KC Royals: It’s time for Mike Matheny to feel the heat

(Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals, Mike Matheny
(Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports) /

The KC Royals are off to an abysmal 8-15 to start. They have one of the worst records in baseball—going into today’s play, only Cincinnati has fewer wins and only the Reds, Detroit, Boston, Baltimore and Washington have more losses. And the Royals are only a half-game out of last place in the American League Central.

The time for change is fast approaching.

Pitching coach Cal Eldred has been a familiar target of criticism before and is again, with much of the current discontent revolving around the struggles of Kansas City’s vaunted 2018 draft class. Jackson Kowar, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic have all struggled in the majors and Daniel Lynch, although he’s turned things around masterfully in 2022, had an ERA north of 10.00 when he was demoted to Triple-A Omaha after just three starts last season.

Such can be the case with young pitchers, however. It takes time. After all, at 25 Jacob deGrom hadn’t made his major league debut; at the same age, Justin Verlander went 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA. Even the best pitchers can take time to develop and reach their potential.

Don’t blame KC Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred for all the club’s troubles.

Perhaps a new pitching coach could ease some of the concerns, but those cries for Eldred’s job seem ill-informed. Despite his woes in 2021, Lynch has been great this season with a 3.86 ERA in four starts. He’s allowed just five walks and notched 20 strikeouts. Brad Keller has looked like a Cy Young candidate early this season, a welcome turnaround following a rough 2021.

Eldred has seen his fair share of success with the Royals, regardless of the (expected) struggles of the young arms. The fundamental problems behind the team’s failures since the start of 2021 lie not just with pitching, but also with many other aspects.

More concerning to the front office and fans should be the team’s inability to get on base and lack of a consistently effective batting order. In 2021, the Royals’ offense had some strong pieces:

  • Whit Merrifield tied for the major league lead in doubles.
  • Salvador Perez tied for the major league lead in home runs.
  • Nicky Lopez became the first Royal shortstop among qualified hitters to ever hit .300 in a single season.

Considering Andrew Benintendi’s resurgence, the Royals’ lineup featured four great hitters and still ranked only13th in the American League in runs scored. Many of those same problems have bled over into the 2022 season.

As a result, Mike Matheny belongs on the hot seat as much as any member of his staff.