Last week was an up and down week for the Kansas City Royals. They went 3-3, but got killed in the first three and won the last three. The first series was against the Indians and it pushed the Royals further away from first place. Fortunately, no other teams in the American League Central could win either so they maintained their 2nd place standing. The final three games were against the Minnesota Twins and the Royals stopped their losing skid and remained in striking distance of 1st place after the month of April.
2 Royals -4.5
3 Tigers -7.5
4 White Sox -10.0
5 Twins -10.0
Game 23: Royals 4 @ Indians 9 – boxscore
Royals starter Luke Hochevar gave up 3 home runs and 6 earned runs over 6.1 innings pitched. The bullpen was no better, giving up 2 home runs themselves to the white-hot Cleveland Indians. The lone bright spot was center fielder Melky Cabrera going 3 for 4 with a home run.
Game 24: Royals 2 @ Indians 7 – boxscore
Jeff Francis has been a steady force in the starting rotation, but on this night he stumbled. He gave up 5 runs in the bottom of the 1st inning to put the Royals in a hole to start. The Royals were able to score a pair of runs solo home runs from Jeff Francoeur and Mile Aviles in the 2nd inning. The Royals bullpen allowed 0 earned runs in 5 innings, but the offense was never able to score again.
Game 25: Royals 2 @ Indians 8 – boxscore
In order to avoid being swept in the series and to stop a 5 game losing streak, the Royals needed to take the final game from the Indians. In order to do that they needed a good start from Kyle Davies. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Davies gave up 8 earned runs in 3.1 innings and gave up 4 home runs. The Royals bats were kept quiet for a second straight game with only Matt Treanor collecting multiple hits.
Game 26: Twins 3 @ Royals 4 – boxscore
After a miserable 0-6 road trip, it seemed as if the season hung in the balance as the Royals returned home. Royals starter Bruce Chen played the role of stopper by throwing 5.1 innings and giving up just 2 earned runs. The play of the game was a sacrifice fly by Alcides Escobar to short left field that allowed speedster Jarrod Dyson to score the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 8th inning. Closer Joakim Soria did his job and the Royals ended their losing skid.
Game 27: Twins 2 @ Royals 11 – boxscore
Royals starter Sean O’Sullivan didn’t seem sharp, but he was effective. The Twins were only able to scratch two runs through 6 innings. The Royals didn’t do much better against Twins starter Brian Duensing as the Royals carried a slim one-run lead into the bottom of the eighth. Suddenly, the offense exploded as the Royals scored 8 runs and put the game away.
Game 28: Twins 3 @ Royals 10 – boxscore
Royals infielder Mike Aviles has been hot and he didn’t stop in the finale against the Twins. He went 3 for 5 with a home run and 4 RBI to help the Royals secure the sweep. It was the first time the Royals had swept the Twins in a series of 3 games or more since May 7-10, 1999.
Position player of the week: Billy Butler
Butler hit .333/.440/.667 last week with 4 doubles and a home run. He’s one of the best pure hitters I’ve ever seen play the game, which combined with his age makes me believe he will get to 3,000 hits in his career.
Starting pitcher of the week: Sean O’Sullivan
There weren’t many decent starting pitching performances this week. The best start of the week was one where O’Sullivan seemed to muddle along and allow the Twins baserunners, but no runs. He went 6.0 innings with 1 earned run, 7 walks and 3 strikeouts. If the Royals plan on continuing to compete, they are going to need a better weeks than this out of the rotation.
Relief pitcher of the week: Nate Adcock
For most of April, it seemed like Rule V pitcher Nate Adcock was going to see very sparse action. However this week, he got into two games. He pitched 4.0 innings, gave up no earned runs, struck out 4 and walked only 1.
On the farm:
Vin Mazzaro (RHP) struck out 10 batters in his last start for Omaha (AAA). He has a 4.86 ERA on the season with 22 strikeouts and 13 walks.
Danny Duffy (LHP) hasn’t allowed an run to score in his last three starts for Omaha (AAA). He sports a minuscule 0.90 ERA with 24 strikeouts and only 4 walks.
Mario Lisson (3B) of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA) has caught fire. He’s hitting .310/.453/.786 this season with 6 home runs.
Pitchers Noel Arguelles (LHP) and Michael Mariot (RHP) are piggy backing each other and pitching on the same day in the rotation for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (A+). They’ve presented a formidable duo for opposing hitters. Arguelles has a 1.02 ERA with 15 strikeouts and 1 walk. Mariot has a 0.63 ERA with 15 strikeouts and 4 walks.
In his last 10 games, Brian Fletcher (OF) is hitting .432/.462/.649 for the Kane County Cougars (A-). He’s also stolen 4 based this season.
The week to come:
The Royals homestand continues against the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics. If the Royals are going to continue to be contenders, they have to beat teams like these. Neither of them is great, but neither is a pushover either. The schedule in May doesn’t let up either, so grabbing a few wins at home could cushion a rough patch that might be coming.
5/3-5/5 vs Baltimore Orioles
5/6-5/8 vs Oakland Athletics
Batting order is a popular topic in baseball. Who should bat where, what is the role of a player in a certain slot, should x player be moved down or up and so on. In general, I think that the batting order is over-rated and when I asked Ned Yost about it he agreed. However, there is some merit to the idea of looking closely at the lineup and evaluating it.
So far in this young season, there seems to be a very large split amongst the different portions of the Kansas City Royals lineup. The heart of the order has been hitting well with guys like Alex Gordon, and Billy Butler hitting well. The bottom of the order has been hitting poorly with guys like Alcides Escobar, Matt Treanor and now Kila Ka'aihue struggling.
There are no teams in baseball that have a great hitter at every slot in the lineup, so I imagine there are people gnashing their teeth all over the country at the "black holes" in their own lineups. I wanted to see just how the Royals lineup fared when compared with the rest of the American League. I looked up the offensive numbers for the Royals by lineup position and then subtracted the offensive output of what the entire AL did at that lineup spot and came up with this chart:
I was a bit surprised at how poorly the Royals lead-off hitter compared to the rest of the league. This is the guy who theoretically should be getting on base to setup the hitters below him. However the Royals lead-off guy is getting on base less often than major league average.
As expected, the heart of the lineup is out performing their peers and a very good rate and the bottom of the lineup is under-performing. The real hole in the lineup is the 8th slot, which in general is sound managerial practice. Personally, I like the 9th batter being better than the 8th batter because ideally the good hitters are coming up after him in every inning other than the 1st.
All-in-all, the lower part of the order isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but there needs to be improvement out of the 8th spot. My takeaway is that the Royals need someone different to lead-off and setup the Alex Gordon and others to drive in more runs.