Sure Gordon could have competed in the big leagues as a .260/.351/.432 hitter (his numbers his last full year before injuries took much of 2009 and 2010) but he was capable of better, and if the Royals were ever going to move forward as a team, it needed to be with a better Alex Gordon.
Right now, Moustakas and Hosmer are competing (Moustakas obviously less so) as everyday players, but if the Royals are truly a contender for the playoffs either this year or next year, it will only be with an Eric Hosmer and a Mike Moutakas that are living up to their full potential.
There needs to be a conversation how much of a detriment it is to that potential to have both players almost completely overmatched for much longer at the big league level.
I’m skipping The Good for this edition because this is already nearing 2,000 words, and there were these gems of quotes from Ned Yost over the weekend:
“But I’m going to tell you something, if I’m wrong on this kid, it’ll be the first. I’ve never been wrong on one of these kids who I’ve had conviction with. None of them. We’re talking about 15 guys over a 30-year career”
“There is no third baseman tree. You don’t go grab another one. You let him develop. Look at Gordy (Alex Gordon). When I came over here (in 2010), all I heard (from fans) was this kid is never going to be anything.
“No. You’re wrong. Give them time to develop. But I understand it. I know what the fans want. They want it, and they want it now. Instant gratification just doesn’t work (in baseball).”
Oh spare me.
By now everyone has undoubtedly heard these quotes by Yost as appeared in Bob Dutton’s piece in the Saturday edition of the Kansas City Star.
The tonnage of narcissism and self-gratification it takes to make statements like that, with such arrogant conviction, is really quite astonishing. It’s astonishing that a man steeped in the muck of his own bravado, can be so condescending towards a fan base that has expectations only because he himself and his organization have told the fans to have those expectations.
To say “I’ve never been wrong” is on the one hand a brilliant public relations ploy because there’s no true way for such a blanket and empty statement to be questioned; there’s no way anyone could ever research whether it was true or false. But on the other hand Royals fans should be rolling their eyes at a man who earnestly believes he’s never been wrong in an industry in which people are wrong all the time.
In no other industry can a man stand so defiantly against questioning about his job performance, and in justification of that job performance, reference work he’s done at previous jobs, one in which he was fired from during a pennant race in September.
With just 12 games left in the season Yost was relieved of his position in Milwaukee because the organization felt he would make that much of a difference in the team’s performance across the final two weeks. Granted that was five years ago now, and people across all walks of business are allowed to grow and learn from past mistakes, but there aren’t many individuals who are willing to point to those past mistakes as a reason for their being right today.
To repeatedly use a past performance that your employer deemed not worthy of future employment with 12 games left in the season, is the same type of arrogance displayed by an organization that continually moves the goalposts on their own success and acts as if it is somehow the fans’ fault for wanting “instant gratification”.
But that’s where we are. This is now the second manager that has used the same phrase (which is more than mere coincidence and leads to believe that it’s a topic of conversation among the organization itself) as a means to antagonize and condescend a fanbase that just six weeks ago, largely felt this team was a playoff contender. A fanbase that felt this team was a playoff contender, because the organization itself planted that flag in the ground.
This is the seventh full season for the Royals under Dayton Moore, the third with Ned Yost as manager. In those seven seasons the Royals have yet to win more than 75 games, the team’s best players were either part of the last GM’s drafts or brought in from outside the organization, and the guy that is the most visible employee of the franchise has taken to throwing barbs at the fans for not being patient enough.
Royals fans may not deserve a winner – I’m not sure any fanbase really deserves anything, that’s not how it works – but Royals fans deserve better than that.