Friday, July 1, 2011

81 down, 81 to go

Only five teams in franchise history have had a worse record after 81 games than this years Royals (33-48). This probably surprises no one, but here they are anyway:
  1. 2005 26-55 (56-106)
  2. 2006 27-54 (62-100)
  3. 2004 29-52 (58-104)
  4. 1970 30-51 (65-97)
  5. 2002 32-49 (62-100)
My goodness, Allard Baird really built something there, didn't he? If you're looking for any sort of bright side then know that they finished over .500 in 1971 and 2003, so there's that, which admittedly at this point isn't much.

While 90+ losses was expected, their record at the halfway point is disheartening because at one time this team resembled contenders. They started off 20-17 and were +18 in run differential, so it felt legitimate. Of the seven times they reached the postseason they had a better record after 37 games only twice (1976, 1980). Rather than preaching doom and gloom I went with the motto it's real until it's not real because, hey, anything could happen.

The starting pitching turned out to be as bad as everyone but me predicted. Like Billy Mumphrey, I was a cockeyed optimist, I thought maybe they could be close to league average but, boy, was I ever wrong. Much of my optimism rested in Luke Hochevar finally breaking out but instead he's still the same inconsistent pitcher who likes to tease us with his potential, and for that I have jumped off his bandwagon

Much the rotation's early season failure's were masked by those wacky walkoffs and a dominant bullpen. Right now the only interesting thing it has going for itself is Danny Duffy, who I'm relieved wasn't demoted in favor of Davies. Duffy's 84 ERA+ is second among starters and his 6.8 SO/9 is first. His control is an issue (5.0 BB/9) but he as only walked 1 each in his last 2 starts, so maybe he starting to figure things out. I know the 6 man rotation has been widely mocked but it can do nothing but help Duffy. Sample size issues aside, just look at the difference in performance between four and five days rest:

# Date Opp Rslt DR IP H R ER BB SO HR
3 May 29 TEX L,6-7 4 6.0 5 3 3 1 4 2
4 Jun 3 MIN L,2-5 4 5.0 7 3 3 3 3 1
5 Jun 8 TOR L,8-9 4 4.0 8 5 5 4 1 1
7 Jun 19 STL L,4-5 4 3.2 6 2 2 1 9 0
18.2 26 13 13 9 17 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

# Date Opp Rslt DR IP H R ER BB SO HR
2 May 24 BAL L,3-5 5 5.1 5 2 2 3 6 0
6 Jun 14 OAK W,7-4 5 6.0 4 2 2 4 2 1
8 Jun 25 CHC W,3-2 5 7.0 9 2 2 1 2 2
18.1 18 6 6 8 10 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

I'm not saying this is something they should indefinitely but right now it can't hurt. I think the second half of this season would be a perfect time to stretch Aaron Crow out and give him a dozen starts. I know people love him in his current role but you don't select setup men with the 12th pick of the draft, and that's essentially what they've done. My only concern with him making the club out of spring training was that they'd fall in love with him in the bullpen if he were successful and would then be hesitant to move him to the rotation. That's what we're currently seeing being played out, and it's a mistake that could affect next years team. Better he take his initial lumps in a season going nowhere than in 2012, because next year will be an important one in the road to contention. I'm not saying they'll contend next season but I'm not not saying it either (it's the Billy Mumphrey in me).

Offensively speaking, the first half seen the emergence of Alex Gordon. No longer saddled with expectations of being the next George Brett all he has done is gone out and hit like George Brett. His 136 OPS+ is pretty much identical to Brett's career 135 mark. Of course Gordon is a long way from matching the numbers Brett put up in his prime (151 OPS+,  1976-1985) but it's a pretty good start, and a welcome relief for those of us who've been defending him the last several years. That he leads all of baseball in outfield assists with 13 is just a bonus. If he's not the Royals All-Star representative then somebody will have some explaining to do.

With the trade deadline looming Moore has some decisions to make. I could see Francis, Chen, Betemit, and Cabrera being moved. I don't think Francoeur will be traded and I actually expect him to be in right field on opening day next season, also I just don't think there will be any interest in him. His flaws aren't exactly a national secret, I imagine general managers in the Andromeda galaxy know he struggles to get on base.

I said before the season that this would probably be the most interesting 90+ loss team in their history, and I still think that's true. Despite their record the first half was fun to watch, for the most part, and due to likely promotions involving Giavotella and Cain, plus the continuing development of Moustakas and Hosmer, I expect the second half will bring many interesting moments as well.

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