KC Royals general manager Dayton Moore will have to make a tough decision in the next month. He’s going to need to determine if the 2016 Kansas City Royals have the horses to win in October.
As much as our heart wants to tell us that certainly the KC Royals can repeat their title run if they can just make the post-season, the evidence isn’t exactly clear. On one hand, you have a club that has overcome a significant string of injuries to both starting pitchers and two regular position players. On the other, you have a team that has scored more runs than only one team in the American League and whose starting pitching too often appears to be throwing batting practice.
Moore, of course, doesn’t want to squander the rare chance to win a title. Those don’t come around very often. At the same time, you don’t want to strip an already thin prospect pipeline chasing an impossible dream.
The KC Royals’ pitching staff has the third worst ERA in MLB at 5.11, only better than the terrible Twins and Rockies. The Kansas City Royals are only one of four teams whose starting staff has an ERA over 5.00, ranking just ahead of Oakland’s 5.06 ERA.
Notice that the other three teams over the 5.00 ERA mark sport losing records. The Twins and Athletics are both more than 10 games under .500. While the Rockies are somewhat competitive at 35-39, they’re 12 games behind the Giants in the NL West. Of the four, only the KC Royals have rational playoff aspirations.
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Even with the moribund offense and awful starting pitching, the 2016 Kansas City Royals will occasionally flash the heart of a champion. After watching All-Stars Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon collide in Chicago on May 22, the team rallied to win five of their next six games. When rookie third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert slammed into catcher Salvador Perez‘s knee six days later, appearing to end Perez’s season, the KC Royals rallied to score seven runs in the next half inning to pull out an improbable 8-7 win.
Yet, for every winning streak, the Kansas City Royals counter will an awful losing streak. After starting the season 12-6, the KC Royals then lost 13 of their next 18 games, won 13 of their next 16, lost eight in a row, won eight of their next nine, and now have lost four in a row. In short, they’re gyrated between great and awful for the last two months, leaving them a mediocre 38-35 after 73 games.
So, who are they?
My take is that Kansas City Royals are a team trying to overcome significant talent shortcomings with experience and will. The starting pitching has been awful. The KC Royals have been trying to cure early-season problems with allowing walks by emphasizing throwing strikes early in the count, and opposing teams have countered by stealing a page from the Kansas City playbook: come to the plate hacking.
Every pitcher in the starting rotation has endured long stretches where opponents just beat on them. That kind of thing doesn’t happen to the Chris Sales and Clayton Kershaws of the world. But, the Kansas City Royals don’t have any guys like that on their staff.
Instead, the KC Royals have innings eaters who rely on their defense to make plays. But, when the ball is flying over the wall, your defense can’t help.
Strangely enough, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe hears that the Kansas City Royals have been chasing almost every left-handed bat on the trade market, along with Oakland third baseman Danny Valencia. To me, the problem is not offense. With lefty-hitting Alex Gordon returning to the lineup Saturday, and designated hitter Kendrys Morales finding his stroke, the offense should be good enough. It’s the pitching.
Dayton Moore does have starting pitching help coming with Mike Minor and Kris Medlen on injury assignment in the minor-leagues. Yet, it wouldn’t be wise to rely on either former Atlanta rotation mainstay, given that they’re both trying to re-establish themselves as viable starters after suffering serious injuries with the Braves.
I say the KC Royals need to go for it. Moore needs to add a top of the rotation arm by hook or crook at the trade deadline.