I really thought that the Royals would surpass the Twins and leave the cellar this week. It didn't happen, but I'm still convinced that it is going to happen. This team is better than the Twins, I have little doubt about that. The week wasn't all bad, they split a four game series with the division leading Detroit Tigers on the road but could only take one of three against the Indians at home.
Game 135: Royals 9 @ Tigers 5
The Royals offense is really beginning to click right now, but you know that things are going well when Sal Perez and Alcides Escobar hit back-to-back home runs. Luke Hochevar had another mediocre start (again) as he allowed 5 earned runs in 7 innings pitched, but he did strike out 7 and walk only 2. Luckily for the Royals, it was more than enough as they plated 9 runs in Detroit to take the series opener.
Game 136: Royals 1 @ Tigers 2
It's deja-vu all over again, the Royals played a one-run game that took extra-innings. This time, they were on the losing end as the offense was suddenly held silent by Tigers pitcher Doug Fister. Jeff Francis did his part as he held the strong Tigers offense scoreless through his 6 innings, but both Greg Holland and Aaron Crow allowed a run. It was just another heart-breaking loss, of which there have been many this season for the Royals.
Game 137: Royals 4 @ Tigers 5
Nate Adcock has done a pretty darn good job considering he had never pitched above A ball prior to this season. This game he was called upon to start and again, he did a pretty darn good job. He went 5.1 innings, allowed 2 earned runs and walked nobody. The suddenly shaky bullpen allowed 3 runs (all by Blake Wood) to surrender the Royals lead in the bottom of the 8th inning. Eric Hosmer was the offensive star as he hit his 13th and 14th home runs of the season.
Game 138: Indians 5 @ Royals 4
Bruce Chen has been pitching very well since he came off of the disabled list, but it was surely just a matter of time until the soft-tossing lefty had a bit of a struggle. That time came in this game as Chen allowed 5 runs on 8 hits in 6 innings. It was almost good enough as the Royals held a 4 run lead going into the bottom of the 5th, but the scoring stopped there. Alex Gordon helped the offensive output by hitting his 20th home run, and short stop Alcides Escobar had a pair of hits in the game as well.
Game 139: Indians 1 @ Royals 5
Now THIS is the kind of game that makes Luke Hochevar a potential ace. He pitched 8 innings while striking out 8, walking 1 and allowing no runs on 3 hits. The offense also held up their end by scoring 5 runs on Indians starter David Huff. Rookie second baseman Johnny Giavotella smacked his 2nd home run and Jeff Francoeur had two hits including his 46th double this season.
Game 140: Indians 9 @ Royals 6
In his second start this week, Jeff Francis wasn't near as effective as he was in the first start. He gave up 4 earned runs in 5 innings and the bullpen followed his lead by giving up another 5 in the final 4 innings of the game. Giving up 9 runs isn't the kind of thing that an offense can overcome, though the Royals did try. They scored 6 runs, including 3 in the 9th but the Royals still came up short. The middle of the lineup did the best they could as Butler, Hosmer and Giavotella combined for 7 hits and 4 RBI.
Position player of the week: Eric Hosmer
Eric Hosmer has shown not only that he belongs in the Major Leagues, but that he is capable of being a star. This week he hit .440/.484/.840 with 3 home runs and 4 walks.
Starting pitcher of the week: Luke Hochevar
Hochevar had two starts this week and had a 3.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts and only 3 walks. He really seems to be taking a step forward this season. While he isn't likely going to be the ace that the Royals envisioned, he has proven he can be a positive contributor in the starting rotation.
Relief pitcher of the week: Everett Teaford
The relievers were not particularly good this week, especially the suddenly struggling Aaron Crow. However Everett Teaford had a pretty solid week as he pitched 3 innings, struck out 2 and allowed no earned runs.
The week to come
The Royals head back on the road following the very brief home stand. They hit the west coast as they visit Oakland to play the Athletics, then onto Seattle and the Mariners. Again the goal is to surpass the Minnesota Twins in the standings, and that's likely going to require a winning road trip, so I'm looking for a 4-3 trip, which is certainly plausible against these two teams.
In baseball there are two words to describe a ball-club: team and organization. While they are often used interchangeable, they typically refer to different things. The team consists of the players at the Major League level in the span of one season. The organization is every player at every level of baseball under the franchise banner, the front office, the management, the future and everything that goes along with it. The goal of a team is to win as many games as possible this year. The goal of an organization is to put together teams that can win as many games as possible.
Typically the goals of a team and an organization are identical, but often they are at odds. For example, in 2010 the Royals traded Scott Podsednik to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Elisaul Pimentel and Luke May. Podsednik was a productive player for the Royals in 2010. While he made the team better and could have helped them win more games in 2010, his best value to the organization was as trade bait. Adding young, cost-controlled Minor League talent was a boost to the organization in the long-run at the expense of the team in the short run.
The vast majority of baseball fans are fans of the team, not necessarily the organization. They obviously want the organization to do well and to create winning teams, but for them the forest can be lost for the trees. There is nothing inherently wrong with these kinds of fans.
Keeping up with an organization is not easy. It requires knowledge of the Minor League system, the draft, options, waivers, arbitration, salaries and a million other things. I like keeping up and understanding all of that, but I can certainly understand the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t. Most people just want to watch some baseball games and root on the home team. For them, trying to figure out whether Elisaul Pimentel was a decent return for Scott Podsednik is a waste of time and energy. They know that Podsednik was valuable, he’s gone and therefore it’s a bad move. And they are 100% correct in terms of their own baseball perspective.
All of this brings me to Kila Ka’aihue. To say he’s hitting poorly is the understatement of the year. The topic of what to do with him is on everybody’s mind. It’s exacerbated by the fact that the Royals are currently in contention for the American League Central.
Here, we have another situation where the best interest of the team is possibly at odds with the best interest of the organization. If Kila continues to struggle, his lack of offense hurts the team’s chances of winning games. Fans see his lack of production and they see guys like Clint Robinson and Eric Hosmer playing well at AAA. In a simple 1+1=2 scenario, you replace the guy hitting poorly with the guy who is hitting well. It’s a knee-jerk reaction based on trying to win more games this week, and in that context it’s absolutely correct.
I think it’s certainly possible that promoting Clint Robinson or Eric Hosmer has a decent chance of helping this team win more games in the short term. On the flip-side, I think it’s the wrong decision from an organizational standpoint. The fact that the Royals keep running him out there leads me to believe they agree with me.
Kila has nothing to prove at AAA anymore. All that’s left is for him to prove that he belongs at the Major League level, and it’s in the Royals best interest for that to happen. His track record in the Minors shows a guy who has prodigious power and an uncanny ability to get on base. Those are hard skills to come by and if they can surface at the highest level, he will be valuable to the organization. That value can come as depth or in trade, but make no mistake it’s extremely valuable.
Now, the goal of the Organization is to have winning teams. So if this team continues winning and there is a greater chance that they can become division champions, things will change. Then the goals of the team will coincide with the goals of the franchise. It’s at that time where benching a struggling player like KIla and promoting a guy like Eric Hosmer is more likely to happen. In statistical terms, the length of Kila’s leash is inversely proportional to the expectations the team has of winning the division.
As fans, we get to over-react, second-guess and believe that our team is going to the playoffs. It’s exactly what makes being a fan so much fun. However, there are times where the needs of the organization out-weigh the needs of a team. Allowing Kila a few more months to figure things out might be one of those times. The payoff in the end just might be a better team in the future.
The Royals had a great week this week. They went 4-2, but it wasn’t enough to overtake the scorching hot Cleveland Indians. Something will have to give as the Indians make their way to Kauffman stadium for a four game set starting tonight in a battle for first place in the American League Central. If you’d have told me before the season that I’d write that last sentence at any point this season, I’d have said you were completely crazy. This is going to be one very interesting week.
2 Royals -1.0
3 White Sox -4.0
4 Tigers -4.5
5 Twins -6.0
Game 10: Royals 3 @ Twins 4 - boxscore
The Royals started their season series with the Minnesota Twins by dropping a game in extra innings. Offseason free agent acquisition Jeff Francis put together another fine start, but the Royals offense couldn’t score enough runs on his behalf. Reliever Robinson Tejeda was unable to get anyone out in the bottom of the tenth and gave up the winning run.
Game 11: Royals 10 @ Twins 5 – boxscore
Sitting at an even 2-2, the Royals needed to win the final game with the Twins to come home with a winning road trip. They did just that by scoring 7 runs on Twins starter Francisco Liriano. Mike Aviles busted out of his slump by going 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI. The bullpen kept up their dominance by throwing 4 innings of shutout ball to pick up starter Kyle Davies.
Game 12: Mariners 1 @ Royals 5 - boxscore
Bruce Chen threw 8 scoreless innings in the opening game of the series with the Seattle Mariners. It was all the Royals needed in a rain shortened game. Wilson Betemit hit his first homerun of the season while Alex Gordon collected a double and two RBI in the game.
Game 13: Mariners 5 @ Royals 6 - boxscore
Starter Luke Hochevar threw 7 scoreless innings to earn his title as number 1 starter for the Royals in game 2 of the series with the Mariners. Jeff Francoeur and Billy Butler each collected 3 hits to propel the Royals to a 5 run lead going into the top of the 8th. The Royals bullpen, which had been the strength of the team wobbled as Blake Wood, Tim Collins and Joakim Soria then surrendered 4 runs in 2 innings. However, the Mariners came up a run short as the Royals ended up taking the game.
Game 14: Mariners 0 @ Royals 7 - boxscore
The pitching matchup of Mariners Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez and the Royals Sean O’Sullivan looked like a mismatch, however things turned out a bit different. O’Sullivan threw 5 scoreless while Royals touched up Martinez for 2 runs. The Royals bullpen held the Mariners scoreless for the final four frames and tacked on some insurance runs in the 8th for a series win.
Game 15: Mariners 3 @ Royals 2 - boxscore
Alex Gordon hit in his 11th straight game, but the offense could not quite figure out Mariners pitcher Michel Pineda. Another solid start by Jeff Francis was wasted as the Mariners kept the Royals to only scoring 2 runs. They had opportunities late in the game to win, but couldn’t convert.
Position Player of the Week: Alex Gordon
Alex Gordon hit .381/.381/.524 this week and is riding a career long 11 game hitting streak. He also made a number of great defensive plays and seemed to be the heart of nearly every scoring rally this week.
Starting Pitcher of the Week: Luke Hochevar
The starting pitching was the key this week and there were a number of solid outings put together. Bruce Chen and Jeff Francis would have also been fine choices. However, I'm going with Luke Hochevar. He only allowed a single hit over 7 innings of work in his start this week.
Relief Pitcher of the Week: Jeremy Jeffress
He gave up no earned runs in 4 innings this week and notched his first career save.
On The Farm
Top prospect Mike Montgomery (LHP) threw 10 innings over 2 starts last week for the Storm Chasers (AAA) and didn’t give up a run. He has a 3.00 ERA and has 14 strikeouts to 10 walks this season.
Eric Hosmer (1B) went 10 for 26 last week for the Storm Chasers (AAA). He’s currently hitting .409 on the season with a homerun and 2 doubles.
Jeff Bianchi (SS) has hit in 8 straight games and went 9 for 24 this week for the Naturals (AA).
Rey Navarro (2B) continued his torrid hitting this week for the Blue Rocks (A+). He went 11 for 24 this week and is hitting .500/.526/.806 on the season.
Tim Melville (RHP) started one game this week and he threw a gem. He went 6 innings, struck out 7 and walked only one for the Blue Rocks (A+)
The Week to Come
In the biggest home series in at least two years, the first place Cleveland Indians come to Kansas City and the Division lead is on the line. The Royals will need to take three out of four in order to have sole possession of first place. Then the Royals head to Texas to take on the defending American League Champion Texas Rangers.
4/18-4/21 vs Cleveland Indians
4/22-4/24 @ Texas Rangers