I was pretty sure that the next roster move would be for the Royals to demote relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress and activate Robinson Tejeda from the disabled list. Apparenly, I'm no Kreskin (am I dating myself) because the Royals announced they were optioning speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson to Omaha and calling up relief pitcher Greg Holland.
The move makes some sense, considering the Royals emptied their bullpen yesterday and Dyson has been used almost exclusively as a pinch runner. However that leaves the Royals with 13 pitchers on the 25 man roster and therefore a very short bench. It's unclear how long they will go with a 13 man staff, but with guys like Adcock making spot starts and a young pitcher like Danny Duffy there is an argument that it is the right move. This is accentuated by the fact that Ned Yost does not really seem to like pinch hitting guys, because he rarely runs into a short bench situation.
Jarrod Dyson was probably going to last for a long time on a modern American League bench. The game has changed to the point that while he's valuable, he's expendable. Given the fact that he has options remaining and Mitch Maier didn't makes him the guy to go. I think he may resurface in the big leagues, but we may have seen the last of the 50th round pick with super-natural speed.
Greg Holland is notable because he was the first player drafted under the Dayton Moore regime to make it to the big leagues with the Royals. For the triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers he has posted a 2.08 ERA in 21.2 innings with 27 strikeouts and 11 walks. He should be a quality addition to an already stacked bullpen.
One of my favorite moments in baseball is watching a player's debut at the Major League. It's a once in a lifetime moment that the player has likely dreamed of for nearly his entire life. Many debuts are brief and most are uneventful. The vast majority of players get their first taste of the big leagues as a relief pitcher or a position player, so the debut consists of a brief inning or a handful of at bats. Last night was the somewhat rare occurrence of a player getting his first shot as a starting pitcher as Danny Duffy made his highly anticipated appearance in a Kansas City Royals uniform.
It's something that has been more rare, it seems for the Royals than for other clubs. The last Royals player to make his debut as a starter was J.P. Howell on June 11th 2005 in Arizona. The last Royal to make his debut as a starting pitcher an do so in Kauffman Stadium was Jimmy Serrano on August, 4th 2004. It's unlikely that there will be that long of a time between the next pitcher to debut as a starter, however it was a rather unique moment and the game that was played matched the uniqueness.
Duffy's first pitch was a 95 mph called strike to Rangers hitter Endy Chavez and the crowd cheered the big moment for the young pitcher. His second pitch was a 96 mph fastball which was swung on and missed. Duffy is known to have a very nice fastball, but 96 seemed to be a bit fast.
It looked as if he was over-throwing a bit and was falling off the mound pretty hard as he followed through. I'd imagine that Duffy had a little extra adrenaline flowing in that first inning, which combined with every players desire to prove that they belong was enough to put him just a tad out of his comfort zone. After the game he was asked if he was a little amped up more than usual.
"Absolutely, I think anytime in a situation like that you're going to be pumped, but I need to learn to control that."
I asked him if he felt he was over-throwing in the first inning.
"I felt like I was really under control, it was jumping out of my hand....I was amped."
The ball was jumping out of his hands as he hit 96 a few times in the first and didn't hit it again the rest of the game. He also didn't have great command of his off-speed pitches. That resulted in a couple of singles and a walk, but a double play and a weak popfly let him escape without damage other than an elevated pitch count.
As the game moved on, Duffy seemed to settle down a bit and his control and off-speed stuff returned to him. All three outs in the second were strikeouts, although he did walk Mike Napoli. It's significant because one of Duffy's biggest issues surfaced immediately when Napoli stole second base, which was his first of the season. The Rangers ended up stealing four bases on Duffy. When asked about it, manager Ned Yost said after the game:
"One of the things we're going to have tow work on is duffy containing the running game, he's a little long at times and allowed runners to go from first to second and second to third.....that's something were going to continue to work on with him, but its something we can clean up."
He ended up throwing four innings and gave up six walks while striking out four. His stuff looked very good and as he settled down he got even better. The rest of the game was a crazy series of opportunities followed by mis-steps on both sides, with neither team really doing anything to earn the win but rather seeing which team was going to lose.
It seemed to be in the Royals hands as Eric Hosmer crushed a game tying home run on the first pitch of the 9th inning against Rangers closer Neftali Feliz. Then back to back Royals batters walked and were picked off and the game went to extra innings. The Royals seemed to feel that Feliz was balking as he was throwing to first, which caught the runners off the bag. However, it's only a balk if the umpire says it is and he was silent. If Feliz does have as Ned Yost termed it "a balk move", then I can see the first player getting caught, but there's little excuse for the second.
In the end, it was a hard-fought but sloppy game. The Royals stayed in it with the defending American League champions. However staying in games isn't enough as Danny Duffy said after the game:
"I didn't come up here to keep my team in the game, I came up here to win. It's a bummer."
A bummer indeed, but staying in games is the first step. Winning, with this group of players seems almost inevitable. It didn't happen last night, but it will.
With the injury to Kyle Davies and the inneffectiveness of Vin Mazzaro last night, it was only a matter of time before the Royals made some moves to help the starting Rotation.
The first move came when the Royals optioned Vin Mazzaro to Omaha (AAA) and promoted Everett Teaford in his place. However, if Davies were to go on the disabled list, there would be a need for a starter. That move was announced today when the Royals said that they will be promoting highly-regarded pitching prospect Danny Duffy from Omaha to Kansas City.
He will be making his first Major League start on Wednesday against the Texas Rangers. Prior to the season Danny Duffy was rated by Baseball America as the 68th best prospect in baseball. At Omaha Duffy has been fantastic. In 36 innings, he's posted a 3.00 ERA while striking out 43 and walking only 10. While I was in Surprise, AZ for Spring Training he was creating a lot of buzz with scouts. He throws a hard fastball in the upper-90's with some movement due to his 3/4 arm slot.
Last year at the beginning of the season, Duffy walked away from baseball but to the great joy of the Royals organization he decided to come back later that same year.
If he were to stay on the Royals roster for the rest of the season, it's almost assured that he will be eligible for a fourth year of arbitration under the "super two" rule. The Royals have shown that they are willing to ignore the financial ramifications of early call-ups if it helps the team win games today. It seems to be a break from what the Royals have done in the past and a gamble that could backfire on them down the road.
So far Danny Duffy is the second highly touted promotion from the Royals loaded farm system. There are more to come as the season wears on. They should be able to help the team, but the real question remains as to whether or not they can keep the Royals in contention.
Greg Hall at KC Confidential is reporting that former Kansas City Royals pitcher and current broadcaster Paul Splittorff has throat cancer and melanaoma. Hall is also reporting that Splittorff "is not expected to make it through the week."
Since 2010, Paul Splittorff has been battling some issues with his voice that left him off the television broadcasts following Opening Day. It's long been reported that he had a viral infection at the root. While he's improved since then, there is still some lingering issues with his voice that for the most part have kept him on the pre and post-game rather than his customary color commentary.
Listening to Splittorff break down a game made Royals television broadcasts not only entertaining but educational. He never talked down to the audience and he always had interesting things to say. Since his voice troubles surfaced, I've truly missed his analysis. While he clearly had some trouble talking, I was always a proponent of having him back in the booth. It was never the sound of his voice that I enjoyed, rather it was the thoughts that were being voiced. I'd always assumed that eventually, he would recover and be back in the booth.
I hope that the predictions are wrong, Split can recover and once again we can hear him discuss the fine art of pitching. In the mean-time my thoughts are with the Royals Hall-of-Fame pitcher, broadcaster and his family.
Update: The Royals have released an official statement on Paul Splittorff
The family of Paul Splittorff has confirmed that he has been admitted to an area hospital and has received treatment for both oral cancer and melanoma. The family has also requested to please respect their privacy during this difficult time and to expect no further comments on his condition.
Last week’s road trip for the Kansas City Royals wasn’t exactly perfect, however it was significantly better than their last foray in the field. They started off nicely by taking a series in the Bronx, which they haven’t done since 1999. However they faltered once they took their talents to Detroit to face the Tigers. This latest road trip seemed to be the mirror image of the last one in that the starting rotation showed up and the bats were relatively quiet.
2 Tigers -3.5
3 Royals -5.0
4 White Sox -9.0
5 Twins -12.5
Game 35: Royals 1 @ Yankees 3 – boxscore
Royals starting pitcher Kyle Davies gave up three runs in five innings pitched against the New York Yankees on seven hits, however he continued to limit the free-passes by only walking one. The three runs were all the Yankees needed as the Royals scored only one run on a Melky Cabrera solo home run in his first game against his former team.
Game 36: Royals 4 @ Yankees 3 – boxscore
The Yankees took an early lead by putting up a pair of runs on starter Vin Mazzaro who was making his debut in a Royals uniform. The Royals battled back with two runs of their own, one of which came on Eric Hosmer’s first Major League home run. With the game knotted at two, they went to extra innings. The Royals struck first by scoring in the top of the tenth, but closer Joakim Soria couldn’t convert in the bottom of the tenth and surrendered a run. In the top of the eleventh, the Royals took another lead on an Eric Hosmer sacrifice fly. Louis Coleman came in and held the Yankees scoreless for the win.
Game 37: Royals 11 @ Yankees 5 – boxscore
In the series finale, there wasn’t near as much drama but it was just as fun. The Royals scored early and often by putting up six runs in a parade of hits in the second inning. Eric Hosmer hit his second career home run and Melky Cabrera hit his second of the series. Royals starter Sean O’Sullivan didn’t have to be perfect, and he wasn’t as he gave up four earned runs and again struck out no batters. The Yankees scored a few more, but were never really in the game and the Royals won their first series in the Bronx since 1999.
Game 38: Royals 1 @ Tigers 3 – boxscore
The Detroit Tigers have one of the best starting rotations in the American League and it was on display in this series. Tigers starter Justin Verlander held the Royals hitless through five innings. However in the sixth the Royals busted through with a run scoring triple from Melky Cabrera. Unfortunately, it was the only run they would score. Royals starter Luke Hochevar put together another quality start as he held the Tigers potent offense to three runs in six innings.
Game 48: Royals 0 @ Tigers 3 – boxscore
Royals starter Jeff Francis got off to a wobbly start as he surrendered three runs in the first inning, however he found his groove and gave up no more runs and pitched a complete game. The Royals offense was again stifled by a Tigers starter, only this time it was Brad Penny. They will have to settle for an 0-2 series as the finale was postponed due to rain.
Position player of the week: Melky Cabrera
It was a prettly light week in terms of offensive performances, but Cabrera hit .200/.333/.650 with two home runs, four walks, a double and a triple. He must have found that little something extra to show his old team that he is still worth something.
Starting pitcher of the week: Jeff Francis
Francis pitched more innings than any other starter this week and struck out more batters as well. He got touched up for a few runs in his first inning, but then cruised to a complete game.
Relief pitcher of the week: Louis Coleman
The bullpen continues to dominate the opposition and Louis Coleman was no exception. He threw 2.2 innings, struck out four and didn't allow a hit or a walk. He also earned a save in extra innings in New York. Not bad for a rookie.
On the farm:
Lorenzo Cain (CF) hit for the cycle and had a grand slam on Saturday for the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA). He's now hitting .296/.377/.481 on the season.
Mike Moustakas (3B) hit two home runs last week and has a season line of .262/.340/.477 to go with seven home runs for the Storm Chasers.
Wil Myers (OF) re-aggravated his bruised left knee on Thursday and was held out for the rest of the weekend series for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA).
Starting pitcher John Lamb had a really nice outing this week as he went six innings while giving up one earned run and striking out four for the Naturals.
The Wilmington Blue Rocks' Whit Merrifield (OF) has been on fire as of late. He's hitting .349/.391/.442 in his last ten games.
Stat of the week:
Last week, the Royals bullpen threw 14.1 innings last week and gave up only one earned run.
The week to come:
Things don't get much easier for the Royals as they start a long home stand. They play the Indians, Rangers and Cardinals this week without any off-days. They will need to continue their torrid pace at home to keep up with the division leading Indians and suddenly surging Detroit Tigers.
5/17-5/18 vs Cleveland Indians
5/19-5/20 vs Texas Rangers
5/21-5/23 vs St. Louis Cardinals
Yesterday, the Kansas City Royals placed starting pitcher Bruce Chen on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lat muscle in his back. In his place on the roster and in the rotation will be Vin Mazzaro.
Vin Mazzaro was originally slated to join the season the Royals rotation as soon as they needed a fifth starter, however his first game at AAA Omaha was a complete disaster. He walked 7 batters in 2.1 innings and gave up 5 earned runs and pitched his way out of the rotation and the Royals gave Sean O'Sullivan his spot.
Mazzarro's shot at sticking in the rotation begins tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is no small obstacle to overcome. He's a command pitcher who throws a low 90's fastball and relies heavily on his above average slider. He's been working on adding another off-speed pitch to his arsenal, but it's unclear at this point whether he's done so.
The interesting question is what happens if he pitches well until Bruce Chen gets back from his stint on the disabled list? I honestly don't even have an inkling as to what they would do in that scenario. Let's look at each candidate to see what might take place.
He's clearly earned his spot in the rotation. When he comes back, he's in the rotation. His injury seems minor, so he should be back soon. He is scheduled to come off the DL on May 21.
He started Opening Day and has pitched pretty well though he's still been prone to the big inning. If he's healthy, he's another untouchable guy this season.
Kyle Davies demise has been predicted for a long time by Royals fans. He's become the whipping boy of the fanbase and with an ERA of 7.08 he looks like a prime candidate for replacement. However, he's actually pitching pretty well right now. He has a team-leading and career-high strikeout rate that he's matching with a career low walk rate. He finally seems to have begun trusting his stuff and started pounding the strike zone. I know that people want him gone, but I don't envision a non-injury scenario that pushes him out within the next mont.
He pitched really well in his first four games, then terrible in the next three and did well in his last start. I don't think anyone is quite sure what the Royals have in Jeff Francis right now. He's not likely in the Royals future plans, but they would like to trade him if the season goes south. If he isn't in the rotation, he isn't going to be traded. He's a veteran presence who the Royals like in the locker room and in the rotation. However, I think he is a prime candidate to be replaced by Mazzaro. If Mazzaro pitches well, I can envision a scenario where Francis could use some time to rest and has a small tweak in his arm. He goes to the DL for a short stint and Mazzaro keeps pitching.
The real battle here is O'Sullivan vs Mazzaro. It sounds like a prize-fight from the early 1900's between two New York immigrants, but unfortunately it won't be half as intriguing. O'Sullivan's spot in the rotation belonged to Mazzaro and they will battle it out again for the rights to it. O'Sullivan has been effective, but his numbers indicate that it's all smoke-and-mirrors. His strikeout rate and walk rate are the worst in the rotation and that eventually will catch up to a pitcher. May 21 might not be enough time for Mazzaro to unseat O'Sullivan, but it's looking like round 1 of 15.
The situation is still murky and picking the starting five a month from now is exceedingly difficult. It's possible, though unlikely that the Royals could go with something less traditional like a six man rotation. Ned Yost doesn't seem like a manager who likes to get too far outside of the traditional way of thinking and I don't see him wanting to surrender another bullpen arm. It all starts tonight in Yankee Stadium, and I'm interested to see how it all plays out.
The Kansas City Royals essentially held serve last week. They went 3-3 overall against two non-divisional opponents. They didn’t make up any ground in the American League Central race, however they didn’t lose any either as they remain 4.5 games behind division leading Cleveland. The story of the week was the promotion of top-prospect Eric Hosmer and the demotion of Kila Ka’aihue.
2 Royals -4.5
3 Tigers -6.0
4 Twins -9.5
5 White Sox -10.0
Game 29: Orioles 5 @ Royals 6 – boxscore
Starting pitcher Jeff Francis struggled again, giving up 5 earned runs in 5.2 innings. Fortunately the bullpen did what they do and held the Orioles scoreless for the remainder of the game. Jeff Francoeur continued to hit the ball well as he hit a solo home run to tie the game in the sixth inning. He also hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the tenth to score the winning run.
Game 30: Orioles 3 @ Royals 2 – boxscore
Kyle Davies threw his third Quality Start in his last four games as he held the Orioles to three runs in 6.1 innings. It was the extent of the runs the Royals would give up, but it was one too many as the Royals could only plate two runs. One of those runs came on a Jeff Francoeur home run and the other on a Melky Cabrera ground out.
Game 31: Orioles 1 @ Royals 9 – boxscore
The Royals took hold of the game in the first inning by scoring four runs on Orioles starter Chris Tillman. They continued to pile on as they eventually scored nine runs. It was more than enough as starter Bruce Chen continued to pitch extremely well and gave up one earned run in seven innings. Melky Cabrera was the offensive star of the game by going three-for-four with a home run.
Game 32: Athletics 3 @ Royals 2 – boxscore
The Royals took an early lead on an Alex Gordon home run and an RBI triple by Mike Aviles. Starter Sean O’Sullivan went 8 innings and gave up 3 earned runs. It sounds like a recipe for a win, but on this day it wasn’t. The Royals couldn’t put more than the two runs across the board and dropped the first game in the series with the Athletics.
Game 33: Athletics 3 @ Royals 4 – boxscore
Royals starter Luke Hochevar put together his best start of the season by going 7 innings and giving up only on earned run. Reliever Aaron Crow finally showed he was human by giving up his first runs of the season when he surrendered a 3 run home run to Cliff Pennington in the eighth inning. The game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth and a now familiar set of events transpired. Butler single, Dyson pinch run, Francoeur single moves Dyson to third, and then a sac fly by Aviles wins it.
Game 44: Athletics 5 @ Royals 2 – boxscore
Jeff Francis hasn’t pitched well lately, and in this game he wasn’t great but he kept the Royals in the game. Again, the lack of offense was the undoing of the team on this day. Eric Hosmer had his first multi-hit game of his career by going 2-for-4 with a double. The team as a whole only had six hits as the team could only muster two runs
Position player of the week: Jeff Francoeur
Jeff Francoeur hit .273/.320/.591/ last week and collected two home runs. He also seemed to always be in the middle of whatever was going on offensively for the Royals. So far, the off-season acquisition has been a gigantic help to the team. Whether or not he can continue to hit well is the million dollar question.
Starting pitcher of the week: Luke Hochevar
It easily could have been Bruce Chen for this week as well, but Hochevar gave allowed only four base runners in his seven inning stint. Both pitchers are worthy of recognition this week and they will have to continue to pitch well if the Royals have thoughts of staying in contention.
Relief pitcher of the week: Joakim Soria
After some wobbles early in the season, it seems that closer Joakim Soria is back to his old self. He only pitched two innings last week, but he struck out four, walked none and allowed only one hit.
On the farm:
In his last ten games Lorenzo Cain (OF) has hit .395/.489/.553 for the Omaha Storm Chaser s (AAA). Mike Moustakas (3B) has 12 hits and 11 RBI in his last ten games for Omaha. He’s now hitting .250/.333/.420 on the season with five homeruns.
Danny Duffy (SP) has struck out 41 batters and walked only 7 in his six starts this season for Omaha. In his last ten games, Christian Colon (SS) has hit .333/.381/.385 with three stolen bases for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
Whit Merrifield (OF) is now hitting .311/.390/.406 with six stolen bases on the season for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (A+).
Jake Odorizzi (SP) has walked only five guys in 26 innings while striking out 38 and posting a 2.42 ERA for Wilmington.
The young Cuban defector Noel Arguelles (SP) has 19 strikeouts and one walk in five games started for Wilmington.
Gerard Hall (SS) has hit .333/.400/.487 in his last ten games for the Kane County Cougars (A-).
Stat of the week:
The Royals lead all of baseball with 15 wins at home.
The week to come:
The Royals embark on a difficult road trip this week. They begin with a three game set in Yankee Stadium against the American League East leading Yankees. After that they visit divisional rival Detroit for three games. In order to keep in contention, the Royals will have to take some of their home success and replicate it on the road. It’s too early to say that this week is make-or-break, but it’s going to be extremely important nonetheless.
5/10 - 5/12 @ New York Yankees
5/13 - 5/15 @ Detroit Tigers
The Royals stand at 17-14 and occupy second place in the American League Central. They’ve done that while having a first baseman getting on-base at a .295 clip. To try and fill that void, the Royals have promoted top prospect Eric Hosmer from Omaha and optioned Kila Ka’aihue. The big athletic first baseman has been annihilating triple-A pitching for the first month of the season as he’s currently hitting .439/.525/.582 in his first 98 at bats.
The timing of the move is certainly surprising. Kila Ka’ihue was struggling at the plate, but he hit well in his last few games. He’s only been to the plate 96 times this season, which is hardly enough to tell you anything about a player. I’ve been asked a lot lately what I think the Royals should do with Kila, and I’ve been a staunch proponent of giving him more time to prove himself. Lots of great Major Leaguers including some Hall-of-Famers have had terrible starts to their career. A month just isn’t enough to make a judgment. But then the same logic applies for Hosmer – he’s clearly not going to hit .439 for the entire year.
The interesting thing about the move is what it says about the organization and their philosophy. Nobody is surprised that Eric Hosmer is viewed as the future first baseman. What’s shocking is how little time they committed to Kila. Either the Royals have a much smaller sample of games that they think is necessary to evaluate a player or they just viewed him as filler until Hosmer was ready. Since they’ve given so much time to guys like Kyle Davies and Alex Gordon, the latter seems the most likely scenario.
I don’t believe the Royals were in any way hoping for Kila to fail, nor did they think he was destined to fail. Had Kila been successful in his short stint this season, I am certain that he would still be in Kansas City, regardless of how well Eric Hosmer was hitting.
The situation was compounded by the fact that the Royals are in striking distance of first place. My prediction was that the Royals would wait until the All-Star break to decide they were contenders, but in reality they acted much quicker. This move signals that the organization believes this year’s team can stay in contention.
While what’s going on at the top of the division is important, what’s happening at the bottom of the standings may be the deciding factor. Any great team or athlete knows that when their opponent is staggering, it’s time to step on their throat. The Royals might see the Twins, White Sox and even Tigers, as wobbly boxers and Eric Hosmer as the haymaker that can put them on the canvas.
Eric Hosmer is just 21 years old and has only played a month above the double-A level. He’s not going to be able to play the role of haymaker all by himself and luckily, the way the team is hitting right now, he won’t have to. He’ll face a lot of scrutiny and big expectations that come with playing at the highest level, but from everything I know about Hosmer, he’s ready for it.
Regarding the timing, the move was made late enough that this year won’t count as a full season towards Hosmer’s free agency. However, if he remains with the club for the remainder of the season he will likely be eligible for a 4th year of arbitration under the “super two” rule. Translation -- the Royals will likely be spending roughly $10m more dollars on Hosmer before he is a free agent. It signals an organization willing to part with money if they think it benefits the team.
Even though it’s a little early to promote Hosmer, I’m extremely excited for the promotion. I’ve said all along that he probably makes the team better as soon as he’s called up. As for Kila his next shot at the Big Leagues will likely come in another uniform.
In the end, I’m conflicted. Snap judgments on players after a month are something smart baseball teams shouldn’t make a habit of doing. However, it’s promising to see the team make a move they believe in, regardless of the financial implication. The Royals rightfully believe the young prospects of the future will help this team win pennants, and the future starts now.
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.